Perry Gives Up, Packs for Texas

Gov. Rick Perry praying at The Response, a two-hour evangelical gathering in Greenville, S.C., on Jan. 17, 2012, resembling the massive prayer event of the same name Perry hosted in August 2011.
Gov. Rick Perry praying at The Response, a two-hour evangelical gathering in Greenville, S.C., on Jan. 17, 2012, resembling the massive prayer event of the same name Perry hosted in August 2011.

News isn't always surprising.

What would have been surprising was the announcment that Rick Perry was taking his campaign to Florida after South Carolina.

Getting out the way he got out — before the election instead of after — kept Perry from confirming his low poll numbers with a race through Saturday. If Newt Gingrich finishes ahead of Mitt Romney after Perry's withdrawal and endorsement, the governor can claim part of the credit.

And embarrassing as some parts of this race turned out to be, Perry probably didn't do permanent damage to himself.

Aides are already floating the run again idea, a normal exercise when you're protecting a politician from being ignored as a lame duck.

Perry blew this election, falling apart faster than a soggy taco shell. It was obvious almost from the start that he hadn't done his homework and wasn't ready. He got in after months of speculation that weren't matched by preparation. After an impulsive start, he never made it a competitive race. Nearly perfect on paper, he rapidly became a joke on television and on the stump, with a knack for saying the wrong things with perfect delivery —  think of Ben Bernanke — and flubbing his lines when he was saying the right ones — like that blown early debate line when he was trying to attack Romney and got lost in his own prepared sound bite.

"Oops" is what we'll all remember, but that came well after voters had left the building. By November 9, when Perry couldn't remember the name of that third federal agency, he was already down to about 10 percent in the polls. He had broken 30 percent right after Labor Day, his peak.

But time is everything in politics.

The governor has three years left in his term, and a regular legislative session next year. He's still got the power of vetoes and appointments, and has to be reckoned with. And he's still the leader of the Republican Party in a state where Democrats remain in a political deep freeze.

The governor who got tagged for winning with just 39 percent in 2006 has a knack for being out of favor when it doesn’t matter and back in favor when it does. It's the same guy who, two years ago, was miles behind Kay Bailey Hutchison in the polls and who, one year ago, had just vanquished her and Democrat Bill White.

Now he's at a low point, but the legislative session is a year away and this will all be old news by then.

He's not necessarily out of the national mix, either. Perry's riffs on federalism and states' rights are popular with Republican voters, and more effective coming from a governor than from someone in Washington. He's got time to talk, and something to talk about.

A Parting Shot More Valuable than an Endorsement

He's not a hippie and he doesn't camp out with his friends in parks or on the outdoor stage at Austin City Hall, but Gov. Rick Perry is a 99-percenter. And in a parting gift to his fellow Not Romneys, he tagged the frontrunner in the presidential race as a rich guy.

The poor boy from Paint Creek with homemade flour-sack underwear has become wealthy, by most standards, during his 26 years in public office.

Despite his own affluence, Perry's got a regular political trick that puts him in the 99-percent camp against his ultra-wealthy opponents: He demands that they make their income tax information public. Though the governor left the race this week, he did so only after making Mitt Romney's taxes one of the leading story lines in the GOP primary.

He didn't demand Kinky Friedman's income taxes, or Carole Keeton Strayhorn's, or Chris Bell's during the 2006 race for governor. He didn't ask for Jim Hightower's, either, when he was knocking that Democrat out of the top office at the Texas Department of Agriculture in 1990.

But when he faces rich guys — Tony Sanchez Jr., or Bill White, or Romney — Perry reaches for Form 1040.

Demanding the documents works whether the opponent produces the goods or not.

It illustrates the rich candidate's wealth. Politics is a game of Us vs. Them, and painting an opponent as a member of the rich 1 percent makes the opponent one of Them. Especially if the accuser has populist tendencies, as Perry does.

Few documents are more tantalizing to opposition researchers than tax returns. Perry himself has been popped by opponents who think his charitable contributions are meager, or that he's done extraordinarily well, financially speaking, for a guy who's been a full-time state employee since January 1991. Financial documents released during the presidential campaign revealed that Perry "retired" as he began his current term as governor a year ago, and now collects both his state salary and his pension. Had he been in better standing in the polls, the other presidential candidates would probably be shooting at him for that. Instead, they saved their bullets for opponents in front of them, ignoring Perry and others who brought up the back.

