Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner is heading to a runoff against high-profile attorney Tony Buzbee in his rowdy reelection race.  With all vote centers reporting Wednesday morning, Turner had 47% of the vote in unofficial returns to 28% for Buzbee. Turner was around 7,800 votes short of winning enough of the vote — over 50% — to avert an overtime round.  The runoff is set for Dec. 14. view article arw

Turnout in odd-numbered years has always been historically low. While this year’s turnout is higher than in 2017, it's still overwhelmingly low.  Texas voters approved nine amendments to the state’s Constitution on Tuesday. Only 12% of registered voters actually cast ballots — a higher percentage from the 2017 election, but still overwhelmingly low overall.  A majority of Texas voters must approve any changes to the Texas Constitution. Getting a proposed amendment on the ballot requires support from more than two-thirds of both chambers of the Legislature. view article arw

A last-minute change in how votes were counted threw Harris County into an electoral muddle Tuesday, causing nearly 12-hour delays in results for the closely watched mayor's race and a raft of state constitutional amendments.  While exasperating election night vigils are not unusual in the state's largest county, this election's prolonged delay raised questions about what went wrong and why it took hours to make even a fraction of tallies public. view article arw

The Texas legislative session is over, but several lawmakers were back in Austin this week working during the interim. view article arw

As voters go to the polls Tuesday for a constitutional amendment election, the transition from Bexar County’s old voting machines to its new ones with paper cards has gone smoothly, Elections Administrator Jacque Callanen said.  Related: Constitutional Amendments on the Ballot in Texas  In the summer, Bexar County commissioners approved a $12.5 million purchase of new voting machines to replace the 17-year-old system that the county had been using. More than 42,000 people turned out to use Bexar County’s new voting machines during the early voting period, which ended Friday.  view article arw

Dan Patrick’s budget destruction

November 0408:42 AM
 

It’s not what you think it is, but it’s still bad. Tucked away in a quiet corner of Texas state government, an arcane team of 100 or so budget nerds has led a private, if stressful, life — running financial models, ensuring state government and its private contractors aren’t spending beyond their means, and keeping lawmakers informed about each line item in the state’s 1,000-page, $250 billion two-year budget. view article arw

Last session lawmakers passed House Bill 1888 that bans mobile polling locations. Supporters of the bill said it will make it easier for some people to vote, while Democrats are saying the bill is unconstitutional. Now, Democrats are suing the state over the new law, but what exactly are mobile polling locations, and what did Texas voters lose? view article arw

One week after Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen said that he would not run for reelection, conservative activists on Wednesday urged Gov. Greg Abbott to call a special legislative session to elect a new speaker. Michael Quinn Sullivan, chief executive of Empower Texans, and leaders of other conservative groups including Texas Right to Life and Texas Homeschool Coalition held a news conference outside Dallas, requesting that lawmakers immediately remove Bonnen as speaker and address issues they say Republican leaders ignored during the regular session. view article arw

A recorded and reckless conversation between a top state official and a political activist rocked the state Capitol this summer and upended the career of Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen last month. But it hardly registered with most voters, according to the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll.  More than two-thirds of registered voters said they have heard “nothing at all” (50%) or “a little” (18%) “about the controversy over a June 2019 meeting between the speaker of the Texas House and the head of a political action committee.” Only 12% said they have heard “a lot,” and 19% said they have heard “some” about the incident. view article arw

For the second time in two years, the members of the Texas House have the chance — if they so desire — to elect the first woman to serve as speaker. Two women — Miriam “Ma” Ferguson and Ann Richards — have served as governors of Texas. But no woman has served as speaker of the Texas House, nor as the state’s lieutenant governor. Texas has had 43 lieutenant governors, from Albert Clinton Horton to Dan Patrick. And from William Crump to Dennis Bonnen, there have been 70 speakers. view article arw

