Last year, when I was a member of the Texas House, I supported Dennis Bonnen to become our speaker. While I had made the deeply personal decision to seek the speakership myself, I stepped aside because I believed he had the potential to unify the House and help our state address critical issues, such as school finance, that for far too long had been left unresolved. view article arw

Watch: Live TribCast recording

October 1808:40 AM

We're livestreaming this week's TribCast recording, hosted by The Texas Tribune CEO Evan Smith and featuring political reporters Cassi Pollock, Alex Samuels and Patrick Svitek. They break down the Dennis Bonnen tape released Tuesday.  Texas Tribune political reporters Cassi Pollock, Alex Samuels and Patrick Svitek will break down the Dennis Bonnen tape released Tuesday by conservative activist Michael Quinn Sullivan — what's in it, what the reactions are, and what it means for the Texas Legislature and the 2020 elections. view article arw

A number of Texas Republicans, including five members of Congress, have decided to throw in the towel rather than seek re-election in 2020. So it’s not shocking that State Board of Education Member Donna Bahorich, a conservative who represents part of Harris County, has also decided to join the “Texodus.” She plans to step down at the end of her current term rather than seek a third one. view article arw

Bonnen has been eager to dismiss speculation that he did anything illegal during a June 12 meeting with conservative activist Michael Quinn Sullivan. But a probe into the event is ongoing.  It was, according to his critics, “hurtful,” “vindictive” and “unbefitting of the high office he holds.” But was House Speaker Dennis Bonnen’s June 12 meeting with conservative activist Michael Quinn Sullivan illegal? view article arw

A new state law that took effect Sept. 1 and prohibits the use of temporary polling places will hinder voter turnout in Travis County, local officials said. “Our loss is substantial,” Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir said. “This was an inexpensive, cost-effective way to meet a lot of rural voters where we didn’t have enough voter density to justify a full-time polling location.” In use since at least 2000, mobile voting—the use of temporary polling places during the early voting period—had grown into a robust program in Travis County. view article arw

King meets with local constituents

October 1708:40 AM

State Rep. Ken King (R-Canadian) gave a recap of the last legislative session and listened to the concerns of Donley County residents during a stop in Clarendon last Thursday, October 10. Speaking at the Clarendon College Bairfield Activity Center, Rep. King said his most important job at this point is the redistricting that will follow the 2020 US Census. “Currently you need a population of about 160,000 to make a state house district,” King said. “That will change to 200,000. One rural East Texas district, and one rural West District will be lost.” view article arw

The recording of a conversation between two top Republican state lawmakers and a conservative activist released Tuesday exposed legislators’ intentional political targeting of cities and counties — and their plans to make the 2021 legislative session even more painful for local governments. “Any mayor, county judge that was dumb ass enough to come meet with me, I told them with great clarity, my goal is for this to be the worst session in the history of the legislature for cities and counties,” Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen, R-Angleton, said in the recording. view article arw

Bonnen also spoke disparagingly about multiple Democrats, calling one House member “vile” and suggesting that another’s “wife’s gonna be really pissed when she learns he’s gay.” During a June conversation at the Texas Capitol, Republican House Speaker Dennis Bonnen urged hardline conservative activist Michael Quinn Sullivan to target members of their own party in the 2020 primaries and suggested he could get Sullivan’s group media access to the House floor, according to a secret recording of the conversation released Tuesday. view article arw

The Texas State Teachers Association announced today that it opposes Proposition 4 on the Nov. 5 constitutional amendments ballot and is urging everyone who cares about the future of public education in Texas to vote against it. “Proposition 4 is bad for public education,” said TSTA President Noel Candelaria. “It purports to ban a personal income tax in Texas. It doesn’t. But if adopted, it would remove from the state constitution a guarantee that any revenue raised by an income tax be dedicated to improving education funding.” “The Texas Constitution already has a high bar against an income tax. A provision adopted in 1993 prohibits an income tax without the approval of voters,” Candelaria added. “That same provision, the so-called Bullock amendment, also provides that at least two-thirds of the revenue from an income tax be dedicated to reducing school property taxes and the remainder to increasing education funding. Proposition 4 would wipe out that guarantee.” view article arw

