Paul Burka's Profile Photo

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.

Politics & Policy |
May 16, 2013

Williams, Perry, and the Budget

This morning I wrote about the prospects for a budget deal, the topic du jour that is uppermost in everyone’s mind. The post contained, among other comments, this line: “House Democrats complained that Senate budget chief Tommy Williams had ‘misled’ them.” That is what I was told by

Politics & Policy |
May 16, 2013

Things Fall Apart

As we tweeted last night as events were rapidly developing, the hopes for a budget deal that would send everyone home happy appeared to evaporate yesterday. House Democrats complained that Senate budget chief Tommy Williams had “misled” them. Dewhurst showed up in the House chamber and disappeared into the back

Politics & Policy |
May 8, 2013

Disorganization in the House

Yesterday’s scene at the end of the floor session in the House was all too familiar. The proceedings limped to a close. Members milled about in the aisles. A major tax-cut bill, HB 500, was on the calendar but hardly anyone knew what was in it. Or cared. This scene

Politics & Policy |
May 5, 2013

What Is Going on With Calendars?

How could Chairman Todd Hunter allow HB 1076, by Steve Toth — the “nullification” bill — to get on the general state calendar? Calendars is not a charity booth for clueless tea party members. It’s serious business. This is the worst breach of the way Calendars is supposed

Politics & Policy |
April 30, 2013

Abbott and Domestic Partner Benefits

Senator Dan Patrick and Attorney General Greg Abbott have teamed up to try to prohibit Texas employers from providing domestic partnership benefits to their workers. Patrick got the ball rolling when he discovered that Pflugerville ISD offered domestic partnership benefits to employees. Abbott made his ruling through an

Politics & Policy |
April 30, 2013

How the Water Bill Dried Up

It was a wild night in the House yesterday as Democrats and Republicans battled over their respective priorities: water, for Republicans and education, for Democrats. The leadership could not get the votes for taking money out of the Rainy Day Fund for water—even though Perry came out for doing

Politics & Policy |
April 29, 2013

Water, Water, Everywhere?

Today is the pivotal moment of the session—a vote on HB 11, the funding bill for the water plan. The vote was preceded this afternoon by a meeting of the House Republican caucus, at which Rick Perry was in attendance. Afterward, he told reporters that the prudent

Politics & Policy |
April 26, 2013

The Opening of the Bush Center

The opening of the George W. Bush Presidential Center went smoothly, complete with blue skies and warm feelings. There were a few protestors with signs on the SMU campus, but they were stationed a long distance from the area occupied by the presidents–and out of their sight. The best description

Politics & Policy |
April 24, 2013

Perry’s Response to West

Gov. Rick Perry said Monday that spending more state money on inspections would not have prevented the deadly explosion at the West Fertilizer Co. plant that was last investigated by Texas environmental regulators in 2006. Excuse me for asking, but … how would Perry know? You

Politics & Policy |
April 22, 2013

The House Calendars

Has anyone else noticed how innocuous the daily House calendars have been? General State is short and filled with bills of little consequence; debate proceeds at a snail’s pace, maybe six bills covered in a day. Major State is primarily for Sunset bills.I do not believe this is happening by

Politics & Policy |
April 19, 2013

Perry’s Tax Cut

At a press conference on Monday, Governor Perry called for $1.6 billion in business tax cuts–including 5 percent off the margins tax–in an attempt to make good on his promise for “tax relief” this session. What does this prove? That Perry never seems to run out of bad ideas.In fact,

Politics & Policy |
April 15, 2013

An Easy Ethics Fix

I have to admire the Tribune‘s Ross Ramsey. If you have to adopt a cause, you might as well make it a hopeless one. In Ramsey’s case, it’s ethics reform. I’m going to make a small suggestion that might spur the Ethics Commission to action. Two high-profile cases

Politics & Policy |
April 12, 2013

Road to Somewhere?

