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Results thread

Here’s where I’ll be tracking results as they come in, which should be soon now. I’m in the studio at KRTK, the livestream URL is, and we should be kicking off soon. Harris County results are here. Get ready, it’s about to begin.

Update, 7:10 PM – Harris County numbers are up. Davis trails by about 22,000 votes, 52.49% to 46.39%. This is right in line with my Sunday projection. The margin for Dems downballot is mostly wider. A good showing today is needed.

Update, 8:15 PM – Still no E-Day totals in Harris. Libby Willis trails in SD10 – Tarrant votes are here. All the statewides have been called for the Rs, it’s a question of the margins.

Update, 9:25 PM – Hard to find much positive right now. Dems are on track to lose three seats in the Lege – HDs 23 (Eiland, retiring), 117 (Cortez), and 144 (Perez). The latter two should flip back in 2016, but still. Dems are doing better in Harris County on E-Day, but Davis was still behind in Harris by 18K votes, and she was leading the pack.

Update, 10 PM – It’s a wrap for me at KTRK, and I’m probably going to pack it in and head home and to bed. Needless to say, this has been a crappy night all around. One oddity on the state results is that Travis County as of this posting hasn’t reported anything but early votes. In the end, I doubt we’re going to see any improvement on the base vote total. It’s disappointing on many levels, not the least of which is that I don’t think there’s a big surge in Republican voting, either. It looks like a 2002 result all over again, frankly. If you want something that looks like good news, Dems did do better in the big counties than they did in 2010. Not that that’s a high bar to clear, of course. There’s still a lot of work to be done, that’s for sure. I’ll have my own thoughts later, after I get some rest.

Watching election results

I’m going to do my best to follow election results tonight, and will post updates as I can here. I’ve got family obligations this evening, and with polling locations opening late in some counties like Travis, I have no idea when we may start to see statewide results or when I may be able to write about them. I suspect I’ll just be up really late tonight and/or up even earlier tomorrow morning to post what I can about outcomes. Analysis and commentary will follow, likely starting on Thursday. Feel free to add what you know in the comments as we go. See you later.

UPDATE 6:20 PM: Via email from Stan Stanart, GOP results may be posted late due to precinct conventions, which will be held after polls close. Democrats are doing their precinct conventions later, so presumably their results will be posted on time.

UPDATE 7:20 PM: Very early results from the Secretary of State show David Alameel over 50% in the Senate primary. Kesha Rogers is second, with Maxey Scherr a not-too-distant third. Either Alameel finishing over 50% or Scherr passing Rogers would be nice. Nothing from Harris County yet. If Stan Stanart is gonna make us wait on Dem results till after the Republican precinct conventions are over, I’m gonna be upset.

UPDATE 7:33 PM: How is it that the Secretary of State has Harris County early vote totals, but the Harris County Clerk doesn’t? Curse you, Stan Stanart!

Oh, and who are these people voting for Jim Hogan in the Ag Commissioner race?

UPDATE 7:42 PM: Finally, Harris County Dem early voting totals. Whitmire, Alma Allen, and Carol Alvarado are all cruising. Kim Ogg has 71% (whew!), and Steven Kirkland is neck and neck with Lori Gray.

UPDATE 8:15 PM: El Paso early results are in. Rep. Mary Gonzalez has 68%, which is excellent. This is Maxey Scherr’s best result so far, but the main effect of it may be to push David Alameel below 50%. Still early, however, and I suspect Alameel will do better on Election Day thanks to the wave of anti-Kesha Rogers sentiment from the party plus Alameel’s mail efforts. I voted for Maxey and I hope she’ll run for something again, but right now keeping Rogers from climbing into a runoff is job one.

Rep. Marc Veasey in CD33 is cruising, but State Rep. Lon Burnam trails by 14 votes before any precinct results are in.

UPDATE 9:20 PM: I’m watching the Rockets game now as I follow the results. Because that’s how I multitask.

UPDATE 9:45 PM: Rockets win! But it’s not looking like a good night for the Texas Parent PAC. Incumbents Lance Gooden, Diane Patrick, and Bennett Ratliff are losing, though mostly by small amounts. Several challengers – Mike Novak, Andy Cargile, and Steve Massengale – lost badly, as did open seat contestants Bruce Tough and Ann Hodge. One challenger, Gary VanDeaver, is leading, and a couple of open seat contenders in multi-candidate races appear headed to runoffs. Overall, a lower batting average for them than what we’ve seen lately, and a potentially significant win for opponents of public education.

UPDATE 10:30 PM: Democratic Rep. Lon Burnam in HD90 has lost. I’m bummed.

Back to the House

After the Senate adjourned on Tuesday morning without a committee vote on its omnibus anti-abortion bill following the long hearing in which there was a lot more hearing than listening, the House took up its bill, with more of the same in store.

State Rep. Jessica Farrar, D-Houston, the chairwoman of the House women’s health caucus, opened the debate by questioning [bill author Rep. Jodie] Laubenberg on a variety of measures in the bill.

In her questions, Farrar suggested that the bill would reduce access to abortion by requiring facilities across the state to upgrade to more expensive ambulatory surgical centers and increasing the cost of abortion as a result. She also asked how requiring drug-induced abortions to be performed in a facility with a post-operative waiting room, pre-operative waiting room and sterilization facilities makes those abortions safer.

“The question should be what is best for the health of the woman,” Laubenberg said in response to whether the facility requirements would increase the cost of abortions. She added that facility upgrades were necessary for abortion procedures, because “the expected outcome is the taking of a life — this is a very unique procedure.”

Other Democrats argued that because only six of the state’s 42 existing abortion facilities meet the existing ambulatory surgical center standards, the bill would create an undue burden on access to abortion, particularly for poor and rural women.

“I’m just concerned your bill is putting obstacles for women who make a choice, a very personal choice to get a procedure done,” said state Rep. Carol Alvarado, D-Houston. She said that when the regulations in HB 2 are coupled with the existing abortion sonogram law, a woman seeking a medical abortion would have to see a physician three times on three separate days. That would put an unnecessary burden on women who live far from the six ambulatory surgical centers that perform abortions, all of which are located in urban areas, she said.

Laubenberg said she does not believe the legislation would force abortion clinics to close. “Raising their standards will not force them to close,” she said.

If Rep. Laubenberg’s answers sound familiar, it’s because they’re the same answers she’s been giving all along. At this point, she’s probably just got a disc of MP3s of her greatest hits that she picks from when needed. It’s not like she has anything original to say, and at least this way she can avoid making any stupid remarks about rape. Like Sen. Hegar in the Senate, she’s not interested in accepting any amendments, including Republican amendments.

State Rep. Sarah Davis (R-West University Place), a moderate Republican, filed an amendment that would uphold the 20-week ban. However, it would make exceptions for cases like fetal anomalies, many of which are only diagnosed at 20 weeks gestation, and for rape and incest victims whose pregnancies might expose them to risk of suicide. Davis explained that, as a lawyer familiar with the case law pertaining to abortion, she thought that her amendments would give the bill a better chance of surviving a legal challenge by removing some of the ‘undue burdens’.

But perhaps feeling confident about the constitutionality of her bill, Rep. Laubenberg moved to table the amendment. Just before the vote, Rep. Davis argued that her amendments supported good policy making. Anyone who voted to table it was clearly only interested in politics, not good policy, she said.

The House voted to table the amendment by 89-56. Guess we know what Rep. Davis’ colleagues are most interested in then.

We’ve known that all along, but it never hurts to accumulate evidence. I will note that with Rep. Mark Strama’s resignation, the Dems are down to 54 in the House, so at least one of Rep. Davis’ Republican colleagues voted with her on that. We’ll have to check the House journal later to see who it was.

By the way, while Texas Republicans are pushing bills like HB2 to prove how “pro-life” they are, here are some things they’re not doing.

With new abortion laws in place, Texans can expect a significant increase in the number of babies born every year. That’s the whole point—to turn more pregnancies into live births.

We can expect the mothers of a multitude of these “extra” babies to be teens, unwed and/or poor. Those are the demographics of a significant proportion of women who choose abortions.

