May 18, 2018      5:05 PM

Third Court of Appeals does not let MQ Sullivan off the hook in case of alleged illegal lobbying

The all-GOP court found that “The lobbyist-registration statute at issue is a legally permissible restriction” and not a trampling of Sullivan’s free speech rights

An all-Republican panel of the Third Court of Appeals in Austin this week rejected an attempt by attorneys for Midland oilman Tim Dunn’s spokesman Michael Quinn Sullivan to toss out the case of his alleged illegal lobbying at the Texas Capitol.

Sullivan’s lawyers were hoping the court would agree with them that the case being pursued by the Texas Ethics Commission should be dismissed because of a state law aimed at helping journalists and others do their jobs without fear of frivolous lawsuits.

By Scott Braddock

May 18, 2018      5:00 PM

Senators accuse Austin of dragging its feet on telecom legislation

Chairman Hancock quips: “I think you work with whoever you want to work with…I think you don’t work with whoever you don’t want to work with.” Sen. Whitmire notes that Houston has managed to improve this infrastructure despite the fact that Hurricane Harvey rolled through last year

The City of Austin has approved only a couple of permits for the creation of a statewide 5G wireless network, a position met with some frustration from state lawmakers this week.

This next generation of connectivity, 10 times faster than current wireless service, is one that will help put autonomous cars on the road and flying taxis in the sky, we are told.

More pragmatically, lawmakers passed Senate Bill 1004 last session to outline the deployment of network nodes in the right-of-way of roadways and capping fees at a loss of up to $750 million to local cities.

By Kimberly Reeves

May 18, 2018      4:48 PM

Gooden versus Pounds congressional runoff coming down to the wire

Empower Texans is largely sidelined perhaps thanks to one of Gooden’s key allies; race could have big repercussions down ballot in contest to succeed Chair Cook

DALLAS – After the May 22 runoffs, it’s difficult to blame the voters in Congressional District 5 for wanting to drain the swamp, the phrase made popular by President Donald Trump describing the federal government.

Because this race has gotten nasty.

By James Russell

May 18, 2018      1:02 PM

People on the Move

A prominent player with a new lobby shop, a comms pro on the move, heavy hitters in public ed, and some law school grads to brag on

May is already getting away from us. It’s the last day of early voting in the runoffs, which of course happen Tuesday.

A lot of folks in Austin have been checking their sample ballots to see if they still even have any races to vote in if they’re Republicans. Democrats, naturally, have their governor’s race yet to decide as well as congressional challengers to nominate around the state.

We’ll have full coverage of the results Tuesday night. Then the next day, the candidates for Republican Party of Texas Chairman will face off in a debate in Houston. Hope to see you there.

Meantime, at the Capitol it was another week of new lobby shops, folks taking new positions and starting new adventures. You know by now the Buzz Central team loves to hear what’s going on. Send a note anytime at ksbraddock@gmail.com and if it’s about this please put “People on the Move” or “POTM” in the subject line. That helps my simple mind keep it all organized.

Here’s Texas’ weekly edition of People on the Move:

By Scott Braddock

May 18, 2018      12:59 PM

Smith: A Story to Undo Trump

QR’s Liberal Columnist Glenn W. Smith suggests Democrats learn the lessons of rival TV networks efforts to beat Dallas and J.R. Ewing in the ratings. Tell a completely different story.

You’ve noticed, of course, that Donald Trump never smiles. The film loop running in his head comes from his beloved World Wrestling Entertainment: all Mussolini-jawed bluff, virtual body slams and cheers for the steely-eyed victor scripted in advance.

If nothing else, Trump stays on his mark, in character. Humiliated by Bill Gates, Kim Jong-un or Stormy Daniels, Trump plays on. He’s happiest as the popular soap-opera villain, the center of every televised storm.

The full column by Glenn W. Smith is in the R&D Department.

By Glenn W. Smith

May 17, 2018      5:29 PM

Paxton stops short of saying RRC Chair Craddick overstepped in conflict with executive director

Craddick’s office says “We’ve got a new Executive Director in place who was appointed through a unanimous vote of all three Commissioners, and we’re focused on our job to keep Texans and our state’s resources safe"

Attorney General Ken Paxton agreed a single commissioner could not unilaterally fire an executive director at the Texas Railroad Commission, but left the question open as to whether Chair Christi Craddick had overstepped her role in her closed-door discussion with soon-to-be-departing Executive Director Kim Corley last fall.

