Sen. Kip Averitt (R-Waco) announced that he would resign his seat effective March 17th, which will prompt a special election, likely to be held in May. The winner of the special election will fulfill Averitt’s current term which ends in January. The special election is open to all candidates of all parties. Averitt has not taken the additional step of taking his name off of the November general election ballot, so the election for the rest of his current term can proceed while he’s still the Republican candidate for the November election. Once he withdraws from the November ballot, the Republican chairs from the ten counties in Senate District 22 will pick a replacement for that ballot. The Democratic chairs of those same counties will also get together and select a candidate for the November ballot. Former state senator Republican David Sibley has expressed his interest in running for the seat that he held for many years.
According to testimony given to the House Appropriations Committee this week, Texas must brace itself for a shortfall next biennium of between $11 and $15 billion.
The University of Texas System regents have elected Colleen McHugh of Corpus Christi to be their next leader. She succeeds James Huffines, who announced in December that he would step down from that post but remain a regent. McHugh is the first woman to lead the Board of Regents since it began operating in 1881.
There have been some staffing changes in Texas health and human services agencies. Lawrence Parker, Joanne Molina and Tom Phillips are now in new roles. Parker, former chief operating officer (COO) for the Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services (DADS) since 2004, has been named deputy executive commissioner for Social Services at the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) and will oversee HSC’s Offices of Eligibility Services and Family Services and will work closely with the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services and the Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services. Parker replaces Joanne Molina, who will now serve as Legal Services Operations Officer. As such, she will work in the Office of Chief Counsel and will be the legal services liaison with the HHSC Council. Tom Phillips replaces Parker as COO at DADS.