Since the moral impetus for reducing, if not eliminating, abortions is advocacy for life, then Texans should demonstrate our support for these babies. When you examine many of our current practices and policies, you understand why outsiders claim Texans are more concerned about fetuses than babies, children and teenagers.

Texas is among the nation’s leaders in child poverty, teen pregnancy, dropout rates and illiteracy. We’re also among the nation’s lowest-spending states on child poverty, teen pregnancy, dropout rates and illiteracy. Some people attribute these maladies to dependence on government, the product of a so-called welfare state. If that were true, then their incidence would be higher in states that spend the most on child welfare, anti-poverty programs and education, not the least-spending small-government states, like Texas.

Ironically, conservative states composed of higher percentages of Bible-believing Christians—from Texas across the South—suffer the blights of child poverty, teen pregnancy, dropout rates and illiteracy much more promiscuously than their more secular counterparts. Those are the states many Texans and Southerners call “pagan” and “dark.”

This disparity is an affront to the name of Jesus. Small wonder unbelieving outsiders doubt the compassion of Christ and the credibility of Christians. We often treat people Jesus called “the least” worse than unbelievers do.

If Texans’ conservative moral values prompt our state to implement one of the nation’s most stringent abortion codes, then we should accept the responsibility for all those babies we will bring into the world. We need to do right by them.

Yeah, that’s not going to happen. Not while Rick Perry is Governor, and not if Greg Abbott becomes Governor. These things are not important to them.

Anyway. In the end, HB2 passed as expected, and if it passes on third reading today it could then be taken up by the Senate as early as Friday, though Monday may be more likely. Either way, needless to say it will be well outside the filibuster zone. The next stop will be the federal courthouse, where a similar law from Wisconsin was at least temporarily blocked. Of course, we have the Fifth Circuit to overcome, but let’s keep hope alive anyway.

For more on the House debate, see BOR, Texpatriate, the Observer, Texas Politics, Raw Story, and PoliTex. Finally, the Village Voice reminds us that a whole lot of the bill supporters currently infesting Austin are outside agitators, while Sen. Wendy Davis and a bunch of actual Texans are touring the state to stand against these needless bills.

UPDATE: The House has approved HB2 on third reading. Back to the Senate we go, no earlier than Friday.

There are other items on this session’s agenda

I know, hard to believe, but there are two non-abortion items on the session agenda, and the Senate has already taken preliminary action on two of them.

Sen. Robert Nichols

Six hours before a marathon state House committee hearing on abortion, two Senate committees quickly kicked out less controversial bills on transportation funding and criminal justice reform to the full Senate on Tuesday morning.

The Senate could vote on Senate Joint Resolution 1 and Senate Bill 2 as early as next week. The measures address two issues — transportation infrastructure funding and sentencing guidelines for 17-year-old murderers — that Gov. Rick Perry included in the second special session’s agenda. Similar pieces of legislation died on the last day of the first special session amid a dramatic fight over abortion legislation. Both Senate Transportation Chairman Robert Nichols, R-Jacksonville, and state Sen. Joan Huffman, R-Southside Place, refiled their legislation soon after Perry announced a second special session.

In a nine-minute hearing, the Senate Finance Committee voted 11-0 Tuesday morning in favor of SJR 1, from Nichols, which matches the version of Senate Joint Resolution 2 that the Legislature nearly passed last week. The measure would ask voters to approve amending the state Constitution to divert half of the oil and gas severance taxes currently earmarked for the Rainy Day Fund to the State Highway Fund, raising nearly $1 billion a year in additional financing for road construction and maintenance. The Texas Department of Transportation has said it needs about $4 billion in additional funding each year to maintain current congestion.

About 40 minutes later, the Senate Criminal Justice Committee voted 4-0 in favor of SB 2, from Huffman, which is similar to Senate Bill 23 from the first special session. The bill revises the sentencing guidelines for 17-year-olds convicted of capital murder to comply with a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling that eliminated mandatory life without parole for capital murderers younger than 18.

Both measures could be debated on the Senate floor as early as next week.

Sen. Nichols incorporated changes that the House added to his ball in the first special session, while Sen. Huffman’s bill was the same one she’d filed before, without including the House changes. Had the House simply voted on these bill as they were they wouldn’t have needed to be re-voted on by the Senate and thus wouldn’t have been casualties of the Davis filibuster. Alternately, David Dewhurst could have put Nichols’ and Huffman’s bills on the agenda ahead of SB5 last time around, but I guess he didn’t expect Davis to be able to keep up her effort for that long. Silly man.

In theory, the Democrats have some leverage over the transportation bill, since it is a joint resolution and thus needs a two-thirds majority in each chamber. That possibility was raised in the previous session – basically, the Dems could refuse to vote for SJR1 unless the abortion legislation was altered in some fashion, which would mean it would not have enough votes to pass. As with a quorum break, the main problem with that gambit is that as long as Rick Perry is willing to keep calling special sessions – and by now we should all be clear on the fact that he is willing – such leverage is necessarily short-lived. Once the Dems hold up their end of the bargain and vote for SJR1, their influence vanishes. If we knew for a fact that the next time the Lege convened would be 2015, this tactic could work. In the world we live in, all it can do is prolong the agony.

Anyway. Yesterday was also the day for the House State Affairs Committee hearing on HB2, the omnibus anti-abortion bill. As before, BOR is liveblogging things, so check over there for the latest updates. I’ll report on it after the hearing is over. The Trib has more.

UPDATE: As expected, the show hearing in the House ended at 12:01 AM, with the committee voting the bill out afterward on partisan lines 8-3. The Observer and Texpatriate have more.

Monday House action

The main action on Monday in the House was the House Redistricting Committee hearing. Where there’s a redistricting hearing, there’s Greg with a liveblogging session. Pay close attention to the stuff Greg writes about the questions that the Dems, in particular Rep. Trey Martinez-Fischer (TMF) are asking, because they’re all about the future court fights. A big part of this has to do with who is advising the committee on legal matters, and why the Attorney General is not being made to testify before the committee.

Rep. Trey Martinez-Fischer

TMF turns his attention to [David] Archer [of the Texas Legislative Council], asking if there are legal issues seen in [Rep. Yvonne] Davis’ map. Archer notes that the plan is within the committee’s “discretion.” This is pretty much what TMF wants to hear. [Rep.] Senfronia [Thompson] has some questions for Archer, affirming his redistricting bona fides, which leads TMF to follow up with questions to affirm his legal bona fides re: redistricting. He then turns his back & forth with a point that it is the Att. General that ultimately defines those legal points on behalf of the state. He’s trying to back Archer up to a point where Archer can’t offer the answer TMF is fishing for. Archer says he’s “not trying to pass the buck …”, but he seems to realize the corner TMF is trying to paint him into. TMF notes that there is a limit to the advice that Lege Council can give, which builds from Archer’s own statements. He’s building the new court case for MALC pretty well. There are points in this line of questioning that are pure genius to observe. Archer is doing his best to just not break down and say: “Yeah, you need to talk to the Att. General’s office about that.”

TMF is done with Archer for now. Davis follows up by asking Archer about Sec. 2. This is going to be her strongest case for her plan being “legally required.” Ultimately, that definition comes down to the mood of the chair, the barometric pressure, and a number of other issues having nothing to do with law. But it’s a good marker for her to put down on this plan. Davis is exasperated with his analysis, saying he’s not being helpful to the committee by not giving any solid yesses and nos. The nut of this is that Archer’s position with the Lege Council isn’t an advocacy position, it’s a non-partisan role. With that, Davis picks up on TMF’s bigger argument – that this isn’t helping the committee determine what is legally required. It’s coming across as picking on Archer a little (something that TMF avoids in his questioning). But this is aimed at the court, not [David] Archer.


