The Mignon Memo

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!

This Week in Texas: Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Posted September 11, 2019 in The Mignon Memo

18 Year Anniversary of the September 11 Attacks

It’s hard to fathom it has been 18 years since the horrendous attacks of September 11, 2001.  Today as the country pauses to remember, the 9/11 Memorial and Museum will commemorate the lives lost with a ceremony honoring those killed at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and aboard Flight 93, as well as in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.  The service will be streamed on various venues starting around 8:25 AM ET from the 9/11 Memorial plaza in lower Manhattan.  In the evening, the Tribute in Light installation will be lit from sunset to sunrise the morning of September 12th.  This moving display is not without controversy, however, as migrating birds are attracted to the towers of light and can become disoriented.  Scientists and volunteers will observe the birds closely and turn the lights off for 20-minute periods when necessary to break the spell of the lights and let the birds disperse.

We remember.

Analysis of November’s Proposed Constitutional Amendments

For those of you eager to study up on the 10 proposed amendments to the Texas Constitution that will be on the November 5th ballot, the Texas Legislative Council’s analysis is now available.  TLC is a nonpartisan legislative agency that serves as a source of impartial research and information, and their 47-page publication provides a thorough and unbiased examination of the amendments.  This year’s crop of proposals ranges from Prop. 5, which would require the Legislature to allocate the money raised from state sales taxes on sporting goods to the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department and the Texas Historical Commission to be used for improvement and management of state and local parks and historic sites and the acquisition of new sites, to Prop. 10, which would allow law enforcement animals to retire and their former handlers or other qualified caretakers to adopt them with no fee.  As a reminder, October 7th is the last day for Texans to register to vote in the November 5th election.

Only in Austin…

The Texas Capitol Visitors Center is located on the southeast Capitol Grounds in the beautifully restored 1856-57 General Land Office building.  It’s the oldest state office building in Texas and is a great place to begin your visit to the Capitol Complex.  Current exhibits include the LEGO Texas State Capitol (featured in the previous Mignon Memo) and The Texas Governor’s Mansion (runs through February 2020), while permanent exhibits include a model of the Capitol dome, Capitol blueprints and building materials, the 1888 Goddess of Liberty star and a view into the architecture that inspired famed writer O. Henry, who worked in the building as a draftsman for the Texas General Land Office from 1887-1891.  The building also houses an expansive gift shop and the Texas Travel Center, where Texas Department of Transportation staff members like “Travel Ambassador” Mary Jackson offer free maps and literature on destinations throughout the state.  Time for a road trip!

This Week in Texas: Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Posted September 4, 2019 in The Mignon Memo

Get Yours Now:  Texas Parks & Wildlife’s Outdoor Annual Guide and Mobile App

The latest version of one of the coolest guides out there is now available from Texas Parks & Wildlife – the Outdoor Annual.  This handy publication is currently available electronically, as a downloadable mobile app, or in old-fashioned booklet form, which can be found locally in sporting goods stores.  The 2019-2020 edition is full of important and useful information for outdoor enthusiasts – hunting season dates; new rules and regulations for hunting, fishing and boating; information on licenses, tags and endorsements; boating and water safety requirements; freshwater and saltwater fishing regulations; hunting regulations and county listings.  The “Official Mobile App of Texas Hunting, Fishing and Boating” offers even more useful information such as location-based hunting and fishing information and the ability to look up your license purchase history, with no internet connection required after downloading.  With the change in season, this is something every outdoor adventure-seeker will want to have on hand.  Now if the heat would just break!

The Texas Capitol…in Lego Form

There’s an impressive new exhibit at the Texas Capitol Visitors Center that might bring out the kid in you.  A Lego-brick replica of the Texas Capitol was recently installed which was privately created by Ben Rollman, an IT specialist with the Texas Medical Association.  It took a year and half to design the model, which is built on a scale of 1 to 72, includes over 65,000 bricks and weighs about 150 pounds.  The State Preservation Board, the agency in charge of the visitors center as well as parts of the Capitol, the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum, the Governor’s Mansion and the Texas State Cemetery, was so thrilled with the replica’s detail and design that it built a custom wood and plexiglass case in order to display it for the next decade.  Where did we hide that old tub of Legos?

Only in Austin…

The 2019 Texas Book Festival Lineup is out!  Scheduled for October 26th and 27th, the festival will feature over 300 authors in 250+ events, including book talks and signings, live entertainment, activities and storytimes for kids, cooking demonstrations and more.  Some of the big names appearing at the festival this year include Admiral William McRaven, Scott Pelley, John Grisham, Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Benjamin Dreyer, Stephen Harrigan, Samuel Gwynne and Aaron Franklin.  The book festival is always a stellar event and we hope to see you there!


