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…

North Toward Dome

Jan 20, 2013 By Paul Burka

The best way to visit the Capitol, the state’s grandest public building, is to take the 45-minute guided tour. But there is much more to see if you know what to look for, and I’m going to tell you precisely that.

R.G.’s Take: Did the Davis filibuster do more harm than good?

Jun 2, 2011 By R.G. Ratcliffe

[Editors note: an earlier version of this post incorrectly stated that the Texas Association of School Administrators and the Texas Association of School Boards were among the groups that met with Senator Royce West last weekend to discuss the school finance plan. Neither TASA nor TASB were present at a meeting with West. However, sources close to West confirm that the TASB did convey to him that it was ambivalent about the possible benefit of a special session. The post has been corrected.] The test pilots of the 1950s had a saying for when one of their own messed up and lost an aircraft. The pilot, they said, had “screwed the pooch.” Senator Wendy Davis, her Democratic colleagues, and their consultants have—in the lingo of the test pilots—screwed the pooch. Davis’ session-ending filibuster on the public school funding formulas was hailed earlier this week as a noble stand for education and a kick in the shins of the possible presidential aspirations of Governor Rick Perry. But after talking with many sources this week who have intimate knowledge of the events leading up to the filibuster, I have a different view of it. Now it looks far more like a pyrrhic victory that increases the possibility that bills will pass that will harm teachers and the Texas Democratic Party for the decade to come.

Who holds the cards?

May 30, 2011 By Paul Burka

The answer is: Rodney Ellis. On the last day of the session, Ellis has become the key player, because he is effectively the minority leader of the Democrats–not just the Senate Democrats, but also the House Democrats. The nineteen Senate Republicans will need at least six Democratic votes to suspend…

White noise

Nov 9, 2009 By Paul Burka

I keep getting e-mails from friends in the politics game that Bill White is going to switch to run for governor. Got one this morning, in fact. Burnt Orange gives life to the rumors today as well. My Houston-based colleague Mimi Swartz made some calls at my request,…

Would Perry pick Patrick?

Aug 17, 2009 By Paul Burka

I confess that I didn’t pay a lot of attention to Dan Patrick’s reelection announcement last week, but one thing struck me as very peculiar. Here are the first three paragraphs of the release: “During the past few weeks there has been speculation I might run for, or be appointed…

Barton may seek Hutchison seat

Aug 10, 2009 By Paul Burka

I missed this story from the Startlegram on Saturday. The first few paragraphs: No one seems to be mentioning U.S. Rep. Joe Barton, R-Arlington, as a candidate to replace outgoing Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas. Turns out that Barton — who came in third in the 1993 special…

Why is Bill White Running for Senate?

Jul 13, 2009 By Paul Burka

Aside from the obvious—he wants to go to Washington—I can’t think of a good reason to run for Senate instead of governor. As things now stand, Hutchison will probably resign her seat in the fall. I believe that Perry will appoint either David Dewhurst or Greg Abbott. Michael Williams would…

Maine may go unicameral

Jun 10, 2009 By Paul Burka

The Maine legislature is considering a measure that would merge the House and Senate into a single body. The House currently contains 151 members, the Senate 35. The proposal would convert the legislature into a single house of 151 members. The idea was proposed as a way to save money.

The future of the 2/3 rule

Jan 17, 2009 By Paul Burka

Ever since Lieutenant Governor Dewhurst wired around the 2/3 rule to pass congressional redistricting in 2003, I have believed that the rule cannot survive in the partisan era. It may still have some life in issues that don’t have partisan overtones, but the maneuvering on the Voter I.D. bill indicates…

More on the Hutchison Poll

Dec 13, 2008 By Paul Burka

No one should be surprised that Hutchison has a substantial lead over Perry. She has always polled better than he has. What is surprising—according to the Hutchison camp—is that his support among Republican primary voters is down 10% since his 2006 race. (I will ask the Perry forces for their…

Shapleigh: “In my view you miss the point.”

