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The Brief: Jan. 11, 2013

The latest churn of the rumor mill has stoked speculation about the political futures of two prominent Texans.

Attorney General Greg Abbott, Gov. Rick Perry, state Rep. Senfronia Thompson and Department of Public Safety chief Steve McCraw at the signing of House Bill 3000 on May 25, 2011.

The Big Conversation:

The latest churn of the rumor mill has stoked speculation about the political futures of two prominent Texans.

On Thursday, WFAA-TV's Brad Watson reported that Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott has, according to an unnamed source, signaled to donors that he's running for governor in 2014.

The report cited someone "who has spoken with Republican donors." The source said Abbott had told the donors of his plans before the biennial campaign contribution blackout, which bars state officeholders from fundraising during the legislative session.

Abbott spokesman Eric Bearse denied that the attorney general had made any decisions about 2014 yet. "As Gen. Abbott previously remarked in a press conference, political decisions can wait until after the session," Bearse said in a statement. "In the meantime, he is focused on taking care of the business of the people of Texas."

Abbott's gubernatorial ambitions have long been rumored, but the possibility of Gov. Rick Perry running for an unprecedented fourth term — about which he has played coy — has upended the dynamics of the state's next marquee political race.

"Sen. Hutchison also announced that she was going to run for governor back in 2009, so everybody gets the freedom to do that," Perry, referencing U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison's failed bid to unseat him in 2010, said in response to the news about Abbott. "I'm real focused, which I hope the general is, too, on this legislative session."

Perry added, "I've been underestimated many times before, so we'll just let it sit right there."

Speaking of Hutchison: The Hill reported Thursday that the newly retired senator's name has been floated as a possible replacement for U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, a Republican who had planned to step down after President Barack Obama's first term.

The Hutchison rumors came the same day criticism intensified over a lack of diversity among Obama's picks for his second-term Cabinet — which also won't include U.S. Trade Rep. and former Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk, who on Thursday announced his departure from Washington.

Capitol Notes
Compiled from Tribune reports

  • Texas lawmakers don’t meet for 140 days every two years — they meet during a 140-day period every two years. They take off for weekends, and more — presidential inaugurations and holidays, for instance. Next week, they’ll meet for three days and then they’ll break for six. The week after that, they’ll hear the governor’s State of the State speech. Then they’ll name committees. Then they’ll start working on legislation.
  • Sen. Dan Patrick thinks some lawmakers are a little too focused on who gets credit for passing bills in the Legislature rather than just getting things done. He said he plans to file a bill that will do away with the practice of labeling bills as House bills or Senate bills. Instead, all bills would be called legislative acts. "We will end the practice of a Senate bill and a House bill,” Patrick said. "It will be Legislative Act 27, by a senator and a House member.” Currently, House bills originate in the House and Senate bills originate in the Senate. Under Patrick’s plan, bills would first be considered in the chamber of the lawmaker listed as the first author. Patrick said he believes the measure would prompt lawmakers to be "less concerned about who gets credit and more concerned about just getting the job done." He acknowledged that it may take several sessions before he convinces enough lawmakers to support the change.
  • Texas Workforce Commissioner Tom Pauken said Thursday that when Gov. Rick Perry refused $555 million in federal stimulus funds tied to unemployment insurance in 2009, the governor missed an opportunity to both get the money and to sue the federal government on 10th Amendment grounds. Perry rejected the deal because of the strings attached, which he said would mandate new taxes on business owners and change their hiring practices. During a panel on Thursday at an event held by the conservative Texas Public Policy Foundation, Pauken said a suit was in the works when "without any serious discussion with myself or others, the governor decided to turn the money down." Pauken added: "[I think] this case would have had long-standing implications. It was a lack of thinking through how to influence policy in a serious way and how to beat the bad guys who are trying to centralize power."
  • Also, in case you missed it, check out Tamir Kalifa's knockout time-lapse video of the 2013 session's opening day.

Texas news from across the state and around the web

  • TxDOT director: Agency needs $4 billion more for roads, maintenance (The Associated Press): "The Texas Department of Transportation needs an additional $1 billion a year to keep up with maintenance on 80,000 miles of roads in the state, the agency’s executive director said Thursday. Phil Wilson told a group of officials Thursday that TxDOT also is likely to need an additional $3 billion a year to deal with growing congestion on interstates and other roads."
  • Castro: Diverse Texas makes case for immigration reform (San Antonio Express-News): "U.S. Rep. Joaquín Castro used the scene at the Texas Public Policy Foundation's annual conference luncheon to illustrate the importance of immigration policy to a state as ethnically diverse as Texas. 'We don't know whether the folks here are documented or undocumented, but it demonstrates the hard work ethic of the Latino community and the fact that there is a great need for their work,' Castro said, referencing the banquet servers at the Grand Ballroom of the downtown Hilton, many who spoke Spanish and smiled as panelists debated immigration reform on the dais."
  • Restoring of school money gets push (San Antonio Express-News): "Legislators should quickly restore public education funds since they took hardly any time bumping up their own staff budgets, education advocates said Thursday. A day after returning to the Capitol, the House voted overwhelmingly for a routine resolution allowing legislators to increase their monthly staff budget by $1,325 — from $11,925 to $13,250."
  • CPRIT Foundation Releases List of Donors (The Texas Tribune): Hoping to increase transparency, the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas Foundation — a nonprofit that supplements the salaries of the executive director and chief scientist of the state’s beleaguered $3 billion cancer research agency — released a full list of its donors on Thursday.

Quote of the Day: "I’m thinking Gov. [Andrew] Cuomo wouldn’t want to admit that he wanted to be a Texan." — Gov. Rick Perry at the conservative Texas Public Policy Foundation’s policy orientation conference on Thursday


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