TMF picks up his opening from [Rep. Jason] Villalba’s questioning, asking again whether Archer is the best person to testify. Let me repeat: Villalba not only extracted testimony from Archer that wasn’t helpful to his side, but he also allows TMF to work in a further point about the inadequacy of Lege Council to be the ones offering legal advice to the committee. He also asks whether Archer would advise that there should be more minority-opportunity districts. Archer begins by answering that he “sees opportunities” but concludes with a “no.” TMF is also asking more questions that sidestep whether or not he thinks Lege Council is the appropriate resource for the committee. This is some more impressive TMF-ery. If the state wants to make the case that Lege Council is perfectly valid and fine, then expect comments like “sees opportunities” to come back around in the courts. This is the grand pitfall of the Lege Council not being in a position to advocate for anything – Archer is obviously trying to be neutral to all sides, but the flipside of that approach is that they aren’t going to say that the interim map is a solid slam dunk that doesn’t need tweaking. It gives TMF the ability to take Archer’s comments to court and get some kind of win (major or minor) regardless of whether the Att. General’s unwillingness to testify is ruled significant. Seriously, this is better than Perry Mason reruns. Along the same lines as above, TMF asks Archer to clarify his comment about “minimizing risk” and “insulation of risk” by taking more legislative action on the map. This won’t be the last time we hear those terms.

[Rep. Richard] Raymond follows that up with some clarity on whether a plan passed by the Lege would have to get preclearance from the DOJ (Yes, it will). Raymond then replays some history by noting that the AG’s office took the preclearance route of the DC Circuit court rather than DOJ last time. Archer notes that the AG has the same discretion of where to take preclearance this time around. Bottom line: I think we can expect this to go back through the DC court.

Texas Redistricting has a more concise wrapup. Both note that HB3, the bill for the House, passed 9-5 when motioned to a vote, but that’s not a majority of the committee and thus technically can’t be brought to the full floor. Instead, HB1 – the bill that does all of three of the affected bodies – was brought up and passed along part lines, despite objections that it brings up the same measure, since HB2 (the Senate bill) had already been approved. It’s getting wild around here, so be on high alert for shenanigans and points of order. I suspect that in the end the House will be as pro forma as the Senate was, and will do whatever it needs to do to get the maps approved.

There were other items of business in the House as well. The possibilities for the Public Integrity Unit warranted their own post. On the matter of the recent items added to the session call, these are the words of a House Speaker who has to deal with wingnut abortion legislation but isn’t exactly thrilled about it.

The House State Affairs Committee is expected to have a hearing on abortion bills Thursday, with consideration by the full chamber possible this weekend.


“I haven’t seen a bill come from the Senate yet, but I would assume that there would be support in the House, yes,” House Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, said Monday.

Asked about Perry adding the abortion issue to the agenda, Straus said, “It’s the governor’s prerogative to add issues to a special session. He controls the agenda during a special session. It’s certainly a right he exercises freely.”

The Senate is expected to approve the bill that was voted out of committee on Friday today. The session ends on the 25th, and while Perry can call more sessions till the cows come home, if this or any other bill hasn’t passed by then, it would have to start over from scratch in a new session.

Finally, a panel of House members will join Perry and Abbott in calling on President Obama to reconsider the denial of federal emergency aid to West. I don’t have any issue with that, though you’d thin that the Congressional delegation, including our two Senators, would be the ones to take the lead on this.

Weekend redistricting update

I couldn’t find any news coverage from Saturday’s Senate Redistricting Committee hearing at UH, so you should read Greg’s liveblog of the event to find out what happened. The roadshow is in San Antonio today, and there will be two more after that, the Senate in Austin and the House in Houston, both on Wednesday. Where all this goes from there, I have no idea, though of course Texas Redistricting does.

In the meantime, via Texas Redistricting, Rick Perry and David Dewhurst attempt to justify the session and the attempt to ratify the interim maps without any feedback or public involvement, while Rep. Chris Turner pushes back. A roundup of more press coverage is here. Last but not least, be sure to read this explanation of what “candidate of choice” means, since that was something several witnesses at the Saturday hearing were not clear on. We’ll see what the committees do after the hearings are over.

Crowdsourcing legislation update

Back in October, I noted an effort by the Texas Senate Committee on Business and Commerce, which is presided over by state Sen. John Carona, to crowdsource its upcoming hearings on payday lending. The Statesman has a report on how things have gone so far.

Source: Noise To Signal

Several times in recent months, the Senate panel and the Joint Committee on Oversight of Higher Education Governance, Excellence and Transparency have used Twitter, live blogs and other online tools to try to broaden citizen involvement.

“I absolutely love it,” said state Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, chairwoman of the Senate Higher Education Committee and a co-chair of the joint committee. “We don’t make as many copies as we used to, and that saves money, because it’s all online in real time. People can participate from any point in the state without coming to Austin, and it’s much easier for them to be involved.”

For Zaffirini and other lawmakers, a switch to using online meeting software, streaming video and other Internet options has allowed them to avoid some travel expenses and to circulate documents and draft proposals without incurring copying charges.

A live blog of a meeting earlier this month of the Senate Business and Commerce Committee got nearly 1,000 hits — a record, said committee director Steven Polunsky.

In the online blogs, updates about testimony, research materials and written testimony by witnesses are posted instantly.

Viewers can watch and submit their feedback or ask questions. The process is more interactive than simply streaming video of the hearing online.

To assist tech-savvy Texans who attend the Capitol hearings, the Senate panel is now posting QR codes — those box-shaped matrix barcodes used widely by businesses — to allow smartphone users to quickly find the committee’s website.

That lets people in the audience at the hearing participate, as well, as the session is under way.

Polunsky said the changes have been “very well received” by the public.

Sounds good so far. As long as this is being used as an enhancement to hearings and not as a substitute for having them in other parts of the state, it’s all good. I’d say the logical next steps are to incorporate Skype or some other webcam technology and allow remote testimony, and to take questions from the feedback given during the hearings. I’m sure this will evolve in ways none of us currently anticipate, and that’s fine. The whole idea is to improve and build on what we currently do. More information, and more ways to access it effectively, are good things.

I expressed my concerns about this in that previous post. Some unnamed critics express theirs in this story:

Though proponents of online legislating predict it could play a larger role when the Legislature reconvenes in 2013, questions remain about just how available the information might be to many Texans who don’t have the time to sit at a computer and monitor or participate in a hearing or who might not use Twitter or even have a computer.

Um, just how available is any of this information now to Texans who don’t have a computer? I don’t recall seeing any newspaper stories about either of the hearings referenced in this story. Given the cutbacks in the news industry and the sharp reduction of actual reporters filing actual stories from the Lege, the only way anyone would know anything about this stuff is online. Like I said, unless this is used to substitute Austin-based hearings for hearings that would have been held elsewhere in the state, it’s an enhancement to what we have now. If we’re really worried about disconnected people being left behind, let’s work on ensuring there are fewer disconnected people.

Day One at the SBOE

Here’s your TFN Insider coverage of today’s SBOE science hearings. In Part I of the hearings, we find that the SBOE may not be such a major factor in school curriculum any more:

10:20  – Board members are quizzing the commissioner about how the new rules governing the purchase of instructional materials — changes codified in Senate Bill 6, passed during the legislative session and signed by the governor earlier this week — will play out in school districts. Commissioner Scott rightly notes that the law represents a sea-change in the way the schools purchase materials.Note: TFN is putting the finishing touches on a comprehensive analysis of this new law and its likely effects on the state board’s role in vetting and approving classroom materials. We plan to publish that analysis in the coming weeks. TFN communications director Dan Quinn previewed our conclusions in a story in today’s USA Today: “It has the great potential to diminish the influence of the State Board of Education.”

And we find that maybe, just maybe, the winds have shifted a bit:

11:20 – Interesting news out of the SBOE Committee on Instruction meeting earlier this morning. That five-member committee has long been dominated by far-right members, but there are signs that a change is coming. The committee’s first order of business today was to elect a new chair, after Barbara Cargill announced she was stepping down. In a move that seemed to surprise Cargill, George Clayton, R-Dallas, nominated new board member Marsha Farney, R-Georgetown, as chair. Clayton and Farney, though conservative, have been ostracized by Cargill and the far-right faction. Cargill immediately nominated fellow far-right conservative Terri Leo, R-Spring, and the vote was deadlocked at two votes for each candidate. Democratic board member Mary Helen Berlanga, D-Corpus Christi, is absent from today’s meetings, so the committee moved to postpone the election of chair until the September meeting when Berlanga will be present. Since there is no love lost between Berlanga and the far-right bloc, it seems likely that she will vote for Farney at the September meeting. Could this be a coup, signaling a return to common sense on this critical committee?

