The Mignon Memo

This Week in Texas: July 28, 2021

Posted July 28, 2021 in The Mignon Memo

10 Days Left in the First Called Special Session of the 87th Legislature

Capitol Staff May Soon Be Logged Out

On Monday, House Administration Chairman Will Metcalf (R-Conroe) wrote to House members to outline the specifics of what will happen if funding under Article X, which was vetoed by Gov. Abbott, is not restored by August 1.

“The implications to the operation of the House are significant,” Chair Metcalf wrote. The full letter to House members can be found here. Metcalf listed a few major areas of impact such as staff members no longer having computer access and district office telephones being canceled.

Speaker Phelan Seeks to Arrest Rep. Cortez

House Speaker Dade Phelan signed a civil warrant for the arrest of state Rep. Philip Cortez (D-San Antonio) who rejoined his colleagues in Washington, D.C., on Sunday to help prevent the passage of a GOP-backed election bill.

In a statement Monday, Phelan said that Cortez “has irrevocably broken my trust and the trust of this chamber.” Last week, Cortez returned to Austin from Washington in what he said was an attempt to engage in “good faith dialogue” about the election legislation. 
By Sunday though, Cortez was back in Washington, saying  that talks with lawmakers in Austin “have not produced progress.”

TX-6 Congressional District Special Election Runoff

State Rep. Jake Ellzey (R-Waxahachie) beat fellow Republican Susan Wright yesterday to succeed her late husband, U.S. Rep. Ron Wright (R-Arlington), and pull off a major upset against a candidate backed by former President Trump. With 93% of precincts reporting, Wright conceded the race for Ellzey late Tuesday, when he had 52.92% of votes to 47.08% for Wright, a longtime GOP activist.

Only in Austin…

The University of Texas at Austin and the University of Oklahoma are expected to leave the Big 12 for the Southeastern Conference. The move, which throws the future of several other Texas schools into uncertainty, is not sitting well with legislators that represent those schools.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said via Twitter he wants a new Texas Senate select committee to study the athletic and economic impacts other colleges in the state will face from the University of Texas at Austin’s potential departure from the Big 12 athletic conference. Patrick has asked state Sen. Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound) to chair what he called the Select Committee on the Future of College Sports in Texas. He said the panel will hold a hearing on August 2.

This Week in Texas: July 21, 2021

Posted July 21, 2021 in The Mignon Memo

17 Days Left in the First Called Special Session of the 87th Legislature

Special Session Watch

Are they back yet? That’s what everyone in Austin is asking after the majority of House Democrats left for Washington, DC, denying the House chamber the necessary members present to conduct any business.

The Senate, meanwhile, has managed to pass all the bills on the special session agenda, with the exception of restoration of the Legislature’s funding that Gov. Abbott vetoed.

Gov. Abbott said in an interview last week he intends to keep lawmakers in Austin and “call special session, after special session, after special session every single month until we address and vote on these bills.”

Rep. Joe Moody Stripped of Leadership Position

Rep. Joe Moody (D-El Paso) was stripped of his position as speaker pro tem of the Texas House last week in the first major backlash for a Democrat who left the chamber to prevent a vote on a Republican priority elections bill. The removal of Moody was effective immediately.

“The most important titles in my life will never change: Dad, Husband, El Pasoan,” Moody said in a statement. “Nothing political has ever even cracked the top three, so nothing has changed about who I am or what my values are.”

Rep. Beckley Announces for Congress

Rep. Michelle Beckley (D-Carrollton) announced Tuesday that she is challenging Congresswoman Beth Van Duyne (R-Irving) for the 24th Congressional District.

Van Duyne is one of two Texas Republicans that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is targeting for reelection. The boundaries for CD-24 in the Dallas-Fort Worth area are likely to change before the 2022 election due to redistricting.

Only in Austin…

The 2021 CONCACAF Gold Cup will hold one of its semifinal matches at the new Q2 Stadium in Austin.

The semifinal match will feature the winners of the following matches:

Quaterfinal #1: Quatar vs El Salvador
Quarterfinal #4: United States vs Jamaica

This Week in Texas: July 14, 2021

Posted July 14, 2021 in The Mignon Memo

House Democrats Deny Quorum

A majority of Democrats in the Texas House left for Washington, D.C., Monday afternoon in a bid to deny Republicans the quorum needed to pass a voting regulation bill with 26 days left in the special legislative session. The legislators present voted Tuesday to send law enforcement to track down Democrats who left the state a day earlier in protest of Republicans’ priority elections bill “under warrant of arrest if necessary.”

