Democrats Look for the Line Behind Davis

Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, Sen. Wendy Davis, and Sen. Royce West cheer at the Stand with Texas Women Rally at the Capitol.
Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, Sen. Wendy Davis, and Sen. Royce West cheer at the Stand with Texas Women Rally at the Capitol.

You would think, from all this chatter, that Wendy Davis was the name of the newest iPhone.

She got a bit of media coverage and a ton of social media traffic with her email announcement that she will announce her political plans on Oct. 3.

The only way for her to surprise the Texas political world on that date would be to unveil anything other than her campaign for governor.  

She has already embarked on a change of subject — or at least a broadening of the conversation — pushing her interests in public education, for instance, instead of emphasizing the women's health care and abortion bill that made her a political celebrity.

Democrats are hoping Davis will spur others to join the ticket. Many of the mentioned but undeclared candidates seem, for some reason, to be based in San Antonio. Sen. Leticia Van de Putte says she is considering a run for lieutenant governor or perhaps land commissioner. Sen. Carlos Uresti has talked informally to others about running for attorney general. Rep. Mike Villarreal looked at and then decided not to run for comptroller.

That’s just a sampling, and they’re all undeclared. Houston businessman Mike Collier is looking seriously at a run for comptroller and has signed up the political consultants he would need for that. Former El Paso Mayor John Cook is running for land commissioner.

But that’s not a ticket yet. The others are waiting to see what Davis does, whether the money is available for competitive Democrats, and trying to decide whether Texas voters want to lower the Republican red flag that’s been flying steadily for the last 20 years. If Davis runs and runs strong, that could offset the need for lower-on-the-ballot candidates to build their own organizations. But they will still need money to make their names known, and they'll have to put together a set of issues and arguments that interest voters.

Filing is relatively early this year: Candidates for 2014 have to sign up for the primaries between Nov. 9 and Dec. 9.

The Democrats might have one advantage most of  their Republican counterparts don’t have: The GOP’s top races are hyper-competitive, meaning candidates will have to raise money and start their heavy politicking in time for the March primary elections.

Democrats, running in what appear now to be thin herds, might not have to gear up anything but fundraising until well into next year. If they don’t have primary opponents, they won’t have to blow their resources on March contests.

Perry, Obamacare and the Uninsured

A patient at The People's Community Clinic pays her bill as the cashier’s desk.  The Community Health Assistance Program, a program that helps Texans get access to insurance, will run out of federal grant money in a few weeks.
A patient at The People's Community Clinic pays her bill as the cashier’s desk. The Community Health Assistance Program, a program that helps Texans get access to insurance, will run out of federal grant money in a few weeks.

As the U.S. Census Bureau released new statistics showing Texas again ranks highest for the percentage of people without health insurance, Gov. Rick Perry quietly laid out the next moves in his ongoing effort to derail Obamacare.

“We made the decision in the state of Texas that this is how we’re going to operate our state,” Perry said on CNN’s Crossfire last week, “that we don’t count as a big success the number of people on government assistance.”

Texas has fewer people with public health coverage than the nation as a whole — 28 percent of Texans had public coverage in 2012, compared with 32.6 percent nationally, according to the Current Population Survey data released by the U.S. Census Bureau on Monday. And while Texas’ uninsured rate increased to 24.6 percent from 23.8 percent in 2012 from 2011, the national rate of uninsured dropped slightly to 15.4 percent from 15.7 percent, which the census attributes to an increase in the rate of people with public coverage.

That trend is unlikely to change anytime soon in Texas since Perry has consistently opposed expanding Medicaid to cover impoverished adults, as the majority of states have chosen to do under the Affordable Care Act. Instead, Perry asserts that Texans can access health care without insurance, and Texas should not expand a “broken” Medicaid system.

But Texas also has a lower percentage of people with private coverage and employment-based coverage than the nation as a whole: 55 percent of Texans have private coverage, including 49.5 percent with employment-based coverage, while 63.9 percent of the nation's population has private coverage, 54.9 percent of which is employment-based.

In addition to directing the Health and Human Services Commission on to pursue permission from the federal government to fundamentally reform Medicaid with a so-called block grant waiver — essentially, a lump-sum payment — without expanding Medicaid, Perry directed the Texas Department of Insurance to enact strict regulations on federal “navigators,” individuals trained to help others find a private health plan and apply for tax subsidies to pay for it through the federal health insurance exchange that will launch in less than two weeks.