Sanchez didn't produce all Perry asked for, but his wealth was established in another way: the tens of millions of dollars he blew on his own campaign.

If they don't produce the records? That can work, too. In 2010, Perry dared White, a Democrat, to release his tax returns and conditioned his availability for debates on production of the documents. He got to talk about White's income and avoid debates all in one bit.

Now it's Romney's turn, and although Perry has dropped out of the race (endorsing Newt Gingrich on the way out), the former Massachusetts governor's income is the subject of the political conversation in these last days before that state's primary election. Perry said Romney should release the returns so that people can see what he's (financially) made of.

During the debate on Monday, Romney said he probably would release them in April. Later, he said he was in the 15 percent tax bracket. Gingrich joined the dog pile, saying he's in the 30 percent bracket, an indication he doesn't make the kind of money Romney does. Now, ABC News reports that Romney has stowed millions of dollars in investment funds in the Cayman Islands, sheltering them from taxes.

It's a class war, with Romney in the role of piñata and the other Republicans taking turns with the bat.

Although Perry brought it up, he was never likely to be the beneficiary. Gingrich, Rick Santorum and Ron Paul were ahead of him and more likely to gain ground at Romney's expense. Besides, with personal finance as the battleground, his double-dipping offered easy ground for attack had his campaign become threatening to anyone.

Perry's attack might be successful and put a significant dent in Romney's run. If so, the Texas governor might have landed a successful punch after he was already out of the fight.

Campaign Chatter for 1/23

Perry campaign workers take down the final sign of Perry's presidential campaign at the Hyatt Place Hotel where he announced the suspension of his campaign on January 19, 2012.
Perry campaign workers take down the final sign of Perry's presidential campaign at the Hyatt Place Hotel where he announced the suspension of his campaign on January 19, 2012.

Before he bailed out, Gov. Rick Perry was running third — in Texas — in the race for president, according to a survey from North Carolina-based Public Policy Polling. The order of things in Texas, according to PPP: Mitt Romney, 24 percent; Newt Gingrich, 23 percent; Perry, 18 percent; Rick Santorum, 15 percent; and Ron Paul, 12 percent.

That same survey has Dewhurst in a 2-to-1 lead over his nearest rival, Ted Cruz, in the Republican primary for U.S. Senate. Dewhurst had 36 percent to Cruz's 18 percent. Tom Leppert was third, at 7 percent; 31 percent of the voters contacted were undecided.

The pollsters also asked Texans whether Perry's presidential run has been good for the state's image: 39 percent say it has hurt, 13 percent say it's helped and 45 percent say it hasn't made any difference.

The poll, done with automated phone calls, included 559 Republican primary voters. It was conducted Jan. 12-15 and has a margin of error of +/- 4.2 percent.

• Senate candidate Cruz is getting a boost from a political action committee controlled by U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint, R-South Carolina, in the form of a 15-second commercial running on TV in Texas. The commercial from the Senate Conservatives Fund calls Cruz a Tea Party conservative and "the conservative alternative to Dewhurst."

Dewhurst, meanwhile, is running an ad that features former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee taking a pop at DeMint and other out-of-staters who support Cruz, calling them "the Washington insiders have come to Texas falsely attacking David Dewhurst."

• Four of the state's top officeholders — two of whom aren't even on the ballot in 2012 — each raised more than $1 million during the second half of 2011.

Gov. Rick Perry, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, Attorney General Greg Abbott and Comptroller Susan Combs each had seven-figure contribution totals.

Perry, busy for most of the last half of the year with that presidential campaign, raised $1 million for his state campaign account, ending the year with a $2.5 million balance.

Most of the money appears to have come into Perry's state account in July and early August. The biggest contributors, each contributing $100,000, were the AT&T Texas PAC, Mr. and Mrs. Bob Perry, a Houston homebuilder who is not related to the governor but has been a generous backer over the years, and Brian Pardo, a Waco life insurance and financial planning executive. The Texas Farm Bureau's PAC gave Perry $50,000 and seven more contributors each gave $25,000. The rest of the more than 2,500 contributions to the governor's state account came in checks of as little as $10.

