Letter from Austin: Seating the Incumbent

by Julie Drenner on January 25, 2011

photo by Brian L. Romig/Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license

Last week, the election contest hearing between challenger Dan Neil and Rep. Donna Howard, D-Austin, defined the rules for the special committee of six Republicans and three Democrats. The Master of Discovery, Rep. Will Hartnett, R-Dallas, is currently hearing the evidence and will make a recommendation to the committee. Thus, the committee will serve in a more adjunctive function rather than a finder of fact.

Chairman Todd Hunter, R- Corpus Christi, stated that in addition to Hartnett’s presentation, he would also allow both sides to make comments to the committee.  After the presentations, the committee will make a recommendation to either let the results stand, seat the challenger or call for a new election.  This report will be sent to the House floor, presumably for a vote by the members.  Past election contests have never made it through this entire process since the challengers have all surrendered after the Master of Discovery recommendation—seating the incumbent.


Austin Independent School District has announced its proposal to close nine public schools due to under enrollment. With a 26% increase of residents in the state, Texans have not faced this dilemma in recent past.  However, the growth in Austin’s inner city is in single people or career-minded couples, rather than households with young children. Consolidating campuses and converting properties into profitable businesses not only reduces cost, but increases revenue for education through property taxes. Additionally, charter schools are eager to occupy these facilities at a savings to taxpayers. Texas’ fourth largest school district should take this opportunity to make changes that will last beyond the current budget crisis and benefit the city for years to come.

Until next week,

Julie Drenner, Texas Director

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