The dean of the Capitol press corps, senior executive editor Paul Burka joined the staff of Texas Monthly one year after the magazine’s founding, in 1973. For nearly forty years he has led the magazine’s political coverage and spearheaded its storied roundup of the Best and Worst Legislators each biennium. A lifelong Texan, he was born in Galveston, graduated from Rice University with a B.A. in history, and received a J.D. from the University of Texas School of Law.

Burka is a member of the State Bar of Texas and spent five years as an attorney with the Texas Legislature, where he served as counsel to the Senate Natural Resources Committee.

Burka won a National Magazine Award for reporting excellence in 1985 and the American Bar Association’s Silver Gavel Award. He is a member of the Texas Institute of Letters and teaches at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin. He is also a frequent guest discussing politics on national news programs on MSNBC, Fox, NBC, and CNN.

Articles by Paul Burka

Gohmert v. Cornyn

Aug 8, 2013 By brian sweany and Paul Burka

The uncivil war inside the Texas Republican party may be about to break wide open. Elements of the Tea Party are encouraging Tyler congressman Louie Gohmert to challenge U.S. senator John Cornyn in the Republican primary.

The Transportation Problem

Aug 1, 2013 By brian sweany and Paul Burka

“Transparency” is a word that is frequently invoked in the Capitol. But it is honored more often in the breach than the observance. Take the current battle over transportation funding. The problem is that the state has chosen to finance transportation by issuing bonds. This is a clever way to…

Dan Branch Responds

Jul 29, 2013 By brian sweany and Paul Burka

Last week I wrote a post regarding Dan Branch’s announcement for attorney general, in which I lamented whether candidates will ever again run for higher office by explaining how they will execute the specific duties of that office. Branch took exception to my analysis and has sent in…

The Law and Farmers Branch

Jul 29, 2013 By brian sweany and Paul Burka

Last week the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against the City of Farmers Branch, located northwest of Dallas, which sought to pass an immigration enforcement ordinance that would have prohibited landlords from renting to immigrants who were deemed unlawfully present and authorized arrest and prosecution of landlords…

The Death of George Mitchell

Jul 26, 2013 By brian sweany and Paul Burka

George Mitchell, one of the greatest Texans of his time, has died at the age of 94. He had been in failing health for several months. In addition to the contributions he made to Texas, Mitchell was a generous benefactor to Texas A&M and to his (and my) hometown of…

Ted Cruz and the Hispanic Vote

Jul 25, 2013 By brian sweany and Paul Burka

Today the Washington Examiner published the results of a poll that was provided by Ted Cruz’s staff and taken six weeks after the 2012 general election. The survey shows that Hispanics favored Democrat Paul Sadler over Cruz 60 percent to 40 percent and Obama over Romney 59…

As Attorney General, I Promise to . . .

Jul 25, 2013 By brian sweany and Paul Burka

When I read about Dan Branch’s announcement of why he is running for attorney general — “I’m running to fight against an overreaching federal government, to fight for open and accountable government, and to preserve limited government in Texas” — it caused me to wonder whether anyone will…

The Strange Life, Death, and Possible Rebirth of CSCOPE

Jul 22, 2013 By brian sweany and Paul Burka

CSCOPE is an Internet-based curriculum developed for Texas schools and teachers by state-funded education service centers. The reason it was created is that many small school districts do not have the expertise to develop their own curricula. CSCOPE fills that void. It became controversial because some elements of the curriculum…

The Abortion Bill: Winners and Losers

Jul 13, 2013 By brian sweany and Paul Burka

Now that HB 2, the omnibus abortion bill, is on its way to the governor’s desk, who are the winners and losers in the battle over abortion?  Winner: Wendy Davis, who became a national figure by virtue of her filibuster and has the chance to reenergize…

Is Susan Combs Running?

Jul 12, 2013 By brian sweany and Paul Burka

Is it possible that Susan Combs, having already announced that she will retire from public life after serving out her term as comptroller, is still trying to find a niche for herself in the 2014 primaries? Here’s an article she sent to her mailing list, which…

The Wet Blanket

Jul 3, 2013 By brian sweany and Paul Burka

Following the filibuster by Wendy Davis, I wrote a cautionary post on Burkablog in which I pointed out that the euphoria that flourished in the wake of her memorable performance was not a game-changer; that Democrats would be wise to keep their enthusiasm in check, lest they raise…

Two Thirds? Or Not Two Thirds?

Jun 27, 2013 By brian sweany and Paul Burka

With another special session set to begin on July 1, the issue arises of how the Senate will handle the two-thirds rule. Will there be a blocker bill? Will the tradition be honored? The history is that in 2003, Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst made the decision that the two-thirds rule…

The Abortion Debate in the House

Jun 24, 2013 By brian sweany and Paul Burka

The abortion debate in the House yesterday strengthened my longstanding conviction that this issue has done more harm to American politics than any other. It's where our politics began to jump the rails because it is a fight that cannot be resolved.

Williams v. Patrick

Jun 24, 2013 By brian sweany and Paul Burka

In the ongoing sniper fire that is taking place between Senate Finance chair Tommy Williams and Education chair Dan Patrick, I am in total agreement with Williams. If you are appointed to the Finance committee, you are obligated to support the committee’s work. This has been the practice…

Regarding the Redistricting Op-Ed by Perry and Dewhurst

Jun 10, 2013 By Paul Burka

Governor Perry and Lieutenant Governor Dewhurst published an op-ed piece on redistricting in today’s Houston Chronicle. Here is an excerpt: Following every federal census, the Texas Constitution requires the Texas Legislature to draw new district boundaries for the Texas House of Representatives, Texas Senate and U.S. Congress, which the Legislature…

Regarding David Dewhurst

May 24, 2013 By brian sweany and Paul Burka

Poor David Dewhurst. He occupies what was once widely considered to be the most powerful office in the state. Now he is reduced to begging Rick Perry to help him pass his pet legislation so that he can have something to take to the voters. Dewhurst has had plenty of…

The Budget Moves Forward

May 23, 2013 By brian sweany and Paul Burka

They should have stamped “fragile” on the House budget package. That is how tricky it was to assemble. Chairman Pitts tried to explain to the tea party members that there was no money in SJR 1; it’s just a vessel for moving future payments into the Rainy Day Fund for…

About Last Night

May 22, 2013 By brian sweany and Paul Burka

Haven’t we seen this picture before? Speaker Straus performs well for most of the session, but when crunch time comes, he can’t close the deal. His team has no cohesion (except for Geren), and there doesn’t appear to be a strategy. So Straus falls back into his old persona of…

Confirming the New UT Regents

May 21, 2013 By brian sweany and Paul Burka

UPDATE: The Nominations Committee has approved all three nominees the UT System Board of Regents. The full Senate will take up nominations next. I walked in the east door of the Capitol yesterday with Senator John Whitmire. He asked if I was going to nominations. I said I…

Elements of the Budget Deal

May 18, 2013 By brian sweany and Paul Burka

These were the final elements of the budget deal that was reached yesterday: –Add $200 million to the Foundation School Program –Use a portion of TRS funding to get to $3.9 billion, the Democrats’ target amount for restoring the school cuts The major point of disagreement arose…