This Week in Texas: August 29, 2012

Posted September 5, 2012 in The Mignon Memo

Gov. Rick Perry has named former Texas Railroad Commissioner Michael Williams as Texas Education Commissioner.  Last year, Williams resigned from the Railroad Commission to seek the Republican U.S. Senate nomination but later opted to run for Congressional District 25. He lost in the May primary. Williams previously served in the U.S. Department of Education under President George H.W. Bush.  Perry also announced that Lizzette Gonzalez Reynolds will serve as chief deputy commissioner, Williams’ number two. Reynolds has been a deputy commissioner at TEA since 2007.

Lt. Governor David Dewhurst appointed Sen. Tommy Williams (R-The Woodlands) as chair of the Senate Finance Committee. Williams will replace Sen. Steve Ogden (R-Bryan) who didn’t seek re-election.  In addition to the Senate Finance Committee, the Senate Education, Economic Development and Jurisprudence Committees will all get new chairs. Their chairs — Sen. Florence Shapiro (R-Plano), Sen. Mike Jackson (R-La Porte) and Sen. Chris Harris (R-Arlington) — each decided not to seek another term. Dewhurst has said that he will complete the reorganization of the Senate committees in the near future.

The U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington has ruled that Texas’ congressional, Texas Senate and Texas House redistricting maps do not comply with the Voting Rights Act.  The court denied granting the maps preclearance.  Attorney General Greg Abbott reported that he will file an immediate appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.  The upcoming November election is not affected by this decision but this case could have an effect on the 2014 elections.

The Texas Supreme Court has accepted a case that will decide whether the state improperly administers its business tax.  Nestle USA, the plaintiff in the lawsuit, argues that the state’s business tax violates the Texas Constitution’s requirement that taxes be levied in an “equal and uniform” manner, as well as the U.S. Constitution’s equal protection and due process protections. The Texas Supreme Court dismissed a similar claim earlier this year, ruling that Nestle lacked standing because it had not yet paid its taxes. Nestle recently renewed its challenge after paying its taxes under protest.  The Court set an accelerated schedule for the
case, with oral arguments to be heard on September 18th.