We can only hope. In Part II we find that all those annoying pro-science testifiers are making Ken Mercer and David Bradley cry, and in Part I of the debate, we find there’s nothing to be alarmed about just yet. Which counts as good news with the SBOE. Here’s Steven Schafersman‘s coverage; Josh Rosenau has weighed in on Twitter but not yet on his blog. All the Twitter action is on the #SBOE hashtag if you’re into that sort of thing.

Finally, an object lesson in not being able to do more with less:

With one-third fewer people, the Texas Education Agency just can’t do everything it used to do.

State Board of Education members were were told on multiple occasions this morning that a lack of time and staffers had prevented the agency from doing some of the prep work that it would have done previously, such as creating a briefing book on new legislation.

Citing similar constraints, agency staffers said they had yet to produce rules for the implementation of Senate Bill 6, which fundamentally changes how school districts can use state dollars to buy instructional materials and technology. It was passed during the special session last month.

School districts, for example, are waiting to learn how much they will get under the new system to cover the cost of textbooks, hardware, software and other expenses associated with disseminating lessons to students.

Sometimes, when you fire a bunch of people, stuff just doesn’t get done. Funny how that works, isn’t it?

UPDATE: So far, so good. On to tomorrow.

UPDATE: The Trib has more.

The last hearings on Council redistricting

Lots of action, and lots of alternatives, at the two Council meetings on Wednesday.

Hispanic civic leaders on Wednesday presented an alternative redistricting map for the Houston City Council that creates a third district on the city’s southwest side where they said a Latino would have “a fighting chance” to win.

Fifteen other alternatives to the map Mayor Annise Parker’s administration unveiled two weeks ago had been submitted to city planning staff as of Wednesday afternoon, including one that would scrap the city’s five at-large seats in favor of 16 single-member districts, department spokeswoman Suzy Hartgrove said.


More than 40 Latino civic groups backed the map, which includes a District K based around Gulfton and Sharps­town.

That proposed district would have a voting-age Hispanic population of 59.4 percent, better than the 51 percent figures that represent Latinos’ best chance for a third seat in the administration’s map.

“This whole process is about putting a community of interest together so that they can have the opportunity to elect – there’s no guarantee – the candidate of their choice,” said political consultant Robert Jara, who presented the map. “It would give a Latino in that district a fighting chance to win.”

You can see the Jara map here, or if you prefer a Google Map view, here. For and analysis of this map, I refer you to Greg, who liveblogged both the morning and evening sessions in great detail, and provided links to a couple of other alternatives, including one of his own. At this point I think it’s likely that some map other than the city’s original one gets adopted, though we probably haven’t seen that exact map yet. Jara’s map did draw some opposition:

Rogene Calvert, president of the Asian Chamber of Commerce, said her community supports Latinos’ push for a third district, but said Jara’s proposal splits “Asiatown,” in the Bellaire Boulevard corridor.

“We can work out a plausible and workable solution,” she said. But the proposal “as of this morning is not acceptable to the Asian-American community.”

Jara said his group was discussing a change that could address Calvert’s concerns.

A modified version of the Jara map that resolves this issue could well have enough support to get adopted. Whether it really does give a Latino candidate a “fighting chance” – check those CVAP numbers in Greg’s post – remains to be seen. I believe May 11 is the target date for a map to be formally proposed and discussed by Council, and the 18th is the final vote. Houston Politics has more.

The next step for voter ID

Very likely, the courthouse.

While the Democrats have little chance of stopping the bill from getting the votes to pass, this particular piece of legislation may very well be tied up in lawsuits for years. And today, Democrats can lay some of the groundwork for those future cases.

As I wrote when the Senate passed this piece of legislation, this particular voter ID bill would be the most stringent in the nation—more stringent, even, than the Indiana bill that it’s based on. Currently, it only allows five forms of photo identification and only exempts people over 70. The Indiana law allows student IDs from state universities to count—our version doesn’t. And while the Indiana version gives folks missing suitable ID ten days after they voted to bring it in, the Texas version only gives voters six days. Many worry the bill would suppress voter turnout, particularly among the poor and black and Latino voters. In fact, the legislation is so dramatic that after it passed the Senate, I called Wendy Weiser, the director of Brennan Center’s Democracy Program. In addition to having one of the better titles I’ve heard, Weiser is an expert on voting rights.

Weiser said Texas was going to have a tough time implementing the law—despite the widespread legislative support. That’s because our fine state is one of seven singled out in the Voting Rights Act Section 5. Thanks to our history of discriminatory election law—poll taxes, literacy tests, etc. the Voting Rights Act requires that we get the okay from the Department of Justice or the courts before implementing certain changes to our election law, a process known as “preclearance.”

Because of its stringency, this bill will undoubtedly get a close look—and Weiser said that the legislative debate around the bill can play a role in determining whether or not it violatese the Voting Rights Act. For instance, if the Legislature rejects amendments that would make it easier for certain groups to obtain IDs, that could send up red flags for the Department of Justice. The legislative debate, Weiser said, “is relevant the extent to which the state takes proactive efforts to make sure that law is not excluding groups.”

This would be why GOP Caucus Chair Larry Taylor wanted Democrats to keep quiet and allow the bill to pass as it inevitably would without any fuss. This would also be why it’s never a good idea to take advice from your political counterparts. Fortunately, the Democrats are smart enough to recognize this for what it is, and in the end they stalled the House vote for at least a day via a point of order. That sent the bill back to the Calendars committee, where this issue was fixed and the bill voted out again, so the process can repeat itself as early as Wednesday. This would also be why Governor Perry declared voter ID and all those other silly, pointless things “emergency” items: It put them at the front of the calendar, which leaves sufficient time to correct errors like this one, which was about “days” versus “business days”. Later on in the session, what kills these bills isn’t necessarily the point of order but the lack of time to go through committee again.

Anyway. Greg does his usual bang-up job of liveblogging, which you need to read to understand just how ridiculous this exercise is. Stace, Eileen, Texas Politics, TrailBlazers, and Postcards have more.

It’s official – Council will expand

Very good news.

Council voted today to declare that the city’s population is 2.1 million. The number was a trigger point that mandates the city add a 15th and 16th council seat by the city charter.


After much debate that included a special meeting yesterday, the council voted 13-1 to expand. Only Council Member Brenda Stardig voted against the item. Council Member Mike Sullivan, who had repeatedly spoken out against expansion, in the end voted with the majority.

Hallelujah. It’s gratifying to see that in the end, even (most of) those who were openly critical of this effort did the right thing and supported it. There may yet be litigation, but the 13-1 Council vote is a strong statement, and I’d say it’s unlikely that such litigation would succeed in stopping the redistricting. The rumor mill about who’s going to run for what will kick into a higher gear shortly. See Greg for another liveblog of the Council meeting, this op-ed by City Controller Ronald Green in favor of adding the two districts, and this report by Jerry Wood that explains in detail why the city’s population is indeed over 2.1 million for more.

UPDATE: Here’s the Chron story about the Council vote.

More Council redistricting drama

Greg liveblogs today’s special City Council meeting on the Census population report and Council redistricting. Read it for a blow-by-blow account of where individual Council members are standing, or which way they’re leaning, on the question. This could be a very close vote.

The Chron summarizes the issues in an editorial.

Now, a group of mostly Anglo and conservative district council members is attempting to undermine those multiple agreements by fighting the expansion on demographic, financial and partisan grounds. Their reasoning is untenable and would lead the city into an expensive legal cul-de-sac.

First the demographics. The recently announced U.S. Census results listed the city’s population in April 2010 as 2,099,451, or 549 people short of 2.1 million. Opponents of expansion have seized on that number to claim expansion is not legally justified. However, in a report to City Council, consultant Jerry Wood identified ample errors in the census enumeration. He concluded that just by adding neighborhoods mistakenly put outside the city limits, Houston’s population would be over the magic figure. The city has filed an appeal challenging the census totals.

The other issues raised by opponents — the costs of two new council offices and supposed political manipulation to put more liberals on the non-partisan council — do not touch the essence of the matter. The city is legally bound to carry out redistricting and expansion.

