This Week in Texas: August 22, 2012

Posted August 22, 2012 in The Mignon Memo

Another incumbent Texas State Senator finds himself without a general election opponent.  Democrat Lyndon Laird of Grandview, a candidate for Senate District 22, has withdrawn from the November election.  His withdrawal leaves incumbent Sen. Brian Birdwell (R-Granbury) without a Democratic opponent since the deadline has passed for other candidates to enter the race.

Speaker Joe Straus announced some staffing changes in the Texas House. Shalla Santos has been named as Assistant Parliamentarian and Special Counsel for the Texas House. Santos will work alongside Chris Griesel, who has served as Parliamentarian since 2011. Santos previously served as a staff attorney at the Third Court of Appeals in Austin. Frank Battle, a longtime top aide to Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, is returning to the Texas House as Speaker Straus’ general counsel and ethics advisor to the House. Battle served as Dewhurst’s general counsel and policy advisor since 2003. Before that, he served as a special assistant and legal counsel to former Texas House Speaker Pete Laney and as the ethics advisor to the House.

Lt. Governor David Dewhurst also announced some new staff.  Constance Allison, former Chief of Staff for retiring Sen. Steve Ogden (R-Bryan) will be Dewhurst’s senior policy adviser. Bryan Hebert, who has worked as an attorney at the Texas Legislative Council as well as deputy general counsel for Dewhurst, will replace Frank Battle as Dewhurst’s general counsel. In addition, Lauren Hensarling, who previously served as the director of constituent services for House Speaker Joe Straus, will be Dewhurst’s scheduler, and Matt Hirsch, who directed communications for Dewhurst’s U.S. Senate campaign, will serve as press secretary.

Lots of activity in the courts this week impacting Texas.  The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Texas did not act unconstitutionally when it moved to expel Planned Parenthood from a health and contraceptive care program for low-income
women.  This overturns a ruling by a federal district court in Austin that found the state rules expelling Planned Parenthood from the Women’s Health Program to have violated the organization’s rights of free speech and association.  The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia threw out the controversial Cross State Air Pollution Rule by ruling that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency had overstepped the bounds of federal clean air statutes and wrongly shut out state regulators from implementing the law. Texas had opposed its inclusion in the rule.