The Mignon Memo

This Week in Texas: Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Posted March 25, 2020 in The Mignon Memo

Only in Austin…

Texas Counties Issuing Stay-at-Home Orders

Many of Texas’ biggest urban cities and counties have ordered residents to stay indoors to slow the spread of the coronavirus, and the list of counties issuing such order continues to grow.  By Thursday morning, more than 16.6 million Texans will be under orders to stay at home except for essential errands and personal exercise, or 58% of the state’s population.

Currently, shelter-in-place orders are in place, or will be soon, for the following areas:  Dallas County (Dallas), Harris County (Houston), Bexar County (San Antonio), Tarrant County (Fort Worth), Travis County (Austin), McLennan (Waco), Williamson County, El Paso County, Hidalgo County, Collin County, Lubbock County, Denton County, Bell County and Hunt County.

Texas’ May Primary Runoff Election Delayed Due to Coronavirus

The May 26th primary election runoffs in Texas will be delayed until July in response to the outbreak of the coronavirus under an order signed by Governor Greg Abbott.  The elections are now scheduled for July 14th with early voting beginning July 6th.  Dozens of runoffs are ongoing for party nominations to congressional and local offices, the most prominent being the race between former Air Force helicopter pilot MJ Hegar and state Senator Royce West of Dallas for the Democratic nomination to face Republican U.S. Senator John Cornyn in the fall.

State Budget Could Take Massive Hit After Coronavirus Crisis

Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar briefed legislators on the state’s economy and budget Sunday, saying that while it was too soon for specific forecasts, both are expected to take potentially massive hits in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.  The briefing was one of state lawmakers’ first glimpses of the impact the virus is expected to have on multiple industries, state finances and Texas’ largely oil-fed savings account, known as the Economic Stabilization Fund, or the rainy day fund.  The Comptroller, who referred to the state of the economy as “the current recession,” predicted both the general revenue for the state budget and the savings account balance will be drastically lower — possibly by billions of dollars — when he makes a revised fiscal forecast; that update could happen in July.

Texas Driver’s License Offices Temporarily Closed

All Texas driver’s license offices have been temporarily closed to limit potential exposure to the coronavirus, though those seeking a commercial license can still book an appointment in order to help meet delivery needs across the state.  The closure came not long after the waiver of expiration dates on driver’s licenses and state-issued identification during the state’s coronavirus emergency.

Paws-ing the Coronavirus Newsfeed

If you need a break from 24 hour-a-day coronavirus coverage, here are some distractions in the form of animal webcams.  You can view the Houston Zoo’s giraffe feeding platform and gorilla habitat here and here, the University of Texas’ Tower Falcon cam here, the West Texas Hummingbird cam here, the Dallas World Aquarium’s manatee cam here and the El Paso Zoo’s sea lion and meerkat cams here and here.

This Week in Texas: Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Posted March 18, 2020 in The Mignon Memo

Only in Austin…

Texas Waives STAAR Testing Requirements

Governor Greg Abbott announced the state of Texas will waive all STAAR testing requirements for the current school year amid the coronavirus pandemic that is necessitating the closure of school districts during the normal testing window.  Gov. Abbott and the Texas Education Agency (TEA) are working to ensure schools continue to deliver instruction to students while schools are closed and that students are learning and ready to succeed at the next grade level once the crisis is over.  The Governor’s announcement came shortly after TEA Commissioner Mike Morath warned that many Texas schools could be closed through the remainder of the academic year due to the virus.

So that children and families do not lose access to nutritious meals during this time, the Baylor Collaborative on Hunger and Poverty, the Texas Hunger Initiative and other state partners have compiled information on Texas school closures and food resources being offered.

Texas Driver’s License Expiration Dates Extended During Coronavirus

The Texas Department of Public Safety is temporarily waiving expiration dates for Texas driver’s licenses due to the coronavirus.  Gov. Abbott’s recent disaster declaration for Texas allowed for the waiver of laws and regulations that hinder agencies’ abilities to respond to the pandemic; as a result, for 60 days after the end of the state of disaster, Texas driver’s licenses, commercial driver’s licenses, identification cards and election identification certificates will still be considered valid if the expiration date is on or after March 13, 2020.

Texas Capitol Closed to the Public

The Texas Capitol is now closed to the public indefinitely as the state works diligently to tamp down the spread of the coronavirus.  Legislators, their staffs and the offices that support them are working remotely to continue government business.  This temporary closure extends to the Capitol Visitors Center, the Texas State Cemetery, the Capitol Visitors Parking Garage, the Capitol Grill and the Capitol gift shops.