Rep. Tan Parker Running for Senate

Rep. Tan Parker (R-Flower Mound) announced a bid for Senate last week, becoming the first candidate seeking to replace outgoing North Texas Sen. Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound). Parker was elected to the Texas House in 2006. During his time in the Legislature, Parker chaired the House Republican caucus and mounted an unsuccessful bid for House Speaker in 2018. The businessman is currently vice-chair of the chamber’s Pensions, Investments, and Financial Services Committee.

Texas Senate Works Overtime

The special session began last week, but Lt. Governor Dan Patrick indicated the Senate was prepared to move quickly through the 11 agenda items issued by Governor Abbott for legislators to discuss during the special session. Patrick called in the Senate to hold hearings over the weekend, starting with voting legislation. Among issues in Gov. Abbott’s agenda were election integrity, border security, and bail reform. The full list of agenda items is here.

Only in Austin…

The immersive art experience everyone has been waiting for is now open! You can experience “Beyond Van Gogh: An Immersive Experience” at the Circuit of the Americas through August 8. This exhibit uses advanced projection technology to create an approximately one-hour-long experience that transports you to a world of wonder as you explore Van Gogh’s own life, dreams, thoughts, and paintings.

This Week in Texas: July 7, 2021

Posted July 7, 2021 in The Mignon Memo

Special Session Starts Tomorrow

With less than 24 hours to go until the first special session of the 87th Legislature, Governor Abbott has not yet issued the formal proclamation including what topics lawmakers can address.

For reference: A legislative special session can last no more than 30 days and deal only with issues chosen by the governor. Yesterday, Speaker Phelan announced the formation of the House Select Committee on Constitutional Rights and Remedies. This 15-member select committee will hear special session agenda items relating to constitutional issues.

Senate Finance Chair Jane Nelson Will Not Seek Reelection

State Sen. Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound) announced Monday she is not running for reelection. Nelson has been the top budget writer in the Senate and is the most senior Republican in the chamber, serving since 1993.

“It has been a great honor to represent our community in the Texas Senate,” Nelson said in a statement. “I promised to listen, work hard, and deliver results and have strived to fulfill that pledge. Our accomplishments have improved the lives of Texans, which makes me proud.”

Election Season is Heating Up

After announcing he would not seek reelection to the Texas House after six terms in office, Rep. James White (R-Hillister) announced last week that he is running for agriculture commissioner, making him the first major primary opponent for incumbent Sid Miller.

In the Governor’s race, Governor Abbot has drawn another challenger. Texas GOP Chairman Allen West announced over the weekend he is challenging Governor Abbott. Other declared candidates against Abbott include former state Sen. Don Huffines of Dallas, who launched his campaign in early May. No word yet on whether Matthew McConaughey will enter the race…

Only in Austin…

The St. Elmo Public Market, a massive, 40,000-square-foot space pegged as Austin’s version of New York’s Chelsea Market and Seattle’s Pike Place Market, is finally set to open this year. Located at 4329 South Congress Avenue in the St. Elmo area of the East Congress neighborhood, the market will be home to new concepts and new locations from some of Austin’s best restaurants.

Here is a guide to the restaurants opening at the hotly anticipated St. Elmo Public Market when it opens this year.

This Week in Texas: June 30, 2021

Posted June 30, 2021 in The Mignon Memo

Speaker Phelan Announces Interim Charges

House Speaker Dade Phelan yesterday issued a series of interim charges related to the Texas-Mexico border.

Twelve committees received a unique charge, with each of these committees also receiving a general charge to review the distribution of federal pandemic recovery funds and their potential use to respond to the border crisis in addition to their individual directives.

Rep. John Turner Won’t Seek Reelection

Rep. John Turner (D-Dallas) said Monday he will not seek reelection to the Texas House of Representatives in 2022. Turner has represented House District 114 since 2019 after he flipped the previously GOP-held seat during the 2018 cycle.

In a statement, Turner said another election cycle and legislative session would not be “compatible with the time I need to devote to being a father and husband at this stage in life. The next few years are an important time to be involved with my family and that is much harder when one is away as often as legislative service requires.”

Legislators and Staff Sue Governor Abbott

A group that includes Texas House Democrats and legislative staffers is asking the Texas Supreme Court to override Gov. Greg Abbott’s recent veto of a portion of the state budget that funds the Legislature, Capitol staff, and legislative agencies.

More than 60 Democratic members of the House signed a petition for a writ of mandamus as did the House Democratic Caucus and the Mexican American Legislative Caucus, four state employees, and the Texas AFL-CIO.

The petition argues that Abbott exceeded his executive authority and violated the state’s separation of powers doctrine. The parties involved are asking the state’s Supreme Court to find Abbott’s veto unconstitutional, which would allow the vetoed portion of the state budget to become law later this year.

Only in Austin…

The H-E-B Austin Symphony July 4th Concert & Fireworks is back!

