Gravel Plan on Pause, but Fallout Continues

A driver maneuvers around a badly damaged portion of the IH 37 frontage road south of FM 99 in Live Oak County, TX on Firday, August 16, 2013
A driver maneuvers around a badly damaged portion of the IH 37 frontage road south of FM 99 in Live Oak County, TX on Firday, August 16, 2013

Initially just a public relations headache, the pushback against the Texas Department of Transportation’s plan to convert some badly damaged paved roads to gravel is now getting in the way of the agency’s efforts to address the issue that prompted the controversial policy in the first place.

From the moment TxDOT Deputy Executive Director John Barton announced the plan to convert 83 miles of paved road in South and West Texas to gravel in July, it drew scorn and outrage from lawmakers in Austin. Barton and other officials have explained that the agency lacks the resources to maintain the roads, which have experienced a surge in truck traffic related to a historic oil drilling boom. Converting the roads to gravel (“high-end unpaved” in TxDOT parlance) not only provided a smoother ride than cracked and pockmarked pavement, but also widened the roads, reducing the likelihood of accidents.

After two short road segments were converted, TxDOT implemented a 60-day moratorium, which ended this month. No more conversions are currently in the works, according to TxDOT spokesman Bob Kaufman.

During this year’s legislative sessions, lawmakers appropriated $225 million for state roads impacted by energy sector development, a fraction of what TxDOT officials had said was needed to tackle the problem. Last month, state Sen. Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands, offered TxDOT the chance to more than double the agency’s budget to address the problem.

At the Senate Select Committee on Transportation Funding hearing, Williams pointed to $250 million in extra vehicle registration fees sitting in the state’s coffers and directed TxDOT’s leaders to formally request the money from the Legislative Budget Board for energy sector road work. He made the funding contingent on TxDOT promising to hold local hearings before converting any more road segments to gravel.

“I’m prepared today, if you guys will draft the request for us, to appropriate that money to address this specific need,” Williams said. “I think that the lieutenant governor shares my concerns about this.” (Williams has since resigned from the Senate.)

TxDOT Executive Director Phil Wilson sent the request to LBB the same day. Earlier this month, he heard back from LBB Director Ursula Parks.

“The Legislative Budget Board has reviewed your request and disapproves the request at this time,” Parks wrote. She was relaying the decision of the 10-member LBB, which is split between representatives of the House and Senate but tends to approve things unanimously.

Spokesman Jason Embry said House Speaker Joe Straus, a member of the LBB, had some “reservations” about TxDOT’s spending request.

“For one, he is concerned about the practice of spending hundreds of millions of dollars outside of the normal appropriations process,” Embry said. “In addition, he is not convinced that TxDOT's plan to convert some paved roads to gravel is necessary, and he continues to hope that TxDOT officials will offer a permanent solution to that issue.”

For now, the funding request remains in limbo. State Sen. Carlos Uresti, D-San Antonio, represents many of the South Texas counties in the center of the drilling boom. He said he is hopeful the impasse can be resolved and TxDOT can get the extra $250 million for energy sector projects.

"I drove the roads just yesterday, and some of them are being paved and being maintained and some of them are rough,” he said. “A lot of them that are falling apart.”

Prosecutors Prepare to Open Their Files

Gov. Rick Perry ceremonially signs Senate Bill 1611, known as the Michael Morton Act, which requires prosecutors to disclose evidence in criminal cases. Morton served nearly 25 years in prison for his wife's murder before he was exonerated in 2011.
Gov. Rick Perry ceremonially signs Senate Bill 1611, known as the Michael Morton Act, which requires prosecutors to disclose evidence in criminal cases. Morton served nearly 25 years in prison for his wife's murder before he was exonerated in 2011.

As 2014 approaches, Texas district and county attorneys are preparing to implement a new law that aims to prevent wrongful convictions by requiring prosecutors to open their files to defense lawyers. 

Sounds simple: Prosecutors have boxes with files that have evidence, and they just have to lift the lids and extract the papers. The reality? Not so much.

The Michael Morton Act, which lawmakers approved this year in the wake of the namesake’s case, requires prosecutors to disclose evidence in their files to defense lawyers in criminal cases. Morton was sentenced to life in prison for his wife’s murder. After he spent nearly a quarter-century in prison, DNA evidence revealed that he was innocent, and an investigation of the case revealed that the prosecutor had not disclosed evidence that could have prevented Morton’s wrongful conviction. Morton, who was freed in 2011, was a fixture at the Capitol this year, lobbying for bills like the Morton Act that increase accountability for prosecutors. Under the act, prosecutors are required to give defense lawyers evidence in their files and to document the release of that information.