Rep. Rafael Anchia, D-Dallas, filed the request for opinion with Paxton’s office on behalf of Commissioner Ryan Sitton, who confronted Craddick during the Railroad Commission’s meeting last September in the wake of Corley’s departure.

Sitton accused Craddick of forcing Corley out without consulting her fellow commissioners.

By Kimberly Reeves

May 16, 2018      5:04 PM

Patrick campaign: Straus laundered contributions through groups like ART

The accusation is that Straus was putting his money into allied organizations to keep himself from being an issue for members; Blakemore said: “Primary voters know that ‘responsible Republican’ is just a code word for ‘liberal Republican’”

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s campaign on Wednesday lashed out at Texas House Speaker Joe Straus over the retiring presiding officer’s investment in defending House members in the Republican primary.

Straus “had to launder his campaign contributions through large PACs so his involvement wouldn’t hurt the candidates he was supporting,” said Allen Blakemore, campaign strategist for Patrick.

Yesterday, Straus’ campaign had touted the fact that he kept his word to defend “serious, thoughtful Republican legislators” in their races by contributing $1 million so far this year.

By Scott Braddock

May 16, 2018      5:03 PM

Press Releases: Responsible Republicans, pensions, Police Week, and more

Click the Press Releases button above for the latest

May 16, 2018      5:01 PM

Former Crystal City city manager sentenced to 35 years in bribery case

Former lobbyist James Jonas sentenced Wednesday for crimes committed while he was the city attorney and city manager for Crystal City

The latest on the case via Spectrum News in San Antonio.

May 16, 2018      2:20 PM

Colbert: TEA is way off when it comes to allotments for public education

Former Rep. Paul Colbert breaks down the claim that allotments have increased 772% while student enrollment grew by 63%; and says “it is no wonder that the members of the Commission – and of the Legislature – have a hard time figuring out what is currently being spent on programs

Last Monday's article in the Quorum Report called “Allotments a growing part of school finance funding, especially in last decade may create the mistaken impression that Texas has acted to specifically increase funding for the programs that serve students with various special needs. This is the result of a Texas Education Agency presentation to the Texas Commission on Public School Finance which created that false impression by including a lot of data without proper explanation.

The biggest sources of confusion in this presentation were contained in page 5 and page 43 of the document, which you can see here.  

The page 5 headline announced that "allotments have increased by 772%” while student enrollment only grew by 63%.  Let's break that down, using these numbers reported in the article from page 43 of the presentation:  "the cost per student for special programs has grown from $336 per student in 1986 to $1,797 in 2017."

The complete guest column by former Rep. Paul Colbert is in the R&D Department.

By Paul Colbert

May 15, 2018      5:10 PM

Republican runoff reports show clear lines and speakers race influence popping up as well

Colleagues largely hands off in Oliveira, open Dukes seat runoffs; on the Republican side members are quite involved

With the eight-day campaign finance reports filed with the Texas Ethics Commission online, Quorum Report dug through the records in eight run-off elections for the Texas House.

Two of the eight races are for safely Democratic seats; the rest feature familiar Republican intraparty matchups revealing the ongoing divide in the state GOP – and some of members are not shy about inserting themselves into these contests.

By James Russell

May 15, 2018      5:07 PM

Press Releases: Endorsements, floor protection, appointments, and voter fraud outrage

Click the Press Releases button above for the latest

May 15, 2018      4:54 PM

Texas files suit against pharma giant Purdue in Travis County court

Some legal observers expect these suits to be moved to federal court and consolidated

Texas, along with five other states, filed suit today against the creator of OxyContin in Travis County state district court under the state’s Deceptive Trade Practices Act.

Hundreds of cities, counties and states have filed lawsuits over opioid abuse, going back as far as 2015, with many comparing current litigation to the tobacco litigation of the 1990s. Purdue Pharma, Endo and Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen Pharmaceuticals have been the most common targets. Purdue makes OxyContin. Endo makes Fentanyl. And Janssen created Duragesic.

