Houston Chronicle - The popular state purchasing program used for a $110 million no-bid contract now engulfed in scandal is likely to be revamped in the next few months, officials said this week.
At least two different bills to add safeguards to the Cooperative Contracts program are in the works, lawmakers said, and those in charge of the program are not expected to oppose reform.
...State Rep. Gary Elkins said this week he was thinking about introducing a bill that would require state agencies to consider three pre-approved vendors before making a purchase through the program. That already is encouraged, but not required.
The Friendswood Journal - The Texas Conservative Coalition Research Institute (TCCRI) announced the unanimous election of Senator Larry Taylor (R – Friendswood) as the new President of the Research Institute’s Board of Directors.
"It is an honor to accept the role of TCCRI President for the 2015-2016 term," Taylor said. "Like many other conservative legislators, I trust the valuable support TCCRI provides to help enact meaningful reform in Austin and I look forward to the opportunity to lead as we continue to be a part of moving this state forward."
Austin American-Statesman - Texas Senate budget writers appeared to reach bipartisan agreement Monday that the state needs an official definition for ‘border security’ so they and law enforcement can measure the effectiveness of a prolonged and state-bankrolled enforcement effort at the Texas-Mexico boundary.
The consensus came after Democratic members of the Senate Finance Committee – joined by one Republican – jumped on the lack of detail in the upper chamber’s proposed budget about how exactly to spend the $815 million the two-year spending plan allocates for border security efforts.
...“There have to be performance measures,” said state Sen. Kevin Eltife, R-Tyler.
“Christmas polls well in my house,” he continued, but “every dollar needs to be accounted for.”
Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham, agreed with Eltife: “We do need to define what border security is.”
Houston Business Journal - Sen. Brandon Creighton is still waiting for his phone call from Robert Eckels on details of a high-speed bullet train route between Houston and Dallas.
Eckels is the former Harris County judge and president of Texas Central Railway Co., the entity that is pushing the train initiative. Creighton is the new senator for a district that stretches from Magnolia to Beaumont. Creighton, R-Conroe, is definitely on the right side of the political aisle, but he's also an attorney and real estate developer who recognizes growth is coming, and coming quickly, to Montgomery County.
The Texas Tribune - Senate budget writers on Wednesday lit into Health and Human Services Executive Commissioner Kyle Janek, a former senator himself, in a hearing that concluded with another call for him to resign.
State Sen. Joan Huffman, R-Houston, is now the third lawmaker and first Republican to call on Janek to step down, reported the Houston Chronicle's Brian Rosenthal. All this has happened after a series of controversies developed over the past several months over procurement procedures at the agency as well as reimbursement of tuition for some agency staff. Rosenthal writes:
Huffman, who in 2008 replaced Janek in the Senate when she beat a candidate supported by a political group he funded, said she respects him and previously had held off on calling for him to step down, but decided after seeing how he carried himself during the hearing that it was in the best interest of the state for him to move on.
KXAN Austin - A bill filed Monday in the Texas Senate could make it easier for terminally ill patients to get access to potentially life-saving medication. The Andrea Sloan Right to Try Act would eliminate the 30-day waiting period at the Food and Drug Administration after a pharmaceutical company voluntarily gives an otherwise terminally-ill patient access to a safe but experimental medication.
...The Texas legislation, authored by Sen. Paul Bettencourt, R-Houston, would not require drug companies to provide an experimental drug and it does not remove the FDA from the compassionate use process. It allows insurance companies to cover the cost of the treatment, but does not require them to do so.
Texas House Republican Caucus - Today, House Republican Caucus Chairman Tan Parker announced the appointment of two positions critical for providing top quality member services during the legislative session. Representative Ron Simmons was named the Chairman of the Caucus Policy Committee and Representative Jim Murphy was named the Caucus Floor Leader.
The Texas Tribune - Full video of the LBJ Library Future Forum's panel discussion, "The Future of Texas," featuring state Reps. Donna Howard, D-Austin, Matt Krause, R-Fort Worth, Sarah Davis, R-West University Place, and Alfonso "Poncho" Nevárez, D-Eagle Pass. Tribune Editor Emily Ramshaw moderated.
Representative Davis talks about what she thinks we can expect this session, how optimistic she is about Governor Greg Abbott's leadership and more.
Bay Area The Citizen - Senator Don Huffines (R-Dallas) and Representative Gary Elkins (R-Houston) have filed legislation that would ban red light cameras. Senator Huffines and Representative Elkins are proud to join the tens of thousands of Texans who have voted against and petitioned for the removal of cameras all across Texas.
...Representative Elkins, who is the author of House Bill 1131, added: "From their inception, red light cameras have been wrong for Texas. These cameras are nothing more than taxation by citation. It's time that we exercise better judgment on safety and law enforcement."
Memorial Examiner - State Representative Dwayne Bohac (R-Houston) has filed HB 1314 that will phase out Texas' Franchise Tax (also called the Margin Tax) over the next 10 years and provide significant tax relief for Texas business owners.
HB 1314 will lower the franchise tax rates to 0.9 percent and 0.45 percent in 2016, and then reduce them by 10 percent annually until they are phased out over 10 years. Most taxable entities currently pay 0.975 percent, while entities that primarily operate in retail or wholesale trade pay 0.4875. This will allow the state to wind down the tax in small increments, reducing the fiscal impact while at the same time allowing for the positive effects of economic growth and job creation.