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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.

Recent Contributions

Get 'em While They're Hot

You can't keep weeds out of buffalo grass. Beer and soda pop taste better when cold. Somebody prominent always gets arrested when the Legislature is in Austin. And if the state deregulates college tuition, it'll go up.

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Bumps on the Fast Track

The newest obstacle to medical malpractice liability legislation is this question: Would limits on liability increase the availability and number of abortions done in Texas every year?

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Dark Clouds Over Sherwood Forest

Gov. Rick Perry has said on several occasions that he thinks school finance ought to be rebuilt during his administration, which lasts four years, but that he doesn't think the Legislature has either enough experience or enough time to do it during this legislative session.

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Key Change: From Minor to Major

The last time the House got committees, Texas had a different speaker who was in his fifth term in office, running a chamber where his party had been in control for over 100 years. Turnover in the membership was slight, and the changes in committee assignments were slim.

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The Other Kind of Political Fundraising

The three guys at the top of Texas government are all sworn in and official, and they are scratching around for cash. The state's current budget is flowing red, and the next budget mismatches declining revenues with increasing costs. Gov. Rick Perry, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, and Speaker Tom Craddick started off with a letter to state agencies asking for the equivalent of 7 percent of their current year budgets. Some programs won't be touched: public school funding, acute care Medicaid, the Children's Health Insurance Program and debt service (which can't be cut without defaulting).

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Stacking the Deck

Lt. Gov.-elect David Dewhurst waited until the Senate had voted on its rules—maintaining the powers of the Lite Guv—but not for his inauguration to name committees and their memberships. Unlike his predecessor, who led a Senate with a one-vote Republican majority, Dewhurst fronts a Senate with a 19-12 GOP advantage, and he tilted the table strongly in their favor. Democrats will chair six of the 15 committees in the Senate, but only one of those panels—Veterans Affairs and Military Installations—will have a Democratic majority. The major committees will have solid GOP majorities: Finance, 10-5; Business and Commerce, 6-3; Education, which gets school finance, 6-3; and Health and Human Services, where budget cuts could be focused, 6-3. State Affairs, which typically gets a range of major legislation, also has a 6-3 Republican majority.

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All About the Money

No matter what you thought you heard during the election season, in the session starting on Tuesday, everything will be a sideshow to the main act: The state budget.

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Ask Santa for a Five-Pound Sack of Money

The governor's budget might be more than a doorstop this session. The three Republicans who'll be running things in the Pink Building seem to be on the same page, saying they'll team up on one starting budget instead of doing the usual thing. The usual thing: The governor presents a budget. The Legislature ignores it. The Legislative Budget Board prepares a budget, and that's the working document for budgeteers for the rest of the session.

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Texas Democrats' Circular Firing Squad

Some Texas Democrats, stung by the results of last month's elections and left with only a short list of candidates who might make a strong statewide ticket four years from now, are circling the party headquarters in a bid to replace Molly Beth Malcolm as chairwoman of the party.

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The Signpost Up Ahead: Ethics

The ethics dust-devil whirling around Rep. Tom Craddick, R-Midland, is unlikely to harm his upcoming election as Speaker of the House, but it could make more trouble for him during the legislative session. It has made some House members on his side skittish—not an unnatural state for politicians in a time of change, and not a permanent condition. And it has emboldened and encouraged some of the people who don't want the Republicans to do well in their first session in charge of things since the inventions of such contrivances as telephones, automobiles, income taxes and Velcro. That's not a permanent condition, either.

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The Wrong Kind of Boom

Republican budgeteers missed a shot at limiting the amount of spending to be done by the next Legislature, falling a vote short in their attempt to tie the state budget to a conservative measure of economic growth. And the numbers will have another chance or two to balloon over the next seven months, as lawmakers wrestle with the sputtering economy.

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The Other Big Deal

The state budget is a big deal in Austin and in scattered pockets around the state where people who make their livings by knowing about this stuff are paying attention. But even though the people in the bubble—we include ourselves in that gray world—are certain that the budget and taxes will be the centerpiece of the legislative session, regular people have something else on their minds.

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A Boiling Pot, Full of Lobsters

Former legislators who were lobbying for various businesses last session will be working in or advising top management in the Pink Building during the next legislative session. That happens to some extent every time there's a regime change or a big staff turnover, but the combination of those types of changes has the doors spinning at the state Capitol.

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A Viewers Guide to Election Night

Give the Republicans the edge, but the top four statewide races in Texas are as competitive at the tape as they have been in years. The GOP candidates are telling those who will listen that they've got the U.S. Senate and gubernatorial contests in the bag, but their actions suggest things are closer, with John Cornyn gripping President George W. Bush's coattails (and Bush isn't even on the ballot) and Gov. Rick Perry running the kind of final days Hail Mary ad normally associated with trailing and desperate campaigns.

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Turnout Tales

It's almost impossible to read election results into early turnout numbers, but it's possible to tell whether various efforts to excite voters are working. The trouble is seeing past the political spinners who are trying to get their voters worked up while putting voters on the other side to sleep.

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