Friends:  You may hear from us more frequently over the coming weeks, as we’ll be posting news pertinent to the Texas Legislature as it is received.  In the meantime, take care of yourselves and your loved ones as we all navigate this new reality.

This Week in Texas: Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Posted March 11, 2020 in The Mignon Memo

Representative Eddie Rodriguez and Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt File for Texas Senate

Rep. Eddie Rodriguez (D-Austin) and Judge Sarah Eckhardt (D-Austin) have filed to run in the special election for Senate District 14, the seat being vacated by Senator Kirk Watson at the end of April.  Sen. Watson, who has represented the district since 2007, recently announced his resignation in order to become the first dean of the University of Houston’s Hobby School of Public Affairs.  A date for the special election has not been set.

Rep. Rodriguez has served in the Texas House since 2003, and was the first candidate to formally announce.  Judge Eckhardt, the first female county judge in Travis County, has served in that role since 2015.  Other announcements are expected in the near future.  More to come…

Coronavirus Hearing for the Texas House Committee on Public Health

On Tuesday, the House Public Health Committee met at the Texas Capitol to hear invited testimony on the state’s preparedness on the coronavirus.  Chairwoman Senfronia Thompson (D-Houston) and legislators heard from Dr. John Hellerstedt, Commissioner of the Texas Department of State Health Services, and Nim Kidd, Chief of the Texas Division of Emergency Management, as well as officials representing health plans, emergency rooms and the city of San Antonio.

While the House Public Health Committee went forward with its meeting, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick directed Senate committees to postpone all currently scheduled hearings for a few weeks amid coronavirus concerns.

Proposed Interstate 35 Expansion Fully Funded

The Texas Transportation Commission recently approved a plan to pump nearly $8 billion into the redevelopment of Interstate 35 through the heart of downtown Austin, funding a once-in-a-generation reworking of the congested traffic artery running through the heart of the city.  The end result could include an underground interstate with park space and bike and pedestrian pathways over the highway to more coherently connect East Austin with the rest of the city.  Officials are aiming for a 2025 construction start date and a possibly completed project within five years.

Only in Austin…

Paging Dr. Adorable!  Advice from our resident therapy doggo Tucker Hutchison in light of the coronavirus outbreak:  wash your hands and paws thoroughly and we’ll all get through this together.  Take care, everyone.

This Week in Texas: Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Posted March 4, 2020 in The Mignon Memo

The Results Are In!

The results of the Texas Primary are in!  Here are the fast and furious results of yesterday’s election.  In this memo, we highlight hot races and some new faces.  For more detailed information, go to the Secretary of State’s website here.

Beyond the top of the ticket, voters turned out on Super Tuesday to decide critical primary elections at the congressional, state and county levels.

Several incumbent elected officials were unopposed on Tuesday and were watching the results of the opposite party’s primary contest. If no candidate in a primary election received a majority of the vote, the top two candidates will go head-to-head in a runoff on May 26th, 2020.

Ready, set, GO!

President

In the Presidential Democratic primary, Joe Biden (32.4%) came in first in Texas, with Bernie Sanders (29.7%) and Michael Bloomberg (15.5%) finishing second and third.  The Democratic nominee will face Republican President Donald Trump in the November general election.

U.S. Senate

MJ Hegar (22.3%) and Democrat Senator Royce West from Dallas (14.5%) are headed to a runoff in May.  The winner will face U.S. Senator John Cornyn in November.

U.S. Congress

There were competitive races up and down the ballot in the U.S. House.  Six open seats in the Texas congressional delegation made for an extremely competitive primary.  Five of those open seats are headed to runoff elections.

Hot races

 CD-7:  Republicans made winning this seat a priority; it’s one of two Democrats flipped in 2018. Six Republicans signed up to challenge Democratic U.S. Rep. Lizzie Fletcher.  Republican Wesley Hunt received 61.1% of the vote, heading to the November election.

CD-11 (seat vacated by Mike Conaway):  August Pfluger (52.1%) will face Democrat Jon Mark Hogg in November.

CD-12:  Incumbent Republican Kay Granger, who was endorsed by President Trump, had a serious challenge from the right. She avoided a runoff with 58.6% of the vote.  Granger will face Democratic nominee Lisa Welch in November.