Nov 24, 2008 By Paul Burka

I am going to publish below an e-mail and corresponding op-ed that I received from Senator Eliot Shapleigh. It requires no explanation. # # # # This is Shapleigh's letter to me: I’ve read your recent pieces on major issues, including tuition. In my view you miss the point. After fifteen years of what the world now recognizes as the “Bush brand”, Texas is now firmly in “Grover’s Tub”. Your reporting misses the point because your world view can’t see over the Tub’s edge. For years now, Grover Norquist has been the ideological father of the Bush-Perry-Craddick school of governance. His ideology—‘shrink government so small that we can then drown it in a bathtub’—has run Texas since Bush was first elected Governor. Now, in agency after agency, tax cuts for the wealthy, incompetent leadership and irresponsible governance have created enormous challenges that will take Texans years to correct. The question you pose about tuition de-regulation is in fact far deeper. Take the whole package—the Grover package—that is the issue. Tax cuts over kids, crony contracts over competence, polluters over regulators, predatory lenders over consumer protections—ask the question about that package, then measure where we are in every agency—not just at UT with tuition deregulation. My response: I think everyone understands that Texas is a low-tax, low-services state. I don't think it is fair or accurate to ascribe this state of affairs to the last 14 years. Democrats governed Texas much as Republicans are now doing. They didn't pay much attention to environmental issues. They didn't rein in lenders; in fact, they lifted restrictions on usury. The special interests almost always get their way. That was true when the Democrats were in charge and it is true when the Republicans are in charge. At least the lobby had to fight for what they could get when the Democrats ran the state. Now the leadership just lavishes them with goodies. The one thing Democrats did do differently than Republicans was raise taxes when the going got tough. They raised the gasoline tax and the sales tax and the franchise tax, and the world did not come to an end, and the economy did just fine. I know that it suits Senator Shapleigh's purpose to lump Bush in with Perry and Craddick, but the truth is that Bush went along with Democratic spending priorities when he was governor. I don't recall that he ever vetoed a line item. Perry accurately, though unkindly, described him as a big spender. Texas government is the way that it is because this is a conservative state, and there is little movement for change. The Republicans are in trouble because they have overreached in areas like tuition deregulation. Senator Shapleigh writes as if he hasn't followed the election returns. The Republicans have paid dearly for their ideological zeal in the Perry/Craddick/Dewhurst years. Their brand is tarnished and they are losing ground in Texas. I admire Eliot Shapleigh, and I think it is important that he reminds us of the shortcomings of state government. But it didn't start with Perry/Craddick/Dewhurst, and state leaders through the years haven't needed a Grover Norquist to discipline them into keeping this a low-tax, low-service state. [Back to Shapleigh] Herein below is our recent OP ED piece on Texas Higher education. You should run it in your column. In our view, the real question is what price has Texas paid for fifteen years of Bush—Perry—Craddick? More importantly, what are Texans willing to do to change it? # # # # Let’s analyze core issues in higher ed. Take two plain vanilla Midwest America universities, each with 29,000+ students—call them Texas Tech and University of Iowa. Now, let’s look at state general revenue support over a decade. The difference between Iowa and Tech is $1.84B—that is billion--with a “B”. Basically, that’s why we have tuition deregulation. Here’s some history—in 2003, Craddick killed the inheritance tax, then he gave unelected regents (most of whom are millionaires and direct beneficiaries of Craddick’s tax cuts) the right to tax students. Dollar for dollar, revenue from a tax paid only by millionaires was replaced with tuition hikes paid by students—all outside the control of lawmakers so Craddick’s supporters could go back to districts and run again on ‘no new tax’ pledges. At UTEP tuition, fees, books and parking have risen 73% since 2003. Craddick and Company refuse to consider real revenue sources because long ago—they took Grover’s pledge and now refuse to engage in real governance. In agency after agency, Texans now face the same issue presented by tuition deregulation—not enough money to take care of basic needs and not enough courage and leadership to fund those needs in an effective way. Let’s do a quick tour: TXDOT is $86b in the hole. Craddick’s school finance plan has districts on the verge of Chapter 11. TCEQ is run by Baker Botts. At CPS, ½ the investigators quit every six months due to America’s lowest child investigator pay and highest investigator case loads; agency directors pay $4m fines to the feds rather than fund basic levels of investigators for kids. At HHS, more Texans sit on some waiting lists than actually get served. Hawkins has paid a billion for the basic software program to [implement--added by pb] HB 2292, and it still doesn’t work. Perry’s mansion burned down because cameras quit working and DPS cut staff. We are last in dropouts, first in air pollution; 48th in average SAT’s and 45th in home ownership. We are last in Texans who have health insurance. Seven Texas MSA’s rank among America’s top ten in volume of subprime second mortgages. Here, on the streets of El Paso, vendors hawk payday loans on street corners that carry 1100% per annum interest rates. More than one in three in my hometown no longer have any health insurance. In thirty years or so, Texas will be home to 50m Texans. Hispanics will long [have been] the majority. With current leadership and current values, ask your readers this question--are we even close to preparing for the next generation? Are we even close to taking care of Texas today? Is a tiny band from the far right now discredited everywhere but Austin, that has long valued tax cuts for the wealthy over good schools for kids responsible enough to continue governing Texas? That’s the question in Craddick’s race—and every race for the next few years. Senator Eliot Shapleigh

Dewhurst may seek Senate seat instead of reelection as Lite Gov

Oct 9, 2008 By Paul Burka

Speculation is rampant that the Dew has set his sights on the U.S. Senate rather than run for reelection. Since Kay Bailey Hutchison’s seat will not be vacant until she resigns, probably in June, Dewhurst must hope that Perry appoints him to fill the vacancy. As everybody knows, they haven’t…


May 31, 1996 By Mimi Swartz

On the road with Victor Morales, the schoolteacher turned U.S. Senate candidate who is out to prove he’s not running on empty.

Little Big Man

Jan 1, 1977 By Griffin Smith Jr.

Is it worth being a United States senator when you’­re on the losing side all the time? Ask John Tower.