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Republican gubernatorial candidate Don Huffines said Wednesday he will not fire a campaign staffer who said on his YouTube channel in 2020 that he wants to “restore historical American culture” by “maintaining a supermajority of the original stock of the United States, and maintaining a homogeneity,” referring to white people. The staffer, Jake Lloyd Colglazier, has previously done fieldwork for the campaign, Huffines said, adding that he will not take any action against Colglazier. On his YouTube channel, Colglazier warned that “we’re nearing the demographic cliff,” a reference to an increase of people of color gaining more political and economic power. On another livestream platform, he mocked a woman who appears to be Asian, saying she needed to be in China “getting the shit beat out of her by her husband.” In another post, he said, “I spit on George Floyd.” view article arw

Todd Smith, a top political consultant to Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller, was indicted Tuesday on felony charges of theft and commercial bribery related to taking money in exchange for state hemp licenses that are doled out through Miller’s office, according to Travis County district attorney José Garza. Smith was arrested in May, accused of taking $55,000 as part of the scheme, according to an arrest warrant affidavit. Smith and others were accused of soliciting up to $150,000 to get an “exclusive” hemp license from the Texas Department of Agriculture. Smith allegedly said $25,000 would be used for a public poll on hemp. A hemp license from the state costs $100, according to the arrest warrant. “We are holding accountable powerful actors who abuse the system and break the law,” Garza said. “Our community needs to know that no one is above the law and will face justice.”    (19) view article arw

Hundreds of Texans seeking to vote by mail in the upcoming March primary elections are seeing their applications for ballots rejected by local election offices trying to comply with stricter voting rules enacted by Texas Republicans last year. Election officials in some of the state’s largest counties are rejecting an alarming number of mail-in applications because they don’t meet the state’s new identification requirements. Some applications are being rejected because of a mismatch between the new identification requirements and the data the state has on file to verify voters.  In Harris County, 208 applications — roughly 16% of the 1,276 applications received so far — have been rejected based on the new rules. That includes 137 applications on which voters had not filled out the new ID requirements and 71 applications that included an ID number that wasn’t in the voter’s record.    (14) view article arw

Here’s something Democrats and Republicans have in common: When lawmakers are deadlocked, leaders turn to the rulebooks, searching for angles and rule changes that would turn things their way.  Not everything in politics is partisan: President Joe Biden, a Democrat, and Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, a Republican, are singing in unison.  Frustrated by supermajority requirements to get favored legislation passed by their respective Senates, each has taken the position that simple majorities should prevail on important public policy votes.  Biden made his pitch this week, saying the U.S. Senate, where he once served, should change its rules so that a simple majority of 51 members would be required to approve voting rights legislation he supports. Under the current rules, it takes 60 of the 100 senators, making it easy for the Republicans and their numerical minority to block the Democrats and their numerical majority. view article arw

Challenges to new Texas laws on voting, political districts and abortion are all pending in court, as is the state’s challenge to federal vaccine mandates. But until the courts rule, those laws remain in place — and they provide political fodder for the incumbents who support them.  Laws are laws until judges or legislators toss them out. For political purposes, a law that doesn’t survive court challenges can still count as a win — as long as it remains in place through an election.  Some of the biggest political issues in Texas are pending in court.    (10) view article arw

As greater numbers of Texas voters sour on harsh punishment for marijuana offenses, Austin voters will likely decide in November whether to effectively decriminalize the drug. The ballot measure, pushed by the group Ground Game Texas, would forbid Austin police officers in most cases from ticketing or arresting people on low-level pot charges like possessing small amounts of the drug or related paraphernalia — unless the offenses are tied to more severe crimes. The city also would not pay to test substances suspected to be marijuana — a key step in substantiating drug charges. Both practices have already been informally adopted in Austin, but advocates want to solidify them at the November ballot box. view article arw