California just took a step toward making its school environments a little more inclusive.  Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law a new piece of legislation that guarantees all students will receive lunch even if their parents or guardians have not paid their meal fees.  The bill, authored by state Sen. Robert Hertzberg, says students shouldn’t be denied a meal of their choice because of unpaid fees. It also ensures “that the pupil is not shamed or treated differently from other pupils.” view article arw

State Rep. Gary VanDeaver updated constituents during a town hall meeting Thursday, including on his plans to run for re-election. VanDeaver, R-New Boston, spoke and took questions at Texarkana College during the last of four town halls he has convened across his district in recent weeks. He reviewed this year's legislative session, provided a preview of the 10 constitutional amendments on this November's ballot, and spoke about the importance of the 2020 U.S. census. When asked, he also said yes, he is running for a fourth term representing District 1 in the Texas House of Representatives. He will be up for re-election in 2020. view article arw

Texas Parent PAC, a statewide pro-public education organization, announces its endorsement of Dr. Eliz Markowitz of Katy for state representative in Texas House District 28. This open legislative seat was held by Dr. John Zerwas, who resigned to become executive vice chancellor for health affairs at the University of Texas System. Early voting in the special election starts Oct. 21, and election day is Nov. 5, 2019. Seven candidates are on the ballot, and Dr. Markowitz is the only Democrat running. "In a crowded field, Eliz Markowitz stands out due to her expertise and experience in education and business,” said Nancy Lomax of Houston, a Texas Parent PAC board of directors member. view article arw

Texas State Board of Education chairwoman Donna Bahorich, who represents part of Harris County, announced Friday she will not seek reelection in 2020 as the District 6 representative. “I have 8 years of service on the board,” Bahorich said. “I feel like I’ve given it quite a bit of work.” view article arw

The speaker of the U.S. House knows a thing or two about politics, and she said in Austin last weekend that the 2020 elections won’t be nationalized — that national issues and controversies won’t be at the center of voters’ attention. Nancy Pelosi could be right about the subject matter of the 2020 elections. Candidates may well be talking about issues like health care, education, guns and immigration — and not about the antics and adventures of the chief executive of the United States. But whatever voters are talking about, Texas will be at the center of things. view article arw

In January, Comptroller Glenn Hegar provided a robust biennial revenue estimate (BRE) for the state, reporting that Texas’ revenues would support $119 billion in general-purpose spending for the 2020-21 biennium, 8.1 percent more than in 2018-19. All revenue sources, including federal aid and dedicated funds, brought the total amount to $266 billion available for the budget. The reasonably good fiscal news helped set an amicable tone for the session. And near the end, with time for budget negotiations shrinking to days, Hegar delivered more good news to lawmakers: an increase in the BRE of $518 million. view article arw

Texas Republican George P. Bush has declared 2019 the “Year of Education” at the General Land Office, and he’s using that banner to travel around the state to stress how important it is to hit the books. It’s a lesson he freely admits he didn’t always apply himself. The heir to the Bush dynasty was on the road to flunking out at Rice University in Houston after two years. He might have been born into politics, but he failed a political science class called “Public Opinion, Polling & The Media.” Right before that he got a C-minus in “Congress” — the branch of government where his grandfather and great-grandfather (the P in his name is for Prescott) once served. view article arw

After this past legislative session, Texoma schools are preparing for House Bill 496 to go into effect. On Tuesday teachers at I.C. Evans Elementary in Burkburnett learned how to use “Stop the Bleed” kits so they can be prepared for any worst-case scenario. view article arw

Texas Education Agency Commissioner Mike Morath told Dallas business leaders that the education legislation passed this year is a game-changer for Texas schools. The legislation allows for schools to invest much more in effective teachers There is even an option for districts to add more time to the school calendar. view article arw

