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Legislative Update October

Greg Abbott Sets Third Special Session For October 9

Tell Lt. Gov. Patrick and Speaker Phelan to “notify your respective members.”

1 min read

Texas Scorecard | September 30, 2023

In a letter to Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and House Speaker Dade Phelan and obtained by several media entities over the weekend, Gov. Greg Abbott warned he will bring lawmakers into a 30-day special legislative session starting the afternoon of Monday, Oct. 9, 2023.

Abbott has teased for months that he would call the session to address school choice. That concept has proved popular with voters and even passed the Senate but has been thwarted by the Texas House. Recently, Abbott has indicated the agenda would also include matters related to the Colony Ridge housing development outside Houston that targets illegal aliens.

“For planning purposes, and so you can notify your respective members, Special Session #3 will start October 9, 2023, at 1 p.m. I will issue a formal proclamation prior to the start of Special Session #3,” wrote Abbott in his letter.

The Texas Constitution limits lawmakers to 140-day legislative sessions in odd-numbered years but gives governors the authority to call lawmakers in for 30-day special sessions on topics set by the governor. Lawmakers are under no obligation to actually pass the legislation asked for by a governor.

For example, the first special session ended in an impasse when the Texas House refused to work with the Senate in addressing the governor’s priorities. A second special session was called, resulting in a tepid property tax relief package.


“The most urgent necessity is, not that the State should teach, but that it should allow education. All monopolies are detestable, but the worst of all is the monopoly of education.”

– Frédéric Bastiat​

Texas GOP Congress Members Call Attention to Illegal Alien Settlement

In a letter to Gov. Abbott and Attorney General Paxton, Texas’ Republican delegation to Congress have raised concerns about Colony Ridge.

2 min read

Texas Scorecard | October 2, 2023

Courtesy of Texans for Strong Borders

Republican members of Texas’ congressional delegation have sent a letter to Gov. Greg Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton raising concerns about an illegal alien housing development in Liberty County. The letter was signed by all 25 members.

Colony Ridge, a housing development marketed specifically to illegal aliens in Liberty County, has been gaining attention recently for straining local resources and leading to an increase in violent crime.

Terrenos Houston, the marketing program for Colony Ridge, advertises to illegal aliens by indicating they do not require traditional bank loans, Social Security numbers, or a proven job history to apply. Instead, the company operates through owner-financed lots for illegal aliens who don’t qualify for certain loans.

Late last month, the Texas GOP passed a resolution calling for action on the settlement.

The congressmen who signed the letter include all of the Republicans: Jodey ArringtonBrian Babin, Michael BurgessJohn CarterMichael CloudDan CrenshawMonica de la CruzLance GoodenJake EllzeyPat FallonTony GonzalesKay GrangerWesley HuntRonny JacksonMorgan LuttrellMichael McCaulNathaniel MoranTroy E. NehlsAugust PflugerChip RoyKeith SelfPete SessionsBeth Van DuyneRandy K. Webber, and Roger Williams.

Read the letter.

“While those of us on Capitol Hill stand ready to address Colony Ridge in any way, as states’ rights advocates, we believe your offices are strategically positioned to examine this situation,” the congressmen wrote. “To address these issues, we believe the Office of the Attorney General of Texas is the proper entity to thoroughly investigate the land purchasing, use, tax status, and other authorizations relating to Colony Ridge and its affiliate entities.”

They noted the increase in violent crime in the area, including “several high-profile murders, the largest drug busts in the history of Liberty County, and continuous drug cartel activity.”

The letter continues:

Due to safety concerns and adverse effects on their way of life, Texas constituents have reached out to Members of Congress about the situation in certain parts of Colony Ridge. We understand that, to date, local attempts to remediate these issues have been unsuccessful.

They allege Colony Ridge is causing “negative impacts” in the local school district.

“According to Texas Education Agency records, Cleveland ISD has tripled in size over the previous decade, and much of this is due to the thousands of illegal aliens flocking to Colony Ridge,” the letter states.