In this politically divided nation, U.S. Rep. Van Taylor, a Republican from Plano, and Rep. Jared Golden, a Democrat from Maine, teamed up for a bipartisan effort they figured might be an easy win.  Taylor and his congressional colleague are backing what’s known as the ‘Dual Credit Innovation Act.’ The bill would direct the Secretary of Education to start a program to recognize high schools for expanding high-quality dual credit programs. view article arw

The governor’s ballyhooed audit of the 2020 elections in Texas resulted in a preliminary report issued as quietly as possible on the last day of 2021. The verdict? The election had some minor glitches, but it was about as fair and clean as elections get. That’s a decent opening for a new year and a new election season — or would be, if only the people who demanded an audit were willing to accept the results. The state is vaulting into party primary elections. Finance reports are imminent. Early voting starts on Valentine’s Day. Election Day is fewer than 60 days away. TV ads are already running. view article arw

Nearly 100 school districts, including many from Northeast Ohio, have joined the lawsuit as part of the Vouchers Hurt Ohio coalition.  COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio’s 25-year-old school voucher plan is creating an unconstitutional system of separately funded private education and leading to resegregation of some districts as nonminority students mostly take advantage of the program, according to a lawsuit challenging the system.    (06) view article arw

AUSTIN (Nexstar) — Rep. Dan Huberty, R-Houston, is one of many state legislators whose name won’t be on the ballot come primary elections in March after years of lawmaking. “I accomplished the things that I wanted to do,” he said. “I did more than education, I did a lot of really cool things and help my community.” Huberty served on the Humble ISD school board for five years before deciding to run for the Texas House in 2010. In 2019, he helped lead major reform to the way Texas schools are funded — which included $6.5 billion to improve public education and pay to teachers, plus $5.1 billion to lower school district taxes. When House Bill 3 was signed into law in 2019, Gov. Greg Abbott called it a “monumental moment in public education history in the state of Texas.” view article arw

Blistered by long standing disputes and legal challenges over how Texas funds public schools, few education leaders had hope that anything would change. It was 2018, and the Legislature charged a group to redesign state finance formulas that would funnel money to schools in a way that spurred lasting reform. “Everybody said, ‘They’re not going to get it done. Nobody’s going to get this done,’” said Donna Bahorich, a former State Board of Education member. Yet a year-and-a-half after the commission started its work, every Republican and Democrat in the statehouse voted yes on landmark legislation that overhauled the school finance system. Advocates say that’s largely due to Rep. Dan Huberty and Sen. Larry Taylor. view article arw

Advocates are worried that a last-minute law change means that students who need information about dating violence and child abuse will be the least likely to receive it.  School districts in Texas are now required to teach students about dating violence, family violence, child abuse and sex trafficking after a new law went into effect in early December. But advocates are concerned that a last-minute change to the law’s language means the children who need the information the most, will be the least likely to get it. In June, Gov. Greg Abbott vetoed the original version of the bill over concerns that it didn’t allow parental involvement. During the second special session, legislators passed a revamped version of the law that included Abbott’s input. Parents are now required to sign a permission slip for their students to be educated on these subjects, raising concerns that children who may be experiencing abuse at the hands of a parent will be excluded from receiving information that could help them.    (17) view article arw

Patrick’s office said he tested positive for COVID-19 last week and experienced mild symptoms but has since tested negative.  Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick is quarantining after testing positive for COVID-19 last week, his campaign said Monday.  In a short news release, Patrick senior adviser Allen Blakemore said the lieutenant governor experienced mild symptoms and tested positive for the virus last week but has subsequently tested negative and is completing his quarantine period.  "His symptoms were mild and no one else in the household was infected," Blakemore said. "He continues working from home and will return to a public schedule by the end of the week."  The release did not say what day Patrick received the positive test or why it was not disclosed earlier. view article arw

Texas State House District 10 Rep. Brian Harrison has sent letters to every school board president in HD-10 asking that they immediately stop funding the Texas Association of School Boards (TASB) until it severs ties with the National School Board Association (NSBA).   According to Harrison, the NSBA has prioritized liberal political activism over the educational needs of students and parents. In writing, they have equated parental involvement at school board meetings to “heinous actions” which “could be the equivalent to a form of domestic terrorism” and called on federal law enforcement to potentially target parents in a clear attempt to silence them.  view article arw

