July 3, 2020      1:43 PM

People on the Move

Power players making moves, new shops in Austin, and mourning a legend of Texas politics

Sad news today as our publisher Harvey Kronberg reported just within the last hour that Buck Wood, a longtime ethics attorney and a key figure in school finance fights over the years, passed away last night.

To say Wood was a giant in this community is an understatement. He was a top aide to then-Comptroller Bob Bullock and someone who always nearly instantly had the answer to every question on Texas law because he wrote so much of it. As Jeff Rotkoff suggested on social media, anyone in Texas politics who hasn’t read Dave McNeely’s book on Bullock including so many stories of Wood’s adventures with him should check it out. You’ll be better for it.

Rest in peace, Mr. Wood.

Meantime, there are a few power players of today making moves as we head into the July 4 weekend. As always, you can let us know what you or a friend – or an adversary – is up to by reaching out to ksbraddock@gmail.com. Use POTM in the subject line when you do for faster and more reliable service.

Here’s the latest edition of People on the Move.

By Scott Braddock

July 3, 2020      1:13 PM

Attorney Buck Wood has passed away, friend and close counselor to Richards, Bullock and many more

There were few corners of state government and ethics that Wood did not touch....arrangements to follow

July 3, 2020      12:18 PM

Texas Craft Brewers Guild withdraws sponsorship of RPT convention, call on Gov. Abbott to cancel the in-person event

"Apparently, Gov. Abbott believes the threat posed by COVID-19 is too great for brewery taprooms to operate, even under strict social distancing, sanitation & mask protocols...That’s why we’re confident he will do the right thing and cancel the in-person Convention. If it's too dangerous to be 6ft apart in an outdoor beer garden, it’s certainly too dangerous to cram 6,000 people in an indoor convention center. Let's be consistent."

July 2, 2020      11:09 PM

After Texas GOP votes to move ahead with in-person convention, Texas Medical Association withdraws as a sponsor

Full statement from TMA President Diana Fite, MD:

“TMA is pleased that the Republican Party of Texas will comply with Governor Abbott’s directive and require face masks at its state convention later this month in Houston. While face masks certainly will help prevent the spread of COVID-19 in and around the convention, masks alone are not enough. With or without masks, an indoor gathering of thousands of people from all around the state in a city with tens of thousands of active COVID-19 cases poses a significant health risk to conventiongoers, convention workers, health care workers, and the residents of Houston. We are concerned not only for the City of Houston but also for the communities to which the delegates will return, giving the virus easy transportation to parts of Texas that have far fewer cases.

TMA has chosen to withdraw as an advertiser from the convention.

Five actions have proven effective at slowing the spread of COVID-19. The TMA strongly believes that Texans should follow these proven guidelines: stay home when possible, wash hands frequently, avoid large crowds, ‘keep 6 feet apart, and wear face masks or face coverings when around non-family members. We support all efforts throughout Texas to reach the highest levels of compliance with these safe practices.

July 2, 2020      10:40 PM

Runoffs and special election drawing a tiny number of voters so far

Despite two hot contested elections, only 27,154 have voted so far in Travis County. Democrats outpaced Republicans with 17,546 to 3,180. Of mail-in ballots, Democrats returned 1,516 to Republicans’ 335

So far, just about 2 percent of voters in Texas’ major counties have cast votes between June 29, the first day of early voting for the July 14 runoff, and yesterday, July 1.

Here’s a breakdown of the numbers available.

By James Russell

July 2, 2020      10:37 PM

On a vote of 40 to 20, the SREC votes to move forward with in-person Republican Party of Texas convention in Houston

July 2, 2020      5:31 PM

Gov. Abbott mandates that all Texans wear a face mask in public spaces in counties with 20 or more positive COVID cases

Abbott released the video below, in which he said a warning can be issued for not wearing a mask, followed by the possibility of a fine not to exceed $250

No questions asked, Gov. Greg Abbott on Thursday issued an executive order requiring the vast majority of Texans to wear a mask in public spaces.

He did not hold a news conference, but Abbott hosted a conference call apparently only for GOP lawmakers. But we are told it was a one-way conversation so even Republican members of the Legislature were not allowed to ask any questions about the order.

Here is the language of the new Executive Order.

This comes as the State Republican Executive Committee this evening, at 7:30pm, will meet via Zoom to discuss and possibly vote on whether to move forward with the Republican Party of Texas Convention in Houston in a couple weeks.

Developing….