Voters in Texas will decide on 10 constitutional amendments this Election Day, Nov. 5. The propositions range from prohibiting an income tax from ever being collected in the state to allowing law enforcement animals to stay with their handlers when they retire. Sometimes the language on a ballot can be confusing. Here's an explanation of what voters are being asked to decide, with an assist from the League of Women Voters. view article arw

WHEREAS, I, GREG ABBOTT, Governor of the State of Texas, issued a disaster proclamation on August 23, 2017, certifying that Hurricane Harvey posed a threat of imminent disaster for Aransas, Austin, Bee, Brazoria, Calhoun, Chambers, Colorado, DeWitt, Fayette, Fort Bend, Galveston, Goliad, Gonzales, Harris, Jackson, Jefferson, Jim Wells, Karnes, Kleberg, Lavaca, Liberty, Live Oak, Matagorda, Nueces, Refugio, San Patricio, Victoria, Waller, Wharton, and Wilson counties; and WHEREAS, the disaster proclamation of August 23, 2017, was subsequently amended on August 26, August 27, August 28 and September 14 to add the following counties to the disaster proclamation: Angelina, Atascosa, Bastrop, Bexar, Brazos, Burleson, Caldwell, Cameron, Comal, Grimes, Guadalupe, Hardin, Jasper, Kerr, Lee, Leon, Madison, Milam, Montgomery, Newton, Orange, Polk, Sabine, San Augustine, San Jacinto, Trinity, Tyler, Walker, Washington, and Willacy; and view article arw

It's impossible to say exactly what issue people will be talking about when they're ready to vote in next year's elections. But it's not too early to say those voters — friends or foes — will be talking about the president.  If the political conversation one year from now is what it is today, every candidate on the ballot — from the people seeking the presidency to the people running for local school boards — is going to have to take a position on impeachment.  And if the storyline has changed by then, it will be less a change in subject than another season of a familiar TV show about the adventures of Donald Trump. view article arw

Frisco ISD will utilize a community survey to help plan for the expansion of pre-kindergarten from a half-day to full-day program for eligible four-year-olds starting in the 2020-21 school year.  Several factors contribute to the eligibility for Pre-K, including whether the student is the child of an active-duty military member, is economically disadvantaged, has difficulty comprehending the English language and more. view article arw

A new state law requires the Austin district to remove its long-standing 30-person cap for public speakers. To comply, district officials are limiting speakers to one-minute each, regardless of whether they are making comments on agenda-specific items or addressing the board on unrelated topics. Monday night will be the first meeting under the change. “We could have two people or 200 people,” said board Trustee Amber Elenz. “We just don’t know. It makes it really hard to plan.” view article arw

Carrollton resident Richard Fleming launched his campaign for the Democratic primary for the US House of Representative Texas 24th Congressional District on Friday. The 24th district encompasses: A snippet of North Dallas, Addison, Carrollton, Farmers Branch, Lewisville, Coppell, Irving, Southlake, Euless, Bedford, Grapevine, Hurst and Colleyville. Fleming's family has lived six generations in Texas Congressional District 24. After graduating R.L. Turner High school Fleming attended Cameron University on a football scholarship in 1986 and played on Cameron’s 1987 Football National Championship Team. He received his BBA Finance and his Master’s Degree from Cameron and received executive education from Dartmouth College- Tuck School of Business. view article arw

House Bill 3: Improving Texas Education

September 1908:30 AM

The 86th Texas Legislature passed House Bill 3, a sweeping and historic bipartisan education finance bill signed into law by Texas Governor Greg Abbott. Since its passing, House Bill 3 has been the talk of the town by local representatives, school boards, educators and community members alike. It is a complex and monumental bill, restructuring financial aspects of Texas education. The bill can be broken down into four major policy areas: teacher support, improving student outcomes, increasing funding and reduction and reform of property taxes and recapture.  view article arw

It helps to remember that Michael Quinn Sullivan was on the outs with the Texas government’s top leaders when the legislative session ended in May.  The governor, lieutenant governor and speaker reached the end of the 20-week session with a checkmark in every box on their legislative to-do list. If they’d been any happier with the results, they’d have hired a marching band and held a parade. view article arw