This Week in Texas: Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Posted August 28, 2019 in The Mignon Memo

Gov. Greg Abbott Names Jane Bland to the Texas Supreme Court

On Monday, Gov. Abbott announced Jane Bland will fill the vacancy on the Texas Supreme Court left by Justice Jeff Brown, who was recently confirmed to the federal bench.  Bland, a former Republican appeals court judge in Houston, lost her seat in the November 2018 election.  She is Gov. Abbott’s third appointee to the state’s highest civil court, upon which he himself previously served, and she will be the third woman on the current court.

Your Next HEB Run:  Eggs, Milk, Tortillas…Cricket Protein Bars

Who knew bugs would successfully make the jump onto shoppers’ grocery lists?  Turns out test sales were higher than expected and HEB will be stocking “cricket-based crispy snacks and protein bars” come November.  The treats are made by an Austin-based company under the brand name Exo and are offered in flavors such as nutty chocolate chip and Texas barbecue.  We Capitol folk know a good place to harvest the crispy creatures come fall…

Are You Ready for Some Football?!?!

We don’t know about you, but we’re counting down the minutes until this Saturday’s first UT game, not to mention as much college football as we can stand starting this weekend.  To help fill your fall calendar, here are the game schedules for some favorites, including UT, Texas Tech, Baylor, TCU, Texas A&M, SMU and the University of Houston.  Go Team!

Only in Austin…

UT’s Minister of Culture, Matthew McConaughey, will be a part-owner of Austin’s future pro soccer team, the Austin F.C. (Austin Football Club).  He joins local businessmen Marius Haas, Bryan Sheffield, and Eddie Margain as co-owners of Austin’s first-ever major pro sports team — up to now, Austin has been the largest city in America without one.  Can’t wait to see what he’ll wear on the sidelines!

This Week in Texas: Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Posted August 21, 2019 in The Mignon Memo

Governor Greg Abbott Forms Domestic Terrorism Task Force and Texas Safety Commission in Response to El Paso Mass Shooting

Last week, Gov. Abbott announced the Domestic Terrorism Task Force to combat hateful acts of extremism in Texas following the recent shooting in El Paso. On Monday, he announced the Texas Safety Commission, which will develop an immediate action plan for the state of Texas.

The first Texas Safety Commission meeting will take place at 10:30am Thursday, August 22nd at the Texas Capitol; a second meeting is scheduled for Thursday, August 29th in El Paso.  The Domestic Terrorism Task Force will hold its first roundtable meeting with Gov. Abbott on Friday, August 30th.

Ruth Ruggero Hughs Appointed New Texas Secretary of State

On Monday, Gov. Abbott named Ruth Ruggero Hughs Texas’ new Secretary of State.  She previously served on the Texas Workforce Commission as the Chair and as the Commissioner Representing Employers – she was appointed to the three-member Commission in July 2015 and became Chair in August 2018.  Secretary Hughs will be considered for confirmation by the Texas Senate during the 87th Legislative Session in 2021.  David Whitley, the previous Secretary of State, was not confirmed during the legislative session which ended in May of this year.

As Secretary of State, Hughs will serve as Texas’ Chief Election Officer and as senior advisor and liaison to the Governor for Texas Border and Mexican Affairs, and as Chief International Protocol Officer for Texas.  The Secretary of State’s office provides a repository for official and business and commercial records required to be filed with the state, publishes government rules and regulations, commissions notaries public and serves as keeper of the state seal and attestor to the Governor’s signature on official documents.

Representative Jessica Farrar Resigns House Seat; Representative Dustin Burrows Departs as Caucus Chair

Rep. Jessica Farrar (D-Houston) announced she will retire from the Texas House at the end of September in order to give her successor a leg up on the next legislative session.  Rep. Farrar served in the House for 25 years; she was named Vice Chair of the House Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence Committee and also chaired the Texas House Women’s Health Caucus during the 2019 legislative session.  In 2011, she served as Chair of the House Democratic Caucus.  The special election for her seat will be November 5th.

Additionally, Rep. Dustin Burrows (R-Lubbock) resigned his post as Chair of the Texas House Republican Caucus.  Rep. Stephanie Klick (R-Fort Worth), Caucus Vice Chair, will take over as Chair until the next election of officers prior to the 2021 legislative session, per caucus bylaws.

