Governor Abbott Appoints Denny To Manufactured Housing Board

Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s Communication

Governor Greg Abbott has appointed Jason Denny to the Manufactured Housing Board for a term set to expire on January 31, 2025.

Governor Greg Abbott has appointed Jason Denny to the Manufactured Housing Board for a term set to expire on January 31, 2025.  The Board regulates the manufactured housing industry in Texas.

Jason Denny of Austin is a Realtor at Keller Williams Realty, Inc. He is a member of the National Association of Realtors, Texas Realtors, and the Austin Board of Realtors. Additionally, he is the chairman of the Austin Veterans Commission and a member of the Texas American Legion.  Denny serves as Chaplain for the Boy Scouts of America Capital Area Council, Thunderbird District.

Ken Paxton’s criminal trial has been pending for nearly four years. Here’s a timeline of his legal drama.

Texas Tribune Blue Government News

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton narrowly won reelection in November.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton narrowly won reelection in November.
Miguel Gutierrez Jr./The Texas Tribune

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has been under a legal cloud for years, awaiting trial on felony securities fraud charges. But since his criminal indictment in July 2015, Paxton has seen delay after delay in his case, including a side dispute over prosecutor pay that has derailed the prosecution for well over a year. With the charges dogging him, he narrowly won reelection in 2018.

Check out our timeline below of the case’s twists and turns. We’ll update it with new stories from The Texas Tribune and other outlets as the legal battle proceeds.

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Governor Abbott Appoints Beeson To Correctional Managed Health Care Committee

Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s Communication

Governor Greg Abbott has appointed Jeff Beeson, D.O. for a term set to expire on February 1, 2021.

Governor Greg Abbott has appointed Jeff Beeson, D.O. for a term set to expire on February 1, 2021. The committee coordinates the development of statewide policies for the delivery of correctional health care within the criminal justice system.

Jeff Beeson, D.O. of Crowley is the Chief Medical Officer of the University of North Texas Health Sciences Center. He is the Medical Director of Texas Task Force 1 and a board member of the Texas EMS and Trauma Foundation. He is a member of the American College of Emergency Physicians, National Association of EMS Physicians, and the National Association of EMTs.  Beeson received an Associate’s degree in nursing from Southwestern Adventist College and a Doctor of Osteopathic from University of North Texas Health Science Center Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine specializing in emergency medicine.

Criminal case against Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton remains threatened after court upholds prosecutor pay decision

Texas Tribune Blue Government News

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton during a press conference on January 12, 2017.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton during a press conference on January 12, 2017.
Marjorie Kamys Cotera for The Texas Tribune

After mulling the question for nearly six months, the nine Republican judges on Texas’ highest criminal court will not reconsider their 2018 ruling that threatens to imperil the criminal case against Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton.

In November, a fractured Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ruled that a six-figure payment to the special prosecutors appointed to take Paxton to trial for felony securities fraud fell outside legal limits for what such attorneys may be paid. A month later, the attorneys asked the high court to reconsider that decision in a spirited legal filing that went unanswered until this week.

The court did not provide any reason for rejecting the motion, nor did any judges write dissenting opinions. Few expected that the high court would reconsider its own ruling.

Payments for special prosecutors are based on strict fee schedules, but judges are permitted to approve payments outside those strictures in unusual circumstances, as a North Texas GOP judge did for the prosecutors in the Paxton case. But after Jeff Blackard, a Paxton donor, sued in December 2015, claiming that the fees were exorbitant, the Dallas Court of Appeals voided the prosecutors’ invoice and the payment has been in question. Meanwhile, the trial itself has been derailed again and again.

Wednesday’s ruling threatens the long-delayed prosecution of Texas’ top lawyer, as the prosecutors —unpaid in years — have signaled they may withdraw from the case if they cannot be paid.

Paxton, who was indicted in July 2015, spent nearly all of his first term under a legal cloud and was narrowly re-elected in November with criminal charges dogging him. As the indictment nears its fourth birthday, his trial continues to be pushed off.

The makeup of the high court has changed since the last decision came down, but just a little, with the election of Judge Michelle Slaughter. Slaughter replaced Elsa Alcala, who passionately dissented from the decision against the prosecutors.

Paxton is accused of misleading investors into buying stock in a North Texas tech firm and failing to register with the state. The Texas State Securities Board fined him $1,000 in connection with one instance of soliciting clients without being registered; Paxton signed the order and did not dispute its findings. He has been cleared of related civil charges brought by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

Paxton has denied the charges. A spokesman did not immediately return a request for comment.

