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Konni Burton-Organized SD-24 Forum Draws Three Candidates

The forum, which had drawn opposition from the local county GOP, touched on topics like same-sex marriage, red light cameras, school choice and border security.

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A candidate forum hosted by a Tarrant County state senator last week for the open Senate District 24 seat attracted three of the seven declared candidates where they touched on topics like same-sex marriage, red light cameras, school choice and border security. 

CJ Grisham, Brent Mayes and Ryan Downton were the three who attended the forum, which was held in Temple on the evening of Oct. 15. 

The event, organized by Colleyville Republican Konni Burton, had stirred up some controversy, mainly from the Republican Party of Bell County. The group actively opposed the event in the weeks leading up to it, even discouraging candidates from attending. The party objected to the event being held prior to the start of the candidate filing period. 

Another GOP organization, the Travis County Republican Party, stepped in and co-sponsored the event. Burton made the most of the controversy, even setting chairs at the stage’s table for the four missing candidates. 

“To me, the fact that we are here says something and should say something to each and every one of you,” Grisham said at the start of the forum. 

The forum was composed of a series of questions, both from Burton and from the audience. The topics included same-sex marriage, red light cameras, school choice, abortion, border security, guns and tuition regulation, among others. 

While the candidates were like-minded on the majority of issues, calling for limited government and more conservative values, there were a few areas where they differed slightly.

For instance, Downton said he was in favor of open carry but believed police should be able to ask to see licenses. Grisham, a gun rights advocate and founder of Open Carry Texas, and Mayes disagreed with Downton.

“Friends, I truly believe we are going to have constitutional carry,” Mayes said.

The candidates agreed that border security is one of the top issues — if not the top — in Texas right now, suggesting the removal of sanctuary cities and the use of E-Verify to identify undocumented immigrants.

The candidates agreed that they weren't happy with the plan put forward by Gov. Greg Abbott this past legislative session to improve the quality of pre-K in Texas.

"I see no reason to add an additional year of schooling that's going to add additional property tax," Downton said.

Grisham at one point said he has a three-year-old ticket generated from a red light camera that he refuses to pay out of opposition to the devices.

Candidates Jon Cobb, Susan King, Dawn Buckingham and Reed Williams were not present for the event.

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Attorney General Ken Paxton will have access to information his lawyers had subpoenaed related to the selection of the grand jury that indicted him on three felony charges in July, the judge presiding over his criminal trial ruled last Friday.

The special prosecutors handling his case had sought to block the release of the documents, calling the subpoenas "improper" and "desperate." Judge George Gallagher sided with Paxton's attorneys in a written ruling made after he canceled the Friday afternoon hearing.

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The Texas State Teachers Association would like the Teachers Retirement System of Texas’ support in asking the state Legislature to double its monthly allocation for health insurance to school employees.

Currently, the state gives school employees $75 per month for health insurance costs. The association would like to see them provide $150. Districts are responsible for funding at least $150 monthly for each employee’s health insurance premium.

“After 14 years, how long must we wait for the state to do its fair share to make sure Texas teachers and public school employees have affordable, high quality health care coverage?” TSTA President Noel Candelaria said in a Thursday press release. “Will you, the TRS board, join us in asking the Legislature to double the state contribution for educator health care?”

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If it wasn't already obvious that health care spending is the 800-pound gorilla of state contracting, a new report from the State Auditor's Office makes it crystal clear.

The report is a result of a provision tucked into Senate Bill 20, the session's lead contracting reform bill, that directed the SAO to consider auditing all of the Health and Human Services Commission's contracts worth more than $100 million. Before SAO's leadership can decide which contracts to audit, they need to know just how many contracts fell into that category. The verdict: 57 contracts worth nearly $46.1 billion.

The eye-popping figure may be a little off, as HHSC management "expressed concerns about the accuracy of the expenditure information," in their own records, according to the report.

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This time last year, Asleep at the Wheel's Ray Benson stumped for Proposition 1, the constitutional amendment designed to boost transportation funding.

A year later, there's another road funding proposition on the statewide ballot and another video featuring colorful Texas celebrities. 

Move Texas Forward is out with a new web video for Proposition 7 featuring Rooster McConaughey and Butch Gilliam of West Texas Investors Club, the Shark Tank-style reality show on CNBC.

The most memorable line comes from McConaughey: "I'd rather see them spend this money on roads than spend it all on saving that ***damn prairie chicken up there that's already been saved."

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