Vol 32, Issue 21 Print Issue

State Rep. Ruth Jones McClendon, D-San Antonio, waits to lay out HB48 on May 28, 2015.  The bill passed, 137-5, to create an exoneration commission that would review possible wrongdoing in felony convictions.
State Rep. Ruth Jones McClendon, D-San Antonio, waits to lay out HB48 on May 28, 2015. The bill passed, 137-5, to create an exoneration commission that would review possible wrongdoing in felony convictions.

In Session's Final Days, the Human Element Emerges

After much effort, Ruth Jones McClendon was successful this session in passing legislation to create an innocence commission.

The Week in the Rearview Mirror

House and Senate budget negotiators have filed their conference report, clearing the way for final adoption of the budget for the 2016-17 budget cycle. At $209.4 billion, the Texas state budget is $9 billion higher than the one passed in 2013. The general revenue portion of the budget is $106.6 billion, or $11.6 billion above 2013.

Deadly floods across Texas this past week have spurred state leaders to action, several of whom visited the Wimberley area where some of the worst damage was recorded. The Texas Senate revived a measure that would make it easier for local officials to plan ahead for rebuilding and federal authorities have extended deadlines to assess the damage for filing insurance claims.

In the latest development in legislation that would allow open carry of handguns in Texas, House and Senate negotiators have removed language that would prevent police from stopping someone carrying a gun solely to find out if he or she has the proper permit. The provision had been pushed by a coalition of Democrats and Republicans but was strongly opposed by law enforcement. The legislation is expected to pass with this change.

Legislation that would allow concealed handguns on college and university campuses survived a Tuesday deadline to pass Senate bills in the House. A preliminary vote on SB 11 was taken just 30 minutes before the midnight deadline. Killed by the deadline was another Senate bill that would prevent health plans sold on the federal health exchange from offering abortion services.

The session's border security bill is on its way to the governor's desk after the House voted Thursday to accept changes made by the Senate. HB 11 would beef up staffing for the Texas Department of Public Safety, keep the Texas National Guard on the border and establish a transnational intelligence center on the border to analyze crime data, among other things.

The House and Senate have passed radically different versions of ethics reform legislation with the differences left for a conference committee to hash out. The negotiations will focus on what to do with a House-inserted measure requiring political nonprofits to disclose their donors who are the source now of anonymous cash commonly referred to as "dark money."

Political People and their Moves

Former Bexar County Commissioner Tommy Adkisson on Friday endorsed San Antonio Mayor Ivy Taylor in the runoff for the city's top job. Adkisson came in fourth in the first round of the election earlier this month. The top two finishers — former state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte and Taylor — are competing in the June 13 runoff election.

Thomas McNutt, whose family runs the iconic Collin Street Bakery, announced Tuesday he is launching a campaign for the seat currently held by House State Affairs Chairman Byron Cook, R-Corsicana. On Twitter and his website, McNutt said he is running because he believes the House District 8 representative should stand for conservative values "instead of standing in their way."

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, has added Wendy Day as his Michigan state director for his 2016 presidential campaign. She is a vice chair of the state GOP and a prominent tea party activist in the stateCruz also named Robert Uithoven as his campaign's Nevada state directorUithoven has more than two decades of experience in Republican politics and most recently helped elect Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt in an upset victory.

Two GOP presidential candidates — retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum — are making visits to Texas. Carson tours the Carrick Brain Centers in Irving today and will have lunch in Dallas on Saturday with supporters selected through a contest. Santorum will hold fundraisers and public events June 5-6 in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

Deaths: Leo Berman, 79, the Tyler Republican who served seven terms as the representative for House District 6 from 1999-2013. Prior to that, he served on the Arlington City Council from 1979-85.

Gordon "Doc" Arnold, 65, who represented Kaufman and Ellis counties in House District 4 for two terms from 1983-85. He resigned his seat to become executive assistant to House Speaker Gib Lewis.

Robert Wayne "Bob" Strauser, 71, who founded the business advocacy group Texas Association of Taxpayers in 1974. He left in 1984 to work for the Baker & Botts law firm, retiring in 2008 but continuing to represent some clients until a week before his death.

Nell Barton, 90, the mother of U.S. Rep. Joe Barton, R-Ennis.