In less than 24 hours, U.S. Rep. Lizzie Fletcher went from having a competitive primary election in March to getting a free pass to the November general election for Houston’s 7th Congressional District. On Monday morning, Centrell Reed, a Houston Democrat, qualified to be on the March 1 primary ballot against Fletcher. And later in the day, wealthy businessman Muhammad Tahir Javed filed to join the race just before the deadline to qualify. view article arw

A Springtown man with the same name as the former governor filed Monday to run for the state's top post against Gov. Greg Abbott, raising the prospect of dirty political tricks.  Rick Perry is running for governor — but not that Rick Perry.  The Republican Party of Texas updated its list of candidate filings Monday — hours before the deadline for the March primary election — to include a Rick Perry running against Gov. Greg Abbott. The party quickly confirmed that it was not Rick Perry, the former governor and U.S. energy secretary. Instead it's Ricky Lynn Perry, a man from Springtown, a town in Parker County northwest of Fort Worth. On the form, the man listed "Rick Perry" as the version of his name that he wants to appear on the ballot. view article arw

Carla Brailey, the vice chair of the Texas Democratic Party, is joining the race for lieutenant governor.  Brailey, who currently serves as an assistant professor in the sociology department at Texas Southern University, is a longtime educator who said she “couldn’t sit on the sidelines anymore.” She hopes to unseat Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who, she said, “tried to drag our state backwards” through the GOP’s elections legislation and other conservative priorities. view article arw

A North Texas school district appears to be the first to be investigated by the state education agency over whether it gave students access to books with “sexually explicit content,” according to a letter sent to the district that was obtained by the Dallas Morning News. view article arw

Critics of the Chapter 313 corporate tax incentive program say it lacks accountability and is burdensome to taxpayers in the state.  Texas’ largest corporate tax incentive program is set to expire at the end of next year after lawmakers opted against renewing it for the first time in its 20-year history.  But the impending termination of the Chapter 313 program is expected to set off a rush of applicants as the state’s energy and manufacturing companies try to lock in massive property tax breaks before time runs out — a last-minute dash that will balloon the multibillion-dollar program for at least the next decade.  Already conversations are underway between state lawmakers, business groups and economic development leaders over what, if anything, should happen once the program ends, or whether there is appetite at the Legislature to revive some version of it.    (10) view article arw

One of Texas' largest school districts is reviewing more than 400 of its library books following a Republican lawmaker's statewide inquiry into school library titles dealing with topics like race, gender and sexuality. The North East Independent School District in San Antonio says it was already in the process of reviewing its library books when state Rep. Matt Krause, who chairs the Texas House's General Investigating Committee, announced his inquiry in late October. view article arw

Republican voters in Texas on March 1 will have 10 propositions to vote on in the GOP primary election. They address the issues of border security, property taxes, vaccine mandates, parental rights and education, abortion, legislative committee chairs, election reform, gender modification surgery on minors and freedom of conscience. Proposition 1 addresses border security. It states, “In light of the federal government’s refusal to defend the southern border, Texas should immediately deploy the National Guard, Texas Military Forces, and necessary state law enforcement to seal the border, enforce immigration laws, and deport illegal aliens.” Despite Gov. Greg Abbott launching Operation Lone Star in March to thwart criminal activity stemming from a surge in illegal immigration, conservatives argue he hasn’t done nearly enough. Proposition 2 addresses property tax reform, stating, “Texas should eliminate all property taxes within ten (10) years without implementing a state income tax.” view article arw

Texas lawmakers illegally discriminated against voters of color by drawing new political districts that give white voters more political power despite rapid growth of Hispanic and Black populations, the department claims in its lawsuit.  The U.S. Department of Justice is throwing its weight into the legal fight over Texas’ newly drawn maps for Congress and the state House, filing a lawsuit Monday that claims Texas lawmakers discriminated against voters of color by denying Latino and Black voters equal opportunities to participate in the voting process and elect their preferred candidates. view article arw