Both moves are highly political and unlikely to have an immediate, substantive effect on the implementation of Obamacare.  

First of all, it's highly unlikely that the Obama administration would approve the state’s request for the no-strings-attached Medicaid waiver that Perry wants. Even in the off chance that the federal government considered the request, the conservative Texas Public Policy Foundation, which has pushed the Medicaid block grant idea for years, argues that the type of fundamental reform Perry directed the HHSC to ask for is impossible without the passage of congressional legislation to transform the governing structure of Medicaid.

Second, the Texas Department of Insurance has barely begun the rulemaking process, which could take weeks or months, to regulate the federal navigators. If the rules take effect by Jan. 1, as the governor’s office hopes, the additional requirements could have a chilling effect on the ability of navigators to assist people. Still, it may not entirely derail enrollment efforts through the federal exchange, given that many of the regulations he requested are forbidden under federal law, and people can still enroll in the exchange without the assistance of a navigator.

Before Perry ordered TDI to regulate the navigators, recipients of the federal navigator grants said they were on track.

“Really, things are looking very good right now,” said Tim McKinney, chief executive officer of United Way of Tarrant County, which in collaboration with 17 other organizations received the largest navigator grant at $5.8 million. “We expect to have training completed sometime next week, and we continue to hire navigators that will be funded from the grant.”

McKinney added that the organization has already recruited more than 136 people to undergo navigator training, even though the navigator grant only covers the salaries of 75. The additional navigators will either volunteer their services or be paid from other sources.

The East Texas Behavioral Healthcare Network, which received the second-largest navigator grant at $1.3 million, plans to have its navigators trained and assisting people by Oct. 15. The network plans to have 24 navigators at 12 centers to serve Texans from Dallas to Houston in the eastern side of the state.

The biggest looming question that could determine the success or failure of the federal health insurance exchange is how high the premium rates will be — and whether Texans will be inclined to purchase the plans, even with the help of tax subsidies. In general, rates will likely be higher for young, healthy people in the exchange than they would be otherwise, but lower for older, sick people. And the more people that choose to participate, especially the so-called young invincibles, the lower premium rates will be for everyone.

So how does this all come back to Texas’ uninsured rate?

Like it or not, Obamacare is coming — and the goal is to bring down the uninsured rate. Texas is not expanding Medicaid, so it's unlikely the rate of people with public coverage will change much. For the uninsured rate to drop, more people will need to find private coverage, and people who want to directly purchase health insurance will have more options available through the federal exchange. Ultimately, how successful or accessible those options are depends on whether Texans embrace those options. 

Bag Bans May Sweep Through Texas Again

An environmentalist dressed as a "bag monster" protests HB 2416 on March 20, 2013 by State Rep. Drew Springer, R-Muenster, banning local bag ordinances.
An environmentalist dressed as a "bag monster" protests HB 2416 on March 20, 2013 by State Rep. Drew Springer, R-Muenster, banning local bag ordinances.

*Correction appended

The war on plastic bags is back.

Six months after Austin’s ban on most disposable plastic and paper bags took effect at checkout counters across the city, political fights are raging in Laredo and Dallas to follow suit.

In Dallas, the debate over a single-use bag ban (for both paper and plastic bags that don’t have a certain amount of recyclable material) has led to allegations of false information within the City Council and is likely to drag on for months in that body's Quality of Life committee. Still, many consider the fact that it’s being debated at all to be progress; in 2008, an ordinance on bags was proposed and quickly tabled.

The political environment may have changed further, now that the Texas Retailers Association has decided to drop its lawsuit against the city of Austin's bag ban. The association had alleged the ordinance violated Texas’ Health and Safety Code.

“It could have had a chilling effect,” Jeremy Brown, and environmental law research fellow at the University of Texas at Austin, said of the lawsuit. “You’re a city and you want to avoid litigation generally. Now that the lawsuit has been dropped, he said, “maybe there’s an impression of reduced political risk.”

But the retailer lobby against such bans remains strong. H-E-B, the plastic bag manufacturer Hilex Poly, chambers of commerce and the retailers group have bused supporters to various public meetings across the state to make their voices heard.