In many large counties across the state, prosecutors have long had open-file policies, so the transition to the new law is less challenging. But in smaller counties where sharing such large volumes of information is not routine, establishing the basic nuts and bolts of transferring reams of data while not exposing private information is a big task to tackle.

“Some of the big issues are just how you physically distribute it whether that be by web, paper, electronic or otherwise,” said Robert Kepple, executive director of the Texas District and County Attorneys Association.

As early as September, county attorneys in places like Hood County began posting questions on a discussion forum on the TDCAA website about what kinds of software and redacting tools could be used to share information required under the law while safeguarding items that could jeopardize the safety of witnesses and victims.

Kepple said an upcoming December meeting of TDCAA members would focus on implementation of the Morton Act.

Bobby Mims, a Tyler defense lawyer who is president of the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association, said that after meeting with the prosecutors’ group he is confident they are working to comply with the new law. Some defense lawyers, though, are concerned about prosecutors’ use of redaction. They worry that too much information could be hidden.

“If you read [the law] closely, they’re supposed to turn over everything and shift the burden for redaction to the defense team,” Mims said.

Despite some concerns, Mims said he anticipates that implementation will occur with few glitches, especially after prosecutors this month watched former Williamson County District Attorney and state district Judge Ken Anderson go to jail and lose his law license because of his role in Morton's wrongful conviction.

“I expect there’s going to be a large good-faith effort to comply,” he said.

Guest Column: The 2013 Senate, From Left to Right

Mark P. Jones
Mark P. Jones

Editor's note: Mark P. Jones, chairman of Rice University's political science department, has updated his rankings of Texas state senators based on their votes during this year’s regular and special sessions. Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, was statistically the most conservative senator, while Houston Democrat Sylvia Garcia was the most liberal. There was a significant gap between the Republicans and the Democrats, but John Carona of Dallas was the least conservative Republican senator, and Eddie Lucio Jr. of Brownsville was the least liberal Democrat. A copy of the full rankings and charts is attached. Jones wrote about the House rankings last month.

Liberals and Conservatives in the Texas Senate: The 2013 Ranking

Political scientists have long used roll call votes cast by members of Congress to plot them on the Liberal-Conservative dimension along which most legislative politics now takes place. This ranking of the Texas Senate uses all 978 nonlopsided roll call votes taken during this year’s regular, first, second and third special sessions. As with past rankings, this uses a Bayesian estimation procedure developed by Stanford University professor Simon Jackman.

It is also an update on Sen. Wendy Davis' comprehensive location on the Liberal-Conservative dimension and provides a comparison of two lieutenant governor candidates presently competing for the support of the most conservative GOP primary voters, and another — a Democrat — just entering that race.


In the figure, Republicans are indicated by red dots and Democrats by blue ones. The figure is based on the roll call vote analysis and for each senator provides a mean ideal point, referred to below as the Lib-Con score, along with the 95 percent credible interval (CI) for this point estimate. If two senators’ CIs overlap, their positions on the ideological spectrum might be statistically equivalent, even if their Lib-Con scores are different. A table ranking the senators in 2013 from most liberal to most conservative is attached.


It is crucial to keep in mind that Republican senators can register Lib-Con scores that are noticeably lower than those of most of their fellow Republicans while remaining conservative. It merely signifies they have voting records that are less conservative than most of their Republican colleagues. The same is true for Democrats on the other end of the rankings. Every Republican senator has a Lib-Con score that is significantly more conservative than that of every Democratic senator; every Democrat’s score is significantly more liberal than every Republican’s.


The 19 Republican senators fall into three rough ideological blocs. The most conservative bloc consists of seven senators and ranges from Charles Schwertner of Georgetown to Dan Patrick of Houston. Each member of this conservative “magnificent seven” has a Lib-Con score that is significantly more conservative than those of at least half of their Republican colleagues. The group contains four of the five 2013 Republican freshmen: Donna Campbell of New Braunfels, Kelly Hancock of North Richland Hills, Ken Paxton of McKinney and Schwertner.

A review of these seven senators’ respective 95 percent CIs reveals that all of them overlap — that none is significantly more or less conservative than any other. While Patrick and Brian Birdwell of Granbury have more conservative scores than Robert Nichols of Jacksonville and Schwertner, for example, we cannot conclude based on this empirical evidence that either Patrick or Birdwell is significantly more conservative than either Nichols or Schwertner.

