This Week in Texas: December 14, 2011

Posted December 14, 2011 in The Mignon Memo

This is the last edition of the Mignon Memo for 2011. Enjoy your holidays and look for the Mignon Memo to return on January 4, 2012.

More news from the redistricting front. Late Friday, the U.S. Supreme Court granted Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott’s request for a stay on the state legislative and congressional maps drawn by the federal court in San Antonio. A hearing on the stay is scheduled for January 9, 2012. Then on Monday, the federal court in Washington, D.C. that is reviewing the Texas maps for preclearance under the Voting Rights Act announced that it will hold a trial January 17-26, 2012. What this means is the possibility of delayed or split primaries in Texas. The original filing deadline set by the San Antonio court was December 15th but that has changed with the stay of the maps. The filing period has been extended to 6:00pm on Monday, December 19. The court’s order stated that applications for filing may be amended once the maps are finalized. In other words, what a mess!

John Raney (R-Bryan) won a runoff election in House District 14 to fill the current term of former Rep. Fred Brown. Raney collected 3,901 votes, or 58 percent of the vote, compared to his competitor Bob Yancy’s 2,834 votes or 42 percent of the vote.

Former SMU football star and ESPN analyst Craig James is said to be considering joining the race to replace U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison.

Two more lawsuits have been filed in the last week challenging the state’s system of public school finance. A group of property wealthy school districts claim that the current system violates the state constitution because it is inadequately funded and effectively imposes a statewide property tax. In addition, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund also filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the current system. Another legal challenge is expected. All of the cases will be consolidated for trial in Travis County next fall.

Comptroller Combs announced this week an overall improvement in the Texas economy. Combs projected that the state will have available revenue of $82.7 billion by the time the current biennium ends on Aug. 31, 2013. This would give the state a $1.6 billion balance over the $81.1 billion in the two-year budget approved by the 82nd Legislature earlier this year. Those funds may be used to partially offset a $4.8 billion shortfall in Medicaid.

Rumor has it that the Texas Senate committee assignments and interim charges may be released in the next few days before the holidays. Lt. Governor David Dewhurst is expected to shift some committee chairs due to the fact that certain chairs are not running for reelection. Stay tuned.

Speaker Joe Straus appointed Paul Hobby to the Texas Ethics Commission. Hobby currently serves as managing partner for the private equity firm Genesis Park, L.P. and is also the chairman of the Houston branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas.

Now is the time to stock up on those holiday spirits. Under Texas law, package stores (liquor stores) are required to close on Sundays. When Christmas Day and New Year’s Day fall on a Sunday, as they do this year, those stores are also required to be closed the following Monday.