Vol 31, Issue 44 Print Issue

House Speaker Joe Straus is shown on Sept. 20, 2014, during an interview at The Texas Tribune Festival.
House Speaker Joe Straus is shown on Sept. 20, 2014, during an interview at The Texas Tribune Festival.

Straus: 61 and Counting...

More Texas Republicans get leadership positions in Congress, Wendy Davis is ready for Hillary and a gag order is issued in state Rep. Ron Reynolds' upcoming "ambulance chasing" trial.

The Week in the Rearview Mirror

State Sen. Leticia Van de Putte announced Wednesday that she will resign her seat in the Legislature to run for mayor of San Antonio. The Democrat's announcement complicated the mayoral aspirations of state Rep. Mike Villarreal who had previously announced his candidacy. It also set up a showdown between state Reps. Trey Martinez Fischer and José Menéndez to succeed Van de Putte in the Senate.

State Comptroller-elect Glenn Hegar will resign his Senate seat Dec. 5, a day prior to a special election to fill the vacancy. At the end of the filing period for Hegar's seat, three Republicans — state Rep. Lois Kolkhorst, Gary Gates and Charles Gregory III — and two Democrats — Cynthia Drabek and Christian E. Hawkins — had entered the race.

State leaders have agreed to bring back National Guard troops from border surge operations by early Spring of next year. The move was a signal of a shift in emphasis to using Department of Public Safety personnel who have arrest making authority.

Controversy flared again at the State Board of Education over the selection of social studies textbooks with the board ending up deadlocked on a preliminary vote after public testimony demonstrated concerns over perceived biases in the materials. The board is expected to take a final vote on Friday.

The special prosecutor pressing criminal charges against Gov. Rick Perry will not be disqualified from the case over questions around the oath of office he took. A judge ruled Tuesday that the prosecutor was properly sworn into office.

Lt. Gov.-elect Dan Patrick announced his staff hires for the upcoming session, highlighted by his bringing aboard two experienced Capitol hands — Mike Morrissey and Walter Fisher.

A leak of methyl mercaptan gas that killed four workers early Saturday at a LaPorte chemical plant has focused attention on plants' safety records across Texas. One finding is that releases are not uncommon, happening dozens of times in the past two years.

Political People and their Moves

Alía Ureste of El Paso has been appointed by Gov. Rick Perry to the Texas Holocaust and Genocide Commission for a term to expire Feb. 1, 2015.

Randy Williams of Abilene has been named by Perry to the Juvenile Justice Advisory Board for a term to expire at the pleasure of the governor.

Aureka Sanders of DeSoto was named by Perry to the Assistive and Rehabilitative Services Council for a term to expire Feb. 1, 2015.

Newly elected state Sen. Konni Burton, R-Colleyville, announced her hires of legislative staff for the upcoming legislative session. Art Martinez de Vara, currently the mayor of Von Ormy, will serve as Burton's chief of staff. Tyler Norris, who was on the staff of state Rep. James White last session, will serve as legislative director. Cathy Bean Scott will serve as district director.

The Texas Department of Public Safety Foundation announced the first members named to its 18-member board of directors and its nine-member advisory committee. Board officers include President Tom Clowe of Waco, Vice President Ada Brown of Dallas, Secretary Allan Polunsky of San Antonio and Treasurer Carin Barth of Houston.

Carrie Simmons, former director of the Texas House Republican Caucus and co-founder of Red State Women PAC, has joined Texas Lobby Group.

Todd Whitley has joined Equality Texas as its new communications manager, a move designed to help expand the group's reach from North Texas into the state's other major metropolitan centers. Whitley has been a columnist for Dallas Voice and was most recently board chair and program director of Hope for Peace & Justice.

Sarah Tober has been hired by NFIB Texas as its new state communications director. In addition to past communications jobs with Austin Energy and the Texas Historical Commission, she also has history as a small business owner, running a neighborhood grocery store in Hutto specializing in Texas-made products.

Disclosure: The Texas Historical Commission is a corporate sponsor of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Texas Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.