Vol 31, Issue 35 Print Issue

The Week in the Rearview Mirror

Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples has been named president of the Texas Oil & Gas Association (TXOGA), succeeding Rob Looney who is retiring after 26 years with the group.

At a special meeting of the University of Texas System regents on Monday, the board unanimously voted to keep lawmakers out of the room during an investigation into alleged political influence in admissions at UT-Austin. Those lawmakers had sought to sit in on interviews conducted by an external investigator into those admissions procedures.

The State Board of Education took its first vote Wednesday on an amendment that would require teachers in the state to adhere to the state's curriculum standards when teaching Advanced Placement courses. The move is a rebuff to the Common Core curriculum, an attempt to standardize academic standards nationwide.

NASA announced on Tuesday that it will contract with two private companies, Boeing and SpaceX, to ferry astronauts to and from the International Space Station beginning in 2017. SpaceX recently announced plans to build a commercial spaceport near Brownsville.

The Planned Parenthood Association of Hidalgo County is cutting its ties with the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. The move is an attempt to reclaim state dollars for women’s health care for impoverished women.

Moody's Investors Service described a judge's declaration of the state's school finance system as unconstitutional as a “credit positive,” saying the ruling would compel Texas lawmakers to “redesign the school finance system.”

The Lower Colorado River Authority approved a new plan on Wednesday to manage the Colorado River and its reservoirs, known as the Highland Lakes. The new plan would have a higher "trigger level" on the release of water downstream, raising questions on how coastal rice farmers will fare.

A new study released Monday concluded that oil and gas activities – but not hydraulic fracturing – tainted drinking water wells atop North Texas’ Barnett Shale and Pennsylvania’s Marcellus formation.

Disclosure: The University of Texas at Austin, the Lower Colorado River Authority and Planned Parenthood are corporate sponsors of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Texas Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.

Political People and their Moves

Arturo Cabello Jr. of Brownsville was named by Gov. Rick Perry to the Rio Grande Regional Water Authority for a term to expire Feb. 1, 2017.

Amy Vavra of Mansfield was named by Perry to the Texas Board of Chiropractic Examiners for a term to expire Feb. 1, 2017.

Brenda Swinney of Paige and Myeshi Williams-Briley of Spring were named by Perry to the Manufactured Housing Board. Swinney's term term expires on Jan. 31, 2017, while Williams-Briley's term expires on Jan. 31, 2019.

Jason Baxter has joined the Texas Association of Health Plans as director of government relations. He was previously on the staff of state Sen. Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands, where he specialized in tax, budget and health and human services issues.

Pedro Reyes, executive vice chancellor for academic affairs at the UT System, and Larry Faulkner, president emeritus of UT Austin, will co-chair the 21-member search committee that will advise on the selection of the next president of the UT-Austin campus. The committee includes representatives from the UT System board of regents, presidents of other UT System institutions, the campus deans' council, faculty representatives, UT-Austin staff, the student body, the Texas Exes and external community representatives.

The Texas Department of Public Safety announced a handful of personnel moves:

•    Robert Bodisch was named deputy director of Homeland Security and Services, adding service-oriented divisions to his current oversight of homeland security. He takes over those services functions from Cheryl MacBride, who is retiring.

•    Randall Prince was named assistant director/chief of the Texas Rangers, succeeding Kirby Dendy, who is retiring.

•    Jonathan Percy was named chief information officer and assistant director of the Information Technology Division, replacing Chris Sarandos, who is returning to the private sector.

•    Catherine Melvin has been named interim chief audit executive, following the retirement of Steve Goodson.

Disclosure: The University of Texas at Austin and the Texas Association of Health Plans are corporate sponsors of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Texas Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.