July 2, 2020      5:05 PM

With only 84 tickets sold and coronavirus cases spiking, Vanilla Ice canceled his Austin concert this weekend

We're just as surprised to see Vanilla Ice mentioned in Quorum Report as you are

July 2, 2020      10:01 AM

Video: Dallas Citizens Council and Greater Houston Partnership launch pro-mask campaign

The campaign called "Stand Tall for Small, Texas" was developed in part by Roy Spence, who also came up with the "Don't Mess with Texas" anti-litter slogan

July 1, 2020      8:00 PM

Business groups backstop Sen. Lucio as progressive activists aim to take out longtime incumbent in South Texas runoff

TLR and Americans for Prosperity bring cash and a big TV push for the incumbent; a broad progressive coalition has come together for the challenger but it’s not clear they have the numbers to back up their passion

As early voting got underway across Texas this week, a coalition of liberal groups blasted Texas Senate Intergovernmental Relations Committee Chairman Eddie Lucio, Jr, the conservative Brownsville Democrat they’d like to see replaced by attorney Sara Stapleton Barrera.

Stapleton Barrera, a Brownsville native, is the better choice to represent Senate District 27 in the Rio Grande Valley, those activist groups argue.

The coalition, including the Sierra Club and the American Federation of Teachers, counters the idea that, as Planned Parenthood of Texas VOTES Executive Director Dyana Limon-Mercado said in an interview, “it’s not the just the gays and women who oppose Lucio.”

Indeed, she bested a third candidate, State Board of Education Member Ruben Cortez, in the first round of voting. Cortez has endorsed Stapleton Barrera.

By James Russell

July 1, 2020      7:42 PM

Sen. Pat Fallon files paperwork to run for seat in Congress being vacated by Rep. John Ratcliffe

July 1, 2020      3:30 PM

SREC members studying guidelines for a virtual convention, draft document shows

Draft document circulated among SREC members today says "The option that permits the most delegates to participate with the fewest limitations on their life is going virtual."

Editor’s note: The memo is available to subscribers – SB

As Republican Party of Texas leaders face a Thursday decision on whether to call off their in-person convention in Houston, Quorum Report on Wednesday afternoon obtained a draft outline of guidelines for a virtual convention.

July 1, 2020      1:21 PM

SB: A Texas GOP convention in limbo

Some SREC members are polling delegates; Chairman Dickey seems to be changing his tone after TMA asked the party to reconsider holding a giant gathering in a coronavirus hotspot, and there is the possibility of a special legislative session to fulfill the party’s one constitutional duty if needed

With the state’s doctors advising them to call it off and the Democratic mayor of Houston saying he’d rather not politicize the issue, Republican Party of Texas leadership faces a crucial question Thursday: Do they forge ahead with their in-person convention in the Bayou City this month or follow the lead of the Texas Democratic Party and figure out a way to do their business remotely.

"This is just not the time to bring thousands of the party faithful from around the state to an indoor meeting in a county that, as I write, reports more than 18,000 active COVID-19 cases,” said Texas Medical Association President Diana L. Fite, MD, in a letter to RPT Chairman James Dickey.

In a written statement that seemed to indicate a shift in tone from his previous strident assurances the convention would be held in person, Chair Dickey responded quite thoughtfully. “We thank them for their support of our convention and for sharing our concern for our fellow Texans,” Dickey said. “We are taking all input from those involved with our Convention, including that from our Party leadership and our delegates, very seriously."

That same thoughtfulness was reflected in a conference call with other party leaders Tuesday night, according to some participants in the discussion.

By Scott Braddock

July 1, 2020      11:25 AM

Texas sales tax revenue in June was down 6.5 percent from the same month last year

“The decline in state sales tax collections was driven principally by steep drops in remittances from oil- and gas-related sectors,” said Comptroller Hegar. Collections from the construction and amusement service sectors were also sharply down."

June 30, 2020      5:24 PM

Courts in Texas confront new logistics during pandemic

The state Office of Court Administration bought 3,000 Zoom licenses for 3,220 judges; well over half are using Zoom to conduct business, logging 340,000 hours of Zoom hearings with about 525,000 participants

Judicial leaders in Texas have to determine what to keep and what to throw out from the new Zoom-based reality of COVID-19, with a potential deadline to August 1 looming as the date to return to jury trials in the state.

That August 1 deadline may be pushed back to September or even October, Chief Justice Nathan Hecht told the Supreme Court Advisory Committee just this past week. A handful of cases are being tried in person, with social distancing additions, but most judicial hearings in the state are now conducted by Zoom.

“All over the country, courts are trying to figure out, how do you try jury cases?” Hecht said.

“We’re still finding our way.”

By Kimberly Reeves

June 30, 2020      4:29 PM

Texas bar owners take Gov. Abbott to federal court over closure of their businesses

Michael Klein of the Texas Bar and Nightclub Alliance said they filed suit "in order to protect the constitutional rights of our members."