“This isn’t just about plastic retail bags,” said Phil Rozenski, director of sustainability at Hilex Poly, which has three facilities in the Dallas Fort-Worth area. “We’re talking about an industry that is American-based, that employs 30,000 people.” According to the American Progressive Bag Association, 4,500 people work at 34 plastic bag manufacturing sites across Texas.

In Laredo, an outright bag ban appears to be off the table. Instead, a “reduction ordinance” is more likely, and now the argument is over what form such a law might take. Should the city adopt a fee-per-bag structure, as was recently done in Washington, D.C. and Montgomery County, Md., where shoppers pay 5 cents per single-use bag? Or should it go the Brownsville route, where shoppers pay $1 for an unlimited number of bags? (In each of those cases, retailers keep a small portion of the fee, and the rest of the money goes to a public environmental cleanup fund.)

H-E-B is lobbying hard for the dollar/unlimited option. That’s because “if it’s a per-bag fee, each bag needs to be scanned,” said Linda Tovar, spokeswoman for the company’s border region corporate office. “So the time that it takes for a cashier to process and order will be longer than what a usual process may be.”

Environmental advocates say there’s no logic behind that mechanism. In Brownsville, the first Texas city to pass a single-use bag ordinance, officials hoped the $1 charge would be temporary, since it would provide an incentive for customers to bring their own reusable bags. But revenue from the fee has actually tripled from 2011 to 2012, suggesting habits weren’t changing and leading to allegations of a “slush fund” for the city, which has raised more than $2 million from the law.

Companies say they’d rather see voluntary programs and education campaigns, pointing out that a patchwork of different city ordinances are difficult to follow and encourage shoppers to cross city lines for cheaper bags. So far, though, such efforts have not had much success. Before passing the bag ban, Austin spent more than a year on an aggressive education campaign promoting reusable bags before abandoning it, after failing to reach a declared goal of reducing plastic bag use by 50 percent. The city is now spending nearly $1 million on a similar campaign.

State Sen. Troy Fraser, R-Horseshoe Bay, cites mixed reviews on plastic bag bans across Texas as reason for caution.

“I think it’s actually creating more of a problem,” said Fraser, who tried unsuccessfully to put a voluntary reduction system in state law during the 2011 legislative session. “I’m still not a proponent of just the cold-turkey removing of the bags.”

With Corpus Christi also eyeing an ordinance, though, it’s likely the local communities will continue to lead the debate over bag bans. 

Editor's note: This story has been corrected to reflect the fact that Austin did not spend $1 million on an education campaign before passing a ban on single-checkout bags; the million-dollar program started after the bag ban.

 

Newsreel: Tom DeLay, Navigator Regulations, Tom Pauken

This week in the Texas Weekly Newsreel: Tom DeLay's conviction is overturnedRick Perry wants to regulate Obamacare "navigators" and Tom Pauken makes his case for governor.

Inside Intelligence: About The Second Ballot Spot...

The talk of the moment has centered on next year’s race for lieutenant governor, what with the Republican candidates starting what will likely be months of debates and forums and the Democrats talking about whether Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, will jump into the second spot on the ticket.

We started there, and found our insiders divided 41 percent to 42 percent on whether she will run. They came back together on the question of whether the Democrat could win the general election, though, with 81 betting against her.

The Republican candidates, in a Houston forum, squabbled over Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst’s appointment of Democrats to a third of the Senate’s chairmanships. Assuming a Republican wins the 2014 elections, 37 percent of the insiders expect the number of Democratic chairmen to fall and only 2 percent expect an increase; 46 percent think things will remain the same.

Dewhurst has said consistently that he will run for reelection, but speculation that he might drop out prompted use to ask who would benefit. Just under half of the insiders said Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples would get the nomination, while Dan Patrick got 27 percent and Jerry Patterson got 18 percent. [Note: Here’s a great read from the Texas Tribune’s pollsters on the limitations of nonscientific surveys like this one.]

A related question on fundraising went the same way, with 55 percent saying Staples would raise the most money in a race without the incumbent, followed by Patrick at 34 percent.

We asked for comments along the way and have attached a full set of them. Some excerpts follow:

Do you think Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, will run for lieutenant governor?

• "Unless the Ds are privy to polling data no one else in TX has seen, why would they risk losing an experienced D in the Senate?"

• "If Davis goes Guv, VDP goes LtG."