The seven-member Republican center bloc ranges from Jane Nelson of Flower Mound on one end to Tommy Williams of The Woodlands on the other. It also contains the senator occupying the party’s ideological median in 2013, Joan Huffman of Southside Place, who also held the same status as the GOP’s median senator in 2011.

The moderate conservative Republican bloc is anchored on the left by John Carona of Dallas and on the right by Bob Deuell of Greenville. Carona, Kevin Eltife of Tyler, Robert Duncan of Lubbock and Kel Seliger of Amarillo all have Lib-Con scores that are significantly less conservative than those of every senator in the other two blocs, with Carona and Eltife’s scores even significantly less conservative than Deuell’s. In fact, the data indicate that Carona is ideologically closer to the three most conservative Democratic senators than he is to fellow Republicans Birdwell, Campbell, Hancock, Patrick and Paxton.


The 12 Democrats in the Senate range from Sylvia Garcia of Houston on the left to Eddie Lucio Jr. of Brownsville on the right. Garcia’s Lib-Con score is significantly more liberal than that of all but one of her fellow Democrats, while Lucio's is significantly more conservative than that of all but four. After Garcia, the two most liberal Democratic senators are José Rodríguez of El Paso and Kirk Watson of Austin. After Lucio, the two most conservative Democrats are Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa of McAllen and John Whitmire of Houston.

In contrast to 2011, when she was the Senate’s second most liberal member, Davis had the seventh most liberal ranking in 2013, with a Lib-Con score located solidly in the ideological middle of the Democratic delegation. Her likely 2014 running mate, Leticia Van de Putte of San Antonio, is the fourth most conservative Democrat.


An Update to “A (Texas) Liberal in a Red State”

My July analysis of Davis’ voting record for 2009-13 is now updated to incorporate the votes that took place during the second and third 2013 special sessions. It confirms her status as the Senate’s fourth most liberal member during that five-year period among the 31 senators who served at least two terms, with an ideological profile significantly to the left of that of four of her Democratic colleagues.

At the same time, that comprehensive 2009-13 analysis does suggest Davis made a decision, perhaps motivated by statewide political aspirations, to move toward the Democratic center in 2013; her Lib-Con score for 2013 was found to be significantly less liberal than her 2011 score.

Dan Patrick vs. Todd Staples

Perhaps no two lieutenant governor candidates are in a more heated battle to win the hearts and minds of the state’s most conservative GOP primary voters than Dan Patrick and Agriculture Commissioner and former state Sen. Todd Staples of Palestine. While the Senate tenures of Patrick and Staples did not coincide, the two served in adjacent legislative periods, Staples in 2005 and Patrick in 2007, making it quite feasible to use joint-scaling methods to accurately compare their respective locations along the same Liberal-Conservative dimension.


This joint analysis of the 2005 and 2007 legislative periods finds Patrick and Staples had the two most conservative Lib-Con scores among the 36 senators (22 Republicans and 14 Democrats) who served in either the 2005 session alone (five senators), the 2007 session alone (five) or both sessions (26). Patrick and Staples’ respective CIs overlap considerably, indicating that, based on their most comparable roll call voting records, neither can credibly be considered noticeably more conservative than the other. In sum, Staples’ voting record was as conservative as Patrick’s, and vice versa.

Mark P. Jones is the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy’s Fellow in Political Science, the Joseph D. Jamail Chair in Latin American Studies and the chairman of the Department of Political Science at Rice University.

Newsreel: Perry on Immigration, New LCRA Leader, VDP for Lite Guv

This week in the Texas Weekly Newsreel: Gov. Rick Perry says the Mexican energy industry may solve America's immigration problems, the LCRA has a new leader and state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte signals she's running for lieutenant governor.

Inside Intelligence: About the State of the Parties...

With state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, on the verge of an announcement about the lieutenant governor’s race, we asked the insiders in government and politics about how she might affect the chances of other Democrats on the ticket. Fifty-two percent said she’ll improve things for the rest of the ticket, 32 percent said she won’t, and 16 percent said her candidacy would have no effect on other Democrats running in 2014.

Democrats hope a candidate like Van de Putte will appeal to Hispanic voters, who are already solidly in the Democratic camp. Republicans hope to win the support of those voters, but the insiders are skeptical, with only 1 percent saying the GOP will win a Latino majority in 2014, 5 percent saying it could happen in 2016 and only 6 percent saying it could happen in 2018. Most said it would be 2020 or later, and 35 percent said they don’t know.