Dewhurst, running for the U.S. Senate, hit the mark in just three months, raising $1.5 million for his federal campaign account during the fourth quarter of 2011. Federal candidates don't have to report until the end of the month, but Dewhurst announced his total a couple of weeks early.

State candidates and officeholders were required to file reports with the Texas Ethics Commission on Tuesday, detailing their contributions, expenditures, loans and ending balances for the second six months of 2011. Not all of their reports were immediately available online, but many candidates — especially those who had good news to report — also announced their totals publicly.

Abbott raised $2.1 million and ended the year with just over $12 million on hand, putting himself far ahead of anyone else in Texas politics. He's got an eye on a 2014 race for governor; that balance gives him a huge head start over anyone who's not personally rich and willing to pay for a political race, and it serves to scare off potential competitors.

Combs raised $1.1 million during the second half of the year, ending with a cash balance of $6.1 million. She is considering a run for lieutenant governor, but unlike Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples and Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson, she hasn't said she will definitely run for that post in 2014. Staples reported contributions of $619,445 and an end-of-year balance of $1.5 million. Patterson pulled in $260,979 and ended the year with $411,506 in the bank.

Christi Craddick, a first-time candidate and the daughter of former House Speaker Tom Craddick, R-Midland, raised $757,741 for her Texas Railroad Commission bid. She ended the year with $609,477 in the bank. State Rep. Warren Chisum, R-Pampa, who's also running for that seat, raised less and has more: He brought in $273,584, but had $755,622 on hand at year’s end. Houston lawyer Roland Sledge raised $127,435 and had $248,553 on hand. His campaign's borrowings totaled $212,946.

Comal County Commissioner Greg Parker suspended his campaign for the other Railroad Commission seat, saying his fundraising has been anemic and can't support a statewide race. Parker raised $74,684 during the last six months of the year and had $1,000 in the bank at the end of last month. If nobody moves around — there's another filing period ahead — that would leave Barry Smitherman without opposition in the GOP primary.

• Republican Elizabeth Ames Jones, who's giving up a spot on the Texas Railroad Commission to run for the state Senate against Jeff Wentworth, R-San Antonio, picked up an endorsement from former presidential candidate Steve Forbes. He'll be in San Antonio next week to host a fundraiser for her.

Trent Ashby, president of the Lufkin school board and a candidate for state representative, raised $152,122 for his challenge to freshman Rep. Marva Beck, R-Centerville.

• State Rep. Linda Harper-Brown, R-Irving, won an endorsement from the National Rifle Association and got the NRA's "A" rating for her voting record. That group also gave its top rating to Ken King, one of five Republicans challenging state Rep. Jim Landtroop, R-Plainview, in House District 74. But it gave the same rating — and it's endorsement — to Landtroop. Rep. Allan Ritter, R-Nederland, also said he got top grades and endorsement from the NRA, as did Rep. Chuck Hopson, R-Jacksonville.

• Here's an unusual announcement from a political consultant, in full: "As of yesterday, The Election Group, LLC, is no longer providing general campaign consulting for Scott O'Grady's campaign for State Senate, District 8. Our firm holds Captain O'Grady in the highest regard, and wish him well in all present & future endeavors."

O'Grady is running against state Rep. Ken Paxton, R-McKinney, for the seat now held by Florence Shapiro, R-Plano. A few days earlier, Paxton announced endorsements from 50 mayors and city council members in eight cities in that Collin County district.

And a few days after this was released, he told The Dallas Morning News that rumors he would leave the race are incorrect. At the same time, there's a state House district right in front of him without a well-funded incumbent in it.

David Simpson, R-Longview, raised $83,280 and says that's more than another other freshman state representative.

• State Rep. Larry Gonzales, R-Round Rock, got a reelection endorsement from the Texas Retailers Association PAC.

Inside Intelligence: Coming Home

Now what? This week, we asked the insiders what Gov. Rick Perry's reentry into state politics will be like (and, it should be noted, collected these answers before the governor dropped out of the presidential race on Thursday morning).

Almost all of them — 89 percent — said he'll remain in office, finishing a term as governor that's not scheduled to end until January 2015. But two-thirds of the insiders said the governor's power has been diminished.

Specifically, 44 percent said his unsuccessful run will decrease his power over state government. About as many said it would have no effect, and 13 percent think it will increase his power. The insiders split when asked about Perry's influence in the lobby, with the same numbers saying it would cut his power or would have no effect on it.