Mayor Annise Parker notes that whichever route council takes, the city likely will be sued by one faction or another. But with the extensive legal commitments in the past for expansion, she says she’d “rather be on the side of history.”

Yes. That. We had a deal, we need to live up to it. I’ve yet to see a convincing argument against that.

Dr. Murray adds on.

Let us suppose a majority of council refuses to follow through on the nine-to-eleven expansion of districts. That refusal will absolutely assure the City is sued. A trial, at great expense, will follow sometime down the road As an expert witness in redistricting litigation since 1971, I do not think the defenders of no action can find a credible expert to testify that, as of whatever day in 2011 or 2012 or 2013, when the expert is in the witness box, that there are fewer than 2.1 million in the city. That means the city almost certainly loses the case, and then must compensate the attorneys who brought the action, as well as cover their own litigation expenses.

Murray points out that Houston grew by an average of almost 15,000 residents per year last decade. Even if you agree that the Census counted every last person in Houston as of last April, do we really think we’re still 500-some people short of 2.1 million today?

Mary Benton notes that the Texas Asian American Redistricting Initiative (TAARI), a project of the Washington, D.C.-based Asian American Justice Center, has announced its support of proceeding with the two extra Council districts. I think we’re going to need to hear from more groups like this.

Campos and Stace discuss redistricting and Kingwood. Let’s just say that some parts of the city dislike the idea of two more Council seats than some others do.

Finally, here’s a letter from the Montie Beach Civic Club, advocating for it and the Brooke Smith subdivision to be kept with the rest of the Heights in a single City Council district. This is in conjunction with the One Heights, One District movement, about which you can lean more here or send email to [email protected] for more information.

UPDATE: Here’s a further update from Greg.


Greg attends the Houston redistricting hearing so you don’t have to, and liveblogs it till the bitter end, then follows it up with a summary report. The Chron has a bunch of related Tweets from the hearing here. And Michael Hurta had a report from the earlier hearing in Austin. So now you know.

Greg and KT also have overviews of what Congressional redistricting may look like, with Greg commenting on this post in The Fix about how it’s all about playing defense for the Republicans now, which will make the dynamic very different than what we’ve seen before. While there still are a couple of Democrats for them to target, the sheer amount of turf they now have to defend changes the calculus entirely. It’ll be fun to watch, that’s for sure.

Are you ready for some redistricting?

If you have some free time this Saturday, Greg tells you that there will be a redistricting committee hearing here in Houston:

Saturday, November 20, 2010
10:00 am

University of Houston Athletic/Alumni Center
O’Quinn Great Hall
3100 Cullen Boulevard
Houston, Texas 77004

Be there, or read about it in his liveblogging later. See here for more.

“Houston Have Your Say: Energy, Economy & Environment”

Time again for another edition of Houston Have Your Say on KUHT:

Worried about air quality? Concerned about environmental regulation costing jobs in the Houston region? Join Patricia Gras for Houston Have Your Say: Energy, Economy & Environment: Making It Work on Tuesday, October 26 at 7pm. This live town hall forum will discuss finding the balance between Houston’s energy needs, environment concerns and sustaining a strong economy. Join us as we search for solutions together.

Do you have a question or comment you would like addressed during the town hall forum? You can send an e-mail to [email protected]

Be sure to visit our previous town hall meeting sites for more information:

Houston Have Your Say: Education
Houston Have Your Say: Immigration
Houston Have Your Say: Houston’s Future Growth
Houston Have Your Say: Economy
Houston Have Your Say: Health Care Reform

Ree-C Murphey, Michael Reed, and I will be there as usual to provide color commentary on their live chat. As was the case with the education episode, the conversation will continue online for about a half hour after the live TV broadcast ends. Come join in on the discussion tonight at 7.

UPDATE: Come join the conversation here.

The first candidate forum

What do you get when you have a gubernatorial candidate forum without Governor Perry? Pretty much the same as what you’d have with him, but without the distraction of his pathetic attempts to defend his record.

The League of Women Voters forum before about 275 people at the Kathleen C. Cailloux Theater in Kerrville gave Democrat Bill White and Libertarian Kathie Glass, both of Houston, the opportunity to make their case against Perry without rebuttal. The event was carried only on local television, but was available statewide on the Internet.

White chastised Perry, saying he has run his office as a “political machine” and a “revolving door” for lobbyists. White said Perry wants to avoid accountability for his record of 10 years in office.

“Rick Perry will see how many times he can say (President) Obama and liberal in slick T.V. commercials and see if that will get him by with 51 percent of the vote,” White said. “In prior elections, he attacks his opponents with negative campaigns, takes credit for what’s good and accepts no responsibility for a lot of mismanagement.”

White said Perry should not be allowed to avoid forums where the questions come from citizens in the audience.

“If you don’t have the guts to get up here on stage and answer to the taxpayers who pay your salary, then you shouldn’t be re-elected governor,” White said.

That’s more or less what I expected. As you can see from Phillip’s liveblog, there was a fair amount of substance in the Perry-less conversation, but the story is what was said about him. You’d think a candidate would want to be there for himself and get his own licks in rather than depend on his spokesbeing after the fact, but then you’re not Rick Perry. For which you are no doubt grateful.

Richie re-elected as TDP Chair, Two-Step survives

The first, Boyd Ritchie’s re-election as TDP Chair, was expected. The second was more unexpected.

Texas Democrats this afternoon overwhelmingly rejected a proposal to scrap the Texas Two-Step system of awarding presidential delegates through both a primary and caucuses.

Those pushing for change lost a preliminary fight in a rules committee meeting earlier today. But they had enough support to bring the matter to debate on the convention floor.

Some background is here, the Trib has a detailed writeup, and Bob Moser has more.

Also of interest yesterday was the new media panel (aside to Abby Rapoport – it’s Martha Griffin, not Grimes) and the speeches by downballot candidates. Stace, among others, has the prepared remarks of Lite Guv candidate Linda Chavez-Thompson; I have the speech given by Rep. Senfronia Thompson on behalf of Hank Gilbert, whose mother passed away on Thursday, beneath the fold. Martha, PDiddie and PDiddie again, The Texas Blue, John Coby, and Texas Politics have more.


Corpus coverage

Due to unavoidable schedule conflicts, I’m not down in Corpus Christi this weekend for the TDP convention. Here are some of the places where I’ll be following what’s going on:

The Trib’s liveblog

Abby Rapoport

Bob Moser

John Coby

David Ortez



Dos Centavos


Letters from Texas

Eye on Williamson

Here’s the Chron story from yesterday. Bill White’s speech, the written version of which is reproduced below, was apparently very well received. (The Texas Politics blog has a few photos) Since the subject of Democratic excitement and the “enthusiasm gap” came up in a couple of these accounts, I’m just going to say something that I hope should be obvious: If you’re a Democrat, and you’re not fired up about voting Rick Perry’s greedy, corrupt ass out of the Governor’s Mansion, you need to see a doctor. I can’t speak for anywhere else in the country, but I really don’t think Texas Democrats are going to have much trouble getting motivated for this election.


The clown show finally calls it a wrap

I don’t know about you, but I’m ready for some other state to be the national laughingstock again. The Court of Criminal Appeals gives it a good run for its money, but you just can’t out-embarrass the SBOE, and every time they meet it gets worse. All I can say is thank goodness that two of the worst of these clowns will never hold public office again.

Anyway, here’s your wrapup from the Day Two festivities, which carried over a few minutes past midnight and into Day Three, from the Trib, TFN, and Abby Rapoport. And here’s your Day Three liveblogging and other reports, from TFN, the Trib, TFN again, the Trib again, Abby Rapoport, and Steven Schafersman. Mainstream media coverage is here, here, and here. Burka and Stace also weigh in, and of course Martha was working it on Twitter. May those who had to endure all this get a nice long vacation to recover their sanity.

Most of the heavy lifting came during Thursday’s marathon session. Friday was about finishing touches and final votes. The highlight was the restoration of Thomas Jefferson to the world history curriculum, reversing a decision that has drawn the most derision from pretty much everywhere on the planet. That’s good for TJ, but not so much for his fellow Enlightenment figure James Madison, who didn’t make the cut. The lowlight, if you have to pick just one, was the Board’s ratification of the idea that there is no “separation of church and state”. As noted by the Trib:

[M]embers this afternoon passed an amendment to the state’s socials studies standards calling for students to “contrast” the intent of the nation’s founders with the notion of separation of church and state.