Worried about the suppression of young voters in 2020, national and Texas Democrats are suing the state over a newly implemented election measure that’s triggered the shuttering of early voting places, including on college campuses, in various parts of the state. In a federal lawsuit filed Wednesday in Austin, the Texas Democratic Party — joined by the Democratic campaign arms for the U.S. House and Senate — alleges that the state’s move to effectively end the use of what were known as temporary or mobile early voting sites is unconstitutional because it discriminates against young voters by shrinking their access to the ballot box. view article arw

The Texas House of Representatives Committee on Education met in Austin Monday to get an update on how districts are implementing the new school finance law. Texas school districts received more money from the state this school year thanks to House Bill 3 (HB3). HB3 infused more than $11 billion into the public school system, including increasing the basic allotment for each student, teacher raises and funding full-day Pre-K for all eligible students.     view article arw

Must Read - js - The Texas Legislative Budget Board is hemorrhaging staff and has been without an executive director for a year.  Tucked away in a quiet corner of Texas state government, an arcane team of 100 or so budget nerds has led a private, if stressful, life — running financial models, ensuring state government and its private contractors aren’t spending beyond their means, and keeping lawmakers informed about each line item in the state’s 1,000-page, $250 billion two-year budget. view article arw

Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff made San Antonio environmentalists swallow their coffee hard last week when he told a business group he would like to transfer sales tax money that currently goes to protect the Edwards Aquifer and build creekside trails to VIA for expanded rapid transit service.  The decision would be made by voters, who get to renew the one-eighth-cent sales tax for aquifer protection and linear parks every five years. The issue is likely to be on the ballot in November 2020.  Memo to Wolff and San Antonio taxpayers: You’re not the only one eyeing that money.  view article arw

Several months after a major school finance law rewired how billions of dollars get funneled into hundreds of school districts across the state, educators and state officials are still trying to untangle the threads.  House Bill 3, an $11.6 billion measure, gave school districts more money for employee salaries and programs like full-day pre-K and dual language. But at a House Public Education hearing Monday, educators and advocates pointed to problems with the way the law was written that have resulted in unexpected increases or decreases in funding for individual school districts. view article arw

We are proud to announce that, as of last week, TEA staff have created twenty (20) HB 3 in 30 videos and associated support documents.  We have five (5) more to go. The intent behind this communication is two-fold. view article arw

School finance is an incredibly complex topic and this November you’ll get to vote on it again. Proposition 7 is the latest amendment to appear on ballots, and how you vote will help determine who is distributing billions of dollars for the next few years. view article arw

Senator Elizabeth Warren is famous for hurling at least one major plan against every policy issue and societal problem you ever heard of—or hadn’t. It’s true that a lot of them make my head ache, some of them turn my stomach, and practically none seem likely to get enacted during her lifetime, even were she to win the Oval Office. Still, her plans often contain provocative ideas, not all of them bad. At least she’s thinking about big, substantive matters and going after them with big, substantive proposals. That’s a nontrivial part of what a presidential candidate—or president—should do. The spendthrift K–12 education plan that her campaign team unveiled on Monday is certainly big and substantive. It’s also pretty awful, as it would reverse most of the major education reforms of recent decades, drive a stake through the heart of what’s left of bipartisan federal and state policy, and re-enshrine adult interests, especially those of the teachers unions, in place of children’s, while wasting immense sums of taxpayer dollars. (The total price tag is estimated at $800 billion.) view article arw

A white peacock butterfly alights on the delicate lavender-colored blossoms of a Gregg’s mistflower bush growing in a tangle with Turk’s cap and other butterfly-friendly flowers at the entrance to Estero Llano Grande State Park on Wednesday. Down a red brick-paved lane shaded by a canopy of more of the flowering shrubs, a pair of birdwatchers pause to observe another butterfly before heading on, cameras and high-powered scopes in tow, toward the expansive wooden deck that greets park visitors at the end of the lane. view article arw