Spend this July 4th with your family and friends at Vic Mathias Shores (formerly Auditorium Shores) for an amazing event complete with a fireworks display over the city skyline.

The event begins at 8 p.m., followed by “mile-high” fireworks. The event is free and open to the public.

This Week in Texas: June 23, 2021

Posted June 23, 2021 in The Mignon Memo

Governor Abbott Sets Date for Special Session

Gov. Greg Abbott has set a special session of the Texas Legislature starting July 8, his office announced yesterday.

Abbott’s office did not specify what legislative priorities will be included on the special session agenda and said in an advisory that such items “will be announced before the convening of the special session.”

Abbott has already said that he plans to ask state lawmakers to work on two priority elections and bail bills that died in the final hours of the regular legislative session. More recently, Abbott has said the Legislature’s overtime round will also include further restricting in schools the teaching of critical race theory, which refers to an academic discipline that views race as a social construct.

Veto Period Ends – Legislature Budget Defunded

Governor Abbott considered over 1,000 bills passed by legislators in the 87th Legislative Session.

By the end of the veto period Sunday, June 20th, he vetoed 20 bills plus Article 10 of the state budget which covers funding for the Texas Legislature, its staff, and legislative agencies.

In all, Abbott signed 1,034 bills, and let 105 become law without his signature.

Eva Guzman Running for Texas Attorney General

Former Supreme Court Justice Eva Guzman officially entered the Republican primary race for Texas attorney general. Guzman says she will contrast the respect she’s gained over 22 years as a lawyer and judge with the legal problems and pending criminal charges of GOP incumbent Ken Paxton.

“My campaign will be about credibility. Judges care about credibility. They care about it a lot. When you walk into the courtroom, and you’ve built a reputation for honor, for integrity, you have immediate credibility,” Guzman said.

Guzman, 60, who resigned from the state’s highest civil court less than two weeks ago, joins Land Commissioner George P. Bush in the primary against Paxton.

Only in Austin…

Mark your calendars: The 11th annual Texas Tribune Festival will be the third full week of September, kicking off on Monday the 20th and concluding on Saturday the 25th.

The event will include conversations about education, health care, infrastructure, energy, climate, immigration, ethics, and more. Guest speakers will focus on the aftermath of the winter storm, the winding down of the pandemic, and the comeback of the economy.

This Week in Texas: June 16, 2021

Posted June 16, 2021 in The Mignon Memo

Governor’s Veto Period Ends on Sunday

The 87th Texas Legislature passed and sent 3,803 bills to Governor Abbott’s desk for signature. So far, Abbott has vetoed 1 of those bills.

The governor has until Sunday, June 20th to sign the bills on his desk, veto it, or allow them to become law without a signature.

For context: In his past legislative sessions, Gov. Abbott has vetoed between 40-60 bills per session and signed more than 1,000 bills. He has also allowed around 150 bills each session to become law without his signature.

Texas Monthly: 2021 Best and Worst Legislators

It’s finally out!  Everyone involved in the Texas Legislature at the Texas Capitol looks forward to the release of Texas Monthly’s biennial tally of successes and failures after the legislative session. Read the full list here.

Officeholders Looking for a New Job

The 2022 primary elections are heating up as officeholders seek to move up and get new job titles. There have been two big announcements this week.

Eva Guzman announced her resignation as Justice on the Texas Supreme Court last week. She has submitted preliminary paperwork to run for Texas Attorney General. No formal announcement has been made yet by her campaign.

State Rep. James White (R-Hillister) announced he will not seek reelection to the Texas House. White says he’s considering a statewide run, although he did not disclose which state-level seat he would run for at this time. “We believe that we’re qualified, and we’re competitive. We will definitely consider joining the statewide field,” Rep. White said.

Only in Austin…

The University of Texas baseball team has advanced to the 2021 College World Series for the 37th time in program history, the most in college baseball history.

Did you know The University of Texas has 29 current members serving in the Texas Legislature, including Speaker Dade Phelan? This is the most alumni serving in the Texas Legislature by any single school. The 2021 Men’s College World Series begins Saturday, June 19, 2021.

This Week in Texas: June 9, 2021

Posted June 9, 2021 in The Mignon Memo

What’s So Special About It?

Gov. Greg Abbott said last week to expect at least two special legislative sessions. Abbot said one will happen in September or October for redistricting and the distribution of federal coronavirus relief dollars. Before that special session, though, there will be one focused on “issues that did not get across the finish line.”

Abbott added: “I still have 1,000 bills on my desk, many of which will be signed, some [vetoed]. Some of that could alter the items that will be on the special session call. We’ll just have to wait and see.” 

Gov. Abbott Signs Power Grid Reforms

On Tuesday, Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law two bills meant to improve the state’s main power grid and change the governance of the agency that operates it.