Texas Law Enforcement Reclaims Rio Grande Island Used by Human Traffickers, Cartels

The state-owned 170-acre island in the Rio Grande River had been under the control of transnational criminal organizations for decades.

(Courtesy of the Office of Gov. Greg Abbott)

Texas officials announced that an island in the Rio Grande River, which has for decades been largely under the control of transnational criminal organizations (TCO) such as human traffickers, has been reclaimed by an elite force of Texas Rangers after an operation was green-lit by the General Land Office (GLO).

According to the GLO, research showed that Fronton Island in Starr County is owned by the State of Texas.

The GLO noted that the island had been a hotbed for drug and human trafficking for the past several months. Commissioner Dawn Buckingham issued the letter to the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) authorizing law enforcement access.

“It is my commitment to Texans to do everything in my power to gain complete operational control of the southern border and protect our state from this influx of out-of-control illegal immigration,” Buckingham said in a press release. “While the federal government refuses to safeguard Texas communities, the General Land Office will step up and assist our state in its robust border security efforts.”

DPS spokesman Lt. Chris Olivarez announced that a Texas Rangers Special Operations Group recently entered the island to end the TCOs’ decades-long control and clear the island.

Olivarez added that Gov. Greg Abbott, Buckingham, and state lawmakers have “provided DPS with the tools & authority to combat criminal organizations operating on Texas soil.”

Abbott reacted to the news of the operation on social media, writing, “Today the Texas Rangers Special Operations Group planted a Texas flag on Fronton Island. They continue to disrupt and stop Mexican cartel operations there and along the border.”

The crisis at the southern border with Mexico continues to escalate, with Customs and Border Protection (CPB) reporting over 250,000 known encounters with illegal aliens for the month of September alone and just over two million for Fiscal Year 2023.

Petition Filed to Remove Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo

  • Five Harris County residents have filed a petition calling for the removal of Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo from office, arguing she has abandoned her duties and responsibilities as the elected head of the county government. Emily Medeiros has the details.
  • The petition was filed by Dave Wilson, a Houston Community College Trustee; Thomas Thrash; Thomas Bazan; Milinda Morris; and former Republican candidate for Texas Railroad Commissioner Tom Slocum.
  • Their petition explains that the government code states that a county judge or commissioner’s seat is considered “vacant” if the member is absent for three regular consecutive meetings or “unless the member is sick or has first obtained a leave of absence at a regular meeting.”
  • According to the plaintiffs, Hidalgo has missed six meetings: August 8, August 17, August 22, August 29, September 12, and September 19. In early August, Hidalgo’s office announced that she would be taking a medical leave of absence to seek in-patient treatment for depression.
  • Hidalgo’s office blasted the petition, calling it “meritless.”


2023 Election Information


What you need to know: New voters can download a voter registration application, which must be printed, signed and mailed to their county’s election office. Texans can also request an application be mailed to them or contact their local voter registrar for more information.

Mark your calendar:

  • 27: Last day to apply to vote by mail
  • 23: Early in-person voting begins
  • 3: Early in-person voting ends
  • 7: Election Day


Houston Mayoral Candidate Forum Discusses Crime, Corruption, and Finance

Mayoral candidates sought to stand out on top concerns for voters in the state’s largest city.

Houston mayoral candidates: Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (top left), Sen. John Whitmire (top right), Lee Kaplan (bottom left), Gilbert Garcia (bottom middle), and Jack Christie (bottom right). Background photo of Houston skyline by Katie Haugland Bowen via Flickr.

Five of the 17 official candidates vying to be the next mayor of Houston met at the University of Houston on Monday night to talk about the top issues plaguing the Texas’ largest city.

Moderated by FOX 26 reporters Greg Groogan and Anthony Antoine, the forum featured only frontrunners U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX-18), state Sen. John Whitmire (D-Houston), attorney Lee KaplanDr. Jack Christie, and businessman Gilbert Garcia.