There is a Texas public school connection.- js - The politics are easy, too: The Abbott vs. Austin dust-up syncs nicely with the running battle between the state and local governments over ride-sharing laws, sick-leave policies and local property taxes. Homelessness is another bead on that string.  The state's high officials probably don't want to talk about the uproar around House Speaker Dennis Bonnen. And they've got plenty of distractions to keep it that way. view article arw

The Texas House may have been in turmoil on Tuesday — reeling from the news that its once-revered leader, Dennis Bonnen, would relinquish the seat he’s represented since 1997 and with it the speaker’s gavel — but in Houston, urgent business continued apace. In the student services building at Lone Star College, state Rep. Phil King gaveled in the Texas House Redistricting Committee for the fifth of more than two dozen hearings the Weatherford Republican plans to convene across the state between now and the 2021 legislative session. view article arw

The state House Public Education Committee on Tuesday considered more than 30 bills aimed at making Texas public schools safer, including measures that would put more armed personnel on campuses and give districts money for sweeping security changes. The Legislature has made improving school safety a priority this session after 10 people, mostly students, were shot and killed at Santa Fe High School 10 months ago. The shooting spurred roundtable discussions and studies among policymakers, lawmakers and Gov. Greg Abbott in the immediate aftermath. “Out of that loss, we have an opportunity to devote ourselves and commit ourselves to seeing that their loss was not in vain and that future students, future teachers, future families in this state will, if at all possible, not have to experience what these individuals experienced,” said Rep. Greg Bonnen, R-Friendswood, during Tuesday’s hearing. view article arw

Property tax reform has been a top priority for Texas lawmakers from the start of the 86th legislative session. The early filing of identical, wide-reaching bills in the House and Senate in January—Senate Bill 2 and House Bill 2—sparked debate on the topic and earned pushback from many local entities that could be affected by the proposals. The twin bills propose to lower the cap for local entities’ annual tax revenue growth from 8 percent to 2.5 percent and to improve efficiency and transparency in the tax system. The proposals were fast-tracked for debate in both chambers after Gov. Greg Abbott declared property tax an emergency item in February, and dozens of related bills have been filed in their wake. view article arw

Hillary Clinton and Helen Keller are back on the lesson plan after a vote by the Texas State Board of Education. The committee voted 12-2, with one abstention, on Tuesday to continue teaching students about Clinton in high school history classes, according to State Board of Education Director Debbie Ratcliffe. The board also voted to keep Keller on the curriculum. The vote reverses a September preliminary decision to cut the women, along with 1964 Republican presidential nominee Barry Goldwater and several other historical figures, from the required curriculum. The board said then that the change was intended to streamline the curriculum for its 5.4 million students at the recommendation of volunteer work groups. view article arw

The GOP enjoyed the strong support of young Texans in the 2000s, but that appears to be changing.  exas Republicans appear poised to once again sweep the Democrats in statewide elections, but they have lost the future, because they have lost the youth of Texas. The Republican loss might not play out in 2020 or even 2022. When it comes, though, when young Texans replace elderly Texans at the ballot box, state Republicans likely will find themselves wandering in the same political wilderness that has consumed the Democrats for the past two decades. I know this to be true, because I saw it happen to the Democrats. view article arw

School finance was the big-ticket item this legislative session, said Emett Alvarez, Victoria Democrats Club president. "Education should be important to everyone," Alvarez said. "We are all taxpayers and are affected by it one way or the other." The Victoria County Democratic Party will host its club meeting Tuesday at VeraCruz Restaurant, 3110 N. Navarro St. Guest speakers will be Dwight Harris, former president of the Victoria chapter of the Texas American Federation of Teachers, and Ray Thomas, who is running for chief justice of the 13th Court of Appeals. view article arw

Will there ever come a day when our state leaders and lawmakers want to make Texas as good a place for children as it is for business? The 85th legislative session didn't seem often inclined in that direction, particularly in matters related to educating the state's schoolchildren. A massive funding failure for prekindergarten students. The state Senate's defeatist response to a solid House attempt at school finance reform. Out-of-proportion talk about vouchers for those attending private schools. But let's not overlook a couple of bright spots. Thanks to skillful work by three North Texas lawmakers, the state's youngest learners should eventually get the gift of better-prepared teachers. view article arw

