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August 11, 2020      6:48 PM

In Beaumont and Victoria, Abbott stresses schools have broad latitude on reopening, says bars need to cooperate to open

Absent from Abbott’s remarks today: Talk of rapid-response COVID-19 testing in Texas schools, which appear somewhat imminent for nursing homes but distant for schools

Gov. Greg Abbott’s tour around Texas – talking about the purchase and distribution of personal protective gear to school districts appears to have made less news than details Abbott dropped to answer reporter questions.

Today Abbott’s comments were directed toward protective gear purchased and shipped to East Texas: masks, gown shields, face shields, sanitizer and gloves. Abbott made appearances in Beaumont and Victoria.

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August 11, 2020      9:43 AM

Longtime Executive Director of the Texas House Steve Adrian to retire in January

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August 10, 2020      4:37 PM

Lack of transparency fuels questions about how billions in federal coronavirus aid is being spent, or not, in Texas

“There is nothing conservative about retaining federal aid and forcing property taxes to go even higher,” argues former Lt. Gov. nominee Mike Collier in an open letter to city and county leaders throughout the state. “These judgments should be open to all Texans for inspection.”

In an open letter to Texas mayors and county judges, former Democratic nominee for Lt. Gov. Mike Collier argues it is “very bad public policy” for Gov. Greg Abbott’s office to sit on billions in federal dollars meant for local communities to respond to the disaster caused by the coronavirus.

But Abbott, who has not called a special session to deal with the slow rolling disaster, insists he is collaborating with Texas House and Texas Senate leaders about how to handle it.

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By Scott Braddock

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August 10, 2020      4:05 PM

SB: Scramble for Texas Senate seat could create a question about Texas House majority

If a Texas House member wins the race for Fallon’s Senate seat, it is possible they’d leave the GOP caucus down a vote at a time when the House majority is in question

After Sen. Pat Fallon’s impressive though not unexpected victory this weekend in the insider’s race to be the GOP nominee for Congressional District 4 – being vacated by Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe – rumors are flying and announcements are expected quickly in the coming race to succeed him in the Texas Senate.

If the early buzz is any indication, it’ll perhaps be more of a rural versus suburban fight than a “conservative versus moderate” one.

But there are other fault lines developing and there’s some chatter about whether House members considering a promotion could put the GOP House majority at risk when it comes time to vote for a new speaker.

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By Scott Braddock

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August 10, 2020      3:59 PM

Chairman Nevárez pens heartfelt apology to those he let down, looks toward the future

“…my will was no good, but what I have today is goodwill to allow myself to make mistakes and grow.”

From the post written by Rep. Poncho Nevárez on Jason Stanford’s website over the weekend:

“Needless to say, I hurt a lot of people along the way. I disappointed a lot of people. Part of my process is making amends where I can. I also made good friends in and around the legislature, and I worked alongside some very good and decent people from both sides of the aisle. I will never forget their kindness. I value their love and friendship. I see now that what needed to change was me. I work on that every day and I am grateful for the chance to do so.”

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August 10, 2020      3:47 PM

After previous drama, Sunset Commission will meet in person August 19

The agenda includes the Prepaid Tuition Board, TDA, TAHC, and TPWD but not TDLR

The agenda posted today can be seen here.

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August 9, 2020      3:26 PM

Updated: After Chairman Larson questioned whether the two-party system should be abolished, Chair Burrows suggests Larson should quit the GOP

"If the representative from San Antonio hates the Republican party this much then he should put his money where is mouth is, resign as the party nominee and run as an independent or write in," Burrows said of Larson

Rep. Burrows made his comments to the Lubbock politics blog Lubbock Lights. He was reacting to this op-ed written by Chairman Lyle Larson.

Reached for comment Sunday afternoon, Chair Larson was unimpressed.

“The junior house member from Lubbock's disloyalty to the Republican Party is well documented. At least 10 members of the Texas House will never forget his traitorous ways," Larson said. "To discuss a change that is obvious to most Texans and Americans only threatens Napoleonic politicians."

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August 9, 2020      3:25 PM

Obituary for Derek Howard

"Derek Alden Howard lived many lives in his 72 years, with more ahead if not for a brain injury to which he eventually succumbed on August 1, 2020."

Here is the official obituary for Derek Howard, husband of Rep. Donna Howard.

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August 8, 2020      4:16 PM

Sen. Pat Fallon wins race to succeed Rep. John Ratcliffe as GOP nominee for Congressional District 4

During the meeting of precinct and county chairs, Fallon got 56% of the vote in a field of a dozen candidates

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August 7, 2020      3:30 PM

People on the Move

A new senator, party chair, notable departures, lobby moves, awards, and more

Despite frustration over the Sunset Commission repeating the debates of the State Republican Executive Committee over whether to hold proceedings in person or virtually – grinding business to a halt and leaving significant work in limbo – it’s been a busy week around here.

There are lobby hires, agency moves, a new senator to congratulate, and multiple awards to tell you about. It’s only possible because all of you tell me about it first. You can share career news with the Texas Capitol community anytime by sending it to ksbraddock@gmail.com. Please use POTM in the subject line so I don’t lose track.

Thanks so much and here’s the latest edition of People on the Move.

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By Scott Braddock

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August 7, 2020      3:20 PM

Senate Finance issues interim report

You can download the report right here. Apologies for the incorrect link that was distributed earlier.

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August 7, 2020      9:46 AM

UIL to issue guidance on COVID-19 to coaches

Because physical distancing is more possible on a practice field than in crowded classrooms, educators can envision sports and distance learning as the norm when the school year begins

High school athletes in Texas diagnosed with COVID-19 will return to sports the same way most students with COVID-19 will return to school: By being cleared by a physician.

