Steve Ogden

Power Company

Jan 20, 2013 By Paul Burka, Patricia Hart and Nate Blakeslee

As we head into the most critical legislative session in decades—maybe ever—the question is not just, Who are the people with the most clout at the Capitol? It’s also, What do they want?

The Best & Worst Legislators explained

Jun 16, 2011 By Paul Burka

The 20th edition of the “Best & Worst Legislators” story is complete. Yesterday we posted, on Twitter and on this blog, the names of the ten Best, the ten Worst, the Bull of the Brazos, and the Rookie of the Year. Today the write-ups for all of these 22 members are available online. The full story, including honorable and dishonorable mentions, furniture, and the very special features that mark the 20th edition of the story will be available in the magazine, which will begin reaching subscribers this weekend, and on our website next week. I have been involved in nineteen of the twenty previous articles, and I cannot recall a more difficult year when it came to selecting the members on both lists. This was a session without heroes. All the usual jokes about naming 5 Bests and 15 Worsts were on point, for a change. The budget dominated everything, with the result that there were few major bills. I count three: Truitt’s effort to regulate payday loans; Ritter’s attempt to get funding for the state water plan (one of several occasions on which Perry could have exercised leadership for the state’s future but did not); and Keffer’s bill regulating hydraulic fracturing in shale formations. The rest was noise. Particularly cacophonous was the governor’s “emergency” agenda, which consisted of nothing but red meat for Republicans. Republicans got to vote on abortion, immigration, voter fraud, tort reform, and, shades of the fifties, state’s rights. Democrats got to vote no a lot. Even the major Sunset bills didn’t seem to generate any interest. You could look out across the House floor during any debate and see few members engaged. The House Republican caucus was a curious organism. Its members preferred to vote as a block, as if they lived in fear that their age-old enemies, the Democrats, might perhaps be resuscitated to offer a scintilla of opposition. The group-think voting was reminiscent of the refrain sung by the “Monarch of the Sea” in Gilbert and Sullivan’s HMS Pinafore: “I grew so rich that I was sent/by a pocket borough into Parliament/I always voted at my party’s call/and never thought of thinking for myself at all.” The anemic Democratic caucus, meanwhile, mustered up occasional resistance, mostly with parliamentary maneuvers, but the D’s were so outnumbered, and so demoralized by their election rout, that they never seemed to have a leader or a plan. Not that it would have made any difference.

R.G.’s Take: No budget joy in Mudville

Apr 28, 2011 By R.G. Ratcliffe

Senate Finance Chairman Steve Ogden stands like Casey at the Bat, fully wanting to score. And nothing but a base hit, or a walk, perhaps, will get him to the floor. As this week ended with the scoreboard showing naught, Ogden admitted he lacked the stroke to bring his budget up for Senate debate. He described his position in baseball terms: The right foul line is the conservatives who want no additional money taken from the rainy day fund to balance the next two-year budget. The left foul line is the liberals who want to increase taxes to avoid deep cuts in public education. Neither side has the votes to prevail, Ogden said today. “I don’t have a bill between the foul lines yet, but we’re working on it.” The dilemma for senators on both sides is they hold the most power now because the vote to debate requires two thirds vote of those present, while a House-Senate conference committee report requires a simple majority to pass. But to pay for the Senate plan, 21 votes also are required to spend money from the rainy day fund. So both votes require a combination of Republican and Democratic senators. Ogden said those holding out for more spending should give up because the Senate bill is as good as it is going to get. And as bad as his proposed two-year budget would be for Texas, politically, it probably is the best that can be passed by the current Legislature. Other than a redistricting bill, there is nothing more political than the state budget. Deciding how to spend the taxpayers’ dollars may seem like a noble task of stewardship. But it is really about chasing campaign dollars and votes. And that is what derailed the Senate budget plan this week. First, look first at the inside fight of what senators called “twosies versus threesies,” Article II Medicaid versus Article III education. Senate Republicans decided to fund nursing homes and doctor’s reimbursements ahead of higher and public education. That erased the specter of nursing homes closing across Texas. It also cooled opposition from the health care industry, which pours about $7 million into legislative campaigns every cycle. But that meant less money for education, important to Democrats.