The races for governor and lieutenant governor offer the best windows into the future of the two parties in Texas, according to the insiders. And the race for lieutenant governor was overwhelmingly their choice as the best display of current Republican Party politics.

We collected comments along the way and a full set of those is attached. Some excerpts follow.


Would San Antonio state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte's candidacy for lieutenant governor improve the electoral odds for Texas Democrats in 2014?

• "Having a recognizable Latino will bolster the vote and she might increase the turnout."

• "Absolutely. With Dan Patrick as the R nominee...10%-15% of Republican voters would vote for someone else; thus giving LVP a huge chance of winning."

• "I do not see how the Democrats would make any progress in statewide elections this time. But, Sen. Van de Putte drew a 4-year term and is probably the most legit candidate the Democrats have run for this office in a while. If you don't run you can't win."

• "The lite guv's race is a gift-wrapped opportunity and the only shot for a Democrat state wide victory. The republican candidates are racing towards the right-wing cliff and Senator Van de Putte will be riding the perfect wave towards a possible victory."

• "Senator Van de Putte is much scarier to Texas Rs than Wendy Davis will ever be. Attacking Senator Van de Putte is akin to attacking your friend's mom after she baked you cookies."

• "The Ds will lose by at least 10 points with her or without her."

• "She's a respectable candidate. Dems have not put up respectable statewide candidates for ten years."


When do you think the Republican Party will win a majority of the Hispanic vote in Texas?

• "Another run to the right Republican Primary pushes that possibility further into the future."

• "Who ever said that was a goal of the GOP in Texas!? It certainly doesn't need to be to maintain majority party status in Texas."

• "There is an assumption that the R party will ever win a majority of the Hispanic vote in Texas. I'm not sure it'll happen in my lifetime."

• "Republicans have proven you don't need a majority, just a strong percentage. Strong percentage = GOP Win."

• "Huh? Assuming George P. Bush runs for Governor in the future, I don't expect the Republican Party to win a majority of the vote. Even when or if he does, there's no guarantee he will pull that demographic entirely into the party. George P. facing a Mayor Castro would certainly split the sheets for Texas Hispanics."

• "You clearly don't mean this Republican Party. You must be referring to some future Republican Party which has a substantially different agenda."

• "I do not think the Republican Party will ever win a MAJORITY of the Hispanic vote.... I think it will make serious inroads by 2016 or later."


What races show the true future of the two parties in Texas?

• "Wendy Davis and the Battleground Texas crowd have brought the national Democrat platform to Texas politics. How will the voters respond?"

• "Lt. Governor. R party has infighting with a race to the right, which will result in extreme statements by the end of the runoff. And that race will likely be closer than the Governor's race next November, showing how extremism in the primary hurts in the general."

• "The race for governor will provide the best reading of where the two parties stand today. My guess is Davis loses by eight or nine, inside the Democratic margin of the last dozen years, but not close enough to truly threaten."

• "As a Reagan Republican, I am concerned at the rhetoric and just plain stupidity coming out of the Republican candidates for Lite Guv. They are trying to ultra-right-wing each other off the cliff. Their actions are making it very difficult to come back towards the middle. Democrats will make Patrick the face of the TX GOP."

• "The Supreme Court and Texas Court of Criminal Appeals races are the best indicators of any underlying electoral shift in Texas."

• "The 2014 election is going to mark the beginning of the Democratic recovery in Texas. The GOP will still sweep statewide, but the margin of victory will start to narrow -- and quicker than expected."


Which Republican primary race offers the best window into the Texas GOP's future?

• "The Lite Gov race has every flavor of Republican candidate that one could want: New Establishment, TEA Party, Individual Freedom, and a Perryista. The only thing missing is enough money to fund them all."

• "The Republicans are all over the immigration issue, which I think will be an albatross around their necks. I think the Republican nominee for Lt. Gov. facing Sen. Van de Putte will highlight how far behind the times the Republicans are and just how big of a mountain they will need to climb with a 'browning' Texas."

• "Lt. Gov. You have four current officeholders running as far right as they can. It's a recipe for long-term disaster for the Rs."

• "Lite Guv and AG's race each has multiple candidates that at the same time represent different factions of the party but also largely overlap. Will the Tea Party candidate win or the other more conservative Tea Party candidate win? How will the ''established'' candidates do--you know, the ones with experience in dealing with and finding solutions to problems? Bravo should do a show on political candidate makeovers and they could base it here in Texas. Steer Eye for the Voter or something like that. I've never seen so much reinventing and me-tooism."

