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Ross Ramsey

Ross Ramsey 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.

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You're in Political Hands

The insurance issue blows up, the second-largest insurer plans to leave the state, more than a half million homeowners could be forced to change insurers during the next year. There's plenty for regulators and legislators to do next year, but how does that splash in the election pool?

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Ain't Gonna Study War No More

Several months ago, a spokesman for Attorney General John Cornyn popped off about the Democratic "Dream Team," calling it a racial quota ticket that ultimately wouldn't work. Cornyn disavowed it right away. Then U.S. Sen. Phil Gramm told Republican Party state delegates that Democrats were trying to divide the state's voters on the basis of race. Soon after, in a press grab in Washington, D.C., Cornyn said Gramm was right to say race shouldn't be the basis for the elections.

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Off to the Races

The well-worn rule is that the political season starts on Labor Day, but we're doing now what would usually have been done then because of the 9/11 break in the political schedule. The ads are coming back on television now, and candidates who have been keeping a low profile are breaking into their sprints for the last six weeks before the elections.

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Wasn't There a Lucky-Ducky in the Fable?

While everyone is talking about the potential gap between income and spending in the next budget, the state is facing a big problem in the current budget. Put simply, lawmakers will face a combination of spending overruns and revenue shortfalls when they show up for work in January. Annual sales tax revenues have increased every year since 1983. But not last year: The state's largest single source of tax income dropped by almost $187 million during the fiscal year that ended on August 31. It was supposed to increase by $366 million.

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Florida's Progeny

Partisans in Dallas County are gathering for a fight over who will get to vote on Election Day in November and in the early voting that leads up to it. Republicans call it Ballot Security. Democrats call it Voter Education. Both sides refer to what the other side is doing as Voter Intimidation.

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How Big is the Dump Truck?

With state agencies filing budget requests for the next Legislature, all attention is on the growing demands on state spending. The Austin American-Statesman led the pack, reporting that the differences between available money and spending needs has swollen dramatically, to $7 billion and beyond.

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Risks, Hazards, and Insurance

The great thing about incumbency is that you control the government agencies you're seeking to lead. For example, lookit: Gov. Rick Perry started a commercial that touts the fact that the Texas Department of Insurance issued a cease-and-desist order against Farmers Insurance. The ad began running the same day the order from TDI was announced, letting the governor–through the regulators–control what was in the papers at the same time he was starting a political ad reinforcing the message. The trick is getting voters to believe in reforms put in place so close to Election Day.

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Ka-Blooey!

Gov. Rick Perry pulled the trigger early on the negative ad everyone in Texas politics has been expecting for more than a year, hitting Democrat Tony Sanchez for a drug money scandal that hit a savings and loan that was controlled by the Laredo businessman and his family in the early 1980s.

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Ring and Run

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tony Sanchez apparently likes answering questions from reporters about as much as Britney Spears likes pimples in the middle of her forehead. And any candidate likes to let things cool a bit before jumping into a hot story. And when one candidate is ducking stories, the opponent is sure to try to capitalize on that.

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The Sweet Smell of Success

Watch the business page and you know why John Cornyn moved his July 13 fundraiser to a ranch owned by oilman/rancher Walter Mize. It was scheduled for the Beaumont Ranch, near Grandview (which is south of Fort Worth), but the owner of that spread is Cornyn supporter Ron Beaumont. Beaumont is also the chief operating officer of WorldCom. Revelations about that company's accounting scandals prompted Cornyn to start up the legal machinery in the attorney general's office–he's launched an investigation–and to move the fundraiser for his bid for U.S. Senate.

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State Employee Pay Raises Aren't Dead Yet

One of those things bubbling in the back of the current state budget is a list of contingent appropriations—unfulfilled items on the last Legislature's wish list. The list includes things like a pay raise for state judges and a 3 percent pay raise for state employees. It works like this: If the state is bringing in more tax money than she predicted, Comptroller Carole Keeton Rylander is supposed to watch until there's enough extra money to fund the first thing on the list, and when there is enough, to tell the Legislative Budget Board about it. And so on.

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Smoke Gets in Your Eyes

The newest member of Gov. Rick Perry's anti-crime task force has two unusual traits: He's been under federal criminal investigation for more than two years, and earlier this year, he sought the Democratic Party's nomination to run against Perry. Former Attorney General Dan Morales was appointed to the panel by Bexar County District Attorney Susan Reed and former AG and Texas Supreme Court Justice John Hill. He says it's not politics: He's serving on the task force because of his expertise in asset forfeiture and drug money laundering laws he helped write.

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Way Out West

You would think the Democrats were holding their convention in the Yukon to hear some of the griping about going "all the way to El Paso" for the biennial state gathering. But the Democrats are the biggest convention that city gets, and El Paso is one of the most reliably Democratic counties in the state. They need each other.

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Friends Like These

A fair number of Republican state representatives in Texas–almost a third of them, in fact–think it would be a bad idea to decide the next speaker's race inside the Republican caucus.

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