A majority said the defeat will reduce Perry's power over Republican politics in Texas.

As always, we asked for comments and have attached the full list of verbatim responses. Here's a sampling:


Will Gov. Perry remain in office if he drops his presidential campaign?

• "What else is he going to do?"

• "In fact, it's my guess that he will run again for governor."

• "Why not? Free house, free security detail, and a salary to supplement the pension checks."

• "He'll stay in office, but I think this will be his last term as governor."

• "What else would he do? The job has minimal responsibilities, adequate pay, and plenty of perks."

• "I think he will leave before the next session if he can - hopefully as President Romney's Secretary of Agriculture."


Has running for the presidency diminished his power in Texas?

• "Those who loved (or feared) him still love him. Those who abhorred him still do."

• "He has not only damaged his own brand, he has damaged the Texas brand. Texas will recover. It is not yet clear if he will."

• "He's been shown as an emperor with no clothes. No longer will ambitious Republicans like Greg Abbott continue to wait for Perry's next move."

• "This is the same individual whom some called Governor 39% just five years ago. He survived that, he can survive this."

• "Well there's always the sympathy factor."

• "Last I checked, he still has the veto power and the appointment power"

• "The aura of electoral invincibility is certainly gone, but he still wields the powers of the office and he has shown he is very good at that."

• "To the extent his power is based on people's perception of him."

• "Plenty of people are angry at his aggressive fund-raising tactics instate. He's also viewed as embarrassing the state with inept early debate performances. But he's still powerful because he's be governor during another legislative session in 2013."


How would ending his presidential campaign affect his influence over state government?

• "He'll attempt to salvage his now-tarnished legacy by trying much harder to influence state government than ever before."

• "Might net out at zero. He'll be wounded in the Legislature but his appointees can still be effective."

• "He's now vulnerable to challenges on all fronts since it's clear he's not bullet proof."

• "He'll need to champion a bold, no-holds-barred agenda to re-assert himself and shore up his legacy."

• "Damage is done. Como se dice, 'lame duck'"

• "He will no longer be distracted by the campaign and state government decisions will no longer be filtered through the lens of a national campaign."

• "He'll be paying a little bit of attention again."


How would ending his presidential campaign affect his influence over the lobby?

• "It will have no effect in the sense that it won't change him. Thus, pity those who he perceives were not sufficiently helpful to him in his bid for the White House."

• "I hope it decreases it."

• "Perry's influence over the lobby has more to do with what he does in 2013 (and 2014) than what he does in 2012. If he comes back to serve out his term, then the lobby will be back on bended knee."

• "Still Governor. Influence over lobby will be reduced only if the Legislature no longer follows his lead."

• "Lobby will presume he has one more session to have say over their business."

• "After his national performance, the Governor doesn’t have a prayer of reelection in 2014. As a result, he’s essentially a lame duck. This will somewhat limit his influence over the lobby, but most will remain respectful and continue to play the game as they don’t want their bills vetoed. Now, where’s that list of lobbyists who flew to Iowa to support him…"

• "Um, he is still the governor."

• "They've still got to live with him."


How would ending his presidential campaign affect his influence over Republican politics in Texas?

• "His power, short of getting elected President, was going to wane anyway. It's time for Governor Abbott in 2014 (at least if you ask the General), and it won't matter if RP is there or not."

• "Republicans like to talk about how "Republican" they are and Gov. Perry is good at that also."

• "Better than coming in behind Romney and Ron Paul in the Texas primary."

• "Wabbit season."

• "Abbott has to be antsy."

• "Ultimately, the impact of the less than impressive campaign is to diminish his currency with major contributors--and that may impact the Texas political landscape sooner than later."

Guest Column: The Keystone XL Decision was Right

Map of TransCanada's Keystone and proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline.
Map of TransCanada's Keystone and proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline.

Texans have never been afraid of a challenge, especially when it comes to energy. Since discovering oil at Spindletop early last century, Texans have used ingenuity and hard work to make the Lone Star state the energy capital of the world.

But after the oil price slump of the 1980s exposing our economy’s vulnerability to oil dependence, dangers to national security rising from our oil addiction, and growing concerns about pollution threatening the air we breathe and water we drink, Texas leaders set goals to diversify our energy portfolio to include clean energy.

