More Secret Tape Fallout in Texas House, Beto O'Rourke's Reboot, Dallas Mayor Creates Crime Task Force

Good morning! Here are the top political headlines from Austin, Washington, the campaign trail and Dallas. 🔎 Prefer the online view? It's here.Points from Austin1. The fallout from a secret tape made by a conservative activist continues to reverberate on Austin. In the latest developments, more information from the the tape has surfaced. James Barragan reports that at the end of the legislative session in May, House Speaker Dennis Bonnen called former Speaker Joe Straus a "very good" leader and a "good friend." Two weeks later, Bonnen attacked Straus' record as leader of the House and used him as a foil to try to show conservative activist Michael Quinn Sullivan how much more conservative Bonnen was than his predecessor. As an example, he alleged that Straus had recently told a Republican Latina candidate from Dallas not to run against Democrat John Turner, but instead run against Morgan Meyer. Sullivan has alleged that Bonnen held a private meeting with him in June at which Bonnen and House GOP Caucus Chairman Dustin Burrows of Lubbock asked Sullivan to target fellow Republicans in next year's primary election. Sullivan claims Bonnen also offered his organization Texas House media credentials, which they've previously been denied. On Friday, Burrows, the chairman of the Texas House's Republican caucus, became the first casualty of the controversial secret meeting. The three-term House member. resigned as chairman of the caucus, effective immediately. And both Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick have weighed in. Abbott said at a statewide town hall that while Bonnen was "a good partner" in this year's legislative session, it's good for both Bonnen and the state that the Texas Rangers are investigating whether anything improper happened in Bonnen's meeting with Sullivan. Patrick on Monday warned Republicans must resolve the issue or risk losing control of that chamber in 2020, Lauren McGaughy reports. On a radio show, he called for "transparency" from everyone involved, adding, "The sooner it's behind us, however it turns out, is the better." Democrats would need to win just nine seats to reclaim control over the Texas House for the first time since 2003.2. Gov. Greg Abbott, beset by blowback over a close aide's probe last winter of possible voting by noncitizens, again has tapped a Hispanic to serve as Texas secretary of state. Austin bureau chief Robert T. Garrett reports, Abbott appointed his former associate in the state attorney general's office, Ruth Ruggero Hughs of Austin, to serve as secretary of state. For the past year, she has served as chairwoman of the Texas Workforce Commission. In July 2015, Abbott made her the employers' representative on the commission. It regulates labor practices, promotes workforce training and administers unemployment insurance. The Republican governor is seeking to rebound from controversy over his third pick for secretary of state, David Whitley, who resigned in late May after Democrats blocked his Senate confirmation. Democrats said they couldn't trust Whitley to protect voting rights after his botched effort to press local election officials to seek out noncitizens who might be on their voting rolls. In Hughs, 49, a native of Argentina, Abbott is reverting to his practice of naming a Hispanic to the post.3. Also Monday, Abbott on Monday appointed 27 people to a newly created Texas Safety Commission that will create an "immediate action plan" for the state after the Aug. 3 mass shooting by a white supremacist in El Paso. Following up on the pledge he made three days after the massacre to name a group that would hold "roundtables with experts," Abbott announced the commission would meet Thursday at the state Capitol in Austin and in El Paso on Aug. 29. Abbott named to the group himself, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, Speaker Dennis Bonnen and seven other lawmakers -- including five El Paso Democrats. He appointed eight members from local, state and federal law enforcement agencies, including Assistant Dallas Police Chief Lonzo Anderson, and Superintendent Juan Martinez of the Clint school system in El Paso County.4. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has received a stent to alleviate heart blockage and is doing well and plans to return to work this week. Patrick, 69, "was experiencing significant chest pain" when he returned home to Houston late Thursday after completing a three-city flyaround to promote what he says is the success of the state's new A-F school accountability ratings, said Alejandro Garcia, the lieutenant governor's press secretary. Patrick's wife Jan "immediately took him to the hospital," Garcia said in a written statement. "After a number of tests were negative, the doctor decided to perform one last test and a dangerous heart blockage was discovered," he said. "A stent was immediately put in place."5. Hours-long waits continue to frustrate Dallas-area drivers hoping to renew their licenses at the state's "mega centers," a year after additional manpower and other resources were devoted to the problem. Jesus Jimenez reports. "It shouldn't be like this," said Angelique Harbin, who spent four hours and a vacation day to get a piece of paper that will serve as a temporary permit until her new license arrives in the mail in two weeks. The 42-year-old from Grand Prairie was one of dozens of people who endured long waits last week at the driver license mega center in Red Bird last week. The centers, run by the Department of Public Safety, opened in 2012 to help reduce wait times at smaller offices. Besides the southern Dallas center, there are three others in North Texas, in Carrollton, Garland and Fort Worth. Long lines are also the norm at smaller offices in Plano and McKinney. Last year, DPS added 100 employees to its mega centers. In the meantime, state legislators have repeatedly called out the agency for ongoing problems at the centers, and Gov. Greg Abbott went so far as to call its efforts "despicable."6. Walmart won't be opening liquor stores in Texas anytime soon. Maria Halkias reports that the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed an earlier federal court ruling in favor of Walmart, which challenged the constitutionality of a law that prevented it from selling liquor in Texas. Walmart sued the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission in 2015. In early 2018, U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman agreed with Walmart that the state law was unconstitutional. The law prohibits publicly owned corporations from obtaining liquor store permits in Texas.Bob's BreakdownBob Garrett is the Austin bureau chief for The Dallas Morning News. A fifth-generation Texan, he has covered state government and politics for decades. Here, Bob offers his take from the Capitol.· Last week, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick may have nearly suffered a heart attack after a grueling schedule that included a trip to New York to be on Fox News and a schools-related flyaround in Texas. "Seven flights, six cities, three time zones in three days," he recalled on air with radio show Mark Dallas on Monday. · Patrick said he had 90-percent blockage in his left anterior descending artery - the "widow maker" that carries fresh blood to the heart. "It's amazing how much better you feel" when you have full blood flow, he said.· Patrick got pretty worked up as he lacerated Democrats' gun-control proposals. "Mark, you can tell my stent is working fine," he quipped. But what was really noticeable was how he didn't leap to House Speaker Dennis Bonnen's defense in the House captain's now-weeks-long, agonizing battle with conservative activist Michael Quinn Sullivan. "I'm not taking sides," Patrick said, before stressing the controversy needs to be resolved soon so the GOP can retain control of the House in next year's elections. "We need to button up everything we can," he said.Points from the Trail   Continue reading...

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