Paxton’s trial was, once upon a time, set for May 2017, but has seen delay after delay — many of them entirely unmoored from his guilt or innocence. The longest-dragging has been the pay case, which the Court of Criminal Appeals agreed to hear in December 2017. More than 18 months later, it has yet to be resolved. The high court, often criticized for its slow pace, is not bound by external deadlines.

Brian Wice, one of the special prosecutors, did not immediately return a request for comment.

Meanwhile, if the prosecutors do withdraw, their replacements would likely be chosen under a new protocol; a new law going into effect Sept. 1 bars private attorneys from serving as special prosecutors.

Under Senate Bill 341, which moved quietly and without controversy through the Texas Legislature, only county attorneys, district attorneys and assistant attorneys general would be qualified to serve in the high-stakes, often high-profile affairs that require specially appointed prosecutors. Currently, judges may appoint “any competent attorney,” which some have argued is an insufficient standard.

The author of that bill, Houston Republican Sen. Joan Huffman, has presented it as a cost-saving effort for counties — special prosecutors will now be government attorneys who would not require additional funds — and also as a way to raise the bar of qualifications for special prosecutors.

That would limit the selection pool from the more than 100,000 practicing attorneys in Texas to a much smaller group of several hundred elected prosecutors or attorneys employed by the agency Paxton runs. The replacement for Wice and Schaffer would have to be either a Democratic district attorney, who might be seen as overly aggressive in her prosecution of a Republican statewide official; a Republican district attorney, who could be seen as overly sympathetic to a leader of his own party; or an assistant attorney general, who would be an employee of the defendant.

The Legislature had already passed a law barring private attorneys from serving as special prosecutors in certain public corruption cases, but the new bill this session widely expands that measure so that it includes Paxton’s case.

After Gov. Greg Abbott vetoes cyberbullying prevention bill, some worry forms of online harassment will continue unchecked

Texas Tribune Blue Government News

Photo illustration by Miguel Gutierrez Jr. / The Texas Tribune

Two years ago, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law a bill criminalizing cyberbullying, with an increased punishment if there’s proof a bully intended for a victim to harm or kill herself or himself. Widely supported by advocates, David’s Law came to Abbott’s desk after 16-year-old San Antonio high school student David Molak took his own life after being harassed online.

But it didn’t protect children who are indirectly bullied, such as when people post or send hostile messages about them to others. The Texas House and Senate passed a bill that would criminalize such indirect harassment, but Abbott vetoed the measure Saturday.

During the hearings on the bill, a Texas woman testified that her daughter was one of those students left unprotected due to what advocates say is a loophole in current law.

When a Texas middle school student posted video montages online of six female classmates, including her 13-year-old daughter, along with obscene and sexually explicit comments, the woman said, the post wasn’t directly addressed to any of the students. But that didn’t lessen the effects of the bullying, she said. Even after the videos were taken down, she testified, her daughter continued to deal with harassment and social challenges, and another one of the middle schoolers attempted suicide.

“A lot of vile and nasty, vulgar things were said about her to other people,” said the bill’s author, state Rep. Sheryl Cole, D-Austin. “It got way out of hand, but most of it didn’t go directly to her — and that’s not covered under [David’s Law].”

In his veto statement, Abbott said House Bill 3490 was “overbroad” and “would sweep in conduct that legislators did not intend to criminalize,” including repeated criticisms of elected officials online.

Under the bill, for example, some frequent commenters on Abbott’s social media accounts could have been charged for posting multiple messages and tweets likely to annoy or harass.

“It was hard for us to not make it overbroad and still fit in the boundaries of the general statutes — you don’t want two different standards,” Cole said. “More likely than not, given his statement, we’re going to take steps to just rewrite the whole section of the penal code that’s applicable.”

Cole expressed disappointment at the veto, but she said she wasn’t “entirely shocked” because of the potential legal issues surrounding the legislation.

“When there is a gap in the law that doesn’t protect victims that are driven to self-harm or suicide, it is clear that we must take action to fix the law,” Cole said in a Monday afternoon statement posted on Twitter. “Unfortunately, this veto means that it will be another two years before we can try to provide these victims protection and help them seek justice.”

In the past few years, multiple Texas teens — including 18-year-old Brandy Vela, whom an ex-boyfriend allegedly cyberbullied about her weight — have died by suicide after experiencing online harassment.

Piper Nelson, chief marketing and communications officer for human services nonprofit The SAFE Alliance, said the priority ahead of the 2021 session should be bringing prevention efforts to a school level and educating children about healthy relationships.

“This bill might not have been perfect,” Nelson said, “but we look forward to next session making sure that further legislation is passed.”

Governor Abbott Appoints Williamson To Aerospace And Aviation Advisory Committee

Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s Communication

Governor Greg Abbott has appointed Jennifer Kurth Williamson to the Aerospace and Aviation Advisory Committee for a term set to expire on September 1, 2021.