CD-13 (seat vacated by Mac Thornberry):  Republicans Josh Winegarner (38.9%) and Ronny Jackson (19.8%) are headed to a runoff to replace Mac Thornberry and so are Democrats Gus Trujillo (42.2%) and Greg Sagan (34.7%). This is a solidly red seat.

CD-17 (open seat vacated by Bill Flores):  Republican Pete Sessions (31.6%), a former congressman who represented another district, is headed to a runoff. As unofficial results trickle in, it is unclear who he will be facing in May. Early Wednesday morning, Renee Swann had 19% of the vote and George Hindman 18.1%.

 CD-22 (open seat vacated by Pete Olson):  This race is a target for Democrats seeking to flip the seat and included Republican Pierce Bush, the grandson of the late President George H.W. Bush.  Republicans Troy Nehls (40.5%) and Kathaleen Wall (19.4%) are headed to a runoff. The winner will face Democrat Sri Preston Kulkarni in November.

CD-23 (seat vacated by Will Hurd):  In Texas’ true swing congressional seat, nine Republicans sought the nomination to replace retiring Will Hurd. This race heads to a runoff between Tony Gonzales (28.1%), backed by Hurd, and Raul Reyes (23.3%). The Democratic nominee is Gina Ortiz Jones, who almost took out the incumbent in 2018.

CD-24 (seat vacated by Kenny Marchant):  Beth Van Duyne, a former Irving Mayor, won the Republican primary easily with 64.3% of the vote. The Democrats head to a runoff between Kim Olson (39.1%), the 2018 agriculture commissioner nominee, and Candace Valenzuela (32.2%)

CD-28: In this race, incumbent Democrat Henry Cuellar faced a challenge from the left backed by national progressives. Cuellar came out on top, avoiding a runoff, with 51.8% of the vote.

 CD-31:  After MJ Hegar came close to winning this seat in 2018, six Democrats ran for a chance to beat Rep. John Carter in November.  Christine Eady Mann (34.7%) and Donna Imam (30.7%) earned spots in a runoff and the winner will face incumbent John Carter.

CD-32:  Five Republicans wanted the chance to take back the seat Democratic incumbent Colin Allred won from Pete Sessions two years ago; the congressional seat is one of two the Democrats flipped in 2018. Genevieve Collins (52.6%) and Floyde McLendon (34.2%) are headed to a runoff to see who will face Allred in November.

STATEWIDE RACES

 Texas Railroad Commission

Members of the three-person board are elected statewide. One seat is up for election in 2020.

 Commissioner:  In the Republican primary, James Wright beat incumbent Ryan Sitton outright with 56% of the vote. Democrats Roberto R. “Beto” Alonzo and Chrysta Castañeda are headed to a runoff.

Texas Supreme Court

Four positions are up for election this year. Judges run for offices as partisans, and no Democrat has been elected to the court since 1995.

 Highlighted Race – Chief Justice: Amy Clark Meachum won the primary with 80% of the vote, making her the first woman ever to earn the Texas Democratic Party nomination for Chief Justice of the Texas Supreme Court. She will face incumbent Nathan Hecht in November.

State Board of Education

There are 15 districts within the State Board of Education. Ten are held by Republicans, and five are held by Democrats. Four Republicans are not running for reelection, meaning a shake-up on the board is certain no matter which party prevails in each of the eight seats up for election.

Highlighted Race – In District 5, Rob Morrow, who has called President Donald Trump a “child rapist,” is headed to a runoff in the race for a position that would help decide what millions of Texas public school children are taught.

 Texas Senate 

 Hot Races

 SD-19:  Democrats Xochil Pena Rodriguez (44.3%) and Roland Gutierrez (37.5%), who vacated his House seat to run for SD-19, head to a runoff and the winner will face incumbent Pete Flores (R-Pleasanton) in November.

 SD-27:  Incumbent Eddie Lucio Jr. (D-Brownsville) takes 49.8% of the vote and heads to a runoff with Sara Stapleton Barrera in May (35.6%).  Senator Lucio has been in the Legislature since 1987.

SD-29:  Cesar Blanco (D-El Paso) will officially be Senator-elect to replace retiring Senator Jose Rodriguez. Representative Blanco vacated his seat in the Texas House to run for Senate District 29.

Texas House

 Hot Races

 HD-2:  In this rematch between incumbent Republican Dan Flynn (R-Van) and Bryan Slaton (who came close to a win in 2018), Flynn is battling for a 10th term and Slayton is running for the third time. Incumbent Dan Flynn (44.5%) and Bryan Slaton (35.2%) are headed to a runoff in May.

