The Mignon Memo

This Week in Texas: Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Posted July 12, 2017 in The Mignon Memo

Summer is coming to an end …

At least for folks at the Texas Legislature… Governor Abbott has filed the official proclamation calling for the special session to begin Tuesday, July 18th at 10am. Which team are you on–#TeamSunsetandSineDie or #Team20for20?  To read more…

 

Raising Texas Teachers

Charles Butt, chairman and CEO of HEB Grocery Co., has once again demonstrated his commitment to public education in Texas by pledging $50 million to the Raising Texas Teachers scholarship fund. College students at 10 Texas schools will be eligible for scholarships of $8,000 per year to help them pursue teaching as a career. To read more…

 

Redistricting heats up, again.

Monday, the Texas redistricting case began in San Antonio before a panel of three federal judges who will decide whether the state intentionally discriminated against black and Hispanic voters when drawing House and Congressional districts. The trial will last all week, concluding Friday or Saturday. To read more…

 

Only in Austin…

Geraldine’s, named for the infamous guinea fowl that once roamed Rainey Street, is located at the bottom of the posh Hotel Van Zandt. Visitors may enjoy live music, the rooftop lounge, and private cabanas with outdoor seating. It’s the perfect place to spend a summer evening without too much of the Austin heat. To read more…

This Week in Texas: Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Posted June 14, 2017 in The Mignon Memo

We have a budget!

Monday, Governor Abbott signed the state budget for the next biennium (2018-2019). But not without making some tweaks first, vetoing $120 million of the $217 billion budget. To read more…

 

New Leadership for San Antonio and El Paso.

San Antonio and El Paso have elected new mayors. Former state representative, Dee Margo, defeated businessman David Saucedo to replace outgoing El Paso Mayor Oscar Leeser. San Antonio city councilman Ron Nirenberg defeated incumbent Mayor Ivy Taylor. To read more…

 

Put your summer trip to see the Battleship Texas on hold for now…

The 105-year-old Battleship Texas is closed until further notice after the discovery of a leak by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. An estimated $18 million is necessary for necessary repairs to deteriorating supports near the Texas’ engines. The San Jacinto Monument, however, is still ready for a summer tour. To read more…

 

Only in Austin…

Forever Bicycles, an outdoor art installation by Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, is now open at the Waller Delta located at 74 Trinity. Over 1200 bicycles make up this impressive work of art. To read more…

This Week in Texas: Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Posted May 24, 2017 in The Mignon Memo

In case you were wondering about the fate of these bills…

  • Sanctuary cities ban: Greg Abbott livestreamed his signing of Senate Bill 4 on Facebook Live on May 7th. Several civil rights groups and local government leaders opposed to the bill have sued the Governor and the state.
  • Statewide texting-while-driving ban: The Senate passed House Bill 62 by a vote of 23-8 and the House concurred with the Senate’s amendments. The ban goes into effect September 1st, 2017.
  • Handgun license fees: Both chambers have passed Senate Bill 16, which would decrease concealed handgun license fees. The bill awaits Gov. Abbott’s signature.
  • Uber bill: House Bill 100, which would establish statewide ride-hailing regulations and overrule local ordinances, has been sent to Gov. Abbott.
  • Chilean flag emoji: House Concurrent Resolution 75, which would outlaw the use of the Chilean flag emoji in place of the Texas flag, has passed the House and been referred to the Senate Administration Committee, where it awaits a hearing.

Headed towards a special session?

After threatening to force a special session in a press conference last week, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick appears unsatisfied by the House’s attempts over the weekend to meet his demands for action on the “bathroom bill” and tax “rollback” legislation. Meanwhile, a federal court has suggested a special session on redistricting in Texas after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against gerrymandering in North Carolina.

Voter ID overhaul now an emergency item.

Sunday Gov. Greg Abbott declared voter ID an emergency issue needing to be addressed, and after a six-hour debate on Tuesday, the House voted 95-54 to give preliminary approval to Senate Bill 5 by Sen. Joan Huffman (R-Houston). SB 5 would change the current voter ID law passed in 2011. Opponents of the bill do not believe it goes far enough to protect voting rights. To read more…

Joint budget unveiled.Over the weekend, the House and Senate announced that they had come to a consensus on the budget, by pulling $1 billion from the Rainy Day Fund and $2 billion from an accounting trick related to transportation funding. The compromise budget must now be approved by both chambers and Gov. Abbott. To read more…

Only in Austin…Seven Austin barbecue joints made Texas Monthly’s list of the state’s “fifty best,” more than any other Texas city. Austin just might be the barbecue capitol of the world. To read more…

This Week in Texas: Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Posted May 17, 2017 in The Mignon Memo

Passing notes.On Monday, House Speaker Joe Straus sent a letter to Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, indicating that he thinks the state legislature can avoid a special session if the House and Senate can pass two bills: a state budget and legislation that would impact agencies slated for sunset review. Heavy negotiations between the leaders’ offices continue. To read more…

