is executive editor and co-founder of The Texas Tribune, where he writes regular columns on politics, government and public policy. Before joining the Tribune, Ross was editor and co-owner of Texas Weekly. He did a 28-month stint in government as associate deputy comptroller for policy and director of communications with the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts. Before that, he reported for the Houston Chronicle from its Austin bureau and for the Dallas Times Herald, first on the business desk in Dallas and later as its Austin bureau chief, and worked as a Dallas-based freelance business writer, writing for regional and national magazines and newspapers. Ross got his start in journalism in broadcasting, covering news for radio stations in Denton and Dallas.
Six weeks away from the election and most of the political conversation in Texas is about a contest that isn't even being fought in the state. You might have expected attention to turn from national stuff to local stuff by now, but local stuff isn't as interesting as the closest presidential race in the last 20 years. If you're in our business, that means you call folks to see what's happening in this race or that one, they want to talk about the presidential polls in Ohio and Florida.
Advocates for the poor will tell you that one of their biggest complaints with the Medicaid system in Texas is the sign-up process. Texas is one of only 12 states that still require a face-to-face interview with a caseworker before someone can receive benefits. It's one of only five states that require both the interview and the so-called assets test that uses what someone owns in addition to their income level to determine whether they're eligible for benefits. And the forms are complicated.
Most Texas politicos came out of the Labor Day weekend in seasonally optimistic moods. This is their moment and it begins with every entrant a potential winner. And the watching is promising, too: As the gates spring open and the races start, the Republicans and Democrats are planning or fearing or predicting anything from skirmish to war in nearly a dozen-and-a-half legislative seats.
Don't get all cocky just because there is no budget deficit. The cure for high financial hopes can be found in the newest files at the Legislative Budget Board or in any number of budgeteers' offices at the Capitol. State agencies are presenting their boring old Legislative Appropriations Requests, detailing what they believe they'll need during the next two-year budget cycle.
Sen. Frank Madla, D-San Antonio, is under investigation by a federal grand jury that has peppered Texas government with subpoenas over the last several weeks. The panel is apparently trying to find out whether Madla or a member of his family benefited from some action he took while in office, but none of the information that has so far become public appears to support any such claim.
Nobody has dropped out of the phantom race to be the next lieutenant governor of Texas -- the race that would take place if the governor is elected president and the current Lite Guv becomes Guv. Few senators will say openly how they would cast their vote in a contest for that job, so no hard count is available. And none of the active and passive contestants have tried to declare victory.
A reader points out that the Olympics start on September 15 and run through October 1, and the public will probably tune in to track stars and gymnasts and swimmers and equestrians at the expense of presidential candidates. The Olympics four years ago in Atlanta ended in the first week of August, so this is new territory. It might be nothing, but it might put a pothole in the political road.
If Gov. George W. Bush becomes president in November, the next two weeks could well prove to be the low spot in his campaign. At our deadline, he was on top of the world, the presidential nominee of the Republican Party, the happy recipient of a four-day bouquet of a convention and the surfer of the wave that historically carries candidates out of their national conventions.
Sheesh, before you get all bothered about the grand mal disaster in the state budget, take a breath. There is no grand mal disaster in the state budget. What you've got -- as we've noted in detail over the last couple of months -- is a situation where the state has several agencies with budget messes of varying degrees of difficulty, and plenty of money to clean it all up. What you've also got is a presidential campaign and lots of people who'd like to put this in the worst light.
The Texas Department of Public Safety's Capitol Police have started a criminal investigation of fraudulent use of the state's long-distance phone network by college students who apparently got hold of agency calling card numbers. So far, that investigation involves four state agencies whose phone usage recently took unexpectedly large jumps. The investigators think college students across Texas have been using calling card codes to steal tens of thousands of dollars worth of phone time from the state's Tex-an (pronounced Techs-ANN) phone system.
Lawmakers knew that letting new companies sell electricity in Texas would bring some financial drama to a staid industry, but they predicted it would take two years to get that far down the road. As you might have heard by now, they were wrong, and the price tag on the mistake is hovering in the $50 million range.
Not that anyone expected unpleasantness or noise or a floor fight at the state GOP convention, but there sure were a lot of relieved Republicans on hand when the thing was over and no figurative blood had been spilled. There was no ugly fight amongst the factions. The statewide elected officials were not left off the list of national delegates, as some had feared they would be. The platform didn't take on any wacky, headline-grabbing new provisions.
If you stick with the riff that the bad ol' Democratic Party is dead, then be ready for this to turn into a slasher movie; the corpse will certainly rise for a sequel, if not soon, then certainly in a year's time when the Republicans are picking their way through a post-George W. Bush landscape.
About a year ago, the people in the highway business in Texas were fresh off of a legislative victory. They had killed a bond program that some thought would endanger future funding of roads. They feared, among other things, that the interest on those bonds would eat into money that would otherwise be spent on roads, and by extension, on road builders.
Unless there's a sudden change of heart, George W. Bush won't be speaking to the state GOP convention in Houston. That's not news. But in the rush of coverage, nobody stopped to try to figure out why the candidate decided to ignore his own tribe.