HD-10 (open seat vacated by John Wray):  This race featured a former candidate, Jake Ellzey, and the son of a former state representative, Ryan Pitts.  Jake Ellzey avoids a runoff with 64.8% of the vote and will be the Representative-Elect. There is not a democratic challenger in November.

HD-25 (open seat vacated by Speaker Dennis Bonnen):  Ro’Vin Garrett (28.6%) and Cody Thane Vasut (22.2%) are headed to a runoff in this Republican primary race.

HD-26 (open seat vacated by Rick Miller):  Both primaries in this district featured multiple candidates for a nomination to a general election race that could go to either party. For the Republicans, Matt Morgan (49.7%) and Jacey Jetton (40.7%) are headed to a runoff. Democrats Suleman Lalani (31.7%) and L. Sarah DeMerchant (29.6%) are headed to the May runoff.

HD-45:  The pack of Republicans who vied to take back this former GOP seat included Carrie Isaac, the spouse of the state representative who preceded Democratic incumbent Rep. Erin Zwiener (D-Dripping Springs). Carrie Isaac (47.9%) and Kent “Bud” Wymore (41.4%) are headed to a runoff. Zwiener won her primary with 69.2% of the vote.

HD-47:  Incumbent Democrat Vikki Goodwin (D-Austin) took the seat from the Republicans in 2018, and the effort to take it back attracted five Republican candidates. Jennifer Fleck (32.2%) will continue to a runoff in May. By Wednesday morning, it was still unclear about who Fleck will face in the runoff.

HD-59:  Incumbent Republican Dr. J.D. Sheffield (R-Stephenville), vying for a fifth term, was up against self-funding businessman Cody Johnson and lawyer Shelby Slawson, both from Stephenville. Dr. Sheffield (30.4%) heads to a runoff with Shelby Slawson (45.6%) in May.

HD-60 (open seat vacated by Mike Lang):  In this race, Jon Francis had deep funding from West Texas conservatives and Glenn Rogers had the endorsement of former Texas Gov. Rick Perry.  Francis (45.9%) and Rogers (43.8%) are headed to a runoff.

HD-66: For this seat targeted by Democrats, incumbent Republican Matt Shaheen (R-Plano) will face Sharon Hirsch (59%) in November.

HD-67: Tom Adair (32.9%) won the Democratic primary in this district to face incumbent Jeff Leach (R-Plano) in November.

HD-74 (open seat vacated by Poncho Nevarez):  Eddie Morales Jr. will be the Democratic nominee in this race with 50.8% of the vote.

HD-76 (open seat vacated by Cesar Blanco):  City Council member Claudia Ordaz Perez takes this race with 56.4% of the vote. There is no Republican challenger in November.

HD-80: Incumbent Democrat Tracy King (D-Uvalde) successfully defended his seat against Danny Valdez with 67% of the vote.

HD-92 (open seat vacated by Jonathan Stickland):  This closely watched primary was for a seat that Jonathan Stickland, a Republican, won with less than 50% of the vote against Democrat Steven Riddell in 2018; Stickland didn’t seek reelection.  Republican Jeff Cason (54.1%) will face Democrat Jeff Whitfield in November.

HD-96 (open seat vacated by Bill Zedler): Republican David Cook will face Democrat Joe Drago for this open seat in November.

HD-97: Democrat Elizabeth Beck will face incumbent Craig Goldman (R-Fort Worth) in November.

HD-100:  Incumbent Democrat Lorraine Birabil (D-Dallas) won the special election for this seat in January and had to defend it against old and new rivals; the seat opened up after now-Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson resigned in 2019. Birabil (31.9%) is headed to a runoff with Jasmine Felicia Crockett (25%) in May.

HD-102: Former Representative Linda Koop (76.8%) will face incumbent Ana-Maria Ramos (D-Richardson) in November for a rematch for this seat.

HD-108: Incumbent Morgan Meyer (R-Dallas) will face Joanna Cattanach (58.3%) in November. Meyer won reelection be less than 1 percentage point in 2018.

HD-119 (open seat vacated by Roland Gutierrez):  Elizabeth Campos (46.1%) and Jennifer Ramos (43.7%) are headed to a runoff.

HD-132:  Mike Schofield, a former Republican state representative, ran to win his seat back.  Schofield (53%) faces Democratic incumbent Gina Calanni (D-Katy) in the general election.