• "Most of us who know LVD, like her. A lot. We also know that she's experienced an especially calamitous year. I suspect that she could use her heart more than her head on making these big-ticket item decisions. So there's more of a wildcard in play here. Life and opportunity are fickle and fleeting."

• "Ultimately no.  If she has higher aspirations but doesn't take defeat well, this is not the race to get into. If the goal is to raise her state name ID for a potential race down the road, it's a calculated risk. Don't want to lose too many times."

• "I sure hope she will run sand I hope Davis runs the race for governor so the Dems will plow money into both races and take a loss.  Then they have less money to spend in other places.  Run baby run!"

• "Sen. Van de Putte would be an excellent Lt. Gov., but it would be a severely uphill battle. I would hate to lose her as a Senator!"

Do you think Van de Putte could win a general election for lieutenant governor?

• "Dan Patrick is going to win the primary, and it's always the wild cards that make the biggest mistakes - it's happened in places just as conservative as Texas. Can she? Yes. Will she?"

• "No, unless her opponent provides a Clayton Williams oops moment."

• "It depends on who wins the Republican primary. A 'too-far-to-the-right' candidate could provide a small window of opportunity for the senator."

• "Major uphill battle for any D in a statewide race"

• "She can win. Likely? No. But the Republican base is divided on this race, and if Dan Patrick wins the nomination, his glorious extremism creates an opportunity."

• "Are you freaking kidding?"

• "It's not her, it's them - too many republican voters."

• "44%"

If the next lieutenant governor is a Republican, will the number of Democrats heading committees rise, fall, or stay more or less in proportion to their numbers in the Senate?

• "Patrick will decrease the number of appointments; but R's and D's hate Patrick, and would just go around him and change some Senate rules to decrease his power."

• "There are a finite number of experienced Senators to lead committees and Senate tradition is well established regarding how power is shared."

• "Based on early rhetoric, a Republican Lite Gov will be hard pressed to hand out more committee chairs to Dems (even if those committees aren't important)."

• "I don't think any of the Republican candidates gives a rat's butt about the democrats so it'll definitely fall. Even if Dewhurst wins, one could see democratic chairs and positions on Finance dropping."

• "GOP Primary voters cannot fathom why a Republican would appoint Democrat committee chairs.  All of the challengers to Dewhurst will pledge to reduce or eliminate entirely the number of Democrats who head committees."

If David Dewhurst were to drop out of the Republican primary for lieutenant governor, who do you think would win the GOP nomination?

• "Jerry Patterson's reputation as a straight shooter (no pun intended) could result in a blunt comment that blows up his campaign, but if Dewhurst is out of the race, he should pick up the R's who can't stomach Patrick or Staples to go along with his base of gun supporters and veterans."

• "First, it is still too early to determine the outcome of this race, but the candidate with the most to gain would be Todd Staples."

• "We would then need a new candidate."

• "Why would he do that?"

• "We're insiders. We want a smooth knowable transition. Former Senator Staples would bring a sense of knowledge and appreciation for the institution."

• "On the other hand, Jerry Patterson could accidentally shoot the other two and win outright."

• "DD won't drop out and will win."

Who would raise the most money?

• "Staples would raise the lion's share of establishment money."

• "Patrick's money would be in small denominations, like $25, but he'd have tens of thousands donors of his ilk."

• "The race will be to see who has the most traction with the Dewhurst existing contributors."

• "As long as The Dew is in the race, no candidate will have a clear fundraising advantage. Once the Dew is out, expect Staples to start showing us the money."

• "The winner will raise the most."

• "None of the three are doing exceptionally well now...if one pulled away in the polls, it would attract front-running money."