Budget may tap rainy day fund.On Monday, House Appropriations Chairman John Zerwas (R-Richmond) said that he and his Senate counterpart on the budget conference committee, Finance Chairwoman Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound), are exploring the use of the Economic Stabilization Fund, known as the rainy day fund, as well as transportation payment deferral in order to balance the budget. To read more…

Numerous bills die in “Mother’s Day Massacre.”Thursday was the final day for bills originating in the House to be given an initial hearing on the House floor. The House met until midnight but only made it to page 7 of a 21-page general calendar. On Friday, a small group of conservative lawmakers used parliamentary maneuvers to kill a 100-plus bill local and consent calendar, which typically consists of fast-tracked, non-controversial bills. Many bills died in what was dubbed the “Mother’s Day Massacre.” To read more…

Only in Austin…The Austin City Limits lineup has been released for the 2017 festival, which will be held October 6-8 and October 13-15 at Zilker Park. Headliners will include Red Hot Chili Peppers, Ice Cube, and Foster the People. 3-day tickets are available now. To read more…

This Week in Texas: Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Posted May 10, 2017 in The Mignon Memo

House passes child welfare reform bill.On Tuesday, the House gave final passage to HB 7 by Rep. Gene Wu (R-Houston) by a vote of 145-1 after considering several dozen amendments. The bill would streamline how Texas’ child welfare agency works with the courts to intervene in cases of abuse and neglect. To read more…

Gov. Abbott goes Facebook Live.Gov. Greg Abbott signed SB 4, the sanctuary city ban, into law on Sunday evening. Gov. Abbott publicized the signing with a Facebook Live video, the first time a Texas governor has signed a bill through an Internet live stream. The law will go into effect September 1st. To read more…

“Raise the Age” legislation dead for this session.House Bill 122, known as the “Raise the Age” bill, by Rep. Harold Dutton (D-Houston) was declared dead in the Senate on Tuesday, where leaders resisted House calls to pass the bill but delay its implementation until 2021. The bill would have raised the age of criminal responsibility in Texas from 17 to 18. To read more…

Former Dallas Cowboys QB visits the Capitol.Longtime Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo paid a visit to the Capitol last Wednesday and was greeted by fawning legislators. Romo was honored with resolutions in both the Senate and the House. To read more…

Only in Austin…On Monday, HEB delivered over 800 San Antonio Spurs cupcakes to the Capitol. HEB is a corporate sponsor for the Spurs, who lead their NBA playoff series 3-2 against the Houston Rockets. To read more…

This Week in Texas: Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Posted May 3, 2017 in The Mignon Memo

“Sanctuary” bill protesters arrested.On Monday, about 25 protesters at the State Insurance Building on the Capitol grounds were charged with trespassing by DPS troopers after a day-long sit-in. Protesters gathered in opposition to Senate Bill 4, legislation outlawing “sanctuary” jurisdictions, which passed the full House after more than 16 hours of debate last week. To read more…

Franchise tax on the chopping block.On Thursday, the House gave final passage to House Bill 28 by Rep. Dennis Bonnen a vote of 96-39, with 2 representatives present and not voting. The bill would gradually eliminate the state business-franchise tax, also known as the “margins tax,” which is pegged to a business’ gross receipts. To read more…

Senate Nominations considers TABC nominee.Kevin Lilly, Gov. Greg Abbott’s nominee to the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC), appeared before the Senate Nominations Committee on Monday. If confirmed, Lilly will become one of three TABC commissioners.  To read more…

Texas Peace Officers celebrated at the Capitol.Sunday kicked off a two-day ceremony in honor of Texas Peace Officers. The event culminated in a memorial on the Capitol steps, where Gov. Greg Abbott addressed thousands of officers and their families. To read more…

Only in Austin…Looking to experience Austin from a new vantage point? Segway tours are a great way to explore the rich history and culture of downtown. To read more

This Week in Texas: Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Posted April 26, 2017 in The Mignon Memo

Budget conferees hold first meeting.The Senate and House budget conferees held an organizational meeting on Monday. The appointees are Sen. Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound), Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa (D-McAllen), Sen. Joan Huffman (R-Houston), Sen. Lois Kolkhorst (R-Brenham), and Sen. Charles Schwertner (R-Georgetown), Rep. John Zerwas (R-Richmond), Rep. Oscar Longoria (D-Mission), Rep. Sarah Davis (R-West University Place), Rep. Trent Ashby (R-Lufkin), and Rep. Larry Gonzales (R-Round Rock).  To read more…

House approves school finance bill.After a four-hour discussion on more than 30 proposed amendments, the House voted 132-15 to give final passage to House Bill 21 by House Public Education Committee Chairman Dan Huberty (R-Houston). The bill would inject $1.6 billion into public schools and simplify complicated school funding formulas. To read more…

Two appointed to Soil and Water Conservation Board.Gov. Abbott has appointed Tina Yturria Buford and Carl Ray Polk, Jr. to the Soil and Water Conservation Board for terms set to expire February 1, 2018 and February 1, 2019 respectively. The Board is charged with coordinating state conservation and pollution reduction efforts, as well as administering soil and water conservation law. To read more…