R.G.’s Take: Senate budget plan is still bad business

Apr 22, 2011 By R.G. Ratcliffe

If you think of the two-year budget passed by the Texas House as a bankruptcy filing for the State of Texas, then the budget approved by the Senate Finance Committee yesterday is a reorganization plan that requires a substantial liquidation of assets. Finance Chairman Steve Ogden (R-Bryan) and other senators who supported the plan bragged on how the Senate budget contains $12 billion more than the House budget, but the $176.5 billion Senate version still cuts $11 billion from current state services. It’s sort of like Dish Network saving Blockbuster Video from going completely out of business in bankruptcy court. Even in saving Blockbuster, Dish still plans to close hundreds of stores, putting an untold number of people out of work. It may be good for business, but not for all the employees or customers.

Sunny skies ahead

Apr 21, 2011 By Paul Burka

From Bloomberg: Texas’s reserve fund may climb to 28 percent more than officially forecast by 2013 as energy prices rally, a gain that might help the second-most populous state avoid some spending cuts, a key senator said. The fund, fed by energy taxes and forecast by the state comptroller to reach $9.4 billion by the end of August 2013, may gain much more by then, Senate Finance Committee chairman Steve Ogden, a Bryan Republican, said yesterday. “That fund could easily rise to $12 billion,” Ogden said at a committee hearing. He based his estimate on revenue increases from taxes on oil and natural-gas production in the state as energy prices climb.... * * * * I reported something similar earlier this month (See "Oil's Well that Ends Well," posted April 14.)  Sales tax receipts are up over the previous year, and the rig count is up by 26% to 30%, depending upon which reporting service you prefer. The sales tax numbers are particularly encouraging:

Ogden files for reelection; Bius to stay in race

Dec 3, 2009 By Paul Burka

I wonder if this is going to be a repeat of the 1980 race, when Brazos County had a powerful state senator who was defeated by an upstart. Bill Moore, known as “The Bull of the Brazos,” was up for reelection that year. Moore was one of the most powerful…

More on Ogden

Nov 30, 2009 By Paul Burka

A couple of questions: 1. Did Ogden get pressure from Brazos County leaders to run? There were indications that the folks in Bryan were none too happy at the prospect that the district would be represented by someone from Williamson County. Brazos County would be unlikely to get the seat…

Gattis out, Ogden in

Nov 30, 2009 By Paul Burka

An amazing development. Gattis has spoken openly of his desire to be president of the United States some day. Now he is out of politics, not even running for reelection to the House. It's a double whammy, a talented member gone and the dreadful Milton Rister as a possible successor. This is more fallout from Hutchison's decision not to resign her Senate seat. It is safe to conclude that Ogden would not run for the Senate again if he were not confident of retaining the chairmanship of Senate Finance. He can have that confidence only he knows that Dewhurst will remain as lite gov and not run for Hutchison's seat if and when she were to resign. Indeed, the purveyors of the conventional wisdom around the Capitol believe that she will serve out her term to the bitter end, December 31, 2012. So why did Gattis decide to drop out? This is one case when the "need to earn a living" and "spend more time with my family" is for real. Gattis was telling colleagues that the campaign had hurt his law practice. The district is huge, going all the way into upper East Texas. Gattis had a very active opponent in Ben Bius, of Walker County (Huntsville). The Bius camp contends that the real reason Gattis dropped out was that the race was not going well for him, that they had knocked on 15,000 doors in Williamson County, that they had been running radio spots for several weeks, that Gattis was having trouble raising money from business interests that didn't like his support for legislation backed by trial lawyers. They were getting ready to send out a mailer slamming Gattis for offering what they claim is a state "public option" for health insurance, HB 2470, which established the Texas Mutual Health Benefit Plan Company. The company's board of directors would be comprised of the Executive Director of the Employees Retirement System (ERS), the Executive Director of the Teacher Retirement System (TRS), and seven members appointed by the Governor. The Executive Directors of ERS and TRS would be co-presiding officers of the board.

Dew or Die, again

Sep 14, 2009 By Paul Burka

So, what’s he really running for and how can we tell? The best clue may be Steve Ogden’s decision not to seek reelection. Ogden has been chair of Senate Finance. The likelihood is that under a different lieutenant governor, he would not be chairman again. And there’s not much reason…

Does Dewhurst have a future as lieutenant governor?