Our thanks to this week’s participants: Gene Acuna, Cathie Adams, Brandon Aghamalian, Jenny Aghamalian, Clyde Alexander, George Allen, Jay Arnold, Louis Bacarisse, Charles Bailey, Tom Banning, Dave Beckwith, Andrew Biar, Allen Blakemore, Tom Blanton, Chris Britton, Andy Brown, Blaine Bull, David Cabrales, Raif Calvert, Lydia Camarillo, Kerry Cammack, Marc Campos, Thure Cannon, Snapper Carr, Janis Carter, Corbin Casteel, William Chapman, Elizabeth Christian, Elna Christopher, Kevin Cooper, Addie Mae Crimmins, Chad Crow, Beth Cubriel, Randy Cubriel, Denise Davis, Hector De Leon, Nora Del Bosque, Tom Duffy, Richard Dyer, Jeff Eller, Mindy Ellmer, Jack Erskine, John Esparza, Jon Fisher, Wil Galloway, Neftali Garcia, Norman Garza, Dominic Giarratani, Bruce Gibson, Stephanie Gibson, Jim Grace, John Greytok, Jack Gullahorn, Clint Hackney, Anthony Haley, Wayne Hamilton, Bill Hammond, John Heasley, Jim Henson, Ken Hodges, Laura Huffman, Deborah Ingersoll, Cal Jillson, Jason Johnson, Bill Jones, Mark Jones, Robert Jones, Lisa Kaufman, Russ Keane, Richard Khouri, Tom Kleinworth, Sandy Kress, Dale Laine, Nick Lampson, Pete Laney, James LeBas, Luke Legate, Mark Lehman, Leslie Lemon, Ruben Longoria, Vilma Luna, Matt Mackowiak, Phillip Martin, Matt Matthews, Dan McClung, Debra Medina, Robert Miller, Bee Moorhead, Mike Moses, Nelson Nease, Keats Norfleet, Pat Nugent, Todd Olsen, Nef Partida, Gardner Pate, Jerry Philips, Tom Phillips, Wayne Pierce, Richard Pineda, Allen Place, Gary Polland, Jay Pritchard, Jay Propes, Bill Ratliff, Brian Rawson, Tim Reeves, Patrick Reinhart, David Reynolds, Grant Ruckel, Jason Sabo, Andy Sansom, Stan Schlueter, Bruce Scott, Robert Scott, Ben Sebree, Christopher Shields, Jason Skaggs, Ed Small, Martha Smiley, Todd Smith, Larry Soward, Dennis Speight, Tom Spilman, Jason Stanford, Bob Strauser, Michael Quinn Sullivan, Sherry Sylvester, Jay Thompson, Russ Tidwell, Gerard Torres, Trey Trainor, Vicki Truitt, Ware Wendell, David White, Darren Whitehurst, Woody Widrow, Christopher Williston, Seth Winick, Peck Young, Angelo Zottarelli.

The Calendar

Monday, Sept. 23:

  • The Texas Institute for Literary & Textual Studies' "Reading Race in Literature & Film," with author Junot Díaz; Blanton Museum of Art, University of Texas at Austin (7-9 p.m.)

Thursday, Sept. 26:

  • Fundraiser and birthday event for state Rep. Dawnna Dukes; Midtown Live Sports Cafe, Austin (4-7 p.m.)

Friday, Sept. 17 - Sunday, Sept. 29:

 

Guest Column: Close Dangerous State Disabled Centers

Earlier this year, a man died at Austin’s state-supported living center, one of the state’s 13 institutions for people with developmental disabilities. An investigation ensued, and it soon became clear that the man died as a result of neglect.

He had lived at the center for 50 years, had been hospitalized twice in the months before his death because of gastrointestinal problems, and he was supposed to be monitored closely by staff. While eating dinner the evening of Feb. 13, he began to moan in distress. His stomach was “extremely distended,” according to the investigation report.

Instead of medical attention, the man was simply taken to another room, placed in a chair and left alone. Surveillance footage revealed that the man soon began kicking out his legs forcefully, and then stopped moving. About 10 minutes later, an employee noticed he had turned blue. Despite attempts to resuscitate him, he was pronounced dead an hour later.

That’s just one example. The centers, formerly known as state schools, have been avoiding accountability for years. Since 2009, when the U.S. Department of Justice ordered the state to improve conditions at all 13 locations, federal investigators have threatened to cut funding to the centers more than 50 times, most recently in May of this year.

Reform has been excruciatingly slow. After six rounds of DOJ reviews since 2009, only one center has achieved more than 30 percent compliance across 161 categories the federal and state governments agreed are in need of improvement — things like reducing incidents of abuse/neglect/exploitation, disturbingly categorized in official reviews as “ANE data trends.” The deadline for full compliance with the DOJ terms was 2012; to date, none of the facilities have achieved even 33 percent compliance.