HD-134:  Ann Johnson (70.6%) will face Republican incumbent Sarah Davis (R-Houston) in November.

HD-138 (open seat vacated by Dwayne Bohac):  This open seat in a swing district attracted candidates from both parties, setting up a competitive November general election.  Democrats Akilah Bacy (45.6%) and Jenifer Rene Pool (29.5%) are headed to a runoff. The winner will face Lacey Hull in the fall.

HD-141: Incumbent Senfronia Thompson (D-Houston) successfully defended her seat with 84.2% of the vote.

HD-142:  Incumbent Democrat Harold Dutton Jr. (D-Houston), third in seniority in the 150-member Texas House, had a well-funded opponent, Jerry Davis, this season.  Rep. Dutton (45.2%) and Jerry Davis (25.3%) are headed to a runoff.

HD-147: Incumbent Garnet Coleman (D-Houston) will be returning to the Texas Legislature with a 67.7% lead in the primary election. Rep. Coleman does not have a challenger in November.

HD-148:  Incumbent Democrat Anna Eastman (D-Houston) was a January special election winner trying to win a full term — but Jessica Farrar, who resigned from the seat in 2019, backed Penny Morales Shaw. Rep. Eastman (40.5%) and Penny Morales Shaw (23%) are headed to a runoff. The winner will face Republican Luis LaRotta in November.

This Week in Texas: Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Posted February 26, 2020 in The Mignon Memo

Early Voting Rocks!

Early voting in Texas continues this week before wrapping up on Friday, February 28.  Several of the major Democratic presidential candidates are visiting the state before the March 3 Super Tuesday primary, demonstrating the state’s importance with its 228 pledged delegates up for grabs, more than the four early voting states (Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina) combined.

Helpful clicks:  Here’s an excellent voter’s guide for the primaries, here’s everything you need to know about voting in Texas and here’s information on early voting numbers in the 10 largest Texas counties.  Be sure to vote!

Committees for New Texas House Members

Speaker Dennis Bonnen (R-Angleton) announced committee appointments for the three newly elected members of the Texas House – pursuant to House Rules, the three new legislators will fill the committee positions left vacant by their predecessors.  Assignments are as follows:

  • Lorraine Birabil (D-Dallas) – Higher Education Committee; Urban Affairs Committee
  • Anna Eastman (D-Houston) – Judiciary & Civil Jurisprudence Committee; Natural Resources Committee
  • Gary Gates (R-Richmond) – Appropriations Committee; Pensions, Investments, & Financial Services Committee

Wall Street Journal Names Austin Hottest Job Market in U.S.

For the second year in a row, Austin has topped the Wall Street Journal’s ranking of the hottest job markets among major U.S. metro areas.  Five important metrics were measured to determine rankings — unemployment rate, workforce participation rate, job growth rate, workforce growth rate and wage growth rate.

Among metro areas with at least 1 million residents, Austin took the #1 spot and Nashville came in at 2, followed by Denver at 3 and Seattle at 4; Seattle, San Francisco and Salt Lake City tied at 5.  Other Texas cities included Dallas-Fort Worth at 9, San Antonio at 13 and Houston at 21.

Only in Austin…

Do it for the ‘gram (and the great food):  For the second year, Lucky Robot Japanese Kitchen on ultra-hip South Congress Avenue is celebrating Japan’s sakura, or cherry blossom, season with a pop-up blossom installation beginning March 11.  More than 550 pounds of cherry blossoms will be hand-strung throughout the restaurant to mimic the gorgeous floral canopies that hang over the rivers of Japan.  Saké and sakura…a lovely way to celebrate spring in Austin!

This Week in Texas: Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Posted February 19, 2020 in The Mignon Memo

Early Voting in Texas Has Begun

Early voting in Texas started yesterday and will run through Friday, February 28 – here’s everything you need to know to vote early and make Ryan Gosling happy.

Texas State Senator Kirk Watson Resigns

Effective April 30th, Sen. Kirk Watson (D-Austin) will resign from the Texas Senate to become the founding dean of the University of Houston’s Hobby School of Public Affairs.  Sen. Watson was first elected to the Texas Legislature in 2006, after having previously served as Austin mayor from 1997 to 2001.  Governor Greg Abbott will set the date for a special election to serve the remainder of his term, which ends in 2023.