Governor Greg Abbott has appointed Jennifer Kurth Williamson to the Aerospace and Aviation Advisory Committee for a term set to expire on September 1, 2021. The committee assists in the state’s economic development efforts to recruit and retain aerospace and aviation jobs and investments in Texas.

Jennifer Kurth Williamson of Southlake is deputy general counsel for Bell. She is a member of the Colorado Bar Association and a volunteer for George W. Bush Presidential Center Military Service Initiative and North Texas Nadadores. Additionally, she served in the U.S. Army and was honorably discharged. Williamson received a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Michigan, a Juris Doctor degree from the University of Denver College of Law, and a Master of Business Administration from Auburn University-Montgomery.

Texas Tech receives $17 million to build the state's second vet school

Texas Tribune Blue Government News

Texas Tech had an “absolutely historic legislative session,” Chancellor Tedd Mitchell said. The school hopes to enroll its first vet class in 2021.
Texas Tech had an “absolutely historic legislative session,” Chancellor Tedd Mitchell said. The school hopes to enroll its first vet class in 2021.
Texas Tech University

After years of advocacy from the Texas Tech University System, the Legislature has earmarked more than $17 million for the West Texas institution to establish a veterinary medicine school, the second of its kind in the state.

The system also received $20 million to open a dental school in El Paso.

“This has been — for us — a long, long road. But it’s been very much worth the effort,” Texas Tech University System Chancellor Tedd Mitchell said at a press conference Tuesday.

He expressed gratitude to state leaders and lawmakers for Tech’s “absolutely historic legislative session,” and suggested both schools would meet critical regional needs.

“We think that the state’s made a tremendous investment into not only our region and not only in higher education, but a huge investment in the future of Texas overall,” said Mitchell, who is also president of the Tech System’s health sciences center.

Funding for the Amarillo vet school, which was part of the budget signed into law Saturday by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, has long been a source of strife between Tech and the Texas A&M University System.

Currently, A&M has a monopoly on training future veterinarians in the state, and advocates of its program have said funding Tech’s will unnecessarily drain limited state resources. Backers of Tech’s initiative have contended that A&M’s program, which has received national recognition, does not train enough large-animal vets to meet the demand in rural areas.

Tech still needs approval from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board and from a third-party accreditor for its academic program. The institution hopes to enroll its first class in 2021.

“The school will address the hundreds of students who are leaving the state of Texas for a more costly education, then coming back to practice in their home state with upwards of $250,000 in debt due to out-of-state tuition,” a group of 10 area lawmakers, including Republican state Sens. Charles Perry and Kel Seliger and state Rep. John Frullo, said in a statement last month.

Former Tech chancellors Robert Duncan and Kent Hance advocated for vet school funding throughout the 2019 legislative session. Duncan, a former state lawmaker, unexpectedly retired from Tech last August, and sources familiar with the events have partly attributed his departure to conflicts over the vet program. At the time, the disagreement was rooted in diverging opinions about budgets and the prioritization of other system initiatives, like the proposed dental school in El Paso.

In 2016, Tech regents tapped the brakes on the vet program plans. But lawmakers, urged by the West Texas delegation, set aside $4.2 million in 2017 for Tech to study how feasible it would be to build the school. Institution officials have estimated it will cost $90 million for facilities and have raised private donations to cover those costs.

Language in the state budget says the $17 million will let Tech “initiate curriculum design and development,” begin recruiting faculty and kickstart the accreditation process.

Disclosure: The Texas Tech University System, the Texas A&M University System and the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board have been financial supporters of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune’s journalism. Find a complete list of them here.

Governor Abbott Appoints Jerry Romero To Texas Workforce Investment Council

Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s Communication

Governor Greg Abbott has appointed Jerry Romero to the Texas Workforce Investment Council for a term set to expire on September 1, 2019.

Governor Greg Abbott has appointed Jerry Romero to the Texas Workforce Investment Council for a term set to expire on September 1, 2019. The Council engages in a collaborative, systematic view of workforce development programs throughout the state and provides for planning, evaluation, research, and other functions related to 19 workforce programs.

Jerry Romero of El Paso is a Vice President of Community Development for Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. In that role, he implements and evaluates programs related to small businesses, economic development, affordable housing, and community engagement. He previously served as a gubernatorial appointee on the Texas State Affordable Housing Corporation Board of Directors. He is a board member of United Way of El Paso, president of the El Paso Housing Finance Corporation, and is active in a number of other volunteer roles in his community. Romero attended The University of Texas-El Paso and studied in the field of finance. Additionally, he attended a number of certification programs including The University of Texas at Austin McCombs School of Business for a Compliance Officer certificate, University of Minnesota Minneapolis for a Community Development Officer certificate, and the University of California John E. Anderson Graduate School of Management Latino Leadership Program.