• "Land Commissioner being George P. Bush. Well known, wealthy and Hispanic. The attorney General's race will be interesting with tea party versus moderate. This should give us insight on how strong the tea party is this cycle."

• "The only moderate on the ticket is Branch. If he wins, there's been a shift."

Our thanks to this week's participants: Gene Acuna, Brandon Aghamalian, Jenny Aghamalian, Victor Alcorta, Brandon Alderete, Clyde Alexander, George Allen, Doc Arnold, Jay Arnold, Charles Bailey, Tom Banning, Walt Baum, Dave Beckwith, Andrew Biar, Allen Blakemore, Tom Blanton, Chris Britton, David Cabrales, Lydia Camarillo, Kerry Cammack, Thure Cannon, Snapper Carr, Corbin Casteel, Elizabeth Christian, Elna Christopher, Harold Cook, Kevin Cooper, Chad Crow, Beth Cubriel, Randy Cubriel, Curtis Culwell, Denise Davis, Hector De Leon, June Deadrick, Nora Del Bosque, Glenn Deshields, Holly DeShields, Tom Duffy, David Dunn, Richard Dyer, Jeff Eller, Jack Erskine, John Esparza, Jon Fisher, Neftali Garcia, Dominic Giarratani, Bruce Gibson, Stephanie Gibson, Kinnan Golemon, Daniel Gonzalez, Jim Grace, John Greytok, Jack Gullahorn, Clint Hackney, Wayne Hamilton, Bill Hammond, Richard Hardy, John Heasley, Ken Hodges, Steve Holzheauser, Laura Huffman, Deborah Ingersoll, Cal Jillson, Jason Johnson, Marti Johnson, Mark Jones, Robert Jones, Lisa Kaufman, Robert Kepple, Richard Khouri, Tom Kleinworth, Sandy Kress, Nick Lampson, Pete Laney, Bill Lauderback, James LeBas, Luke Legate, Mark Lehman, Leslie Lemon, Richard Levy, Ruben Longoria, Vilma Luna, Matt Mackowiak, Luke Marchant, Matt Matthews, Bryan Mayes, Mike McKinney, Robert Miller, Steve Minick, Bee Moorhead, Mike Moses, Nelson Nease, Keats Norfleet, Pat Nugent, Todd Olsen, Nef Partida, Gardner Pate, Jerod Patterson, Jerry Philips, Tom Phillips, Wayne Pierce, Richard Pineda, Allen Place, Royce Poinsett, Gary Polland, Jay Pritchard, Jay Propes, Bill Ratliff, Tim Reeves, Boyd Richie, Carl Richie, Kim Ross, Grant Ruckel, Jason Sabo, Andy Sansom, Jim Sartwelle, Barbara Schlief, Stan Schlueter, Bruce Scott, Robert Scott, Christopher Shields, Nancy Sims, Jason Skaggs, Ed Small, Todd Smith, Larry Soward, Leonard Spearman, Dennis Speight, Jason Stanford, Bob Strauser, Colin Strother, Michael Quinn Sullivan, Sherry Sylvester, Trey Trainor, Vicki Truitt, Ware Wendell, David White, Darren Whitehurst, Seth Winick, Alex Winslow, Peck Young, Angelo Zottarelli.

The Calendar

Monday, Nov. 25

  • Fundraiser for state Rep. Elliott Naishtat; Austin Club (4:30-6:30 p.m.)

Tuesday, Dec. 3

  • Fundraiser for state Sen. Carlos Uresti; Stephen F. Austin Intercontinental, Austin (4:30-6 p.m.)
  • Fundraiser for Justice Ken Wise; Grappino di Nino, Houston (5:30-7 p.m.)

Wednesday, Dec. 4

  • Fundraiser for state Rep. Debbie Riddle; Austin Club (4:30-6 p.m.)
  • Fundraiser for state Senate candidate Mike Novak; Austin Club (4:30-6 p.m.)
  • Fundraiser for state Rep. Eddie Rodriguez; 81 San Marcos St., Austin (5:30-7:30 p.m.)
  • Tarrant County Democratic Party Candidate Round-Up Party; Stagecoach Ballroom, Fort Worth (6:30-9 p.m.)

Friday, Dec. 6

  • Fundraiser for U.S. Rep. Kevin Brady; Austin Club (noon-1:30 p.m.)
  • Fundraiser for state Rep. Diane Patrick; Austin Club (8:30-9:30 a.m.)