Only in Austin…

For the 10th consecutive year, Austin-Bergstrom International Airport set an annual record for passengers, with more than 17.3 million in 2019.  Airport visitors also had a record-breaking appetite for the unique fare offered at the newly enlarged airport, whose expansion included more than 30 new and remodeled restaurants.  Last year travelers enjoyed:

  • 1,603,602 tacos
  • 71,798 pounds (35.9 tons) of brisket
  • 28,281 Lammes Candies
  • 489 kegs of Real Ale Axis IPA
  • 3,000 bottles of Tito’s Vodka
  • 12,107 guitar picks
  • 1,327 live music performances across seven stages throughout the terminal

With amazing local restaurants like Salt Lick BBQ, Huts Hamburgers, East Side Pies, Peached Tortilla, Saxon Pub, 24 Diner, Ruta Maya Coffee and Amy’s Ice Cream, a layover at the Austin airport might actually be considered a good thing!

This Week in Texas: Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Posted February 12, 2020 in The Mignon Memo

20 More Days Until Texas’ 2020 Primary Election — Early Voting Begins Next Tuesday, February 18

Super Tuesday – this year on March 3 – is looming large on voters’ calendars.  On that day, Texas, along with Alabama, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont and Virginia, will hold its presidential primary.

While the presidential election is garnering a good portion of the attention, Texas voters will have a full ballot of statewide and local races to consider while in the voting booth.  Efforts to turn out record numbers of voters are underway, and candidate forums, like the one pictured above featuring State Representative James Talarico (D-Round Rock) and hosted by the Raise Your Hand Texas Foundation in Round Rock Monday night, are an excellent way to engage voters in the process.  If you’re interested in locating an event near you, click here — the Raise Your Hand Texas Foundation is hosting a series of over 40 candidate forums and town halls leading up to election day.

Early voting begins next Tuesday, February 18, and runs through Friday, February 28 – click here to check on early voting locations in your area.

Newest Faces in the Texas Legislature

The newest members of the Texas House of Representatives were sworn in to office Tuesday.  State Representatives Lorraine Birabil (D-Dallas), Anna Eastman (D-Houston) and Gary Gates (R-Richmond) were elected January 28 in special elections to serve out the terms of their predecessors.  All will defend their seats in the March primary and the November general election in order to win a full term, which begins in January 2021.

The University of Texas System Seeks Approval for Medical School in Tyler

The University of Texas System hopes to establish the first medical school in East Texas to improve health care access in the region.  Officials from the UT System and its two Tyler institutions recently announced a plan to establish the school in Tyler and the board of regents will vote at its next meeting scheduled for February 26.   If approved, it would be the seventh in the UT System; in 2016, both UT Austin and UT Rio Grande Valley opened medical schools.

Only in Austin…

If you’re looking for a unique way to celebrate Valentine’s Day this Friday, may we suggest The Galentine’s Show by The Cathedral and atxGALS.  The Queen of Hearts-themed night kicks off at 6pm in The Cathedral’s gorgeous space (an incredibly refurbished 1930s church located in East Austin), and will feature tunes from DJ Diggy Dutch, a specially curated art exhibit showcasing 10 amazing local women artists, a photo booth and delicious cocktails provided by Tito’s Handmade Vodka, Dulce Vida Tequila and Austin Eastciders.  The night promises to be a fun and festive way to support local arts and the community, as a portion of the proceeds will benefit Girls Empowerment Network.  Lovely festive dress is encouraged; purchase tickets here.

This Week in Texas: Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Posted February 5, 2020 in The Mignon Memo

Patrick is Mahomie!

Shout out to Kansas City Chiefs quarterback (and native Texan) Patrick Mahomes, who was born in Tyler, played high school football in Whitehouse and quarterbacked at Texas Tech, now named Super Bowl LIV MVP!  On Sunday he led Kansas City back from a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit and to its second-ever Lombardi Trophy and its first in 50 years in a 31-20 win over the San Francisco 49ers.  What a game and what a guy — Patrick is Mahomie!

Upcoming Legislative Hearings at the Texas Capitol

As the new year progresses, the legislative committee hearing schedule is ramping up – Texas House and Senate committees are setting meetings in Austin and around the state in order to consider interim charges assigned to each committee last fall.  Legislators will hear from constituents and interested parties throughout the year and use those findings to craft legislation for the 87th Legislative Session which convenes Tuesday, January 12, 2021.