WEB VIDEO: Texas Celebrates Beer-To-Go Sales

Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s Communication

The Office of Governor Greg Abbott today released a web video highlighting legislation recently signed that will allow beer-to-go sales throughout Texas and extends the life of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission for ten more years.

The Office of Governor Greg Abbott today released a web video highlighting legislation recently signed that will allow beer-to-go sales throughout Texas and extends the life of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission for ten more years. The Governor signed the legislation over the weekend at Austin Beerworks.

“With the signing of this bill, we raise a toast to freedom in the Lone Star State,” said Governor Abbott. “The beer industry has grown rapidly and has become such a vital part of our economy, and I am thankful for the support of the Legislature to continue this momentum by maximizing economic freedom and reducing burdensome regulations in the state of Texas.” 

Gov. Abbott vetoes bill requiring children under 2 to ride in rear-facing car seats

Texas Tribune Blue Government News

Gov. Greg Abbott vetoed a bill that would have mandated that children under 2 years old be secured in rear-facing car seats.
Gov. Greg Abbott vetoed a bill that would have mandated that children under 2 years old be secured in rear-facing car seats.
Getty Images

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Saturday vetoed a bill that would have required children under age 2 to be secured in rear-facing car seats while in a moving vehicle, and would have penalized drivers who fail to follow the new guidelines.

House Bill 448, authored by state Rep. Chris Turner, D-Grand Prairie, “is an unnecessary invasion of parental rights and an unfortunate example of over-criminalization,” Abbott said in a veto statement on the legislation.

Turner had said the legislation would “help clarify Texas’ confusing car seat law and put it in line with best practices and Texas Department of Public Safety, Department of Transportation and Department of State Health Services recommendations.” The measure would have provided exceptions for babies and toddlers who are taller than 40 inches, weigh more than 40 pounds or have a medical condition that prevents them from sitting in a rear-facing car seat.

Texas law already requires children younger than 8 years old or shorter than 57 inches to be secured in a car seat, and that the car seat be installed according to the manufacturer’s instructions. The current law does not specifically mention car safety guidelines for children under 2 years old.

The American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines recommend children stay in rear-facing car seats for as long as possible.

State Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo and the Senate sponsor of the bill, had said that under the measure, the first time a driver is pulled over for not having their child in a rear-facing car seat, they would be given a warning. If a driver violates the law a second time, they would be given a citation with a fine between $25 and $250.

“It is not necessary to micromanage the parenting process to such a great extent, much less to criminalize different parenting decisions by Texans,” Abbott said in his veto statement.

If the law had passed, Texas would have joined 14 other states that have passed similar car seat regulations.

Critics of the bill said it was unnecessary for the state to regulate how a child sits in a car seat. Terri Hall, a parent who testified against the bill in both Senate and House committee hearings, said the government shouldn’t place “arbitrary” regulations on car seats.

“I feel like the decision needs to be made between myself and my pediatrician about what the best car seat is for my child in the different stages of their life,” Hall said during a hearing of the Senate Transportation Committee.

Julián Aguilar contributed to this report.

Governor Abbott Signs House Bill 1

Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s Communication

Governor Abbott Signs House Bill No. 1

House Bill 1, the General Appropriations Act, addresses the priorities of Texans. It dedicates $5 billion to rein in skyrocketing property taxes and provides for lasting property tax reforms for homeowners, renters, and businesses.

The budget prioritizes our school classrooms by paying our teachers more and focusing on the needs of students. It also makes our schools safer by hardening our campuses and expanding access to mental health resources.

The budget funds work to combat human trafficking and sexual assault, and to clear the rape-kit backlog. It also creates a fund to assist communities after natural disasters and to match federal aid for future storms.

This is not only a balanced budget, it also limits the growth of spending in the upcoming biennium to less than population and inflation growth, when adjusting for the cost of property tax relief.

House Bill 1, the General Appropriations Act, having been duly certified by the Comptroller of Public Accounts pursuant to Article III, Section 49a of the Texas Constitution, has been presented to me for action. I reviewed the legislation and approved House Bill 1 by signing the bill.