Noting that residents consistently list regional public safety as a top concern, Groogan first noted that although term-limited incumbent Mayor Sylvester Turner promised to increase the size of the police force, there are actually now fewer police officers in the city since the mayor took office and that the police union president predicted the number of Houston police officers will drop to 4,500 soon.

Also noting there are now 500 fewer firefighters than in 2010, Groogan asked the candidates if they would work to add more first responders or try to improve the use of existing resources.

Kaplan disputed Turner’s recent claims that crime is down and criticized the city’s gun buyback programs as ineffective.

“If you look at the pre-pandemic numbers and the current numbers, crime is up,” said Kaplan. “And it’s even more under-reported than ever because people know the officers are just too busy to do anything.”

Whitmire, the longtime chair of the Senate Committee on Criminal Justice, said there are 85 law enforcement agencies in the City of Houston but that they are not collaborating. He also referenced the low morale among firefighters, who have been in a lengthy legal feud with Turner and the city. Whitmire’s bill mandating binding arbitration between the firefighter’s union and the city became law this year.

“Nothing matters more than we’re safe,” said Whitmire. “It’s affecting our economy and our way of life.”

Christie, a former Texas State Board of (Republican)Education member and former city council member, noted the city owed firefighters “a lot of money” and pledged to fix the city’s finances to allow for the hiring of more police.

Garcia ,(Republican)a partner in an asset management firm and former chair of the Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County, said he would not promise to add police but would work to “bring back more community policing.” He also said would increase lighting in high-crime areas and bring in more civilian workers to handle some of the duties of police officers.

Jackson Lee noted that state law prohibits reduction of the city’s law enforcement budget and pledged to work with local community colleges for recruitment. She also voiced support for violence interruption programs and noted her work with the White House to open an office for gun violence prevention.

Taking aim at Whitmire, Jackson Lee said, “I don’t think chairing a committee where most of the people incarcerated in Texas are black and brown is the only solution.”

In a recent interview with the Houston Chronicle editorial board, Jackson Lee said the city must work to address the underlying economic factors contributing to crime. The congresswoman is a proponent of police reform legislation named after George Floyd.

The candidates also responded to questions on decaying streets and other infrastructure, garbage collection and illegal dumping, a perceived culture of corruption at city hall, and what Houston Controller Chris Brown warned is a looming “fiscal cliff.”

Garcia (Republican)noted that the city had diverted somewhere between $200 and $400 million from street and drainage fees imposed on residents in 2010. He called for an audit of the Houston Housing Authority (HHA) and the Houston Health Department and for reforms to the procurement process.

Whitmire also referred to the procurement process and the ongoing litigation surrounding the city’s award of a lucrative Hobby Airport contract to an out-of-state company after restarting the bidding four times, which ended the city’s long relationship with the local Pappas Restaurants group.

“What they did to the Pappas restaurant chain at Hobby should be criminal,” said Whitmire. “It probably is criminal.”

Whitmire also referred to HHA building affordable housing near a state Superfund site, and lambasted the city for what he termed a “good ole boys’ system.”

Kaplan (Republican) referred to the mayor as the “hirer in chief” responsible for staffing the city’s 22 departments and pledged to hire “good people.” He said he did not think there is currently a culture of corruption, but that city employees were “uninspired and not led.” He also rejected the idea of audits and said the city needed to hire department heads who “know what they’re doing.”

Jackson Lee responded to the corruption question and the other candidates’ references to working with mayors before the Turner administration by saying, “We shouldn’t be playing games of who knows what mayor and whose mayor that they’re following their footsteps. Follow your own footsteps.”

“I’m going to be a leader in this city, and if I’m going to be leader in this city, every single dime that comes into city hall is going to be for the people of Houston,” said Jackson Lee, who then pledged that every contract would be open and every procurement process would be transparent.

Jackson Lee repeatedly touted her work to bring $600 million in federal funds to supplement the city’s finances, said the city’s financial crisis would not come until 2026, and blamed the city’s financial difficulties partially on the U.S. Federal Reserve raising interest rates.

