November 1 , 2019

Inside this edition of Capitol Roundup:

Nov. 5 is Election Day
All voters can vote on constitutional amendments. Plus, House special elections in Dallas, Harris, and Fort Bend counties

Senate interim charges announced - includes review of higher ed facility funding

TEA recommends state takeover of Houston ISD

Conservative activist groups call for special session to remove Bonnen as speaker

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AGC Texas Chapters

Quote of the Week:

"A nonpartisan Legislative Budget Board that provides factual, objective analysis is critical to responsible policymaking.  The LBB has been structured to protect it from undue influence exerted by a single office or legislative chamber. I did not always like the answers we got from the LBB staff, but I knew those answers were based on research rather than politics."

-Former House Speaker Joe Straus

The former Texas House Speaker made the comment in light of news that the Legislative Budget Board has now been without an executive director for a year. For the first time in 70 years, the LBB - co-chaired by the House Speaker and Lieutenant Governor - failed to appoint a leader of the agency that provides year-round budget analysis. Since 2015, LBB staff numbers have dropped by more than a quarter, from 146 to 108 employees.
Vote in the Nov. 5 special elections!

All voters: 10 constitutional amendments

Voters in Dallas, Harris, and Fort Bend counties: House special elections

Reminder: Nov. 5 is an election day across the entire state of Texas. All Texas voters will have the opportunity to vote on 10 propositions for amendments to the Texas Constitution. 

Furthermore, special elections will be held to fill vacancies in Texas House seats for District 28 in Fort Bend County to replace former Rep. John Zerwas; District 100 in Dallas County to replace former Rep. Eric Johnson; and District 148 in Harris County to replace former Rep. Jessica Farrar.
Patrick announces Senate interim charges, including review of higher education facility funding

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick on Wednesday has asked committees of the Texas Senate to study 116 charges during the interim ahead of the 2021 legislative session, including asking the committee on higher education to r eview the infrastructure formula for general academic institutions.

The full list of charges along with descriptions can be found here. They include studies and reviews of a swath of issues covering areas such as business and commerce, education, criminal justice, finance, health and human services, natural resources, and property taxes, among others. 
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick

One of the charges issued to the Senate Higher Education Committee asks the group to review current needs among higher ed facilities across the state and consider how funds can best be used in conjunction with private groups and local governments. The exact wording of the charge is as follows:

" Facility Needs: Review the infrastructure formula for general academic institutions, evaluating the current facility needs, as well as the projected needs based upon anticipated enrollment growth. Consider methods of how state funds can be best used in partnership with funds of university systems and private and local government funds. Recommend whether a rolling review of higher education facilities and funding would provide the state with a better method of addressing facility issues. 

As is customary during every legislative interim, Patrick has asked Senators to study these issues over the next year and hold hearings to get input from Texans. Upon completion of the hearings, senators will determine whether additional legislation or policy changes are needed to address these issues. 

"I am confident that the recommendations I receive from the committees following this process will help move us forward to create sound, conservative public policy to ensure the Texas economy remains strong and our state continues to be the best place in the nation to live, work and raise a family," Patrick said in a statement. 

Texas Education Agency recommends state takeover of Houston ISD and replacement of school board

In its final investigative report sent to lawmakers this week, the Texas Education Agency recommended that
Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath appoint a board of managers to oversee the school district, replacing the elected board.

The TEA found that  the state's largest public school system "demonstrated inability to appropriately govern," according to the agency's 318-page final investigative report. The investigation's findings included  violations of state open meetings laws, improper meddling in contracts, and unilateral actions done without consulting the rest of the board. 

The school district is suing the state to prevent the takeover, and on Tuesday, Houston ISD asked for an injunction to stop Morath from replacing the board or interfering with the district's selection of a new superintendent. 

Sen.  Paul Bettencourt (R-Houston) has been calling on the state to take over Houston ISD for the last several months.

"Any well-thought-out replacement by the education commissioner is going to be an improvement," Bettencourt said. "The largest ISD in the state must function better than it has."
Activist groups call for special session to remove Bonnen as speaker

Though Dennis Bonnen announced last week that he would not seek re-election in 2020, conservative activist groups on Wednesday called on Gov. Greg Abbott to go a step further - call a special session to strip Bonnen of the title of House speaker. 

The group of activists that made the announcement at a news conference Wednesday outside Dallas included  Michael Quinn Sullivan, the chief executive of Empower Texans who released the recording that spurred Bonnen's resignation. Also among the group were leaders from  other conservative groups including Texas Right to Life and Texas Homeschool Coalition.

The group initially sent Abbott a letter in September, but that was before Sullivan released the audio tape that captured Bonnen making disparaging comments about legislators and local government officials, and seeking help to defeat a handful of Republicans in the 2020 primaries. Abbott has yet to publicly comment on the call for the special session. 

Sullivan and the other activists have called on Abbott to call a special session not only to elect a new speaker but also to address issues such as ballot security, voter fraud, and abortion.

"On issue after issue, too much was left undone during this legislative session or it was attempted poorly," Sullivan said"For as long as Dennis Bonnen remains on the speaker's dais, literally or metaphorically as holding the office, Dennis Bonnen is going to be a drain on the Republican Party and anyone associated with the Republican Party."

In a recent University of Texas / Texas Tribune poll, Bonnen received a 20-percent approval rate and a 25-percent disapproval rate. Further, half of Texas voters said they know nothing at all about the June meeting between Bonnen and Sullivan; 18% said they know a little; and 31% indicated that they had heard "some" or "a lot."
November 2019
5th - Election Day
15th - Board meeting

June 2020
15th-17th - 2020 AGC-TBB Convention (Gloucester, MA)