Thu February 26, 2015 5:39 pm By R.G. Ratcliffe


 Almost six hours of inquisition of Greg Abbott’s nominees for the University of Texas Board of Regents ended with the Senate Nominations Committee effectively turning the trio into political hostages by not voting.

Perhaps it was nothing more than a desire by senators to digest extensive testimony from nominees Steven Hicks and David Beck on their roles in the university controversy over favoritism in admissions and supplemental funding from an outside foundation of law professors, or nominee Sara Martinez Tucker’s support for national education standards known as Common Core. But usually a governor, especially a new governor, sees his board of regent nominees pass quickly through the advice and consent process to confirmation.

These nominees represent something more than just a shadow of scandal. In selecting these three, Abbott seems to have given a nod of conciliation to the UT alumni and the business/legal conservative wing of the Republican Party over the tea party social conservatives who had fought to oust UT-Austin President Bill Powers and break the status quo. Powers is stepping down after the current legislative session.

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Wed February 25, 2015 4:06 pm By R.G. Ratcliffe

American Values AtlasTexans, not surprisingly, are more conservative than the rest of the nation and hold sharply divided beliefs on same-sex marriage and abortion, but a new survey found the state overwhelmingly supports a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who live here illegally.

The annual American Values Atlas, put together by the non-profit Public Religion Research Institute, questioned 2,807 Texans on how they self-identify politically and on their opinions of select issues. The survey was made public Wednesday. 

As one might expect, the survey found Texans identify themselves slightly more conservative than the rest of the nation, with 41 percent of the sample describing themselves as conservative, with just 26 percent as liberal, and 27 percent moderate.

Those in the survey said they were 26 percent Democrat, 24 percent Republican and 42 percent independent. It’s those independent conservatives who have kept the state Republican in the elections of the past two decades.

The survey found Texans pretty evenly divided on the issues of same-sex marriage and abortion. While 48 percent supported same-sex marriage, 43 percent opposed it, and because of the margin of error, that essentially is a tie. Similarly, 49 percent of those questioned favored legal abortions, and 48 percent opposed them.

Where Texans really seemed to split from Republican positions was on the issue of how to deal with undocumented immigrants already living in the country.

A whopping 59 percent of the survey said the immigrants should be allowed to stay in the United States and be given a path to citizenship, and another 21 percent said the immigrants should be allowed to remain in the U.S. but not receive citizenship. A small 17 percent said the immigrants should be identified and deported. 

One aspect of the survey that was interesting outside of Texas is the fact in 19 states white Christians now make up less than half the population.

Wed February 25, 2015 10:03 am By R.G. Ratcliffe

Polling in presidential races this early tends to have the Flavor of the Week feel – the candidate with the most favorable publicity tends to take the lead. Rick Perry has been trailing in these polls, but a new one has some data that might give the former Texas governor hope that his “Ooops” moment from 2011 is not haunting him.

Although the survey of Republican voters by the Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling puts Perry into the also-ran category, the poll also suggests that Perry may get a second chance to make a first impression. Among the Republicans surveyed, 43 percent held a positive opinion of Perry, while just 18 percent had an unfavorable view. Another 40 percent said they are not sure they have an opinion of Perry. That’s the crowd he can still win over, and the ones that his opponents have to remind of his missteps in the last presidential race.

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Wed February 25, 2015 8:36 am By R.G. Ratcliffe

The honeymoon period for most governors is that time when the Texas Senate rubber stamps appointments to state agencies, but Greg Abbott is having his nominees ruffled by the right wing of his own party. Abbott’s nominee for secretary of state was scolded for using the term “undocumented” instead of “illegal” to describe people entering the country illegally, and on Thursday the Senate Nominations Committee will take testimony from University of Texas regent appointees who have been declared “unqualified” by the tea party-oriented Empower Texans.

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Tue February 24, 2015 4:56 pm By R.G. Ratcliffe

The new property tax cut plan from Dan Patrick and Jane Nelson will provide a tax break windfall for homeowners in rural and South Texas and mild tax relief for those with rapidly rising home values. But it also will shift the tax burden to renters and large taxpayers such as refineries while setting a potential pratfall for future legislators.

It is pretty easy to say any tax relief is better than no tax relief. And there unquestionably are enough breaks in the $4.6 billion package of property and business tax cuts for the lieutenant governor to engage in some chest thumping. “It has been long overdue,” Patrick said.

Senator Nelson’s portion of the package includes $2.5 billion in what she likes to call “tax relief” for the 2016-17 biennium. Why tax relief instead of a tax cut? We’ll come to that later.

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