Hot List: Day 127 of the Legislature


Dave Mann

The Lead:

The Legislature went after mucus yesterday.

That would be Michael Quinn Sullivan (often referred to as MQS—or mucus) who leads the tea party group Empower Texans dedicated to electing more conservative Republicans to office. Sullivan, who fashions himself as a Texas version of Grover Norquist, and his group have poured money into campaigns of tea party challengers to Republican incumbents, including Speaker Joe Straus and his leadership team.

The Texas House took on Sullivan yesterday, giving initial approval to SB 346 that would require politically active nonprofits to disclose donors who give $1,000 or more. The bill would increase transparency for all political nonprofits, but there’s no doubt who House members had in mind—bill sponsor Charlie Geren even mentioned Sullivan by name during the floor debate.  True to form, Sullivan responded on Twitter.

As the Observer‘s Liz Farmer reports, Geren managed to fend off all amendments. Keeping the bill “clean” would steer it away from the Senate, where Sen. Dan Patrick famously tried to have a do-over after the Senate passed the bill earlier in the session and tried to take the bill back from the House (and the House refused).

If Geren can keep the bill identical to the Senate’s version, it would go straight to Gov. Rick Perry. The House must pass the measure on third reading today. Then the attention shifts to Perry, who’s been close with Sullivan. We could soon find out exactly how much pull Sullivan has with the governor.

Yesterday’s Headlines:

1. The House approved the Michael Morton Act and a companion bill aimed at reducing wrongful convictions and holding prosecutors accountable for misconduct. The package was backed by Morton, who spent 25 years in prison wrongly convicted of murdering his wife. The Tribune‘s Brandi Grissom has more.

2. Budget conferees agreed yesterday to restore funding for CPRIT, the troubled cancer-fighting agency, which has proved that in Texas even cancer research isn’t immune from cronyism. The Statesman has the story (you need a subscription now).

3. Speaking of the budget conference committee, the Tribune reports that conferees could include a rider in the budget that would lay out a framework for Medicaid expansion.

Line of the Day:

“I think that’s what the problem is when you’ve got people running around giving millions of dollars, spending millions of dollars and keeping their contributors a secret.” —Rep. Charlie Geren during yesterday’s debate on SB 346 that would force political nonprofits to disclose major donors.

What We’re Watching Today:

1. The House will vote on several high-profile bills on third reading, including the Michael Morton Act to prevent wrongful convictions and SB 346, MQS’s favorite transparency bill.

2. The Senate Criminal Justice Committee will hear HB 166, which would establish the Tim Cole Exoneration Review Committee to investigate wrongful convictions.