AUSTIN—Texas House Speaker Tom Craddick unveiled the “interim charges” for the committees of the Texas Legislature last week, and they included a number of entertaining doozies including making a substance the media has coined, “the new pot,” illegal in Texas. Craddick, a Midland Republican, charged the House Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence to, “`s`tudy the need to add salvia divinorum to the list of controlled substances regulated under the Texas Controlled Substance Act.” Salvia has made news recently, including the ABC News program Nightline, because it is legal throughout the nation and only regulated in a handful of states. The substance, which is smoked, is reported to have effects similar to marijuana, according to the online encyclopedia Wikipedia.
Other interim charges included Craddick ordering the Committee on Business and Industry to study the issue of digital piracy—including how it relates to the state’s universities. Several analysts believe that this interim charge could eventually lead to state appropriations bills containing language similar to that in a recent federal education bill which would deny federal funding to colleges and universities who don’t adequately regulate peer-to-peer (P2P) networks. Still other interim charges related to appraisal reform, property taxes, modification of a tax that allows large cities to make certain tax exempt purchases for Olympic and event committees, and a statewide inspector general.
NEW BRAUNFELS—Doug Miller, chairman of the Edwards Aquifer Authority, on Monday formally filed to challenge State Rep. Nathan Macias (R-Bulvarde) in the GOP primary in House District 73. Macias, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel who was voted “Freshman of the Year” by the House Republican Caucus this past spring, will likely face an uphill battle to hold the seat against Miller, a former New Braunfels Mayor. Macias was one of five candidates in the 2006 GOP primaries who was backed by combined millions from San Antonio businessman and school voucher guru Dr. James Leininger. It is unclear if Leininger will step up to assist one of his ‘million dollar babies’ in the coming primaries or take his money and play elsewhere.
WACO—Sam Murphy, a former District Director for Democratic Congressman Chet Edwards of Waco, has announced his candidacy for State Representative in District 55. Murphy, a Bell County Democrat, is vying for the seat being vacated by Diane Delisi (R-Temple). Although the district leans heavily Republican, Murphy’s name recognition and ties to the district—as well as statewide dissatisfaction with House Republicans and Speaker Tom Craddick—could help propel him to victory next November. “We should expect a Texas where working families aren’t drowned by sky high utility bills, over priced insurance rates, expensive toll roads and high taxes,” Murphy noted in his campaign announcement.
WATUGA—Republican State Rep. Kelly Hancock has drawn a Democratic challenger in the House District 91 race, which includes part of Tarrant County. Christopher Utchell (D-Watuga), a computer technician for Keller Independent School District, has announced that he will oppose Hancock.
AUSTIN—State Rep. Dawanna Dukes, an Austin Democrat who is part of House Speaker Tom Craddick’s leadership team, appears to have drawn a challenger from the left in what is one of many expected challenges for the so-called ‘Craddick D’s’ this year. Austin attorney Brian Thompson has filed a campaign treasurer’s declaration, meaning he will likely make the race within the next few weeks. This will likely be an uphill battle for Dukes in a district viewed by many as far more liberal than Dukes’ representation. Dukes’ ties to Craddick will likely be a major issue in the campaign.
WEATHERFORD—Former Weatherford ISD Superintendent and Weatherford Mayor Joe Tison has finally made up his mind: He will challenge State Rep. Phil King (R-Weatherford) in the GOP primary next March. Tison, who was recruited by Texas Parent PAC—a political powerhouse following their successes in 2006—had publicly toyed with the idea of seeking the seat for some weeks.
Vince Leibowitz stays on top of Texas politics on his blog, www.capitolannex.com.