At last, Rick Perry has decided to back more spending on transportation. His plan, which  was developed by a group of trade associations (Realtors, Texas Association of Business, Texas Oil and Gas Association, and Texas Motor Transport Association) and announced today at a meeting of the Texas Lyceum, calls for

Politics & Policy |
April 12, 2013

Perry: Due for a Comeback?

Wayne Slater has a piece in the Morning News today that touts Rick Perry’s viability for a political comeback. His thesis is that Americans love a good comeback story, and he cites the examples of former South Carolina governor Mark Sanford and former New York congressman Anthony Weiner.

Politics & Policy |
April 11, 2013

Return of Super-PAC

The Hill reported on April 9 that the anti-incumbent super-PAC Campaign for Primary Accountability is back, and it will once again target long-serving lawmakers. Why should this concern us in Texas? It so happens that one of the targets of is Lamar Smith, of San Antonio.I trust that

Politics & Policy |
April 10, 2013

The Difficult Question on Vouchers

The main bill up for discussion was Dan Patrick’s SB 23, which would establish the Texas Equal Opportunity Scholarship Program. It would allow certain organizations to award scholarships to pay educational expenses for eligible students in public elementary or secondary schools to attend private or parochial schools. To

Politics & Policy |
April 10, 2013

Being Tested on Testing

UPDATE: This post has been corrected to accurately reflect the graduation requirements under HB 5.Yesterday I wrote about the Washington Post’s editorial on the changing graduation requirements that are working their way through the Legislature. I received a call yesterday from Tom Luce, who had read my post

Politics & Policy |
April 8, 2013

Area 51

The first day of debate over the House Appropriations bill is typically one of the most consequential events of a legislative session. Last Thursday’s debate was no exception. The highlight was a school vouchers amendment by Democrat Abel Herrero, of Corpus Christi: The language of Herrero’s amendment read, “Use

Politics & Policy |
March 29, 2013

Abbott’s Redistricting Play

Attorney general Greg Abbott’s push to reopen the redistricting battle that was waged in 2011 and wound up in the federal courts threatens to blow up the session. The District Court of the District of Columbia has already ruled that Republican lawmakers intentionally discriminated against minority voters while

Burka Blog |
March 28, 2013

The House That Straus Built

AP Photo | Eric GayJoe Straus said at the beginning of the session that he was going to put the House to work on the state’s biggest problems, and he is making good on his vow. On Tuesday the House passed HB 5, a major public education bill that

Politics & Policy |
March 25, 2013

Perry 2016

We’ve been through this before, so permit me to ask the question: Can anyone make the case that Rick Perry has a realistic shot at the Republican nomination for president? Okay, the National Journal did (sort of), but I can’t. The race for the 2016 nomination will take

Politics & Policy |
March 22, 2013

Am I Blue? (Part Two)

In the current issue of Texas Monthly, I wrote about the prospects of Battleground Texas in a column titled “Am I Blue?” Writing in the National Journal, Ronald Brownstein speculates that one politician has the power to turn Texas Blue. That politician is … Rick Perry.Brownstein

Politics & Policy |
March 19, 2013

Sauce for the Gander

Today was the long-awaited meeting of the Joint Oversight Committee on Higher Education Governance. This was strictly an organizational meeting, and no members of the UT Board of Regents were present. But it was another front in the increasingly tense battle between the UT System Board of Regents and UT

Politics & Policy |
March 11, 2013

Am I Blue?

The consultants behind Battleground Texas believe the state is ready to swing back to the Democrats. They could learn a thing or two from the Republicans.

Politics & Policy |
March 6, 2013

How Should History Be Taught at A&M and UT?

In a story with the headline “Legislators Seek to Tweak College History Requirement,” Ralph K.M. Haurwitz writes in today’s Austin American-Statesman: Some history courses offered at the University of Texas, Texas A&M University and other public institutions of higher learning in the state would no longer count toward core