By Kimberly Reeves

May 15, 2018      2:26 PM

Straus touts the fact he has contributed $1 million to GOP candidates this year

"I'm proud to support serious, thoughtful Republican legislators who provide strong leadership for Texas and for the Republican Party," Straus said

Retiring Texas House Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, on Tuesday touted the fact that the has so far this year spent $1 million working to elect “serious, thoughtful Republican legislators.”

He has done so by “giving significantly to groups that support solutions-oriented Republican legislators and candidates,” Straus’ campaign said. Speaker Straus has contributed:

-          $600,000 to the Texas House Leadership Fund

-          $350,000 to the Associated Republicans of Texas

-          $70,000 to individual candidates

He’s also attended fundraising events and campaigned for the likes of Representatives Lyle Larson, R-San Antonio and Sarah Davis, R-West University Place, as well as Sen. Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo, and Steve Allison, who is running to succeed Straus in his House seat.

May 15, 2018      1:19 PM

AG Paxton announces lawsuit against opioid manufacturer Purdue Pharma

Suing under the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act; when asked in a press conference whether he'll sue other pill makers, Paxton said “I would not be surprised. But I’m not going to say yes or no because I don’t know.”

May 14, 2018      5:45 PM

Texas unlikely to move on new ruling on legalized sports betting

Will Vegas get the Amazon treatment? – meaning, why go there if you can do it at home

The U.S. Supreme Court has opened the door for states to legalize sports betting outside of Nevada, but it’s unlikely to get much traction for now in Texas.

Today’s opinion, in Murphy v NCAA, voided a federal law, the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, saying Congress commandeered an area of governance reserved for the states. That now leaves New Jersey, and any other state, free to add sports betting to casinos and race tracks. Former Gov. Chris Christie told the Washington Post during a Facebook live interview the state’s race tracks could be ready to accept bets as soon as Memorial Day weekend.

By Kimberly Reeves

May 14, 2018      4:13 PM

HK: Remembering Bobby Gierisch

A man in the public policy arena who made a profound contribution without ever uttering a harsh word and a leaving with a smile

Despite political differences, this community is bound together by wonderful souls who deserve mention when they pass. Their presence uplifted all who came in contact.

So, it is with great sadness that we note the passing of Bobby Gierisch, a man in the public policy arena who made a profound contribution without ever uttering a harsh word and a leaving with a smile.

Gierisch started at the Railroad Commission in 1979 but most of us knew him during his time during his decade as Director of Research and Policy for Speaker Pete Laney.  His passion was rural affairs and founded the NCSL Task Force on Rural Development. He ended his career as a director of State Policy Programs at the Rural Policy Research Institute.

As befits a man who brought so much to the table, his bio notes that he taught at the Univeristy of Zurich, Switzerland and worked on his family farm in central Texas.

Details of the family and friends gathering at the Farm in Mason County can be found on Caring Bridge. For those of us in Austin who wish to celebrate his life, there will be a gathering at Mandola’s in the Triangle, Wednesday, May 16, from 4-7.

By Harvey Kronberg

May 14, 2018      3:58 PM

Audio: In radio ad, Patrick takes aim at what he calls "fake news"

"The press has always been biased against conservatives but what we are seeing today is total disregard for the truth. It's fake news," the lite guv says

You can hear the ad via Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s soundcloud page here. Depending on your browser, you may have to right click and open in a new tab or window.

May 14, 2018      3:57 PM

AG Paxton set to make "major announcement" tomorrow about combating the opioid crisis

"Texas will file suit in the next week alleging an opioid manufacturer used deceptive trade practices, the state said in a letter to the Texas Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation"

Via Law360:

Texas will file suit in the next week alleging an opioid manufacturer used deceptive trade practices, the state said in a letter to the Texas Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation, opposing pretrial consolidation of litigation by Texas counties alleging problematic marketing and sales of opioid medications.

May 14, 2018      12:40 PM

Caller Times: Farenthold appears to secure employment with Port of Port Lavaca

In a statement, the port said Farenthold would be its full-time legislative liaison

From the Corpus Christi Caller Times:

It didn’t take former Congressman Blake Farenthold long to find a new gig.

Farenthold told listeners on a Corpus Christi radio show Monday morning he had landed a position in Port Lavaca. "I'm starting a new job today that has an hour and a half commute," he said on 1360 KKTX-AM's Lago in the Morning talk show. "You're gonna have me listening and calling in a whole lot now."

…In a statement, the port said Farenthold would be its full-time legislative liaison.