This Week in Texas: Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Posted September 18, 2019 in The Mignon Memo

TXLEGE: Sen. Rodríguez to Retire, Rep. Blanco to Run, Rep. Murphy to be Vice Chair

Senator José Rodríguez (D-El Paso) announced on Friday that he will retire from the Texas Senate at the end of his current term in January 2021.  He has served in the Senate since 2010; prior to that, he was the El Paso County Attorney for 17 years.  Sen. Rodríguez’s priorities in the Legislature have included affordable housing, education, health care, social issues and immigrant rights, and he was recently named to the Texas Safety Commission, which was created by Governor Greg Abbott after the recent El Paso mass shooting.

On Monday, Representative César Blanco (D-El Paso) threw his hat into the ring, announcing he will run for Sen. Rodríguez’s seat.  Rep. Blanco has represented House District 76 since 2015; the seat will be up for grabs now that he is running for the Texas Senate.

Representative Jim Murphy (R-Houston) won election as vice chair of the Texas House Republican Caucus Friday night.  The spot was vacated recently after the chair, Rep. Dustin Burrows, resigned and the vice chair, Rep. Stephanie Klick, was elevated to the top position.


Legislative Redistricting Committees Meet:  Texas Could Add 3 Congressional Seats After 2020 Census

According to Texas State Demographer Dr. Lloyd Potter, who testified recently before the House Redistricting Committee, the state has grown 14% over the past decade, putting the population just under 30 million.  This growth will likely mean Texas gains seats in the U.S. Congress, while states such as California and Minnesota, which have been losing population, have the potential to lose congressional seats.  During the 2021 legislative session, Texas lawmakers will face the highly political process of drawing U.S. House and Texas House and Senate districts, using population data from the 2020 census.  The census will also affect Electoral College votes, which are based on each state’s count of House and Senate seats.

The House Committee on Redistricting is scheduled to meet twice in October:  at 4:00 PM Wednesday, October 9th in Fort Worth, and at 4:00 PM Thursday, October 10th in Dallas.  The Senate Select Committee on Redistricting will meet at 9:00 AM Tuesday, October 29th at the Texas Capitol in Austin.


Dr. Harrison Keller Named Texas Higher Education Commissioner

The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board recently voted unanimously to appoint Harrison Keller as commissioner, effective October 1st.  Dr. Keller will serve as the sixth commissioner since the board’s founding in 1965, succeeding Commissioner Raymund Paredes who served for 15 years before announcing his resignation in January.  Dr. Keller currently serves as deputy of strategy and policy in the president’s office at The University of Texas at Austin and is also a clinical professor at UT’s LBJ School of Public Affairs.  He has a long history in education policy, having previously served as research director and senior education policy adviser under Speaker Tom Craddick in the Texas House.


Only in Austin…

It may still feel like the depths of summer, but Halloween seems to have come early to the Paramount Theater in Austin.  Pianist Chad Lawson was scheduled to perform there Sunday when he snapped a few photos from the stage after soundcheck.  When he got back to his hotel and looked at his shots, he made a chilling discovery – the figure of what appears to be a woman floating in the mezzanine stairway in the otherwise empty theater.  Spooky stories about the theater are not unheard of – one even mentions a woman in a white dress seen roaming the aisles of the mezzanine, thought to be the spirit of a mourning mother or wife from the Civil War era.  Time to book some tickets for a show!