And Texas businesses have responded, making significant investments in wind, solar, advanced biofuels and fuel efficiency, helping reduce our oil dependence and demonstrating that we can power our state with energy sources that are clean and will never run out. Already, Texas has installed more wind turbines and Energy Star efficient buildings than any other state.

This week, President Obama stood up to Big Oil’s efforts to keep us mired in the dirty technologies of the past and rejected the permit for the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. The pipeline would have been a disaster for our climate, the quality of the air we breathe, and critical water resources across our country. It would have deepened our dependence on dirty oil from Canada’s tar sands, producing catastrophic levels of global warming pollution.

Last year, Texas suffered from some of the most extreme weather in our history. The drought, the worst since 1789, led almost every reservoir in the state to drain to less than 60 percent of normal levels. The devastating wildfires, the worst in Texas history, destroyed more than 1,600 homes and nearly wiped out the Lost Pines of Bastrop State Park. The heat, the worst not just in Texas but in U.S. history, caused more than 100 Texans to die from heat stroke and exhaustion. And according to Texas State Climatologist John Nielsen-Gammon, an appointee of Gov. Rick Perry, human-caused global warming is at least partly to blame.

Enter Keystone XL, a proposed 1,700-mile pipeline which would transport the dirtiest form of oil — tar sands — from Canada across America’s heartland all the way to Texas.

As oil from easy-to-reach reservoirs has run out, oil companies have increasingly used riskier and more environmentally destructive methods to obtain oil. Production of oil from Canada’s tar sands has destroyed vast areas of boreal forest, polluted local waterways with toxic substances, and increased global warming pollution.

Tar sands contribute 10 percent to 40 percent as much global warming pollution as conventional oil and one estimate found Keystone would result in climate damaging emissions equal to adding six million cars to U.S. roads. This led NASA’s top climate scientist to conclude that construction of the pipeline would mean game over for our climate.

The pipeline would also threaten our precious water supplies, crossing the Ogallala and Carrizo-Wilcox aquifers, which supply drinking water to millions of Texans. Over the past decade, more than 1 million barrels of oil products have leaked from petroleum pipelines, including oil from 14 spills since 2010 from existing pipelines operated by TransCanada, the company behind Keystone.

All this risk to Texas so that a foreign oil company can make billions selling Canadian oil to China and other countries.

The fact is we can create jobs and end our dependence on oil, but Keystone isn’t going to do it. Contrary to jobs claims from studies funded by Big Oil, independent estimates by the State Department, Cornell University researchers and others find that Keystone XL would create at most 4,500 positions. But what if we invested in clean energy instead?

Just ask the thousands of Texans who are already employed by the wind and solar industries. Talk to the thousands of carpenters, plumbers, and AC installers who are building and retrofitting the homes of the future — green, efficient homes that use less energy and save consumers money on their electric bills. Or look at Texas electric companies who are investing millions and creating jobs in infrastructure to put more electric cars on Texas roads. A recent study found that President Obama’s proposal to raise fuel economy standards to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025 would create more than 400,000 jobs nationwide.

While Texas’ political leadership works tirelessly for Big Oil, President Obama is taking concrete steps to reduce our dependence on oil and build a cleaner, healthier future for American families. Rejecting the Keystone permit was the right call, for Texas and the nation.

Luke Metzger is the Director of Environment Texas, a statewide, citizen-funded advocate for clean air, clean water and open spaces.

Guest Column: The Keystone XL Decision was Wrong

Pipe sections in Illinois await crews to weld and bury them during construction in 2009. This segment of the $12 billion Keystone pipeline project has already been built; a proposed pipeline through Texas still awaits government permits.
Pipe sections in Illinois await crews to weld and bury them during construction in 2009. This segment of the $12 billion Keystone pipeline project has already been built; a proposed pipeline through Texas still awaits government permits.

America was dealt a devastating blow by our “Dear Leader.” With the flick of his pen, President Obama killed 20,000 construction jobs, destroyed at least $7 billion in new investment, committed the U.S. to sending $36 billion a year to hostile dictatorships like Venezuela for years to come, and set the wheels in motion to send China almost one million barrels of North American oil every day.