Committees takes up title insurance reform.The House Insurance and Senate Business and Commerce Committees heard bills seeking to reform Texas’ title insurance industry on Tuesday. Both bills were left pending but this issue doesn’t seem to be going away with heavy hitters on both sides of the issue. To read more…

Lottery anonymity.On Tuesday, the House gave final passage to House Bill 59 by Rep. Ryan Guillen (D-Rio Grande City), which would allow lottery winners of $1 million or more to remain anonymous. Under the Texas Public Information Act, the Lottery Commission is currently required to release information on all prize winners. To read more…

Only in Austin…The UT Tower is home to the only peregrine falcon known to live year-round in Central Texas. Each spring, she makes a nest and lays eggs. When it became clear last week that this year’s clutch of eggs would not hatch, the university decided to remove them for research. To read more

This Week in Texas: Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Posted April 19, 2017 in The Mignon Memo

It’s the final countdown!

Monday marked the beginning of the last six weeks of session. Here are some dates to watch for:

May 8: deadline for House bills to make it out of committee

May 11: deadline for House bills to be passed on second reading

May 12: last House consent calendar; May 19: last House local calendar

May 20: final day for House committees to pass out Senate bills

May 23: deadline for Senate bills to be passed in the House on second reading

May 29: sine die

To read more…

Senate budget conferees announced.Yesterday, the Senate released the names of its five appointees to the conference committee for the state budget: Sen. Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound), Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa (D-McAllen), Sen. Joan Huffman (R-Houston), Sen. Lois Kolkhorst (R-Brenham), and Sen. Charles Schwertner (R-Georgetown). To read more…

Reshaping the Rainy Day Fund.

On Thursday, Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar proposed a new investment strategy that he believes would grow the state’s Rainy Day Fund by billions over several decades. Comptroller Hegar’s plan would allow his office to invest a portion of the money in higher-risk, higher-yielding options. To read more…

Allen to lead Texas Economic Development Corporation. Former Deputy Chief of Staff to Gov. Greg Abbott, Robert Allen, has been named President and CEO of the Texas Economic Development Corporation. Allen will replace Tracye McDaniel, who left last month to launch a specialized consulting firm. To read more…

Public Utility Commission Chair stepping down.Texas Public Utility Commission (PUC) Chair Donna Nelson, appointed by Gov. Rick Perry in 2008, has announced she will step down in May. The PUC oversees state electric, telecommunications, water, and sewer utilities. To read more…

Only in Austin…Think you know Austin? Have you visited the Secret Beach? How about the “You’re My Butter Half” mural? Check out this list of Austin hidden gems.

This Week in Texas: Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Posted April 12, 2017 in The Mignon Memo

15 hours later…The Texas House passed a $218 billion budget after 15 hours of debate on hundreds of amendments. Chairman Zerwas (R-Richmond) of the House Appropriations Committee brought his abacus, a fist fight nearly broke out over feral hogs, and the budget passed on a final vote of 131-16. A conference committee will be charged with reconciling the House and Senate versions of the budget. To read more…

Texas to do away with Top 10% Rule?Last week, the Senate Higher Education Committee discussed the possible repeal of the Top 10 Percent Rule when it took up Senate Bill 2119 by Sen. Seliger (R-Amarillo). The repeal would significantly impact undergraduate admissions at public universities across the state, considering 75% of freshmen at UT Austin alone are admitted automatically by this rule. SB 2119 was left pending in committee. To read more…

House calls for statewide rape kit database.On Tuesday, the House unanimously approved House Bill 281 by Rep. Donna Howard (D-Austin). The bill directs the Texas Department of Public Safety to establish a statewide database for DNA evidence from sexual assault cases. To read more…

Only in Austin…Late nights at the office call for pies from our favorite neighborhood pizzeria, Milto’s! To check out the menu

This Week in Texas: Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Posted April 5, 2017 in The Mignon Memo

House gears up for budget debate.Tomorrow the House will debate the budget on the House Floor. To add to the excitement, 402 pre-filed amendments will be considered as well. It appears no issue has been left out, with amendments touching on everything from border security to bathrooms. To read more…

A big day for mental health in the House.The Texas House is on its way to passing House Bill 10 by Rep. Four Price (R-Amarillo), addressing mental health parity. The bill would require insurance benefits for mental health treatment to be equal to coverage provided for physical health care. To read more…

Senate approves university tuition freeze.On Tuesday, the Texas Senate approved Senate Bill 19 by Sen. Kel Seliger (R-Amarillo) by a vote of 29-2. The bill freezes tuition at public universities for two years and caps tuition increases at 1 percent plus inflation after that time. To read more…

Happy Birthday TxDOT.Tuesday marked the 100-year anniversary of Gov. James “Pa” Ferguson signing the bill that created what is now the Texas Department of Transportation. TxDOT has changed much over the past century, which is not surprising given that Texas had just 200,000 registered drivers in 1917. To read more…

Only in Austin…Last Wednesday, the Texas Capitol’s outdoor rotunda was filled with visitors from SeaWorld San Antonio. Penny and Pete, the African penguins, have been happily married for many years. To read more