It reads: “Examine the reasons the Founding Fathers protected religious freedom in America and guaranteed its free exercise by saying that Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, and compare and contrast this to the phrase, ‘separation of church and state.’”

The motion came from Bob Craig, R-Lubbock, a moderate Republican who worked on the language with arch-conservative former chair Don McLeroy, R-Bryan. With the exception of the adding the word “compare” along with “contrast” and including some verbiage directly from the First Amendment, what the board passed mirrored what McLeroy had originally proposed.

I have several statements, from the Texas Freedom Network, Bill White, State Rep. Mike Villarreal, and Fort Bend County Democratic Party Chair Stephen Brown, about this travesty beneath the fold. Texas Politics has a reaction from US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, who echoes former Bush Education Secretary Rod Paige. The only thing we can do about this is elect some better SBOE members. Three such candidates running this year are Judy Jennings, Rebecca Bell-Metereau, and Michael Soto. The TDP got video statements from all three at the meeting, which you can see below:

Here’s a video of TFN President Kathy Miller, whose group has been a stalwart all throughout this process and which deserves your support as much as any candidate:

We can’t afford any more of this crap. We have a chance to do something about it this year. Please help these folks out.


Back to the clown show

So here’s a bunch of coverage from yesterday’s SBOE hearings: from the Chron, the DMN, the Statesman, the Trib, TFN, and BOR. Very short summary: Many people testified. Some said crazy things. Others begged the SBOE to not enshrine crazy things in the standard social studies curriculum. Some Democratic lawmakers reminded the SBOE that funding for new textbooks is not assured, so maybe they ought to rethink the whole enshrining-crazy-things-in-the-standard-social-studies-curriculum idea. The SBOE responded by sticking out its tongue and saying “NEENER NEENER NEENER!” I think that about covers it.

So on we go from there, with more debate and the expected vote on Friday. In the meantime, TFN released some interesting poll results this morning:

Texas voters believe the public school curriculum should be set by teachers and scholars, not politicians. Nearly three-quarters of Texas voters (72 percent) say that teachers and academic scholars should be responsible for writing curriculum standards and textbook requirements for Texas’ public schools. Only 19 percent prefer that an elected school board decide curriculum.

Support for teachers and experts making curriculum decisions is broad, extends across partisan lines, and includes parents of young children. Self-identified Republicans (63 percent) and political independents (76 percent) agree that politicians should not decide the content of children’s education. Overall, 78 percent of parents prefer that teachers and scholars make curriculum decisions, with 69 percent feeling that way strongly.

The majority of Texas voters believe that separation of church and state is a key principle of the Constitution. Sixty-eight percent of likely voters agree that it is a core principle, including 51 percent who strongly agree. Only one-quarter of voters (26 percent) disagree that the separation of church and state is a key principle of the Constitution.

Agreement about the separation of church and state as a core tenet of the Constitution extends across party lines. Nearly 6-in-10 Republicans (59 percent) believe in the importance of this principle, as well as 76 percent of Democrats and 74 percent of political independents.

You can see more at the link. I’ll be honest, if you had asked me yesterday what percentage of the public I thought believed that “separation of church and state is a key principle of the Constitution”, I’d have pegged it in the 35-40% range. Not to put too fine a point on it, but a lot of people are pretty hazy about what’s in the Constitution and what it means. I’d feel better about this result if I thought it would translate to better electoral results in SBOE races, but too often that connection fails to be made. Happily, this year has been somewhat of an exception to that so far. May it continue on in November.

Anyway. Your liveblogging from TFN is here and here. I missed including Steven Schafersman and his work for the Observer yesterday – you can see that effort here, and today’s here. I found that via Martha, who’s also busy covering the hearings, with most of her updates on Twitter. Other updates can be found on Texas Politics and Postcards.

UPDATE: Still more from TFN. Gonna be a late night.

And the clown show gets underway again

Here’s your TFN liveblogging of today’s SBOE social studies hearings. Brian Thevenot of The Trib is also there, and he reports that an interesting character has asked the Board to slow down.

Former U.S. Secretary of Education and Houston Superintendent Rod Paige this morning asked the State Board of Education to delay adopting its new textbook standards, saying they had “swung too far” to the ideological right and diminished the importance of civil rights and slavery.

Asked after his comments by board member Rene Nunez, D-El Paso, whether the board should delay a final vote expected on Friday, Paige said: “Absolutely.”

In a prepared remarks and answers to board questions, Paige said the board needs to throw aside its history of making standards an ideological and political battleground. He acknowledged that previous boards dominated by more liberal members had committed the same offense, but asked the current board to “narrow the swing of the pendulum.”

“We in Texas have allowed ourselves to get into a position where we’ve allowed ideology to drive and define the standards of our Texas curriculum. We’ve swung from liberal to conservative with members of the board. It’s unreasonable to expect you to make decisions without some reference to your ideology, but we’ve swung too far from one way to the next, and I’m asking you to narrow the swing,” Paige said.

There’s no question that the Board does not want to wait, but as Thevenot wrote earlier, they may not have a choice. The same budget economics that forced a delay in purchasing new science textbooks are at work with social studies textbooks as well.

The financing delay likely will have the domino effect of pushing back legislative appropriations for new social studies books to the 2015 legislative session, said Texas Education Agency spokeswoman Debbie Ratcliffe.

“It’s not clear when or if the new books will be published,” she said of science texts after Tuesday’s preliminary vote, which will have to be finalized Friday. She called the future of social studies books “a wildcard.” At the same time, the TEA and the instructional materials industry, both digital and print, are pushing forward under new legislation that both promotes electronic textbook development and weakens the SBOE’s historic purview over statewide curriculum.

“It could be a whole new publishing world by then,” Ratcliffe said. “It’s pretty much a giant puzzle.”

Even better, if the textbooks do get pushed back till then, the newer Board members are at least open to the idea of revisiting this whole sorry mess and doing it right.

Meanwhile, two Repubicans who will likely be joining the board in January — Thomas Ratliff and George Clayton, who each face token Libertarian opposition in the fall — along with a Democrat in a hotly contested race — Judy Jennings — said in interviews this week that they would support reopening the standards process in January, after they are sworn in, if consensus emerged on the newly constituted board. “I would defer to somebody who has been on the board for a while to approach me to reopen the standards,” said Ratliff, who defeated McLeroy. “But if they asked, I’d vote ‘yes’ to revisit.” Jennings and Clayton lent similar tentative support to the prospect of turning back the changes, which both have criticized in their campaigns.

“The State Board of Education isn’t supposed to be that damned interesting,” Clayton said.

You can say that again. More, so much more, from:

Musings (see also her Twitter feed)
Abby Rapoport
State Rep. Mike Villarreal
Hair Balls
Kate Alexander
Zahira Torres
Garry Scharrer

UPDATE: More from Abby Rapoport, Peggy Fikac, and Kate Alexander.

Wrapup from “Houston Have Your Say: Education Crisis”

I thought last night’s broadcast of Houston Have Your Say: Education Crisis went very well. You can see rebroadcasts of the show on Thursday, April 22, at 1:00 am; Friday, April 23, at 8:00 pm; and Sunday, April 25, at 4:00 pm; you can also watch it online. There will be a web-only broadcast of the 30-minute after-show discussion, which should be up later today, and of course you can see the live chat that Ree-C Murphey, Mike Reed, and I helped lead. We got a lot of feedback from folks who were watching, so check it out.

Two comments from the show that stuck in my mind: One, from a panelist whose name I did not catch, was basically that everyone in the room knew what needed to be done to improve educational outcomes. It’s just a matter of having the willpower to actually do them. The other, made during the post-show discussion, was from State Rep. Scott Hochberg, who observed that in recent years, the Legislature has had a sizable surplus at its disposal, but instead of allocating any of that money towards some of the things that everyone knows would improve education – things like pre-K and providing for more time for classroom instruction – they chose instead to cut property taxes. Which, as we know, is what has created the structural deficit in the budget that we are now dealing with. He said that until we choose to do the things we know we need to do, we’ll continue to be right where we are now (and where we’ve been before), talking about it instead.