The president’s decision to kill the Keystone XL pipeline had all of these effects. The most immediate effect was to kill off 20,000 construction jobs financed with private money instead of taxpayer money the president favors spending. I testified before the State Department about the importance of the Keystone XL project and the regulatory scrutiny it had already successfully overcome. Testifying with me were hundreds of scientists and engineers who attested to the safety and necessity of the project. Also testifying were construction workers, steelworkers, and average citizens who need the jobs this project would bring.

On the other side of the Keystone XL issue, there was a group of people attempting to shout me and other supporters down. They were parroting 1980s movie star Daryl Hannah and saying Keystone XL would make Americans “slaves to fossil fuels.” Unfortunately for us, President Obama listened to his Hollywood pals instead of those of us who calmly presented factual information.

Not only would Keystone XL have brought jobs to the United States, it would have bolstered our national security by bringing us almost one million barrels each day of secure, North American oil. This oil could have displaced the oil we now buy from Venezuelan Dictator Hugo Chavez — oil that costs the United States almost $100 million each day. This money allows Chavez to support his socialist agenda and oppress his people. Obama’s decision to deny Keystone XL has Chavez laughing all the way to the bank.

Hugo Chavez isn’t the only one who is happy about Obama’s decision. The Communist Chinese Government is also thrilled. Canada has said that if the United States won’t take their oil, they must find another buyer, and that buyer is probably China. The environmentalists who opposed this project either aren’t very smart or they aren’t being honest. They should want that oil to be refined in the United States, where we have strong environmental regulations. Instead, the oil will now likely go to China, where environmental regulations are practically nonexistent, and where permitting consists of bribing the right Communist Party official.

Some opponents say they are concerned about safety. As the safety regulator of over 170,000 miles of pipeline, some of which are larger than Keystone XL, I am confident that the safety and environmental safeguards that would have been in place on Keystone XL would ensure a safe and efficient pipeline. Presently, there are pipelines operating in all of the areas Keystone XL would cross. These pipelines operate with little fanfare and few issues. Piping the oil to Texas Gulf Coast refineries would have been safer than piping it to a shipping terminal, loading it on a tanker, shipping it to China, and putting it in the Chinese pipeline system.

Finally, there are those who say the tight permitting timeline of the decision on Keystone XL is what caused its demise. That’s simply untrue. The first applications for Keystone XL were submitted in 2008, with 2011 being the expected permit issuance date. As recently as April 2011, the State Department issued a press release saying they expected “a decision on whether to grant or deny the permit before the end of 2011.” It was only after environmentalists joined with Occupy Wall Street protesters and held a circle around the White House that the President made a political choice to try to delay the decision until after the 2012 elections. Congress instead gave the President a two-month extension to the evaluation deadline, which forced the President to show his hand before the November election.

In an ironic twist, the President’s Jobs Council released a report calling for an “all-of-the-above” energy strategy, which would mean increasing North American oil and gas production. The next day, the President killed Keystone XL and eliminated 20,000 jobs, then hopped in Air Force One and used about 11,000 gallons of jet fuel to fly to Disney World. Unfortunately for America, Mr. Obama sees no problem with saying one thing one day and doing the opposite the next. Perhaps Disney World is a good place for the President to remain since he so clearly lives in a fantasy land.

Barry Smitherman is a Texas Railroad Commissioner and a former member of the state's Public Utility Commission.


The Week in the Rearview Mirror

Texas Democrats settled a lawsuit over Republican funding of efforts to get the Green Party on the Texas ballot, but they won't reveal the details of the settlement. The deal came to light with this week's campaign finance filings; the Democrats reported receipt of a $210,000 check for "confidential litigation settlement." Their allegation was that Republican operatives schemed to get the Greens on the ballot to bleed votes from Democrats in close races.

El Paso, in the midst of a recall against its mayor and two City Council members, may have to change its election date for the second time. The city originally had to reschedule the May 12 election so that it wouldn’t conflict with a primary runoff date. Now that Texas has moved its primaries to April 3, El Paso’s April 14 election conflicts with that primary date. Until the federal courts lock down the state's primary date, officials in El Paso will have to wait to schedule theirs.

As college and universities opened their doors for the spring semester, students found themselves with a new requirement: Anyone under 30 enrolling or re-enrolling after a gap in attendance is now required to provide proof they've received a meningitis immunization in the last five years. Exceptions will be made for students who fill out a medical or conscience form, and schools have been granted a 10-day extension to allow time for everyone to comply.