Substandard care has become so commonplace at centers that the 2013 state budget actually accounts for cases of “anticipated” abuse/neglect/exploitation — more than 700 for this year alone. Some have argued that problems persist because of lack of funding for staff, and yet state expenditures on at the centers have risen, along with staff levels, even though the number of residents has been declining steadily for decades. The state last closed centers in the mid-1990s, reasoning that the remaining 13 institutions provided adequate capacity. The current population has declined by 42 percent since the mid-'90s, yet the state continues to operate the same 13 facilities.

The population is shrinking, in part, because institutionalization is becoming increasingly outdated as a viable, humane form of medical care. Families are seeking out community services and supports in their own homes, in privately run group homes or through other arrangements to care for their loved ones with developmental disabilities.

Meanwhile, the centers have become increasingly costly for state taxpayers. New rates effective this month come to more than $257,000 per resident per year. By comparison, the average annual cost per resident in privately run group homes came in at less than $54,000 in the 2014-15 state budget.

These 13 state facilities, some nearly a century old, are derelict and inefficient. Maintenance costs alone are estimated to exceed $95 million in 2014, up from $76 million in 2010. The time has come to consolidate the population in fewer facilities and close the centers that have no chance of ever reaching minimally acceptable standards.

Past proposals have gotten nowhere. Family members, who may have institutionalized their loved ones decades ago, do not want the centers closed, no matter how poor the care. State legislators with centers in their districts are concerned about the loss of jobs, especially in smaller communities.

But the status quo cannot continue. Community-based solutions will improve accountability, and community is what Texans want; 25,000 people eligible for placement in the centers currently are served in cost-effective community programs. Another 129,000, eligible for immediate placement in a center, choose to stay on community waiting lists that stretch more than 10 years into the future.

Although abuse and neglect sometimes occurs in private group homes, those facilities get shut down in the face of such violations. State centers, no matter how bad, are rarely closed. Responsible reform would increase accountability, provide community placement for all who want it, guarantee institutional care when families prefer that option and provide appropriate assistance for displaced workers.

Warnings and threats have gotten us nowhere. State-operated institutions cannot be relied on to police themselves or enact needed reforms and inaction has come at the expense of Texans with developmental disabilities. Other states have managed to shut down failing institutions and successfully move residents into community-based settings, and Texas should join their ranks.

Arlene Wohlgemuth is the executive director of the Texas Public Policy Foundation and director of its Center for Health Care Policy. Dennis Borel is the executive director of the Coalition of Texans With Disabilities.

 

The Week in the Rearview Mirror

Gov. Rick Perry directed the Texas Department of Insurance to establish strict rules to regulate so-called navigators trained to help Texans purchase health coverage under "Obamacare." While the governor says the extra regulations will ensure that people handling Texans’ private financial and health information are properly trained and qualified, the rules could present a significant roadblock to organizations helping to implement the federal Affordable Care Act. Along with many other provisions in President Obama’s signature health reform law, the individual mandate to purchase health insurance is set to take effect on Jan. 1. 

In addition to having the highest rate of people without health insurance in the nation, Texas also has the largest number of children without health insurance and the highest rate of poor adults without health insurance, according to 2012 American Community Survey estimates released by the U.S. Census Bureau this week. More than 852,000 Texas children lacked health insurance in 2012, according to the ACS estimates, which are taken from a random sampling of households throughout the year. California, which has 2.2 million more children than Texas, had the second-highest number of uninsured children at 717,000.

Former U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay’s political money laundering and conspiracy convictions were overturned by the state’s 3rd Court of Appeals. “Based on the totality of the evidence, we conclude that the evidence presented does not support a conclusion that DeLay committed the crimes that were charged,” the judges ruled. “The fundamental problem with the State’s case was its failure to prove proceeds of criminal activity.” The decision reversed DeLay's trial court conviction. The Travis County district attorney's office prosecuted DeLay, and plans to ask the full Texas Court of Criminal Appeals to review the ruling. 

Citing a late change in the nondiscrimination ordinance that San Antonio recently passed, a spokesman for Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott said the state is now unlikely to file suit. A clause that disallowed appointed city officials to “demonstrate a bias, by word or deed” was deleted from the ordinance before the San Antonio City Council passed it on Sept. 5 with an 8-3 vote. The ordinance is aimed at preventing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

Two groups representing minority voters and officeholders sued to block the state’s new voter ID law, which will be used for the first time in a statewide Texas election this November  — barring intervention by a court. The new law requires voters to show an approved photo identification card when they vote. Its requirements “have a discriminatory effect ... and were enacted with a racially discriminatory purpose,” according to the lawsuit filed against the state by the Texas State Conference of NAACP Branches and the Texas House’s Mexican American Legislative Caucus.

