U.S. Senate Holds Confirmation Hearing For Two Court Nominees From Texas

Our daily roundup of Texas headlines.

By Becky FogelNovember 15, 2017 2:05 pm,

The Standard’s news roundup gives you a quick hit of interesting, sometimes irreverent, and breaking news stories from all over the state.

Senate holds confirmation hearing for two court nominees from Texas

Two Texas nominees for an influential federal appeals court have a confirmation hearing before a U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee today.

Texas Supreme Court Justice Don Willett and former state Solicitor General James Ho are up for seats on the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans.

Texas Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz – who sit on the Judiciary Committee – recommended Willet and Ho. As the hearing got underway this morning, Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein of California expressed concern about the Trump administration’s swift action on judicial nominees.

“These two Fifth Circuit vacancies, as Senator Cornyn and Cruz are well aware, have been open since 2012 and 2013, having waited 4 or 5 years respectively to come to agreement with the White House on nominees for these vacancies,” she said. “It would seem there is no need to rush these vacancies through.”

Feinstein added that both Justice Willett and Mr. Ho have “extensive and controversial records” that Senators need time to question.

Confirmation requires approval of the full Senate.


Texas House Committee considers Post-Harvey school testing schedule

Tuesday, the Texas House Education Committee took up schools and Hurricane Harvey.

As Claire McInerny with KUT News in Austin reports, one question is when students should take their state-mandated assessment tests.

After Hurricane Harvey made landfall, many schools in the storm’s path delayed the start of the new school year. Some stayed closed for weeks and months. Students are also dealing with the lasting psychological trauma of homelessness and displacement. The House Education committee met to discuss the academic repercussions of this. One area of concern is the statewide test all students in Texas take, the STARR test. Texas Commissioner of Education Mike Morath says his agency is looking at delaying some testing periods. He says the Texas Education Agency has been talking about that with affected school districts.

“But it’s roughly two to one on the number of districts and the number of students being served in favor of keeping the current testing dates unchanged as opposed to delaying,” Morath says.

Morath says a final decision is expected in two weeks.


Texas GOP wants candidates to take loyalty pledge

The Republican Party of Texas wants all of its 2018 Texas House candidates to take a pledge to vote as a “unified body” for a new speaker of the House. If not, candidates could lose financial support from the party.

Now, the Ethics Commission has been asked to weigh in on whether this pledge qualifies as “legislative bribery.”

Andrew Cates is author of the recent textbook Texas Ethics Laws. He told Texas Public Radio that threatening lawmakers counts as legislative bribery.

“With the intent to influence their vote on a speaker’s race, you cannot threaten someone with a failure to appointment and what’s really hitting home on this issue here is the withholding of economic benefits,” he says.

The chairman of the state’s Republican party, James Dickey, calls the legislative bribery inquiry “laughable” and says the pledge form is voluntary.