 

GREG ABBOTT
Governor

 

View the Proclamation

Governor Abbott vetoes SB. 2456

Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s Communication

Governor Abbott vetoes Senate Bill No. 2456

Pursuant to Article IV, Section 14, of the Texas Constitution, I, Greg Abbott, Governor of Texas, do hereby disapprove of and veto Senate Bill No. 2456 as passed by the Eighty-Sixth Texas Legislature, Regular Session, because of the following objections: 

Municipal management districts typically serve as a financing mechanism for commercial, residential, or entertainment development, but sometimes they are misused to supplant services that a city should provide, resulting in double taxation for district residents.  Senate Bill 2456 illustrates the problem.  It would give the Karis Municipal Management District, located within the City of Crowley, new powers to perform a litany of services paid for by assessments on property within the district.  The services range from police and fire protection to the construction and permitting of public concession facilities.  These are services that residents should expect the city to provide, using taxes the city imposes.  Yet Senate Bill 2456 would allow the district to impose additional assessments for these services.  Property owners should not be forced to pay both residential property taxes to the city and residential assessments to the district.  Giving this district such expansive authority would reduce transparency and circumvent the taxpayer protections in Senate Bill 2.

Since the Eighty-Sixth Texas Legislature, Regular Session, by its adjournment has prevented the return of this bill, I am filing these objections in the office of the Secretary of State and giving notice thereof by this public proclamation according to the aforementioned constitutional provision. 

IN TESTIMONY WHEREOF, I have signed my name officially and caused the Seal of the State to be affixed hereto at Austin, this 15th day of June, 2019.

 

GREG ABBOTT
Governor

 

View the Veto Proclamation

Governor Abbott Signs Rio Grande Valley Metropolitan Planning Organization Merger Agreement

Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s Communication

Governor Greg Abbott today signed the Rio Grande Valley Metropolitan Planning Organization (RGV MPO) re-designation and consolidation agreement at the Texas State Capitol. The Governor was joined by various Rio Grande Valley leaders and stakeholders for the signing including County Commissioners, Mayors, and transportation and mobility leaders.

Agreement Boosts Economy, Strengthens Transportation In The Region

Governor Greg Abbott today signed the Rio Grande Valley Metropolitan Planning Organization (RGV MPO) re-designation and consolidation agreement at the Texas State Capitol. The Governor was joined by various Rio Grande Valley leaders and stakeholders for the signing including County Commissioners, Mayors, and transportation and mobility leaders. Senators Juan Hinojosa and Representatives Bobby Guerra and Terry Canales were also present for the signing. 

“Thanks to the hard work of the many leaders and stakeholders here today, we are ushering in a new era of economic development and collaboration for the Rio Grande Valley,” said Governor Abbott. “This region plays such an important role in growing the Texas economy and strengthening our international trade partnerships. I look forward to the tremendous new opportunities this agreement will create for the people of the Rio Grande Valley.” 

A metropolitan planning organization (MPO) is a local decision-making body that is responsible for overseeing the metropolitan transportation planning process. Federal law requires an MPO for each urbanized area with a population of more than 50,000 people.

Prior to this agreement, the Rio Grande Valley was home to three separate MPOs — Brownsville, Harlingen-San Benito, and Hidalgo County. The RGV MPO agreement will merge all three MPOs into one, encouraging economic development and strengthening transportation systems throughout the region. The agreement will also improve the Rio Grande Valley’s ability to compete for greater funding opportunities for infrastructure projects.

Advocates say lawmakers largely exempted themselves from Texas' public records law, prompting calls for a veto

Texas Tribune Blue Government News

State Rep. Charlie Geren, R-Fort Worth, works from his desk on the House floor as the House debates the budget on April 6, 2017. 
State Rep. Charlie Geren, R-Fort Worth, works from his desk on the House floor as the House debates the budget on April 6, 2017. 
Laura Skelding for The Texas Tribune

Proponents of government transparency are warning that a little-noticed bill, now sitting on Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk, could gut public access to the Texas Legislature’s internal communications.

Some are urging Abbott to reject the measure before the deadline to veto bills ends this weekend. Among them is First Amendment lawyer Joe Larsen, a member of the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas, who calls House Bill 4181 a “knife in the dark” that will make it harder to hold lawmakers accountable.

“It’s very alarming,” he said.

Authored by powerful state Rep. Charlie Geren, R-Fort Worth, the bill would let lawmakers assert “legislative privilege” to withhold work-related records that are currently subject to the Texas Public Information Act. While the Legislature can already object to the disclosure of documents used to create or evaluate proposed legislation, critics of the bill say it would mark an expansion of lawmakers’ ability to wall off their records from public scrutiny.

The change comes as the Texas Legislature is being praised for strengthening open government measures, including the closure of a loophole that let private government contractors withhold information.

“It is ironic that in a session in which they make progress on open government, they exempt themselves,” said Bill Aleshire, an Austin-based attorney and former Travis County judge. “They probably should have captioned this bill … ‘Do as I say, not as I do.’” Aleshire is also urging Abbott to veto the measure.