Political People and their Moves

There is a new Senate Select Committee on Transportation Funding, set up by Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst to oversee highway improvements — including, specifically, “roads targeted for conversion from paved to unpaved.” Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands, will chair; Robert Nichols, R-Jacksonville (and a former highway commissioner), was named vice chairman.

Dewhurst appointed Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, to chair the Sunset Advisory Commission, and appointed Sens. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, and Charles Schwertner, R-Georgetown, to that panel. 

Becky Motal, general manager of the Lower Colorado River Authority, will retire at the end of the year. She’s been in that job in July 2011. LCRA has been under fire during the drought, trying to balance competing interests from Central Texas to the Gulf of Mexico.

Kevin Patteson is the new executive director at the Texas Water Development Board. He is currently the director of the state’s Office of State-Federal Relations and is a former assistant general counsel to Gov. Rick Perry

William Briggs and Daniel Bravo take over as the new CFO and COO, respectively, at the Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services. Briggs, a CPA, has worked in state government accounting for more than 30 years. Bravo was in charge of regional administrative services at the state’s Health and Human Services Commission. 

Allison Castle, the governor’s director of communications, is leaving for the Texas Department of Insurance, where she will become deputy commissioner for public affairs. 

Sen. Ken Paxton, R-McKinney, picked up an endorsement from the Texas Home School Coalition Association in his bid for attorney general. 

Gov. Rick Perry appointed:

• Jodie Baggett of Ozona and Katie Stavinoha of The Woodlands to the Texas Lottery Commission. Baggett is a partner in a family-owned ranching operation; Stavinoha is a former public affairs director for Koch Companies Public Sector and served as a spokesperson for several state agencies before that. 

Harold Hahn, chairman and CEO of Rocky Mountain Mortgage, to chair the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. He had been the vice chairman. The governor chose Robert Jenkins Jr. of Austin — president of ABC Home and Commercial Services — to be vice chairman.

• Jason Hester of Leander, Johnny Lovejoy II of San Antonio and Randall County Sheriff Joel Richardson of Canyon to the exas Commission on Law Enforcement. Hester is a major at the Texas Department of Public Safety and Lovejoy is president and CEO of Lovejoy & Associates.

Catherine Rodewald of Dallas, retired president of Prudential Asset Resources, to the Texas Commission of Licensing and Regulation.

Quotes of the Week

You stop the rumors by winning.

UT football coach Mack Brown, on rumors of changes in top spots in University of Texas athletics

I’m not running for anything, you know, neither one.

San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, on The Insiders with Dave Price, a Des Moines political show, on the 2016 races for president and vice president

I mean, the blind salamander? How long are we gonna let that little bugger last?

Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson, saying the Endangered Species Act protects "critters that ought to die anyway," quoted in the Houston Chronicle

I’ve been reducing the number of Democratic chairs since I came in. You know how many committees we have? Seventeen. You know how many Democratic chairs we have? Five. So I’ve been reducing them — and not one of them is one of the critical committees.

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, at the same forum, quoted by the Houston Chronicle

He’s ecstatic. He’s gratified. He’s just a little bit numb. I’m hoping with today’s victory, he will be able to resume his life as he once knew it.

Tom DeLay's attorney Brian Wice, on an appeals court ruling that overturned DeLay's conviction on political money laundering, to The Associated Press

Wendy Davis has more balls than Ted Cruz.

A top House Republican aide, quoted by CNN in response to U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz's assertion that a bill to defund Obamacare would die in the Senate

I have expressed some hesitancy to look at a statewide campaign for me in 2014, but politics is when timing and opportunity collide. And I also recognize that you cannot want change if you're not willing to be the agent of that change.

State Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, D-San Antonio, to the San Antonio Express-News

If it’s Wendy Davis vs. Greg Abbott, then she has a 40 percent chance of winning.

Gubernatorial candidate Tom Pauken at a NE Tarrant Tea Party meeting, quoted by The Dallas Morning News