Here is what the Texas Bar and Nightclub Alliance filed in federal court.

June 30, 2020      3:51 PM

Texas GOP Chairman Dickey says party leadership is taking convention cancellation request from TMA seriously

Full statement from Chairman Dickey: "The Republican Party of Texas has received the letter from the Texas Medical Association. We thank them for their support of our convention and for sharing our concern for our fellow Texans. We are taking all input from those involved with our Convention, including that from our Party leadership and our delegates, very seriously."

June 30, 2020      1:56 PM

Texas Medical Association asks Republican Party of Texas to cancel in-person convention in Houston

"This is just not the time to bring thousands of the party faithful from around the state to an indoor meeting in a county that, as I write, reports more than 18,000 active COVID-19 cases."

June 29, 2020      5:46 PM

Supreme Court reaffirms Texas case on abortion admitting privileges

“In a time where our nation yearns to move forward progressively, the Trump Administration acted to move the dial back decades by filling the courts with conservative judges and justices…. this ploy did not work.”

The nation’s top court – with the support of Chief Justice John Roberts – has reaffirmed that admitting privileges are not necessary for abortion providers, striking down a Louisiana abortion law that is identical to one in Texas.

The law, if implemented, would have cut the number of abortion clinics in Louisiana to one. Already, the law – struck down by the Supreme Court – had cut the number abortion clinics in Texas in half, never to return.

CEO Amy Hagstrom Miller of Whole Women’s Health celebrated the decision, which comes after Pres. Donald Trump appointed two conservative justices to the bench. In today’s 5-4 decision, Roberts joined the liberal block, issuing a minority opinion that cited precedence.

By Kimberly Reeves

June 29, 2020      5:37 PM

In campaign memo, Rep. Rodriguez camp says his fundraising is now up to $700,000 in bid for SD 14

Memo also details how the cash is being spent across TV, digital, etc.

QR Subscribers can check out the memo – SB

June 26, 2020      4:30 PM

SB: In pandemic response, Gov. Abbott is finally liberated from certain agitators in the GOP

To casual observers the Empower Texans meltdown may have appeared as just another skirmish over Republican Party purification, but the policy point relevant to the lives of all Texans is that Abbott can now put distance between himself and some on the right including TPPF

In January of 2015, a brand new governor gave a speech at the Texas Public Policy Foundation, handing the group led in part by Empower Texans Chairman Tim Dunn almost everything they ever wanted in a chief executive by calling for the end of local control.

It was the opening salvo in a conflict that’s raged to this day as cities and counties fought state government for three sessions in a row to try to retain authority over everything from tree pruning to plastic bag bans and fracking.

Since then, Gov. Greg Abbott has been on a mission to consolidate power in Austin in a way not even envisioned by his predecessor, Rick Perry. On the same day Abbott took power from mayors and county judges to respond to coronavirus, former Gov. Perry reminded radio listeners in West Texas that those officeholders have always been the first line of defense for Texans weathering disasters.

But Abbott, who as Attorney General years ago disapproved of then-Gov. Perry’s use of executive orders because they lacked force of law, found in taking the Central Office that when a disaster is first declared, executive powers seem limitless.

By Scott Braddock

June 26, 2020      4:03 PM

People on the Move

Lobby moves, staffer moves, excellent hires and more

How’s this go?

One step forward and two steps back. It’s not just the big cities in Texas with mask orders now that Gov. Greg Abbott is returning some authority to local officeholders to help manage the pandemic. College Station, Navarro County, and Lubbock already all have mask orders. The order in Lubbock is a little more nuanced. But apparently Abilene will not enforce the orders to shut down bars.

So begins the next chapter.

Meantime, your career moves belong in the news. Send them over to ksbraddock@gmail.com and use POTM in the subject line so I can keep track during the unprecedented times. The clich├ęs are everywhere.

Here’s the latest edition of People on the Move.

By Scott Braddock

June 26, 2020      9:11 AM

Gov. Abbott orders bars closed, restaurants must go back to 50% capacity

Abbott also orders rafting and tubing businesses to close: “As I said from the start, if the positivity rate rose above 10%, the State of Texas would take further action to mitigate the spread of COVID-19”

Staring down record numbers of COVID-19 cases in Texas – and liberated from the agitators at Empower Texans after they mocked his wheelchair use – Gov. Greg Abbott on Friday ratcheted back openings of business across the state.

In a new executive order, issued Friday morning, Gov. Abbott ordered bars to close their doors throughout Texas. Also, restaurants can operated but they have to go back to operating at 50% capacity in their dining areas.