Senate Bill 3 requires upgrades for power generators and transmission lines to make them better withstand extreme weather. Critical infrastructure facilities will be required to weatherize and failure to weatherize may result in penalties of up to $1 million.

Senate Bill 2 changes the governance of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), the state’s main grid operator. SB 2 shrinks the number of seats on ERCOT’s board of directors from 16 to 11. A selection committee would appoint eight of the 11 board members. The selection committee would be made up of three people — one appointed by the governor, one by the lieutenant governor, and one by the speaker of the House.

George P. Bush Running for Attorney General

Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush announced last week that he is running for attorney general, challenging fellow Republican Ken Paxton with a sharp focus on Paxton’s legal troubles.

“Enough is enough, Ken,” Bush said during a campaign kickoff at a downtown Austin bar. “You’ve brought way too much scandal and too little integrity to this office. And as a career politician for 20 years, it’s time for you to go.”

Only in Austin…

Q2 Stadium, home of Austin’s professional soccer team, Austin FC, will host a semifinal match of the CONCACAF Gold Cup on July 28th.

The tournament begins with its first-ever preliminary play-in rounds July 2-6th. Austin FC will play its first-ever match at Q2 Stadium on June 19 against the San Jose Earthquakes following eight road matches to start its inaugural season.

This Week in Texas: June 2, 2021

Posted June 2, 2021 in The Mignon Memo

Allow us to share a few moments from the 87th Legislative Session, which ended on Monday, May 31st

On January 12th, the House voted 143-2 to name Dade Phelan (R-Beaumont) as the new Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives.

As the first order of business, the Texas House and Senate each approved their own rules for how to govern during the coronavirus pandemic, which included requiring masks and testing negative for Covid-19 daily to enter the chamber.

For the public, this meant getting tested to testify in committee hearings and wearings masks, and maintaining social distancing guidelines.

On February 13, Winter Storm Uri moved into Texas, causing millions of people to lose electricity, water, access to groceries, and internet for several days.

The Texas House and Senate acted swiftly and held multiple legislative hearings over a period of weeks to get answers from top officials and draft legislation to address the mistakes made and damage caused by the storm. ERCOT and the electricity market consumed policy discussions for several months

By early May, emotions at the Capitol were running high as lawmakers debated hot button issues. One such bill, SB 8 by Sen. Hughes (R-Mineola) and Rep. Slawson (R-Stephenville), would ban abortion procedures as early as six weeks into a pregnancy. Gov. Abbott signed this bill into law on May 19th.

On May 30th, with less than 24 hours left in the 87th legislative session, the Texas House was debating SB 7, which would overhaul the voting process in the state.

With an hour left for the Legislature to give final approval to the bill, House Democrats staged a walkout, preventing a vote on the legislation before a session-ending midnight deadline.

“We will be back — when, I don’t know, but we will be back,” House Speaker Dade Phelan, R-Beaumont, told members from the speaker’s dais. “There’s a lot of work to be done, but I look forward to doing it with every single one of you.”

Talk of a special session — and questions about how soon one may happen or what additional issues Gov. Greg Abbott could task legislators with — has largely defined the last weekend of the Legislature’s 140-day stretch.

All we can say right now is, stay tuned…

This Week in Texas: May 26, 2021

Posted May 26, 2021 in The Mignon Memo

5 Days Until Sine Die

Only a Few Days Left…here’s Where We Stand

Out of the almost 7,000 bills filed during the 87th Legislative Session, so far only just over 500 have passed (that’s around 7% for you math nerds out there).

To see what’s happening with the biggest priority bills, click here. Negotiations are still in the works for parts of the state budget, which we expect the final version to be voted on by both chambers by the end of this week.

Legislative Deadlines? Pressure?

In the waning days of session, legislators are feeling the pressure of passing important bills as they reach closer to legislative deadlines. 
Today is the last day for both chambers to vote on bills.

See what’s in store at the Texas Capitol for the next few days, check out the deadline calendar.

Bill Capping Out-of-Pocket Cost of Insulin Is Sent to the Governor

A bill is headed to Gov. Greg Abbott‘s desk after passing through the House and the Senate that caps prices at $25 for each insulin prescription per month for those insured and on state-regulated health plans.

SB 827, authored by Sen. Lois Kolkhorst (R-Katy), was sponsored by Rep. James Talarico (D-Round Rock), who was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 2018 during a five-day stint in the ICU after a campaign event where he walked 25 miles.

Only in Austin…

A very clever legislator managed to pull a prank on Rep. Tracy King (D-Batesville) by putting a fake snake inside his desk and startling him. The prank was so successful that it sent some members to the ground erupting in laughter.

Watch for yourself here.