Texas has passed legislation that ensures abortion would be made a felony if Roe v. Wade is overturned “wholly or partly,” as the court considers Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban.  Based on the arguments, the conservative majority on the court seemed likely to uphold the 15-week ban, which violates Roe v. Wade’s constitutional protection for abortions before viability, usually around 24 weeks. It’s not clear whether the justices will entirely overturn the 1973 Supreme Court decision. A decision is expected next summer. view article arw

The so-called “critical race theory” law prohibits teachers from discussing “a widely debated and currently controversial issue of public policy or social affairs.”  A more restrictive law designed to keep “critical race theory” out of Texas public schools became law on Thursday.  Under the new law, a “teacher may not be compelled to discuss a widely debated and currently controversial issue of public policy or social affairs.” The law doesn’t define what a controversial issue is. If a teacher does discuss these topics, they must “explore that topic objectively and in a manner free from political bias.”  It also requires at least one teacher and one campus administrator at each school district to attend a civics training program that will teach educators how race and racism should be taught in Texas schools. view article arw

(AUSTIN) — Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar announced today he has completed the transfer of more than $2.91 billion into the State Highway Fund (SHF) and the Economic Stabilization Fund (ESF; commonly known as the “Rainy Day Fund”). Each fund received nearly $1.46 billion, or 50 percent of the total transfer.  “The Rainy Day Fund and the State Highway Fund are key components of Texas’ long-term economic success and help provide the foundation needed for our future growth,” Hegar said. “Texas is experiencing a strong economic recovery, and our population continues to boom as more and more people and businesses seek out the jobs and opportunities created here in Texas. It is critical that we continue to invest in the infrastructure needed to maintain our fiscal health and keep our economy growing while at the same time acknowledging the uncertainty that remains and setting aside dollars to ensure we are able to weather future downturns.” view article arw

exas is changing, and the state’s education system should be changing with it, State Sen. Larry Taylor told Waco-area educators, business owners and government officials gathered for a chamber of commerce lunch Tuesday. Texas ranks 45th nationally in fourth grade reading and 41st nationally in eighth grade reading, and just 43% of Texas third graders read at grade-level, the Friendswood Republican and Senate Education Committee chair said, citing the National Association of Educational Procurement. The early years in a child’s education are crucial to setting up for success, Taylor said. “What we have been told is that up to the third grade we are learning to read. After the third grade we are reading to learn,” he said. Taylor helped write a state education overhaul signed into law in 2019.  view article arw

The decision to halt the study comes after a University of Michigan-Flint professor filed an Office for Civil Rights complaint against the study, arguing it discriminates against children of color. But professors said pausing the study sets a negative precedent that could impact academic freedom.  The University of Texas at Austin has paused a study on a program that teaches white preschoolers about anti-Black racism, drawing criticism from multiple faculty groups accusing the school of bowing to political pressure.  The research project itself is the target of a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights that claims it discriminates against children of color because only white children are participants. The three researchers conducting the study were told to pause their research as UT-Austin administrators conduct a legal review of the complaint. view article arw

Seven laws passed in the Texas Legislature's second special session are set to take effect Thursday, including the sweeping GOP voting and elections bill that has been challenged in six federal lawsuits. Other new laws include abortion restrictions, limits on how race can be taught in Texas classrooms and limits on how large social media companies control content — although the social media law also has been challenged in court, with a hearing set for Monday morning on a request from tech associations to block it from taking effect. On the voting bill, five of the lawsuits were filed on behalf of two dozen civil rights organizations and advocacy groups as well as six voters. The sixth came from the U.S. Department of Justice. view article arw