Back in March, James Dickey, then the chairman of the Travis County Republican Party, showed up at the state Capitol to testify in support of House Bill 1911 — a proposal known as constitutional carry, or the ability to carry firearms without a license. It was a top legislative priority for the state GOP, and Dickey brought a message tailored for the Republicans on the House panel considering it: Don't forget the platform. "The plank which said we should have constitutional carry scored a 95 percent approval rate, outscoring over 80 percent of the other planks in the option," Dickey said, referring to the party platform — a 26-page document outlining the party's positions that is approved by delegates to its biennial conventions. Constitutional carry, Dickey added, "is something very clearly wanted by the most active members of the Republican Party in Texas." view article arw

Contention over where transgender people use the restroom has clouded much of the 2017 legislative session and has expanded to cover other issues such as property tax policy and school finance as lawmakers push to complete their work by Monday. After Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick served notice that the scaled-back version of the so-called bathroom bill recently approved by the Texas House was a non-starter in the Senate, the upper chamber in the predawn hours Wednesday made an end-run effort to save the stronger measure that fell victim to legislative deadlines. But by the time the sun rose over the Capitol, it was clear that the House would kill the measure again. view article arw

An effort to overhaul the state’s beleaguered school finance system has been declared dead after the Texas Senate Education Committee’s chairman said Wednesday that he would not appoint conferees to negotiate with the House. “That deal is dead,” Larry Taylor, R-Friendswood, said. Taylor’s remarks come after his counterpart in the House, Dan Huberty, R-Houston, gave a passionate speech in which he said he would not accept the Senate’s changes to House Bill 21 and would seek a conference committee with the Senate. view article arw

The Texas House has voted to allow concealed carry permit holders to have guns in their locked cars parked outside schools. Tentative approval came late Tuesday night as an amendment to an otherwise unrelated bill on school boards. Final House approval should come Wednesday. The state Senate already approved a full, bipartisan bill seeking to do virtually the same thing. A similar, full bill had died in the House without reaching a floor vote but now lives on as an amendment. view article arw

A standoff between the Texas House and Senate over vouchers killed a major school finance fix Wednesday. The House tried to pump $1.6 billion dollars more into public schools. The Senate didn't want that much and countered by tacking on their own priority. The author of the House Bill 21 rejected the changes made to it in the Senate, saying they don't go far enough. Last year, the Texas Supreme Court ruled that the system was barely constitutional. So the House approved pumping $1.6 billion additional dollars into it but that plan came out of the Senate reduced to $530 million. view article arw

Texas lawmakers have given final approval to a measure cracking down on inappropriate relationships between teachers and students. The bill requires principals and superintendents to report inappropriate teacher-student relationships or face jail time and fines up to $10,000. The teacher's family could also lose access to the teacher's pension. view article arw

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick declared a key school funding bill dead Wednesday, saying he was "appalled" the House would refuse to go along with the Senate's plan to create a school voucher program for students with disabilities.  "Although Texas House leaders have been obstinate and closed-minded on this issue throughout this session, I was hopeful when we put this package together last week that we had found an opening that would break the logjam," Patrick said in a statement. "I simply did not believe they would vote against both disabled children and a substantial funding increase for public schools." view article arw

 A state lawmaker is looking for donations to pay off debt Texas students rack up in school cafeterias. Partnered with Feeding Texas, Representative Helen Giddings, D-DeSoto, launched a statewide crowdfunding campaign Tuesday, in an effort to prevent what she calls “lunch shaming.” At some Texas schools, students with lunch debt or empty accounts are denied a hot lunch and given a cheese sandwich instead. “The cruelty and lack of compassion for children who suffer the humiliation, the labeling and not to mention the hunger pains of so-called lunch shaming, it is inconceivable,” Giddings said. view article arw