Geren declined to comment.

Under the bill, which was sponsored by state Sen. Kelly Hancock, R-North Richland Hills, private communications concerning a “legislative activity or function” would be considered confidential and subject to a “legislative privilege” exemption. It would include all private exchanges among lawmakers, legislative staffers, credentialed interns, the House speaker, the lieutenant governor and the governing boards of legislative agencies.

Some officials could opt to release them voluntarily.

The bill would also allow for some documents to be unilaterally withheld — saving the Legislature from first seeking approval from the state attorney general’s office, which typically plays referee on what information must be released.

“My instinct is, it’s not in the best interest of transparency to have the party seeking to not disclose documents being the [sole] arbiter on that,” said state Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, who authored several open government measures during the 2019 legislative session. He said he could not vote for HB 4181 because it codifies “such broad exceptions to the public information act for legislative documents and communications.”

The provisions came packaged in an administrative housekeeping bill designed to address the “organization and efficient operation” of the Legislature, according to its caption. The measure sailed through both chambers with little discussion, and received only a handful of opposing votes, including from Watson and Republican state Sens. Brandon Creighton, Bryan Hughes and Angela Paxton. None of the Republican senators responded to requests for comment.

State Rep. Mayes Middleton, R-Wallisville, who voted against the final version of the legislation, said he “strongly disagrees with the trajectory of the bill” and that it goes “against greater transparency.”

Watson said he felt the bill “was hurried through the legislative process” without substantive discussion of the transparency-related provisions.

A section of the bill explains its intent is to “protect the public’s interest in the proper performance of the deliberative and policymaking responsibilities of the legislature.” It suggests the “legislative privilege” addition will help preserve the law-making body’s independence, in accordance with the state constitution’s call for a separation of government powers.

In a brief exchange about the bill on the House floor, Geren said lawmakers and agencies must still preserve records in accordance with state retention schedules or for any litigation.

He said legislative and attorney-client privilege could not be used to “aid in the commission of a criminal offense.”

The Texas Public Information Act was adopted in the 1970s, in the wake of a stock fraud scandal involving powerful state officials. Several politicians were chased out of office and the act was swept into law alongside a number of reforms meant to open government operations to public scrutiny.

“Open government is vital to a free and informed society,” said Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, in a letter included in a 2018 handbook about the act. “Texans have a right to know how their government is spending their tax dollars and exercising the powers granted by the people.”

The portion of state statute that details the act says: “The people insist on remaining informed so that they may retain control over the instruments they have created. The provisions of this chapter shall be liberally construed to implement this policy.”

Since the act’s passage, a court ruling has given local governments and private contractors wide leeway to withhold certain information that would impact their competitive advantage. Lawmakers tightened that exemption during the 140-day legislative session that ended in May — a move hailed by open government advocates as a win.

Larsen, the Houston-based First Amendment attorney, said unless Abbott vetoes the bill it will allow the Legislature to hide special interest influence over the legislative process.

“Eventually it becomes something you could almost sweep anything into,” Larsen said. “People, when they’re given that kind of power, will exercise it. It’s human nature. It’s certainly institutional nature.”

WEB VIDEO: Prioritizing Disaster Recovery, Ensuring Community Resilience

Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s Communication

The Office of Governor Greg Abbott today released a web video highlighting disaster relief and preparedness legislation that was signed yesterday in Houston, Texas. The assortment of bills address outstanding needs of relief for those impacted by Hurricane Harvey, and will help prepare Texas for future natural disasters. 

“Hurricane Harvey was the most devastating natural disaster in our state’s history, and I am grateful to the legislature for stepping up and delivering not only for its victims, but the entire state of Texas,” said Governor Abbott. “This important set of bills will not only provide greater relief to those affected by disasters in Texas, but also help prepare our state’s capabilities to anticipate and mitigate the impact of future disasters.” 

Governor Abbott Takes Action To Extend Texas State Board Of Plumbing Examiners

Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s Communication

Governor Greg Abbott today issued an executive order to extend the activity of the Texas State Board of Plumbing Examiners past its set expiration of September 1, 2019.

Governor Greg Abbott today issued an executive order to extend the activity of the Texas State Board of Plumbing Examiners past its set expiration of September 1, 2019. Governor Abbott utilized Section 418.016 of the Texas Government Code, which allows the Governor to suspend provisions of regulatory statutes prescribing the procedures for the conduct of state business if strict compliance would in any way prevent, hinder or delay necessary action in coping with a disaster.