U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Tyler, is running for Texas attorney general, entering the crowded Republican primary race for the seat after teasing a run earlier this month. "Texas I am officially running to be your next Attorney General and will enforce the rule of law," Gohmert said in a tweet Monday after announcing his campaign during an appearance on the conservative news outlet Newsmax. As Gohmert entered the race, another Republican challenger dropped out: state Rep. Matt Krause, R-Fort Worth. Krause said he was withdrawing to run instead for Tarrant County district attorney, as first reported by WFAA late Monday. view article arw

Billy Townsend is outraged that the Florida’s voucher industry has the nerve to name its new super voucher program after one of the nation’s (and Florida’s) greatest civil rights leaders. He writes that Mary McLeod Bethune: …would look at Florida’s corrupt, failed, and yet lavishly-funded low income school voucher programs with disgust. She would marvel and protest the squandered voucher billions in corporate tax shelter money and direct tax money. view article arw

McALLEN — If Beto O’Rourke proved anything Wednesday, it’s that he’s more than happy to lend a patient ear. The former congressman was in Hidalgo County less than three days after announcing his candidacy for Texas governor, stopping at the Mercado District in McAllen for a roundtable discussion with local school board trustees, a ranchita in Mission to visit with county officials and doctors, and a bar in downtown McAllen for a rally with some lively supporters. “I’m here to listen,” he told trustees from Edcouch-Elsa, PSJA and Hidalgo school districts early in the afternoon. view article arw

Sneaking up on a bruised Ted Cruz and almost winning the 2018 U.S. Senate race made Beto O’Rourke a big political name. But after that loss and a poor showing in the 2020 Democratic primary for president, the El Pasoan’s challenge to Gov. Greg Abbott is a different kind of contest.  The 2018 race for U.S. Senate was all about the incumbent, Ted Cruz. That year’s breakout star was Beto O’Rourke, then an El Paso congressman making his first statewide race. And in that referendum on Ted Cruz, Ted Cruz came close to losing. The 2022 race for governor is a more conventional affair, with two known candidates — O’Rourke and Gov. Greg Abbott — each trying to convince voters that he, in spite of the flying mud of the campaign, would be the best governor of Texas starting in January 2023. view article arw

O’Rourke hit the campaign trail with a pitch narrowly focused on several issues that are largely popular with voters, leaving behind the more incendiary rhetoric from his presidential campaign.  After stopping here Monday morning for the first public event of his gubernatorial campaign, Beto O’Rourke faced a reporter who asked him about the perception that he is “a two-time loser, you’re a Democrat in a red state, you have no chance of winning.”  A few supporters gathered behind O’Rourke quickly registered their disapproval with the line of questioning.  “Can’t win if you don’t run!” shouted one woman waving a “Beto for Texas” sign. view article arw

Until now, the State Board of Education has left library selections up to local schools.  When the 15 members of the State Board of Education meet at its regular quarterly meeting this week, the elected group is expected to talk about how climate change and sexuality are taught to middle school students. It’s part of a regular process that takes place every eight years.  But there’s another topic not on the agenda that at least one board member says needs to be discussed, and that’s how much say the board has about what goes on a school’s library shelf.  Last Monday, Gov. Greg Abbott called on both the Texas Education Agency and the state education board for the removal of books with "overtly sexual" content in school libraries and to develop standards for what gets into libraries. The governor chimed in after state Rep. Matt Krause, a Fort Worth Republican, launched an investigation into certain school districts over the types of books students can access. view article arw

Democrat Beto O’Rourke announced Monday that he will challenge Gov. Greg Abbott in his bid for re-election, setting up a heavyweight battle for governor that is unlike anything Texas has seen in decades. “I’m running to try to help bring this state together,” O’Rourke said. “To do the really big things that are before us right now and to get past the divisiveness, the extremism and the real small politics and policies of Greg Abbott.” No Democrat has won a governor’s race in Texas since Ann Richards in 1990. But O’Rourke brings star power that Democrats have lacked. He has strong name recognition and has proven fundraising muscle, having raised a record $79 million in a narrow loss to U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz in 2018. view article arw