“We’ve had a lowering of city sales tax [revenues] because of the Fed’s raising the interest rates. I’ve written to them to actively tell them to stop,” said Jackson Lee, adding that she would look for new revenue and pass a structurally balanced budget.

Christie (Republican) said, “We do not have a funding problem, but a spending problem” and suggested the city’s pension problem had been solved under the Turner administration.

Garcia (Republican) disagreed, claiming the city had not solved the challenge of paying pension obligations. He called for reform of Tax Increment Reinvestment Zones.

Christie also drew laughter and applause from the crowd when he touted his ability to bring political opponents together, citing a post-Hurricane Harvey city council meeting that ended with Jackson Lee and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) exchanging hugs.

“That’s a major accomplishment,” quipped Christie.

A July poll from the University of Houston’s Hobby School indicated that Jackson Lee and Whitmire led the crowded field with 32 and 34 percent respectively, but that in a run-off scenario Whitmire wielded an 18-point advantage over the 28-year congresswoman.

In addition to the mayoral contest, voters will also select a new controller and vote on all 16 city council seats.

The entry of attorney Tony Buzbee, one of the defense attorneys for Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton during his impeachment trial, into the City Council District G race has also drawn increased attention. One of the few Republican-leaning districts in the city, the incumbent is Mary Nan Huffman, a former Republican candidate for district attorney. Buzbee, former chair of the Galveston County Democratic Party, describes himself as a political independent.

Early voting begins on October 23 and Election Day is November 7.

Republican National Committee Announces Houston as 2028 Convention Host

The last time Texas hosted the event was Houston in 1992.

(The Texan/Daniel Friend)

Houston will host the 2028 national GOP convention, the Republican National Committee (RNC) announced in Milwaukee after completing its search process.

Virginia GOP Chair Rich Anderson confirmed the news Friday morning on social media.

RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel followed, confirming the news and saying, “After a smart business decision made by the RNC last spring to allow us to select the next convention city earlier than ever, we are looking forward to seeing Houston in the spotlight come 2028.”

Thursday evening, sources confirmed to The Texan that Houston was chosen and the announcement would come the following day. The convention date will take place in either July or August that year.

The only other finalist was Miami.

“I am proud to welcome the 2028 Republican National Convention to Houston — one of the fastest-growing cities in the United States, a thriving center of economic development, and a cultural leader of Texas,” said Governor Greg Abbott.

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, a Democrat, said, “Houston is a special events city; we know how to host a major convention. We are proud to be chosen as the site for the 2028 Republican National Convention. This keeps us on the global stage, allowing us to showcase our amazing venues and the people who keep our hotels, restaurants, and local businesses operating.”

Texas GOP Chair Matt Rinaldi told The Texan, “We are proud to welcome the Republican National Committee and Republican delegates from across the country to the most important and largest red state in the nation! The 2028 election and convention will be pivotal to ensure Republicans control the Presidency, Congress, and deliver on conservative policy.”

Houston’s George R. Brown Convention Center and the Toyota Center, home of the Houston Rockets, will be the main venues hosting the event.

The last time the quadrennial RNC convention was held in Texas was in 1992, also in Houston, where George H.W. Bush was awarded the GOP presidential nomination.

Houston also hosted the Texas GOP’s 2022 state convention, the largest state party gathering in the nation.

This year, the Texas Legislature passed Senate Bill (SB) 1057 that authorizes Houston First — the city’s local government corporation that owns the convention center — to collect hotel occupancy taxes to pay for expansions of the facility.

With the estimated additional $2 billion in tax revenue over 30 years, Houston First will begin renovations of the convention center with the intention of completing a few before 2028.

The 2016 GOP convention in Cleveland drew 48,000 people and resulted in $188.4 million in economic impact for northeastern Ohio; the 2020 convention in Charlotte was much more limited due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The party’s 2024 convention is set for July 15-18 in Milwaukee.


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