Join the chat for Houston Have Your Say

I’m here at the KUHT studios for Houston Have Your Say: Education Crisis. There’s a Cover It Live chat available, so head over and let us know what you have to say about it. There’s a lot of brainpower among the guests they’ve brought in for the discussions. We’ll be going till 8:30. See you there!

Houston, Have Your Say on education

I’ve had a lot to say about public education and related issues lately, from school finance to HISD and so forth. This coming Tuesday, Houston PBS station KUHT will have another episode of Houston Have Your Say to discuss the issue.

In the public school system of the Greater Houston region, the dropout rate is high, the graduation rate is low, and there are growing concerns about the quality of its teachers and the inequities in its funding structure. These are troubling issues for a metropolitan region seeking to distinguish itself as one of the best places to live and work in the 21st Century global community. HoustonPBS, in partnership with the Center for Houston’s Future, Houston Community Newspapers and KUHF Houston Public Radio, presents a rare opportunity for the public to have a voice in the discussion on the future of public education during the televised town hall forum Houston Have Your Say: Education Crisis.

Help shape the discussion. Do you have a question or comment about the state of education in the Houston region? Send an e-mail to [email protected]

As before, I’ll be there in the studio alongside Ree-C Murphy and Mike Reed of the Examiner newspapers to blog about it while it’s going on. Reed has a preview of the episode as well.

“Our public education system is at a crossroads of diversity, advances in technology and a global-based economy. We must act soon to make our public schools the example for others to follow in the future,” said [The Center for Houston’s Future] CEO and President, Catherine Mosbacher. “We hope to bring positive and measurable change in our region by keeping people engaged in this fundamental issue.”

One example of the topics to be explored: According to the Houston Area Survey, children of Latino immigrants, as well as U.S. born Latino and African American children in the Greater Houston region are attaining lower educational levels than their classmates, and yet the Latino population is growing at a faster rate than the rest of the population (Steve Klineberg, 2009). What can be done to address this achievement gap?

And via Mike Falick, here are some of the folks who will be in attendance to talk about it:

Some Confirmed Guests: Gayle Fallon, Houston Federation of Teachers, Former Education Secretary Rod Paige, Lori Vetters Greater Houston Partnership former Education Chair, Linda McNeil Rice University, Paula Harris, HISD Board, Mary Spangler HCC Chancellor, Tina Reyes University of Houston, State Reps. Rob Eissler and Scott Hochberg, Ann Stiles Project Grad, Michael Holthouse Prepared 4 Life, Carol Shattuck Collaborative for Children, Chris Barbic YES Prep., Richard Farias Tejano Center, Martha Salazar Zamora EdD HISD Asst. Superintendent, and many more.

It ought to be a lively and informative event. I’ve done several of these with Ree-C and Mike, and I’ve been impressed by the level of discourse each time. Tune in at 7 PM on Tuesday, April 20 to KUHT (Channel 8 on Comcast) and join in the discussion yourself.

The SBOE continues on its rampage

Sadly, despite the encouraging election results in the SBOE races last week, there’s still plenty of opportunity for the Board’s troglodyte caucus to wreak havoc on the schoolchildren of Texas.

The State Board of Education’s Hispanic and African American members clashed with its Anglo majority for hours today over how to present history to the state’s 4.7 million public school children.

Much of the conflict centered on the racial balance of historical figures that will be included in textbooks starting in the 2011-2012 school year. When sex or religion was added to the mix, temperatures boiled.

Members grew increasingly distraught over the process as they moved toward a preliminary adoption of new socials studies curriculum standards, set for Friday.

If it’s not too depressing, you can read the ongoing heroic efforts by the Texas Freedom Network to bring you all the gory details. The Trib, Dave Mann, Steve Schafersman, and Kate Alexander have more. The SBOE isn’t going to give up its title of Most Embarrassing Elected Body without a fight, that’s for sure.

Liveblogging the SBOE social studies hearings

No, not me. I’m not there, and besides, I’m no good at liveblogging. Here’s all the coverage you could need, from people who actually are good at this.

First and foremost, the indispensable Texas Freedom Network.

Stephen Schafersman, blogging for the Texas Observer.

Dave Mann, also with the Observer.

Brian Thevenot, writing for the Trib.

Eileen Smith, who’s more of a color commentator than play-by-play person, which for this kind of hearing makes her even more important.

Kate Alexander with the Statesman, and Gary Scharrer with the Houston Chronicle.

And finally, quote of the day goes to State Rep. Mike Villarreal:

I hope the SBOE does the right thing, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they show up on one of the Comedy Central Shows this week.

I certainly wouldn’t bet against it. From what I’ve seen, it looks like this may go late tonight, so I’ll add more links later. Happy reading!

Wrapping up the SBOE social studies debate

Apparently, the debate over the new social studies standards went on so long that the SBOE decided to put the rest of it off till March, meaning the final adoption will be in May. If only they could push it even farther back, say till 2011 or so. Anyway, take it away, TFN.

Texas Freedom Network President Kathy Miller pointed at the blatant politicization of social studies curriculum standards today as yet more evidence that the Legislature must act to protect the education of Texas schoolchildren.

“When partisan politicians take a wrecking ball to the work of teachers and scholars, you get a document that looks more like a party platform than a social studies curriculum,” Miller said. “The video archive of this week’s meeting would be a great primer for parents and lawmakers on how politics is undermining the education of Texas schoolchildren.”

Texas lawmakers in the last legislative session failed to pass any reforms that would rein in the board’s authority over curriculum and textbooks.

On Thursday and today, the state board moved to gut a year’s worth of work by teachers and scholars who drafted new curriculum standards for Texas public schools. Among the actions the board took this week:

– The board accepted an amendment that suggests McCarthyist smear tactics in the 1950s were justified.

– The board adopted a standard that specifically promotes the views of conservative icons such as Phyllis Schlafly, the Contract with America, the Heritage Foundation, the Moral Majority and the National Rifle Association, while deliberately ignoring progressive political figures.

– The board removed a specific requirement that students learn about the efforts of women and ethnic minorities to gain equal rights, replacing it with vague language about “various groups.”

– Board conservatives won approval for a variety of proposals that would promote partisan political positions on the role of government and taxation.

– The board even removed the concepts of justice and the common good from a list of characteristics of good citizenship.

On Thursday and Friday the state board debated and amended draft curriculum standards for Grades K-8 social studies classes and high school U.S. history. Board members voted today to postpone debate on other high school standards until March. That means the board will not be able to take a final vote on adopting new social studies curriculum standards until May.

You can read their final liveblogs here and here, along with the Trib’s reporting here, here, and here. We can’t vote some of these idiots out fast enough, that’s all I can say.

That was the debate that was

I’m generally not the debate-watching type, so I managed to find some other way to spend my Thursday evening that did not involve the Perry/Hutchison/Median tete-a-tete-a-tete. Plenty of other people did, however, some because they were paid to do so and some because they derive (sheer perverse) enjoyment from it. Some of those folks include:

Burka, who thought Rick Perry sounded better than he looked.

Bob Moser, who thought Perry sounded awful.

Eileen Smith, who wanted to know “Is this the best we can do?” (Hint: No).

BOR, who liveblogged and provided a statement from Bill White.

PDiddie, who rounded up other coverage, including a statement from Farouk Shami.

George Nasser, who scored it for KBH and said “if this is what we have to look forward to in the Republican primary, political fact-checkers are on the gravy train.” He also did a liveblog.

Team coverage from the Trib: Liveblogging, video, more video, analysis – the headline is “Not exactly a game-changer”, and links to other reports.

You will no doubt be shocked to learn that McBlogger was not impressed by any of the debate participants.

On the Move corrects a claim that Medina and KBH made about TxDOT.

Perry Vs World thought KBH needed to make the most of her limited opportunities to strike back at the frontrunning Perry, but didn’t quite do it.

RickVsKay agrees that “Kay never landed a big upper cut.”

Come and Take It has an open thread on the debate, and wonders if Perry really was as “aloof” as some have said.