Since Hurricane Harvey made landfall and caused widespread destruction, the Governor has issued a disaster declaration each month effective through today. The magnitude of what still must be rebuilt is reflected in the more than $10 billion of federal funds that are newly or nearly available to Texas for areas impacted by Hurricane Harvey. A qualified workforce of licensed plumbers throughout the state, including from areas not directly affected by Hurricane Harvey, will be essential as those funds are being invested in crucial infrastructure, medical facilities, living facilities, and other construction projects.

The Texas State Board of Plumbing Examiners, whose mission is “to protect Texas citizens against the health and safety hazards that can result from improperly installed plumbing, gas, and medical gas systems,” will continue to play an essential role in all these efforts by ensuring that the plumbers who rebuild Texas and prepare for future disasters do so in a manner that will safeguard public health, safety, and property.

To fulfill the demands for rebuilding after Hurricane Harvey and keeping Texas prepared and able to recover from future disasters, it is necessary to continue the Board to perform its indispensable role in protecting Texans.

By utilizing the powers granted to him by the Legislature under the Texas Government Code, the Governor’s order today will allow the Board to continue its operations through May 31, 2021, giving the 87th legislature time to address the matter. 

Read the Governor’s full proclamation

Governor Abbott Takes Action To Keep Texas State Board Of Plumbing Examiners Active

Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s Communication

Governor Greg Abbott today issued an executive order to extend the activity of the Texas State Board of Plumbing Examiners past its set expiration of September 1, 2019.

WHEREAS, I, Greg Abbott, Governor of Texas, issued a disaster proclamation on August 23, 2017, as subsequently amended on August 26, August 27, August 28, and September 14, 2017, certifying that Hurricane Harvey posed a threat of imminent disaster for certain counties in the State of Texas; and

WHEREAS, on September 20, 2017, and in each subsequent month effective through today, I issued proclamations renewing the disaster declaration; and

WHEREAS, recovery from the catastrophic damage caused by Hurricane Harvey continues for millions of Texans living in no fewer than sixty counties across the state; and

WHEREAS, the magnitude of what still must be rebuilt is reflected in the more than $10 billion of federal funds that are newly or nearly available to Texas for areas impacted by Hurricane Harvey, including through the disaster aid bill signed by President Donald J. Trump on June 6, 2019; and

WHEREAS, a qualified workforce of licensed plumbers throughout the state, including from areas not directly affected by Hurricane Harvey, will be essential as those funds are being invested in crucial infrastructure, medical facilities, living facilities, and other construction projects; and

WHEREAS, Texas must also be ready for future disasters, by building sound infrastructure that can withstand major weather or other events and by ensuring that qualified workers stand ready to rebuild, and June 1, 2019, marked the beginning of the 2019 hurricane season; and

WHEREAS, the Texas State Board of Plumbing Examiners, whose mission is “to protect Texas citizens against the health and safety hazards that can result from improperly installed plumbing, gas, and medical gas systems,” will continue to play an essential role in all these efforts by ensuring that the plumbers who rebuild Texas and prepare for future disasters do so in a manner that will safeguard public health, safety, and property; and

WHEREAS, Section 1301.003 of the Texas Occupations Code provides that the Board is to be abolished on September 1, 2019, along with expiration of the Plumbing License Law, Texas Occupations Code, Chapter 1301, because they were not continued in existence by the 86th Legislature pursuant to the Texas Sunset Act, Texas Government Code, Chapter 325; and

WHEREAS, abolition of the Board would threaten recovery efforts, diminish hurricane preparedness, and heighten the dangers I am responsible for meeting under the Texas Disaster Act of 1975, Texas Government Code, Chapter 418; and

WHEREAS, in Section 418.016(a) of the Texas Government Code, the legislature has empowered the governor to “suspend the provisions of any regulatory statute prescribing the procedures for conduct of state business . . . if strict compliance with the provisions . . . would in any way prevent, hinder, or delay necessary action in coping with a disaster”; and

WHEREAS, the 86th Legislature further expanded the governor’s authority in Senate Bill 285 by enacting Section 418.128(b) of the Texas Government Code, effective September 1, 2019, pursuant to which, “[n]otwithstanding any other law, the governor may, by executive order, take any action necessary to ensure each state agency . . . is able to respond to a hurricane”; and

WHEREAS, to fulfill the demands for rebuilding after Hurricane Harvey and keeping Texas prepared and able to recover from future disasters, it is necessary to continue the Board to perform its indispensable role in protecting Texans;

NOW, THEREFORE, by virtue of the power and authority vested in me by the Texas Constitution and the Texas Disaster Act of 1975, I do hereby suspend Section 1301.003 of the Texas Occupations Code to prevent the imminent abolition of the Texas State Board of Plumbing Examiners and expiration of the Plumbing License Law on September 1, 2019, and to delay that abolition and expiration until disaster needs subside or the 87th legislature addresses the matter. To facilitate the legislature’s consideration of the issue, this suspension shall have the force and effect of law until May 31, 2021.