Several hearings are set to take place at the Texas Capitol in the next couple of weeks, including the House Ways and Means Committee, which meets at 10:00 AM today, Wednesday, February 5th, to consider interim charges relating to tax collection and monitoring the State Auditor’s review of agencies under the committee’s jurisdiction.  The Senate Business and Commerce Committee meets this Thursday, February 6th to assess the electricity market in Texas, and the House Higher Education Committee meets next Tuesday, February 11th regarding the implementation of measures passed last session relating to sexual harassment at public and private postsecondary educational institutions, a student loan repayment assistance program for peace officers and hazing.

As always, these legislative hearings are free and open to the public – Texas House and Senate committee schedules can be found here, a map of the Texas Capitol can be found here, and House and Senate interim charges can be found here and here.

Only in Austin…

A visit to the Texas African American History Memorial, located on the southwest corner of the Texas Capitol Grounds, is a wonderful way to observe Black History Month in Austin in February.  Officially dedicated in 2016, the 27-foot high, 32-foot wide monument depicts Juneteenth – Emancipation Day, June 19, 1865 – when Union troops arrived in Texas and announced the freedom of slaves in the United States.  Other scenes depicted on the memorial include black Texans’ roles in advancing the cattle, cotton and oil industries, as well as major social, political and cultural icons.

This Week in Texas: Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Posted January 29, 2020 in The Mignon Memo

Election Results:  January 28 Special Runoff Elections in the Texas House

Results are in for the three special runoff elections for vacated seats in the Texas House.  The race for Fort Bend County’s House District 28 has been the most anticipated election this cycle and garnered national attention.  In the end, Republican Gary Gates defeated Democrat Eliz Markowitz by 16 percentage points, 58% to 42%, and will finish the term of former Representative John Zerwas (R-Richmond).

In Dallas County’s heavily Democratic House District 100, community advocate Lorraine Birabil was victorious over businessman James Armstrong III with 66% of the vote, and will finish the term of now-Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson.  And in Harris County’s House District 148, Democrat and former Houston ISD trustee Anna Eastman defeated Republican power engineer Luis LaRotta with 65% of the vote; she will fill the seat of former Representative Jessica Farrar (D-Houston) for the remainder of her term.

The winners of these three special elections will serve out the year as members of the Texas House of Representatives, but will have to defend their seats in the March primary and the November general election in order to win a full term, which begins in January 2021.

Voting in Texas on Super Tuesday:  Everything you need to know

Texas voters will head to the polls March 3 to select their major party candidates for several statewide races and legislative seats.  Here’s an overview of everything Texans need to know about casting a ballot in the 2020 primaries.

Who is on the ballot?

All Texans’ ballots will include the statewide races, but the rest of the races on your ballot will be determined by where you live.  On the federal level, Texans are divided among 36 congressional districts.  On the state level, Texans are divided into 150 House districts, 31 Senate districts and 15 State Board of Education districts.  Your address determines your district and who represents you.  All congressional and Texas House districts are up for election this year, along with one U.S. Senate seat, several Texas Senate seats and eight State Board of Education seats.

Your local elections

 Each of Texas’ 254 counties administers its own elections on races that range from county commissioner seats to district attorneys.  Information about what’s on the ballot in specific counties can be found on the list of county websites maintained by the Texas Secretary of State’s office.  Voters can also find local ballot information or candidate listings on the websites for the nonpartisan League of Women Voters or local newspapers or TV stations.

Your statewide candidates

 The primary election ballots in Texas consist of races for 10 statewide positions, including the race to determine who will represent the state in the U.S. Senate alongside Sen. Ted Cruz. The remaining races are for railroad commissioner and eight seats on the state’s two highest courts — the Supreme Court and the Court of Criminal Appeals.

What dates do I need to know?

 The last day to register to vote is February 3.

Is there a way to confirm whether I’m registered to vote?

The Texas secretary of state’s website will tell you whether you’re registered if you log in one of these three ways:

  • Provide your Texas driver’s license number and date of birth
  • Provide your first and last names and the name of the county in which you reside
  • Provide your date of birth and Voter Unique Identifier (VUID), which appears on your voter registration certificate

Check if you’re registered to vote here.

How can I register to vote?

You’ll need to fill out a voter registration application at least 30 days before the election.  You can request the application through the mail or find one at county voter registrar’s offices, post offices, government offices or high schools.  While you can’t register to vote online in Texas, you can print out the application online and mail it to the voter registrar in your county.  Applications must be postmarked by the February 3 deadline.  Download an application here.

The last day to apply for a ballot by mail is February 21.

How do I know if I’m eligible to vote by mail?