Aug 17, 2009 By Paul Burka

Senate Republicans continue to have conversations about what to do in the event that (a) Dewhurst resigns his office to run for the Senate, or (b) opts to run for lieutenant governor again. The GOP caucus has three factions. The lines are not set in stone, and, depending on the situation, members can move from one faction to the other and back again. First you have the radical right: Williams, Fraser, Patrick, Estes. This is the group that is most outspoken on the subject of having the caucus choose one candidate to succeed Dewhurst and voting as a unit to impose that candidate on the Democrats. Others who are ideologically compatible with this group--Nelson and Ogden, to name two--have their own ambitions and are not necessarily aligned with their ideological allies. The second identifiable group is the moderates: Averitt, Carona, Duncan, Eltife, Jackson, Seliger, Wentworth. Carona has been out front for this bunch, arguing that Republicans should keep their powder dry and not commit to anyone at this early stage of the game. He makes no secret that he would like to serve as interim lieutenant governor. The third group can best be described as the undecideds. They don't want to see a repeat of what happened in 2000 after then-lite gov Perry succeeded Bush as governor: a moderate R, Bill Ratliff, garnered enough Democratic support to get elected. Neither are they comfortable with the radicals who propose to run the Senate out of the Republican caucus, transforming the Senate into a body that operates along partisan lines. This group includes Deuell, Hegar, Huffmann, Harris, Nelson, Nichols, and Ogden. Nelson could emerge from this group as a contender for light gov. Ogden's future is uncertain. He has previously said that he would make an announcement this summer about whether he will seek another term; for the moment, Dan Gattis is campaigning vigorously in Brazos County to succeed him. If Dewhurst resigns, or does not file for reelection, Ogden would surely leave, as he could not count on being chairman of Finance under a different lite gov.

Follow the money

May 21, 2009 By Patricia Kilday Hart

At today’s post-Senate session press avail, Sen. Steve Ogden says the final budget document approved by conferees shapes public policy in several big ways, including: 1. “A dramatic shift in policy in how we serve mentally retarded Texans” represented by a $500 million increase in total funds for community services…

Resurrection Day

May 20, 2009 By Patricia Kilday Hart

I declared on a recent Friday podcast that Don McLeroy’s confirmation as chairman of the State Board of Education was officially dead this session, but this afternoon Senate Nominations sent the controversial Bryan dentist’s confirmation to the Senate floor for a vote. So, to quote Billy Crystal’s character in “The…

House prevails on stem cells

May 19, 2009 By Patricia Kilday Hart

Sen. Steve Ogden just announced that his rider banning use of state funds for embryonic stem cell research will not appear in the new state budget. “We really couldn’t come to a consensus” so the bill will be silent on the stem cell issue, Ogden announced in this morning’s conference…

Will the stem cell rider be the flash point?

Apr 15, 2009 By Paul Burka

This could be the issue that ends the peace and tranquility that has characterized the first three months of the Straus speakership. The Ogden rider is not in the House bill, but it is likely that the conservatives will offer the identical language as a floor amendment to the House…

Carona moving forward on SB 855

Apr 9, 2009 By Patricia Kilday Hart

Sen. John Carona tells us he believes he’s resolved constitutional questions about his local option highway funding bill and will win final Senate passage on Tuesday — though he acknowledges he expects Gov. Rick Perry to “do everything he can to derail the bill” as it moves through the House.

Ogden defends use of stimulus funds, predicts worsening economy

Apr 1, 2009 By Patricia Kilday Hart

Opening the floor debate on the budget bill, Finance chair Steve Ogden defended his use of federal stimulus funds and not dipping into the state’s Rainy Day Fund, noting that the $182.25 billion spending plan is seven percent higher than last biennium. “That is attributable to the federal stimulus funding,”…

Patterson calls school fund management “dysfunctional”

Mar 30, 2009 By Patricia Kilday Hart

Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson today told the Senate Finance Committee that the management of the state’s Permanent School Fund is “dysfunctional” because responsibility is fractured among three entities: his office, the Texas Education Agency and the State Board of Education. “It’s not anyone’s fault. It’s just evolved that way,” Patterson…

It won’t work

Mar 25, 2009 By Paul Burka

My colleague Patricia Kilday Hart posted an item yesterday about Democratic reaction to the Ogden rider prohibiting state funds from being used to support embryonic stem cell research. Hart quoted Judith Zaffirini as saying, “[T]here are some members so upset there has been discussion of blocking the appropriations bill if…