Texas Capitol Does Its Part to Conserve Energy During Heat Wave

In an effort to help reduce the demand on the state’s power grid during the current August heat wave, the Texas Capitol has dimmed the lights throughout the original building and the extension.  Sounds like a good time for a road trip to cooler climes…

Only in Austin…

Monday’s El Arroyo sign reflected the feelings of many UT fans and Austinites after the untimely death of Cedric Benson, the former Texas Longhorns and NFL star who died in a motorcycle crash Saturday night in Austin.  In a tribute to their friend and teammate, former Longhorns Brian Orakpo and Michael Griffin’s cupcake shop, Gigi’s Cupcakes in Bee Cave, released a limited edition cupcake featuring an image of Benson on burnt orange buttercream frosting.

This Week in Texas: Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Posted August 14, 2019 in The Mignon Memo

New Texas Laws Effective September 1st

Many new laws passed during the recent Texas Legislative Session take effect September 1, 2019.  A smattering of interesting new measures:

Beer to go and alcohol delivery:  Texans will now be allowed to purchase their favorite craft beers while at the brewery.  Another new measure will allow Texas’ 10,000 beer and wine retailers to deliver goods right to customers’ doors.

Stop telephone scammers:  Two new laws aim to stop telemarketers from using familiar looking Caller ID numbers to call your cell phone.

Pets on the patio:  Dogs and their owners soon will be able to dine together on restaurant patios across the state.

For a list of the 820 measures effective 9-1-19, click here.


Texas Vaccine Exemption Rates

Texas is one of 16 states that allows parents to bypass vaccine requirements for enrolling their kids in school by claiming a conscientious exemption, along with citing medical or religious concerns.  With school starting soon, the Texas Tribune has published a tool to look up your district or private school to see how exemption rates have changed across the state.  Click here to check your district’s rate.


Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission Appointments

Governor Greg Abbott recently announced his appointments to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission, which manages and conserves the natural and cultural resources of Texas.  James Abell, Jeff Hildebrand and Bobby Patton were named new commission members with terms expiring February 1, 2025; Anna Benavides Galo was reappointed to the commission through February 1, 2021; and Reed Morian was named chair.  To learn more about these appointees, click here.


Dig out the Uggs, Pumpkin Spice Lattes are Coming!

‘Tis the season…pumpkin spice lattes will return to Starbucks’ menus Tuesday, August 27, the chain’s earliest launch date ever.  Not to be outdone, Dunkin’ Donuts announced its fall menu will launch next Wednesday, August 21.  Clearly, these coffee shop executives have never lived in Texas!  For more PSL fun facts, click here.


Only in Austin…

The LBJ Presidential Library might be a good place to cool off before making your first PSL run of the season.  Motown: The Sound of Young America is a GRAMMY Museum-curated exhibit on site through January 26th that promises to be worth a visit.  It’s billed as the first major museum exhibition to embrace all facets—music, culture and politics—of the 1960s biggest sounds in soul.  The library is open daily from 9 AM to 5 PM and offers free parking nearby.  For more information, click here.

This Week in Texas: Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Posted August 7, 2019 in The Mignon Memo

Congressional Retirement Announcements 

Four Texas Congressional members have announced their intentions to retire since our last memo:  Pete Olson (R-Sugar Land), Mike Conaway (R-Midland), Will Hurd (R-Helotes) and Kenny Marchant (R-Carrollton).  With the 2021 Texas Legislative Session’s focus on redistricting, these retirements are significant and they are not expected to be the last.  For more perspective on these changes, click here.


TX Lege Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes 

There have been several announcements from Texas legislators in recent days as well.  State Senator Royce West (D-Dallas) announced his U.S. Senate campaign, adding his name to the growing list of Democrats who want to defeat incumbent Senator John Cornyn; as his state Senate seat is not up until 2022, he will not have to resign to run.  State Representative John Wray (R-Waxahachie) announced he will not run for re-election, the second member of the Texas House to announce retirement after Rep. Jonathan Stickland in June.  Most recently, State Representative and House Appropriations Chairman John Zerwas (R-Richmond) gave notice that he will resign his seat effective September 30th.  On October 1st, Dr. Zerwas will join the University of Texas System as Executive Vice Chancellor for Health Affairs, overseeing four medical schools, two dental schools and three nursing schools.  Click here and here for recent articles about these changes.


