Here’s a quick recap of what happened over the last week:

Border News

On Monday, a ruling by the US Supreme Court sided with the Biden administration and will allow federal agents to cut through the razor wire that has been placed by the state of Texas near the Rio Grande River.  Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Amy Coney Barrett sided with the court’s three liberal justices to form the majority opinion.  The ruling this week overturns a ruling last year issued by the 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals that barred federal agents from cutting through the wire unless it was to help someone in distress or needing medical attention.  The installation of the razor wire has been a source of controversy for several months, with reports of migrants sustaining serious cuts and injuries when encountering the wire.  The one-page order was issued without explanation and is temporary while the lawsuit over the placement of razor wire continues.

This is the latest in a series of clashes between the state of Texas and the Biden administration regarding immigration enforcement along the state’s southern border.  The federal government is also challenging the installation of barrier buoys in the Rio Grande River by the state. A recent appeals court ruling has allowed the buoys to remain in place while the case makes its way through the legal process.  The Biden administration has also filed suit to stop the state from enforcing a new law passed in November that allows state law enforcement officers to arrest and detain migrants on trespassing charges if they are deemed to have entered the country illegally.  The continuing argument from the federal government is that immigration enforcement is the sole responsibility of the federal government, and the state has no authority to institute any policy or law regarding immigration enforcement.

Many prominent Republican lawmakers are now calling on the state to ignore the most recent Supreme Court ruling, including US Rep Chip Roy (R, Dripping Springs) and Rep. Clay Higgins (R, Louisiana) who both took to twitter to demand Texas ignore the order and continue to defy the Biden administration.  Texas Department of Public Safety officers – who are still in control of Shelby Park in Eagle Pass – did recognize the ruling in a statement but said they will still restrict access by federal agents to the park, which is a common landing area for migrants.  The state sees nothing in the ruling that requires the state to ease up on their control of the park.

Doubling down on the state’s position, Texas continues to roll out and place the razor wire along the state’s border despite the Supreme Court ruling.  And on the heels of the ruling, Gov. Abbott issued a statement on Wednesday that accused President Biden of violating his oath of office by not enforcing immigration laws.  He went on to say that Texas has every right to defend their state immigration policies and laws against the “invasion” of migrants.

Paxton Ordered to Give Deposition

Troubled Attorney General Ken Paxton is once again attempting to quash any attempts for him to provide a deposition in the ongoing case brought by former agency employees that claimed they were wrongfully fired for taking information regarding Paxton’s misconduct to the FBI.  The Texas Supreme Court has affirmed the trial court’s ruling that compels Paxton to provide a deposition in the case.  Even though Paxton last week announced he would no longer fight the case and would accept any ruling put forth, the trial judge in the case has kept in place the earlier mandate that Paxton and other agency employees must testify under oath about the allegations that led to the former employees being fired.

Paxton immediately filed an appeal to the mandate that he still must provide a deposition, arguing that all issues being sought by the plaintiffs have been disclosed – mainly in the Paxton impeachment trial this fall.  On Wednesday, the judge also denied Paxton’s latest appeal.  His deposition is scheduled for February 1st.

And one late breaking and very interesting development in the Paxton saga.  State Senator Drew Springer (R, Denton) sent a letter to Lt. Governor Dan Patrick and his fellow Senate colleagues yesterday asking the Senate to reopen the impeachment proceedings against Paxton.  Springer says in his letter that Paxton’s recent decision to no longer contest the facts or ruling in the whistleblower case amounts to an admission of guilt by Paxton.  Springer says that if the Senate does not at least consider revisiting impeachment, then “we run the risk of Paxton making a mockery of the Senate.”  Springer – who is not seeking reelection – did vote to acquit Paxton at the trial in September.  He claims to have the support of several Senate colleagues for this request, but did not name any member specifically.  Lt. Governor Dan Patrick has not commented on Springer’s request.

Uvalde Officials Convene Grand Jury

After the US Department of Justice released its review of the Uvalde school shooting that was intensely critical of the response by law enforcement, city officials announced they had convened a grand jury to determine if law enforcement officers who responded to the incident will face criminal charges.  The special grand jury will convene for six months and will consider the evidence brought forth in the DOJ report.

Since the tragedy, family members have demanded more transparency and answers from government officials at all levels regarding the botched response.  In response to the shooting, the state legislature passed a law that closed a loophole allowing those with serious mental issues as a juvenile to purchase weapons later in life. Congress passed a law that enhanced criminal background checks and increased funding for mental health treatment.  Families of the victims are hoping the grand jury will finally determine whether or not to hold law enforcement criminally responsible for any inaction that could have saved some of the children.