Austin Energy has generated much publicity over the years for its environmentally conscious programs. But an analysis of the utility shows that the programs may not be financially viable enough to allow the utility to keep them in place without a significant rate hike. The report shows that costs have risen 24 percent between 2007 and 2010. Critics of the utility say that a system should be established to prioritize initiatives, while backers claim the utility needs to keep promoting green energy.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality announced $4.5 million in grants designed to encourage construction of natural gas vehicle fueling stations. The stations must be no more than three miles from interstate highways that connect Houston, San Antonio, Dallas and Fort Worth. Preferential treatment goes to stations that supply both liquefied and compressed natural gas at the same location.

The U.S. Border Patrol is ready to announce new and more comprehensive strategies in handling illegal immigrants crossing the Mexican border. Instead of returning people directly acrosse the border, offenders are more likely to be held in detention centers until they can be returned to a border crossing many miles away from where they were picked up. The intention is to separate them from the smugglers they’ve already paid to help them cross and prevent them from crossing again immediately.

Houston Independent School District is facing criticism and funding challenges as it tries to accommodate an unusually high number of gifted and talented students. The district has identified about 15.6 percent of its students as gifted and talented, far above the state average of 7.2 percent. Officials this summer discussed raising the district's standards to pare down the numbers but were shot down by district principals, who were concerned about scaling back the program.

Texas Parks and Wildlife’s shoot-to-kill policy for burros has come under fire again — this time with the help of the burros themselves. A group of protesters rode donkeys to the state Capitol to highlight the policy in Big Bend State Park that has seen about 130 burros killed since rangers resumed the practice in 2010. The Wild Burro Protection League dropped off more than 103,000 signatures protesting the practice; the state has argued that the burros are feral and upset the delicate ecosystem in Big Bend.

Political People and their Moves

Don Green, most recently an aide to Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, is the new chief financial officer at the Teacher Retirement System of Texas. He's a budget wizard and also served on the board of the Employee Retirement System of Texas as an employee representative.

Speaker Joe Straus appointed Michael Blue and William "Billy" Freed to the Texas Emerging Technology Advisory Committee, which oversees the state fund of that name. Blue is managing partner of Ernst & Young's Austin office. Freed is a principal at Nueces Marketing partners in San Antonio.

Straus appointed state Reps. Angie Chen Button, R-Garland, and John Davis, R-Houston, to the Select Committee on Economic Development, a panel that's looking at the state's economic incentives and policies before the legislative session that starts a year from now.

ERCOT's board elected Craven Crowell and Judy Walsh as chair and vice chair, respectively. Crowell was chairman of the Tennessee Valley Authority for eight years; Walsh is a former Public Utility Commissioner. ERCOT (the Electric Reliability Council of Texas) operates the electric grid that covers most of the state.

UT Southwestern Medical Center named Dr. John Warner the CEO for their hospitals. He's an interventional cardiologist and was the assistant veep for hospital planning.

Quotes of the Week

I have concluded there is no viable path forward for me in this 2012 campaign. Today I am suspending my campaign and endorsing Newt Gingrich.

Rick Perry, dropping his presidential bid

Keep in mind that almost all of our nominees in the last 50 years have been on their second attempt at the White House, so Republican voters tend to like experienced candidates that they’ve seen for a long time.

Perry adviser Ray Sullivan, on the governor's future

Going into this, I think most of the Texas press thought that there was really a potential chance for Perry to make it to the nomination, or at least get close to it, just because he’d been kicking everybody’s ass down here for a decade.

Texas political reporter R.G. Ratcliffe, quoted by Politico

When he got started, I warned people not to underestimate Perry — he's a lot stupider than he looks.

Jim Hightower, who was Texas agriculture commissioner until Perry beat him in 1990, in the Los Angeles Times

He sure didn't tell me I was going to win.

Rick Perry, on God's hand in his bid for the presidency

I hope Ron Paul doesn’t get out until whoever our front runner is recognizes that the libertarian principles are the conscience of the Republican party.

U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint, R-South Carolina, on Fox Business, adding that he doesn't agree with Paul on everything.

We've put a halt on everything. Contributions, everything, right now. We don't know who's running and what districts they're running in.

Mark Lehman, who runs the PACs for the Texas Association of Realtors, on redistricting