The Week in the Rearview Mirror

U.S. Supreme Court justices rejected a request by abortion providers to intervene in their lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of new abortion regulations in Texas that took effect in November. New admitting privileges requirements for abortion facilities can remain in place while the constitutionality of the law is litigated. Oral arguments before the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals are scheduled for January.

Texas' senior U.S. senator, John Cornyn, kicked off his re-election campaign at Scholz Garten, touting a strong endorsement from Gov. Rick Perry and presenting a strong message: Republicans must show they are "responsible adults."

A push to keep Texas' high-risk insurance pool got a boost from a bipartisan group of lawmakers — GOP lite guv David Dewhurst and Democratic state Sen. Kirk Watson of Austin. The calls are spurred by concerns that problems with implementation of the federal health insurance exchange could threaten the ability of Texans with pre-existing medical conditions to maintain continuous coverage.

The State Board of Education debated implementation of new high school graduation requirements the Legislature passed in May. At issue is whether the SBOE will choose to continue to require algebra II for every degree — a requirement the Legislature expressly dropped from existing law. Highlighting the importance of what's at stake, the chairmen of the education committees in the Capitol — Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, and Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock, R-Killeen — dropped by to explain their legislative intent.

After a contentious meeting, the Lower Colorado River Authority approved a drought management plan that will almost surely cut off irrigation water for coastal rice farmers for the third year in a row.

The UT chapter of Young Conservatives of Texas scheduled and then canceled a mock immigration sting on the university campus after criticism poured in from all quarters, including the Greg Abbott gubernatorial campaign. Press reports identified YCT chapter chairman Lorenzo Garcia as a former paid field rep for the campaign.

Political People and their Moves

Gov. Rick Perry set Jan. 28 for the special runoff election for HD-50. Republican Mike VanDeWalle and Democrat Celia Israel are competing to fill the seat left vacant by state Rep. Mark Strama, D-Austin, who resigned to work for Google Fiber.

Perry appointed Leanne Johnson of Beaumont to a seat on the 9th Court of Appeals. The term runs through the next general election.

Will Montgomery, a partner in the Dallas office of Jackson Walker LLP, has been named by House Speaker Joe Straus to the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) Oversight Committee.

Ross Phillips is the new interim general manager for the Lower Colorado River Authority. A search continues for a permanent replacement for Becky Motal, who is retiring at the end of year.

Neal Smatresk has been named the sole finalist to become the next president of the University of North Texas in Denton. Smatresk is currently the president of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. He replaces V. Lane Rawlins who is stepping down at UNT by the end of the year.

Mark Harmon is the new director of intergovernmental relations at the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. He was previously the agency's legislative liaison and served time on the staffs of state Rep. Corbin Van Arsdale and state Sen. Kim Brimer.

Brian Sledge, most recently with Lloyd Gosselink, is opening his own public affairs shop under the banner Sledge Fancher.

Deaths: Former Speaker Reuben Senterfitt, D-San Saba, 96, died Wednesday. He led the Texas House from 1951 to 1955.

Texas Trial Lawyers Association Executive Director Tommy Townsend, 70, died Monday. He directed TTLA since 1990. Before that, he was in the leadership of the Texas Association of Realtors.

Quotes of the Week

The discussion’s over. The debate’s over. The proof is in. Texas wins.

Gov. Rick Perry, declaring the contest for best state over

I have been surprised to learn how more heavily Texas has become in imposing regulations. Texas is more friendly on the regulatory side than states like California, but it is not as friendly as what some people say.

Gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbottsuggesting the Texas Miracle needs improvement

President Obama did succeed at one thing today: making a bad situation worse with a ‘fix’ that will create more confusion for consumers and threatens to destabilize the health insurance industry.

Gov. Rick Perry, condemning Obama's proposed workaround for canceled health insurance policies that don't meet the new standards under the Affordable Care Act

I always enjoy coming to Scholz. Even at 10 o'clock in the morning, it is noon somewhere. For our friends on the other side of the aisle, for Democrats, the hour is approaching midnight, approaching midnight in the garden of big government.

Gov. Rick Perry, speaking at the kickoff for Sen. John Cornyn's re-election bid

It is clear that Mayor Parker has interpreted her re-election as a mandate to not only ignore the Texas State Constitution but now even the Houston City Charter, with the cover of the City Attorney issuing a flawed legal opinion.

Dave Welch of the Houston Area Pastor Council, accusing Houston Mayor Annise Parker of overstepping her authority by extending health and life insurance benefits to legally married same-sex spouses of city employees.