This executive order supersedes all previous orders on this matter that are in conflict or inconsistent with its terms, and this order shall remain in effect and in full force until modified, amended, rescinded, or superseded by me or by a succeeding governor.

Given under my hand this the 13th day of June, 2019.

 

GREG ABBOTT
Governor

View a PDF of the executive order

WEB VIDEO: Tax Reform That Puts Texans First

Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s Communication

The Office Of Governor Greg Abbott today released a web video highlighting the signing of Senate Bill 2—monumental legislation that reforms property taxes for Texas homeowners and businesses and caps the amount that taxes can be increased by taxing authorities.

The Office Of Governor Greg Abbott today released a web video highlighting the signing of Senate Bill 2—monumental legislation that reforms property taxes for Texas homeowners and businesses and caps the amount that taxes can be increased by taxing authorities.

“With Senate Bill 2, Texas has taken meaningful steps to reform property taxes by reining in the ability of local taxing authorities to increase taxes, implementing appraisal reform, and ensuring greater transparency in the property tax process,” said Governor Abbott. “By signing this legislation, we are delivering a major victory for taxpayers across the state and paving the way towards a brighter future for Texas.” 

PRESS RELEASE: Comptroller Glenn Hegar Distributes $782.1 Million in Monthly Sales Tax Revenue to Local Governments

Texas Comptroller

Contact:
Chris Bryan
Kevin Lyons
Email Us

512-463-4070
Comptroller.Texas.Gov

1-800-531-5441
ext. 3-4070
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

June 12, 2019

Comptroller Glenn Hegar Distributes $782.1 Million in Monthly Sales Tax Revenue to Local Governments

(AUSTIN) — Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar announced today he will send cities, counties, transit systems and special purpose taxing districts $782.1 million in local sales tax allocations for June, 10.1 percent more than in June 2018. These allocations are based on sales made in April by businesses that report tax monthly.

LOCAL SALES TAX ALLOCATIONS (June 2019)
Recipient June 2019
Allocations
Change from
June 2018
Year-to-date
Change
Cities
$499.0M 9.2% 4.9%
Transit Systems $173.1M 9.7% 4.0%
Counties $49.8M 11.4% 7.2%
Special Purpose Taxing Districts $60.2M 18.3% 11.7%
Total $782.1M 10.1% 5.3%

For details on June sales tax allocations to individual cities, counties, transit systems and special purpose districts, visit the Comptroller’s Monthly Sales Tax Allocation Comparison Summary Reports.

Governor Abbott Signs Pivotal Property Tax Reforms Into Law

Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s Communication

Governor Greg Abbott today signed into law Senate Bill 2, which delivers significant property tax reforms that will cap property tax increases without voter approval and provide tax reform to homeowners and businesses across Texas.

Governor Greg Abbott today signed into law Senate Bill 2, which delivers significant property tax reforms that will cap property tax increases without voter approval and provide tax reform to homeowners and businesses across Texas. The Governor hosted the bill signing at Wally’s Burger Express in Austin, TX. Wally’s Burger Express is a family-owned business founded in 1980 that has been struggling due to skyrocketing property taxes. Just this year, Wally’s property taxes increased 44%.

The Governor was joined at the bill signing by Robert Mayfield, the owner of Wally’s Burger Express, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, Speaker Dennis Bonnen, Representatives Dustin Burrows, Terry Canales, and John Zerwas, and Senators Kelly Hancock, Dawn Buckingham and Charles Perry.

“We made it clear from the outset of this session that our goal was not to simply mask the problem of skyrocketing property taxes, but to make transformative changes that would provide meaningful and lasting reform,” said Governor Abbott. “Because of the work by legislators this session, we are ensuring that Texas remains the best state in the nation to live, work, start a business, and raise a family. By signing Senate Bill 2 into law, we are making tremendous strides to provide long-awaited relief to Texas homeowners and businesses.”

Senate Bill 2 lowers the property tax rollback rate to 3.5% for cities and counties. Any increase to this rollback rate in cities, counties, and some special districts will require voter approval and automatically trigger a tax ratification election. This rollback rate will be renamed the voter approval tax rate going forward. 

SB 2 also requires taxing units to post their budgets, tax rates, and tax rate calculation worksheets online. The bill makes numerous improvements to the appraisal and protest process, such as prohibiting an Appraisal Review Board (ARB) from increasing the value of a taxpayer property above its initial value, increasing training requirements for ARB members and arbitrators, and entitling taxpayers to the evidence the appraisal district plans to present at their ARB hearing free of charge.