Surprise stem cell rider could derail budget

Mar 24, 2009 By Patricia Kilday Hart

Steve Ogden may have lost support of Senate Democrats for SB 1 with his surprise rider prohibiting state funds to be used in stem cell research, or as the rider states:  "in conjunction with or to support research that involves the destruction of a human embryo." The rider was added Monday with little debate, on a 6-5 vote, with several members absent from the committee. Judith Zaffirini tells us that "there are some members so upset there has been discussion of blocking the appropriations bill if this rider remains in it."  Zaffirini believes that such an important statement of public policy deserves a full hearing so the Legislature could hear from scientists whose research would be impacted. Earlier today, Kirk Watson issued a statement opposing the rider:

West, Ogden call UT’s “crisis” into question

Mar 24, 2009 By Patricia Kilday Hart

As the Texas Senate began its debate this afternoon on Florence Shapiro’s bill to limit the Top Ten percent rule for university admissions, Royce West threw out some interesting numbers that call into question UT’s argument that it faces a “crisis” regarding its freshman class. UT has argued that its…

Between a rock and Zaffirini

Mar 19, 2009 By Patricia Kilday Hart

That’s where Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst now finds himself regarding tuition de-regulation bills, most of which have not been referred to any committee.  The two main proposals are SB 1443 by Sen. Judith Zaffirini and SB 105 by Sen. Juan Hinojosa. Although Zaffirini was quoted in a newspaper story promising…

Shopaholic, the sequel

Feb 18, 2009 By Patricia Kilday Hart

The state’s Republican leadership appears to be warming up to the $17 billion in federal stimulus money, Gov. Rick Perry’s voluble aversion notwithstanding. Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, who breakfasted today with Perry and House Speaker Joe Straus, gave some insight about the leadership’s thinking to reporters in remarks…

Gas tax indexing gets green light

Feb 17, 2009 By Patricia Kilday Hart

Sen. John Carona’s SJR 8, which allows the gas tax to be indexed to the rate of inflation, is traveling in the fast lane (is there such a thing as too many traffic metaphors?) since Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst referred it to Carona’s own Transportation Committee, instead of the not-so-friendly…

On Eiland Time

Feb 11, 2009 By Patricia Kilday Hart

A renowned medical facilities consultant has recommended to the UT Board of Regents that UTMB’s inpatient hospital in Galveston—which was hit hard by Hurricane Ike— be mostly relocated to League City where it would be both easier to rebuild and more financially viable. Under this proposal, one of three options…

The pension funds: time for oversight

Feb 7, 2009 By Paul Burka

For many years after I first started working in the Capitol, the major pension funds and endowments were limited to conservative investments such as stocks and bonds and government instruments. Then Wall Street began going crazy and the investment managers asked the Legislature for the authority to play in real…

Rowling: Take this job and shove it

Feb 5, 2009 By Patricia Kilday Hart

Dallas billionaire Robert Rowling, chairman of the UTIMCO board, today abruptly resigned while under heavy fire from members of the Senate Finance Committee about $2.3 million in bonuses paid to fund managers for the University of Texas System and Texas A&M System’s endowment, which has declined 27 percent this year.

Dodging Dewhurst

Feb 3, 2009 By Patricia Kilday Hart

David Dewhurst’s committee assignments late Friday spotlighted the challenge this session presents for Florence Shapiro, whose interest in running for the U.S. Senate places her in perilous territory vis-a-vis the Texas Senate’s presiding officer, who likewise is considering a relocation to Washington. While Dewhurst’s committee assignments shifted authority from Shapiro…

Let the (shell) games begin

Jan 23, 2009 By Patricia Kilday Hart

In an interview with the Dallas Morning News this week, Gov. Rick Perry advocated an end to all diversions of gas tax money from the Highway Fund, which is used primarily to finance road construction. But two key senators believe the current budget estimates make that highly unlikely…

State Secrets

Nov 25, 2008 By Eileen Smith

Burka and Eileen preview the legislative sunset: How does an agency “misplace” $1 billion? Or lose one-third of its criminal files? Or let the governor’s mansion get torched? Or screw Texas homeowners? Don’t get mad, get even. Honorably mentioned: Steve Ogden, Lois Kolkhorst, John Carona, and Wayne Smith. Not so…