Local attorney Mike Dixon delivered a piece of advice to McLennan County Commissioners and county employees on Tuesday: Don’t send text messages on the job. Talk instead.  Dixon said a new state law that became effective Sept. 1 puts more clout in laws that make job-related text messages, even those delivered after hours or with personal phones, subject to public scrutiny.  Dixon later said he was only half-joking about talking instead of texting but maintained that would be his preferred means of communication on the job. view article arw

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Michael Quinn Sullivan, a hardline conservative activist long aligned with the head of the Texas Senate, publicly accused each other of "destroying" the Republican Party on Tuesday — seeming to further a rift that has emerged between the two longtime conservative allies.  The dust-up on Twitter started over gun rights, specifically Patrick's recent support of requiring background checks for private person-to-person gun sales — an idea Sullivan opposes. view article arw

Among dozens of changes included in a school finance reform bill Gov. Greg Abbott signed earlier this year, lawmakers included a provision that sends new money to school districts across the state and requires them to use it to expand their half-day prekindergarten classes to full-day.  But weeks into the new school year and months after Abbott signed the bill, the school districts that already had full-day pre-K classes still have it, and the districts that didn't have it before the bill was passed mostly still don't. view article arw

Reliance on property taxes, teachers not getting paid enough, the state not paying its fair share toward education, problems with standardized testing and deficient campus security systems across he state were some of the challenges the legislature tackled during the last session. State Rep. Brooks Landgraf, R-Odessa, laid out the issues and solutions Thursday night during a State of Education Address: An Evening focused on Education in Ector County. view article arw

As the Bonnen turns

September 1308:40 AM

Drip, drip, drip... In the hours after hardline conservative activist Michael Quinn Sullivan exploded his political bombshell in late July — alleging House Speaker Dennis Bonnen wanted to target some of his own GOP members in 2020 — the lower chamber’s top Republican lawmaker made a series of phone calls to assure his flock that Sullivan was lying. view article arw

KYLE — Hemphill Elementary School teacher Jo Ann Zavala knew exactly how many students sat on the multicolored rug in her bilingual pre-K class last Thursday, because she had them count themselves that morning.  Many of the 17 wriggling 4-year-olds in Zavala's Hays Consolidated Independent School District classroom hesitated before bellowing each number, attempting to follow their teacher's lead. Zavala, a 23-year teaching veteran with a surprising amount of energy, knew that by the end of the school year, many would be able to recognize the numbers on their own, without her enthusiastic encouragement. view article arw

It’s encouraging when we can report that a good law is delivering on its intended results.  Such is the case with a Texas rule that banned out-ofschool suspensions for the state’s youngest students except in cases of bringing weapons or drugs to school.  A new report from the advocacy group Texans Care for Children shows that the number of pre-K through second grade kids kicked out of school dropped nearly 80% the first year the law was in effect, from 36,475 in 2015-2016 to 7,640 in 2017-2018. view article arw

For fiscal year 2019-20, Eanes ISD is looking at paying a slightly lower percentage of its tax revenue to the state than it did for FY 2018-19, but at least one district official said that will likely not be the case moving forward. According to EISD Superintendent Tom Leonard, more affluent districts such as his will still be paying more in Texas’ recapture system but could soon be hamstrung by tax revenue caps enacted this year. In June, Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law Senate Bill 2, effectively curbing the property tax revenue growth of local governments, municipalities and school districts. view article arw

Navigating the streets to the U.S. Supreme Court on a Sunday morning, veteran civil rights attorney Jose Garza was anxious.  It was the spring of 2018, and in two days the high court would consider whether Texas lawmakers had drawn political maps that purposefully undermined the voting strength of their state’s people of color.  Garza had made the walk several times before. Much of his career has been dedicated to dismantling Texas political structures that keep people of color out of power, taking down discriminatory gerrymanders and forcing change in local election systems.  view article arw