Representative Mary González Named a Latina Leader to Watch by National Publication 

Representative Mary González (D-Clint) was recently named one of The Hill’s Latina Leaders to Watch in 2019.  While previous editions focused on federal leaders, this year’s list features state legislators from across the country.  Rep. González is singled out for her leadership as chair of the Texas House’s LGBTQ Caucus and as vice-chair of its Mexican American Legislative Caucus, as well as her work to raise awareness of the immigration issues facing her district.  Rep. González also recently graduated with a Ph.D. from The University of Texas this May.  To see the full list of leaders and read more about Rep. González, click here.


Capitol Blood Drive in Honor of El Paso Shooting Victims

On Monday, a blood drive was held at the Texas Capitol to aid and honor victims of the recent mass shooting in El Paso.  A second trailer had to be brought to the site to accommodate the dozens of people lined up to donate.  For more information, click here.


Only in Austin…or, It’s Matthew McConaughey’s Texas, and We’re “Just Livin’” in it…

This Week in Texas: Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Posted June 26, 2019 in The Mignon Memo

Representative Jonathan Stickland Will Not Seek Reelection

On Monday, Rep. Jonathan Stickland announced his intent to retire from the Texas House. “Eight years was enough for George Washington, and it certainly is for me. After much prayerful consideration and reflection, I have determined it is not the Lord’s will for me to seek reelection,” he posted on Facebook. To read more, click here.

Porch Pirates Could Receive Jail Time in Texas

Starting September 1st, Texans who take items from mailboxes and porches face tougher penalties for their crimes. Governor Greg Abbott recently signed House Bill 37 which attempts to deter offenders by increasing the punishment for such crimes. To learn more, click here.

Fun with Bill Captions

A few favorites from a list of the best bill captions of the 86th Legislature:

HB 410 – Relating to the personal use exemption for domestic rabbit meat

HB 1699/SB 1693 – Relating to designating November 7 as Victims of Communism Day

HB 2558 – Relating to prohibited retaliation against state employees for referring to climate change or global warming

HB 2596/SB 86 – Relating to the regulation of raising or keeping six or fewer chickens by a political subdivision

HB 3646/SB 2084 – Relating to operating a motor vehicle while a person is occupying the trunk of the motor vehicle

HCR 123 – Designating the breakfast taco as the official state breakfast item of Texas

SB 1271 – Relating to the issuance of Keep Austin Weird specialty license plates

Only in Austin…

“Would you rather boop that nose or play with those ears? The most difficult question ever asked, probably.”  ZilkerBark photographs some of the cutest dogs in Austin — Oliver, a 7 month old Basset Hound, was featured on ZilkerBark’s Facebook page recently.

Speaking of dog noses, the Memo is taking a break for the month of July so we can boop as many doggos as possible.  See you in August!

This Week in Texas: Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Posted June 19, 2019 in The Mignon Memo

Governor’s Veto Period Ended Sunday

Governor Greg Abbott considered 1429 bills after the 86th Legislative Session.  By the end of the veto period Sunday, June 16th, he had vetoed 56 bills, signed 1229 and let 144 become law without his signature.  To review the final list, click here.

Texas Monthly’s 2019 Best and Worst Legislators List

It’s out!  Everyone involved in the legislative session at the Texas Capitol looks forward to the release of Texas Monthly’s biennial tally of successes and failures.  To see the full list, click here.

Whataburger Attempts to Reassure Texans After News of Sale

Reactions to the sale of Whataburger to Chicago-based BDT Capital Partners have been passionate, to say the least.  Click here to see a few clever responses.

Only in Austin…

Plumbers gathered at the Capitol to protest the shuttering of the Texas State Board of Plumbing Examiners on June 14th.  Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order to save the agency a day earlier.

This Week in Texas: Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Posted June 12, 2019 in The Mignon Memo

Rep. Eric Johnson wins Dallas mayoral runoff

State Representative Eric Johnson will become Dallas’ next mayor, voters decided last Saturday. He was endorsed by a slew of his fellow House members. San Antonio’s mayor Ron Nirenberg was also re-elected. Read more here.

Gov. Abbott has until Sunday, June 16, to sign or veto bills

The Governor has so far signed over 800 bills. He has until Sunday to sign or veto the over 4500 bills passed by both chambers this session. To see where the biggest bills you’ve been following this session are, click here.

Rep. John Cyrier participates in D-Day re-enactment

State Rep. John Cyrier (second from right) was in Normandy for the 75th anniversary of D-Day. Rep. Cyrier is an avid flyer and serves as a member of the Texas State Guard.

Only in Austin…

In a viral “PSA,” a Nashville comedy group is begging people to move to Austin, apparently hoping to convince viewers that the Live Music Capital is less crowded than Music City. Watch the funny video here.