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The Brief: March 11, 2015

State contracting has become one of the signature issues of the legislative session, but finding a fix won't be easy.

Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, wraps up the Sunset Advisory Commission hearing on Jan. 14, 2015.

The Big Conversation

State contracting has become one of the signature issues of the legislative session, spurred by ongoing reporting into failed processes that led to awarding of contracts under problematic circumstances across multiple agencies.

But finding a fix won't be easy. Ahead of today's Senate Finance meeting, where Chairwoman Jane Nelson's approach to contracting reform will be laid out, the Tribune's Aman Batheja gives an overview of the different approaches being taken by lawmakers:

As lawmakers approach the halfway point of the legislative session, competing efforts to beef up contracting oversight are taking different approaches to tackle a single, ambitious goal: transforming the current unwieldy, loophole-ridden system into something that can be properly tracked, analyzed and, when needed, restrained.


This week, Senate Finance Chairwoman Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, and Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, filed new bills aimed at improving contract oversight and transparency.

Nelson’s Senate Bill 20 would require agencies to develop a central contract management database and post all of their contracts online. It would also create a public vendor tracking system that state agencies would have to use to grade vendors as a way to inform other agencies when buying goods and services from them.


Zaffirini’s Senate Bill 1053 would create a new “contract management division” at LBB to monitor contracts deemed “high-risk,” including those valued at more than $10 million, or with a vendor that has had past problems with a Texas agency.

The Day Ahead

•    The House convenes at 10 a.m.; the Senate convenes at 11 a.m.

•    House Appropriations meets at 7:30 a.m. to take up budget recommendations, including pending items and riders (E1.030). 

•    House Homeland Security & Public Safety meets at 8 a.m. On the agenda is the chamber's border security bill — HB 11 by Dennis Bonnen, R-Angleton (E2.012). House State Affairs meets at 10:30 a.m. or on final adjournment. On the agenda is HB 159 by Lyle Larson, R-San Antonio, which would make elected officials responsible for the costs of out-of-state travel that is not official state business (JHR 140). House Natural Resources meets at 2 p.m. On the agenda is HB 908 by Larry Phillips, R-Sherman, on the continuation of the Red River Boundary Commission (E2.010).

•    Senate Finance meets at 9 a.m. to take up SB 20 by Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, which attempts to reform state contracting procedures (E1.036). Senate Higher Education meets at 9 a.m. On the agenda is SB 177 by Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo, which would clarify the duties and responsibilities of university regents while implementing best practices for board governance (E1.012).

•    Women's health advocates and state lawmakers rally on the Capitol south steps at noon to demand access to the full range of reproductive health care and to providers like Planned Parenthood.

Trib Must-Reads

Patchwork of Unreliability Keeps Clean Water From Some, by Alexa Ura and Neena Satija

Analysis: A Distinctive Push for Business Tax Repeal, by Ross Ramsey

Spokeswoman Heads to Likely Cruz Campaign, by Abby Livingston

Four File For José Menéndez's Texas House Seat, by Patrick Svitek

Talk Turns to Standards as Lawmakers Weigh Pre-K Bills, by Morgan Smith and Ryan McCrimmon

House Plan Would Plug Hole in Pension Fund, by Jim Malewitz

Analysis: Making the Worst of a Good Situation, by Ross Ramsey

House Panel Endorses Texting-While-Driving Ban, by Edgar Walters

Patrick, Hancock Propose Spending Cap Changes, by Ryan McCrimmon

GOP Lawmaker: Women "Will Die" Without Cancer Screening, by Edgar Walters

Housing Bill Brings Local Control Debate Into Focus, by Patrick Svitek

Cruz Shot at Clinton Greeted With Grumbles, by Abby Livingston

Could Sedative Be Used in Future Texas Executions?, by Terri Langford


The lawmaker-lobbyist revolving door continues to swirl, San Antonio Express-News

State senator revives bill to limit regents' authority, Houston Chronicle

GOP lawmaker drops religious freedom bill, Austin American-Statesman

Judge Blocking Obama on Immigration Has Reputation for Fairness in Texas, The New York Times

New A&M leader nation's latest million-dollar president, Houston Chronicle

Garcia: Rosa is a man without a party in District 124, San Antonio Express-News

Health-care law will cost taxpayers less than expected, CBO says, Washington Post

Tea Party Divided by Export-Import Bank, The New York Times

Quote to Note

“If we don’t have the provider network, women cannot be served. And they will die.”

— State Rep. Sarah Davis, R-Houston, objecting to the Senate's approach to distributing money for a cancer screening program for low-income Texans

Today in TribTalk

Fixing a Texas-sized pension problem, by F. Scott McCown

News From Home

As we follow bills on environmental issues during the 84th legislative session, we'll keep you updated on legislation addressing reforms on how groundwater is managed. Stay caught up on the session with our Texas Legislative Guide.

Trib Events for the Calendar

•    Meet the Mayors: Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings and Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price on March 12 at The Austin Club

•    A Conversation With UT-Austin Dell Medical School Dean Clay Johnston on March 26 at The Austin Club

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Explore related story topics

Dan Patrick Jane Nelson José Menéndez Judith Zaffirini Kelly Hancock Kel Seliger Sarah Davis Ted Cruz