You are only allowed to vote by mail for one of the following four reasons:

  • You will not be in your county election day (March 3) or the entire span of early voting (February 18-28).
  • You are sick or disabled.
  • You will be 65 years old or older by election day.
  • You are confined in jail but otherwise eligible (i.e., not convicted of a felony).

The early voting clerk in your county must receive your application to vote by mail by February 21.  Eligible voters will either need to make sure the ballot is postmarked by election day or received by an early voting clerk by 5 p.m. March 4.  Download an application to vote by mail here.

Early voting runs from February 18 to February 28.

Where am I allowed to vote early?

Voters can cast ballots at any polling location in the county where they are registered to vote.  Early voting locations can be found on the Texas secretary of state’s website two days before early voting begins.

Who is eligible to vote early?

Anyone who is registered to vote may vote early, but it must be done in person unless you qualify to vote by mail.

Election day is March 3.

Are polling locations the same on election day as they are during early voting?

Not always.  It’s recommended to check the open polling locations in your area before you head to cast your ballot.  With some exceptions, election day voting may be restricted to locations in your designated precinct.

What do I need to know about going to vote?

How can I find which polling places are near me?

The secretary of state’s website has information on polling location options on election day and during the early voting period.

What form of ID do I need to bring?

You’ll need one of seven types of valid photo ID to vote in Texas:

  • A state driver’s license issued by the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS)
  • A Texas election identification certificate (issued by DPS)
  • A Texas personal identification card (issued by DPS)
  • A Texas license to carry a handgun (issued by DPS)
  • A U.S. military ID card with a personal photo
  • A U.S. citizenship certificate with a personal photo
  • A U.S. passport

What if I don’t have a valid photo ID?

Voters can still cast votes if they sign a form swearing that they have a “reasonable impediment” from obtaining a proper photo ID.  However, those voters will also have to present one of the following types of identification:

  • A valid voter registration certificate
  • A certified birth certificate
  • A copy of or an original current utility bill, bank statement, government check, paycheck or other document that shows the voter’s name and address.  (Any government document that contains a voter’s photo must be an original.)

Only in Austin…

For those looking to add some ink, the Star of Texas Tattoo Art Revival takes place this weekend in Austin at Palmer Events Center.  The festival features skilled tattoo artists and performance art to give audiences a unique balance of entertainment and education.  Tattoo contests (such as Tattoo of the Day), seminars on tattoo art history, form and meaning and family friendly entertainment will all be on the agenda.  A list of attending tattoo artists can be found at the link above.

This Week in Texas: Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Posted January 22, 2020 in The Mignon Memo

Representative Giovanni Capriglione Named House Appropriations Chair

Speaker Dennis Bonnen appointed Rep. Giovanni Capriglione (R-Southlake) Chair of the House Appropriations Committee on Friday.  Rep. Capriglione succeeds Rep. John Zerwas in the role, who resigned last fall to join The University of Texas System as Executive Vice Chancellor for Health Affairs.  Rep. Capriglione has been a member of the powerful committee for the last three sessions, and served as a subcommittee chair the last two sessions — first on the Subcommittee on State Infrastructure, Resiliency, and Investment, and then on the Subcommittee on Budget Transparency and Reform.  He was first elected to the Texas House in 2012.

Texans Involved in Senate Impeachment Trial

Three Texans have been given prominent roles in the Senate impeachment trial, which began Tuesday.  U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi named Texas Congresswoman Sylvia Garcia (D-Houston) one of the seven House managers for the trial because of her judicial background.  Former Baylor University President Ken Starr, who investigated President Bill Clinton prior to his impeachment, has joined President Donald Trump’s legal defense team.  Additionally, Texas Congressman John Ratcliffe (R-Heath) will serve as one of several U.S. House members on President Donald Trump’s impeachment team, which will serve advisory and television advocacy roles during the trial.

Only in (or a little south of) Austin…

Texas Tulips, a new cut-your-own flower field blooming near San Antonio, will open its fields to the Instagramming public this Thursday, January 23rd.  Originally scheduled to open in February, the date was moved up due to early blooming flowers.  Texas Tulips’ second location (the first is near Dallas) is located in La Vernia, about 30 miles west of downtown San Antonio.  Plan to visit soon, as the lifespan of these gorgeous flowers is short — the fields will be open seven days a week from 9 AM to 8 PM through mid-March.  Be sure to schedule that pretty pink pedicure for your tiptoe through the tulips!