My apologies to anyone I missed.

The SBOE takes on social studies

Somewhat surprisingly, nothing too horrible appears to have happened. Yet.

Kindergartners would learn about a Texas revolutionary and first-graders would discuss the idea of holding public officials accountable under proposals approved Thursday by the State Board of Education, which began reshaping the guidelines for social studies lessons.

The board was wading through dozens of amendments before an expected first vote on the new standards, which will dictate what some 4.8 million students from kindergarten through 12th grade are required to learn in social studies, history and economics classes for the next decade. A final vote is expected in March.

What’s decided in Texas could affect what school children elsewhere learn as well. The guidelines will be used by textbook publishers who develop material for the nation based on Texas, one of the largest markets.

Do remember that as was the case with the science standards, what happens now isn’t final. It’s the vote in March that really matters. For the full gory details of the testimony and debate, see the TFN blog here, here, and here – they’re on a dinner break right now, so there’s still more to come – and the Trib here and here.

White makes it official

Well, between a dead car battery, a preschool that closed early, and a wife that had an unbreakable noon appointment, I am at home instead of at the Bill White for Governor launch. At least I have Elise Hu’s liveblog to keep me informed. Here’s the release that Team White sent out at noon on the dot:

Today, after listening to thousands of Texans from all backgrounds, Bill White filed to run for Governor, pledging to fight for Texas’ future.

“I am proud of the people of Texas, and as Governor I will move us forward as America’s great state of opportunity,” White said. “I’ll be a Governor who challenges Texans to lead, not leave, the United States.”

White highlighted ways of creating new jobs with businesses small and large across the state. He emphasized that Texas could not be its best with skyrocketing insurance and electric rates and college tuition that increases faster than the incomes of Texans.

The son of San Antonio school teachers, White vowed to focus on improving educational achievement in K-12 grade levels, improving high school graduation rates, and reducing the costs of college.

White, a successful businessman, was first elected as Houston Mayor in 2003 and was twice re-elected with margins averaging 88%. He has been hailed as a strong leader and a problem-solver, with the Houston Chronicle noting that he has “deftly steered Houston through fiscal and tropical storms.”

During White’s administration, Houston led the nation’s cities in job growth, adding more jobs than 16 states combined. At the same time, he cut property tax rates five years in a row. After Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Ike, Bill White mobilized an effective disaster response including first responders, businesses and churches.

“I don’t have the polish of career politicians. But as a businessman and Mayor I know how to be accountable for results, not just rhetoric. I have a track record of bringing people together to get things done,” White said. “That’s what Texas needs now.”

Last December, White launched a U.S. Senate campaign that in 11 months attracted more than 1500 volunteers, more than 5500 contributors, and more than $6.5 million. He has visited 70 Texas counties to date.

This is the race I wanted him in from the beginning, and I can’t tell you how happy I am that it has happened. It was a long, strange trip to get here, to say the least, but getting there is what matters. It will be a tough campaign, but I’m as confident as I can be about it.

In related news, Hank Gilbert announced that he was dropping out of the Governor’s race, and will run instead for Ag Commish, which is where he started out. He also endorsed Farouk Shami for Governor. Whatever – next summer at the convention, when White is the nominee, no one will remember that. Time to move forward, we’re eleven months out.

Filing season opens for 2010

Today is the first day to file for the March 2010 primaries. BOR is following the action from Travis County. No surprises yet – those usually happen later in the period – so far it’s mostly incumbents filing for re-election. I’ve received a bunch of press releases related to that today. Of interest is one from Jeff Weems, who is running for Railroad Commissioner – I’m going to keep track of all the downballot statewide offices, since there are a few that don’t have a known candidate yet – and State Rep. Ruth Jones McClendon. The big one to watch for will be Lieutenant Governor. We’ll know a lot more about the state of the slate once that piece is in place. The state and county parties usually maintain spreadsheets of the filings as they come in, so I’ll peek in on those periodically to see where the action is. The deadline is Monday, January 4, so stay tuned.

Liveblogging tonight’s Mayoral debate

No, not me. David Ortez, over at Hair Balls. It’s just getting underway now. I’m sure Twitter will be lighting up with commentary as well, so head over there or run for the hills, as the case may be.

UPDATE: Here’s the Chron story on the debate, which not surprisingly was rather heated. Of interest:

During a heated 10 or 15 minutes in which the two were allowed to ask each other questions, Locke accused Parker of making an attack she knew to be baseless. He said he pledged to resign his partnership at the law firm Andrews Kurth at a forum in which she was present eight months ago.

“I’m going to give up my law practice,” he said.

She has repeatedly called on him to pledge that he will not return to the firm after his time as mayor, a step he has not yet taken.

At another point, Locke claimed never to have been a lobbyist, a statement that appears to be inaccurate. According to Texas Ethics Commission records, he was registered in 1999 as a lobbyist for the sports authority. Houston Chronicle archives also show that Locke was retained along with a variety of consultants to help a company win a lucrative airport concession contract.

The TEC records are here; search for “Locke, Gene L.” and you’ll find him. Here’s a link to the Chron archive story mentioned, with the key graf:

The Hudson Group includes businessman and concessionaire Gerald Wilson; entrepreneur Art Lopez, who also operates golf courses for the city; engineer Bobby Singh; and Brooks & Brooks, a company co-owned by Harlan Brooks of Harlan’s Bar-B-Que. Lobbying on their behalf are Andrews & Kurth attorney Gene Locke and consultant Kathryn McNeil.

So there you have it. More comments on the debate are in Miya’s post, with more on related matters from Martha and Nancy Sims.

The Mayoral forum at Discovery Green

In case you didn’t make it to the Mayoral forum at Discovery Green on Sunday, you’ll have another chance to see what happened later this week.

The four candidates vying to become Houston’s next mayor emerged from the first major debate of the campaign Sunday evening unscathed from any attacks or gaffes, choosing instead a style that may not have cost or won them any votes.

While they did not attack each other, they criticized the Metropolitan Transit Authority for lacking transparency and asserted that the city’s housing department made poor use of federal funding.

The fiscal challenges that will confront the race’s winner dominated most of the one-hour affair, as questions about crime, transportation, immigration and affordable housing led almost inevitably to the financial constraints that will likely shackle new ideas or policy initiatives.

The issues discussed and promises made by City Controller Annise Parker, Harris County Board of Education Trustee Roy Morales, former City Attorney Gene Locke and City Councilman Peter Brown differed little from the past few months on the campaign trail, but the event had a far more serious feel.

The four did not engage each other, which contributed to a civil, yet occasionally slow, tone before a packed upper room at The Grove restaurant near Discovery Green Park. The debate, which was sponsored by the League of Women Voters and moderated by KPRC, is scheduled to air at 9 p.m. Saturday.

All I can say is that I hope a lot of questions were asked about “how are you going to pay for that”. If you can’t wait till Friday to see what the candidates have to say for themselves, check out David Ortez’s liveblogging, or musings’ commentary. On a related note, the Chron will be hosting chat sessions with the three major Mayoral candidates; apparently, Roy hasn’t gotten back to them yet. The first one, a conversation with Peter Brown, is here, Annise Parker participated today, and Gene Locke is up on Wednesday at noon. Check ’em out.

Filings and endorsements

I’ve added several updates to my recent endorsements list. It’s not comprehensive, as it doesn’t include earlier endorsements, but it’s what I know of the recent activities. Endorsement lists added today were the Spring Branch Democrats and the Greater Houston Restaurant Association. I’ll keep adding to this post as I get more.

The filing deadline is this coming Wednesday, September 2, at 5 PM, and it will be followed by Council Member Melissa Noriega’s Let The Games Begin event. Martha continues to keep track of who has filed and who hasn’t done so yet. Council Member Ronald Green announced his filing for City Controller today (see press release beneath the fold), and I ran into Lane Lewis at City Hall Annex as he was on his way to file. Annise Parker did hers yesterday for Mayor – see Martha’s liveblog coverage for more. Gene Locke filed early, Peter Brown and Roy Morales haven’t done theirs yet. There’s always the potential for a surprise or two, so we’ll keep an eye on it right up till the last minute.