The University Interscholastic League’s Medical Advisory Committee – which has determined practice limits, concussion guidelines and limits on full-contact football – met briefly this morning to support CDC guidelines on COVID-19 recovery.

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By Kimberly Reeves

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August 6, 2020      6:01 PM

As he leads charge to derail Sunset Commission virtual meetings, Sen. Bob Hall embraces conspiracy theories and unproven treatments for coronavirus

Sen. Hall, who succeeded a physician in his seat, blasts Gov. Abbott, calls TMA “socialist,” blames hospitals as profiteers, and promotes the work of “persecuted doctors” who believe the virus was never a threat in the first place

Months before Sen. Bob Hall of Edgewood derailed the Sunset Commission’s rule adoption for virtual meetings on Tuesday, he was hosting Facebook town halls promoting conspiracy theories and unproven treatments for COVID-19.

Hall’s activism has made him a de facto head of the state’s COVID conspiracy theory caucus. And he’s used that unofficial position to push dangerous theories about the virus that’s killed more than 8,000 Texans and 160,000 Americans.

What was expected to be a short meeting of Sunset this week became a nearly two-hour discussion about whether meetings should be in person or virtual. That was after Hall voiced last-minute objections to the plan that had been in his possession – along with the other members – for about a week. Frustrated commission members adjourned without voting, despite what was seen as the first real test for setting procedures for the upcoming legislative session.

A day after the meeting, Sen. Hall blasted the commission in an email to supporters:

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By James Russell

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August 6, 2020      3:50 PM

RPT Chair West sides with the five GOP lawmakers suing Gov. Abbott over contact tracing contract

Of the $295 million deal, Texas GOP Chairman West said “You don’t have an executive branch that can go out and write a check without that legislative approval”

The new comments from Lt. Col. (Ret.) Allen West came in this interview with KXAN in Austin.

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August 5, 2020      4:58 PM

Poll finds Joanna Cattanach, Democratic challenger to Chairman Morgan Meyer, leading 48 to 43

Republicans in the area say they think it’s the result of some “very negative push polling”; Cattanach said “Meyer is seen as increasingly out of touch with this district”

A poll released Wednesday afternoon by the Democratic challenger to Texas House General Investigating Committee Chairman Morgan Meyer finds the Democrat in the lead 48 to 43.

Democratic nominee Joanna Cattanach is in her second contest against Meyer, who beat her in 2018 by the skin of his teeth 50.14 percent to 49.86 percent, or about 200 votes out of nearly 79,000 cast.

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By Scott Braddock

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August 5, 2020      4:56 PM

Funeral Arrangements announced for former Texas House Appropriations Chairman John Otto

A funeral service for Otto, former Appropriations Chairman and recent assistant vice chancellor and director of local government relations at the Texas A&M University System, is scheduled for 2 p.m. on Thursday at A&M Methodist Church at 417 University Drive in College Station. Visitation is at 1 p.m. A graveside service will take place at 11 a.m. on Friday at the State Cemetery at 909 Navasota Street in Austin

Here is the obituary for Assistant Vice Chancellor and former Texas House Appropriations Chairman John Otto, as distributed by the Texas A&M University System. Depending on your browser, you may have to right click and open in a new tab.

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August 5, 2020      4:55 PM

Five GOP legislators sue Gov. Abbott over $295 million contact tracing contract

Representatives Lang, Biedermann, Zedler, Toth, and Sen. Hall take issue with the state implementing the contract with MTX Group without legislative oversight

The Austin American Statesman has the update:

Five Texas Republican lawmakers are suing Gov. Greg Abbott and Texas Health and Human Services, arguing that the agency’s decision to bypass some bidding protocols led to a contract for a COVID-19 contact-tracing program that has been criticized for its inefficiency. The lawsuit filed in Travis County state District Court this week seeks to invalidate the contract the agency has with MTX Group Inc., to which the state granted $295 million to reach out to people who had come down with the coronavirus and alert others who might have been exposed.

The Houston Chronicle in late July published an investigation that found MTX Group did little to no work as coronavirus cases exploded, and the lawsuit references the article. The lawmakers — state Reps. Mike Lang, R-Granbury; Kyle Biedermann, R-Fredericksburg; Bill Zedler, R-Arlington; Steve Toth, R-The Woodlands; and state Sen. Bob Hall, R-Edgewood — take issue with the state implementing this contact tracing plan without the Legislature’s involvement.

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August 4, 2020      5:30 PM

Sunset Commission melts down over how to conduct its business during the pandemic

Sen. Hall offers a last-minute objection to virtual meetings rather than in-person; a visibly frustrated Chairman Cyrier adjourns without a path forward

The Sunset Commission met this morning with the goal of approving rules for how it will review significant state agencies during a pandemic. But the meeting abruptly melted down and was eventually adjourned with no decision made on how to move forward.

Most members seemed to expect it would be a short meeting including a quick vote on a plan that had basically been agreed to over the last week. But it turned into a two-hour discussion about whether meetings should be in-person or virtual. In that sense, it was not unlike the State Republican Executive Committee’s recent marathon emergency meetings over whether the Republican Party of Texas Convention could be held in person or online.

The Sunset Commission members adjourned without voting, despite what was thought to be an initial test for setting procedures for the upcoming legislative session.

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By James Russell

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August 4, 2020      4:10 PM

Despite polls showing Biden ahead, Lt. Gov. Patrick says spike in gun sales signals a Trump victory is coming

“People who buy guns don’t vote for Democrats who are going to take them away”

Here's the whole statement.

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