Heavy Rains Cause Flooding

Heavy rains from Monday through Wednesday caused flash flooding across parts of the state.  College Station has received at least 6 inches of rain and many areas of Fayette County – between Austin and Houston – received 10 inches or more.  Widespread rain dropped anywhere from 2 to 10 inches from just west of Austin, down to San Antonio and all throughout the Houston and southeast Texas regions.  This rain is certainly helpful, but still has not gotten Texas out of the severe to acute drought that has plagued the state since the unbearably hot temperatures last summer.  Some examples of the dire water situation include Corpus Christi where reservoirs have dropped from 54% full in 2022 to 31% full now.  Officials with the Lower Colorado River Authority in Austin have severely limited water releases downstream from the Colorado River that are intended to help the coastal wetlands areas.  Lake Travis – one of the Highland Chain of Lakes along the Colorado River – sits at only 38% full, down from 80% full in 2022.  But the worst problems are in the Rio Grande Valley, where supplies in reservoirs have reached lows not seen since 2000.  Experts say rains like we have experienced this week do help, but the only thing to bring the state out of its water woes may be a well-placed hurricane or other natural event that rejuvenates the watersheds that need the rain.

Political Notes

Rep. Glenn Rogers – a Republican in his third term from Mineral Wells – is in a nasty primary fight against Mike Olcott, whom Rogers defeated in the 2022 Republican primary by less than 800 votes.  Olcott has the backing of Gov. Abbott and US Senator Ted Cruz.  And now state Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller is weighing in on behalf of Olcott, saying Rogers is too moderate and the district needs a true conservative.  In response, Rogers sent Miller an angry text, which Miller released to the media.  In the text, Rogers called Miller a “pathetic narcissist” that is also “an embarrassment to agriculture and the state of Texas.”  Miller responded by saying Rogers has “sold out the conservative cause.”  Look for more back and forth in this race as the primary date approaches.

US Senator Ted Cruz has made more endorsements in state House races, all are for challengers to Republican incumbents in the upcoming primary.  Cruz is now supporting the challengers to several prominent Republican members including Ernest Bailes (R, Shepard), John Kuempel (R, Seguin), who serves as the House Higher Education Chairman, Reggie Smith (R, Sherman), Chair of the House Elections committee, and Travis Clardy (R, Nacogdoches).  Clardy’s opponent, Joanne Shofner, was also the beneficiary this week of a $100,000 campaign contribution from the Austin trade association, Texans for Lawsuit Reform.

And speaking of Cruz, a recent poll conducted by Emerson College/Nexstar Media suggests a tight race for the Republican incumbent in November.  On the Democratic side, US Congressman Colin Allred is leading the primary field with 29% support.  State Senator Roland Gutierrez comes in a distant second with 7%.  In potential head-to-head matchups for November, the poll found Cruz in basically a tie with both Allred and Gutierrez.  The poll found Cruz leading Allred 42% to 40% and leading Gutierrez 41% to 40%.  Another point of interest in the poll found former President Trump leading President Biden by a 49% to 41% margin among likely Texas voters.

And speaking of Allred, he will be coming across the airwaves soon.  He has launched his first television ads in Houston and Dallas this week as he tries to pull away from his Democratic primary opponents.  He chose the Houston and Dallas markets due to the Democratic strongholds in those areas.  Even though he has a lead over his nearest Democratic rival, there are a substantial number of undecided voters in the primary.  Allred’s campaign declined to say how much was spent on the ad campaign or how long the initial series would last.  Look for them during your local news and other local programming.

In the ongoing saga questioning the eligibility of state Senate candidate Brent Hagenbuch of Denton County, a state district judge has ruled that he can continue in the race, but did not finally dismiss a lawsuit challenging his residency.  Hagenbuch – a Republican running for the open Senate District 30 in north Texas – is facing a challenge to his residency by fellow Republican Carrie de Moor.  De Moor claims Hagenbuch has not lived in the district for the amount of time required by state law and has filed a lawsuit demanding he stop his campaign. While the judge denied the request to end the campaign, the ruling allows de Moor and her legal team to continue with the discovery process regarding Hagenbuch’s residency status.  Hagenbuch is the presumed front runner in the race, with endorsements from Gov. Abbott and Lt. Governor Dan Patrick.  However, public records indicate he voted in last November’s election while registered at an address outside Senate District 30.  State law requires any candidate to have lived in the district they seek to represent for one year prior to the general election date.

After former President Trump’s decisive victory in New Hampshire this week, US Senator John Cornyn announced on twitter he was endorsing the presumptive GOP nominee, saying it is time for the Republican party to unite around the former President.  This is a dramatic change of heart for Cornyn.  Last May, in a regular conference call with reporters from all around Texas, Cornyn was not so enthusiastic about Trump, telling reporters that the Republican party needs to find a candidate that “can actually win…I think President Trump’s time has passed him by.”   Cornyn now joins fellow Texas Senator Ted Cruz in endorsing Trump, who made his endorsement last week after Trump’s victory in the Iowa Caucus.

Finally, our condolences to the friends and family of former state Rep. Rene Oliveira who passed away this week at the age of 68.  Oliveira was a Democrat from Brownsville and was first elected to the Texas House in 1980, serving until he was defeated for reelection in 2018.  Among his legislative highlights, he served as Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee for two sessions and was instrumental in the creation of the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, combining several branch institutions into one university for the Valley.

What’s Next??

House committee chairs submitted ideas for interim studies last week, so the House committees could be getting their charges soon.

With the primaries now just two months away, fundraising by members and candidates is in full swing and will continue up to the March 5th primary date.