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AP Inquiry Forces Hegar to Amend Financial Disclosures

Says Trial Lawyer Wife Doesn’t Influence His Politics

The Debra Medina for Comptroller Campaign issued a reaction today to reports that media attention has forced Senator Glenn Hegar to update his personal financial disclosures, in which he had omitted information about his wife’s income and employment.  An Associated Press inquiry into Senator Hegar’s disclosures has revealed that Hegar’s wife Dara is a managing partner in a large personal injury trial law firm.

“It’s disappointing that this is just what we’ve come to expect from career politicians,” said Medina.  “Politicians should not get to construe the law in their favor, but that’s exactly what Senator Hegar has done; asking the people of Texas to trust him to make the Comptroller’s office more transparent while hiding his own personal financial details.”  Hegar has claimed that he had no ‘active control’ over her contributions to their joint assets, and thus was not required to report them.

Medina’s campaign manager Natalie Arceneaux commented on the reports, referencing a recent video from the Hegar campaign.  “It’s ironic that Senator Hegar is running an ad about his family and his marriage called ‘Teamwork’, in which he says ‘…we are in this together, we’re a team effort…’  Apparently he doesn’t think that applies to his wife’s employment or income.” said Arceneaux.  “He doesn’t get to have it both ways.”

The Associated Press quotes Hegar as claiming he has never reported his wife’s information on his financial disclosures since he was first required to file them over a decade ago.  Despite often describing her as a strong Texas woman on the campaign trail, now that its publicly revealed she is a very successful plaintiffs attorney, apparently wants us to believe that she doesn’t influence him politically. “Crafty renditions of facts have no place in the comptroller’s office.  It’s important we can trust the information coming from the Texas state comptroller.  I’ll make sure Texans don’t have to wonder about what they’re not being told.  [Unlike Sen. Hegar] I’ll present the facts, accurately and…Continued here:

Correction: Texas Comptroller-Hegar story


The Associated Press

AUSTIN, Texas — In a story Feb. 15 about Texas comptroller Glenn Hegar, The Associated Press reported erroneously that his wife’s employer, the Lanier Law Firm, is known for its daytime television commercials. The firm does not advertise on television, but an unrelated firm with a similar name, the Lanier Law Group, does.

A corrected version of the story is below:

Comptroller candidate Hegar updates disclosures

Comptroller hopeful Glenn Hegar updates finance disclosures after legal questions arise

By CHRIS TOMLINSON Associated Press

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Republican candidate for state comptroller Glenn Hegar has amended his personal financial disclosures after questions arose about their legality following his pledge to bring greater transparency to state government.

The conservative state senator from Katy provided additional information after The Associated Press questioned why in his financial statements to the Texas Ethics Commission he did not list his wife, her employer or a breakdown of the mutual funds he owns.

All candidates and officeholders are required by state law to disclose their family’s assets to allow voters to check for conflicts of interest. Hegar, who has campaigned on greater transparency to become the state’s chief financial officer, told the AP he believed he was following the law when he filed the disclosures and did not concede that he had made any mistakes in filing the revisions.

Hegar, a rice farmer and small businessman with a law degree from the Houston area, said he does not have “active control” over his wife’s work or assets and that’s why he did not disclose them.

“Anything that I have control over, that is what I’m supposed to list, and I follow the law to the T,” Hegar told the AP in an interview. “I have done what I’m required to do and I have not deviated since 2002 when I was first required to file a report.”

But one of the state’s top ethics attorneys who helped draft Texas’ ethics law disagreed. Attorney Buck Wood said that Hegar should have listed his wife’s name and occupation along with all the assets that he has a right to under Texas’ community property law.

“All the money that comes into that marriage, any kind of business transactions, transfers of property … is community property and he has to list it,” Wood said. As long as a candidate and the spouse file a joint tax return, the spouse’s income and assets should be listed on the form, he added.

Hegar’s campaign turned in two amended disclosures Friday to include his wife and promised to provide a breakdown of his mutual fund assets Tuesday to remove any questions about the candidate’s personal finances, said David White, his campaign spokesman.

The senator is married to Dara Hegar, a managing attorney at the Houston-based Lanier Law Firm, one of the top personal injury firms in the country. His wife is listed as one of the state’s top trial lawyers, she does not have a separate trust and her income is community property.

Hegar said his wife has not influenced his politics, and he’s won the civil justice leadership award from Texans for Lawsuit Reform and voted in favor of legislation that limits the amount of money firms like his wife’s can win. She is also featured in his campaign ads to replace Susan Combs

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3 conservatives spice up Texas attorney general primary race

photo by: C. Richmond / M. Stravato / D. Kramer

AUSTIN — There is a competitive Republican primary race for Texas attorney general for the first time since 1998, and once again there are three fairly well-known candidates vying for the open post.

State Rep. Dan Branch of Dallas, state Sen. Ken Paxton of McKinney and Railroad Commission Chairman Barry Smitherman have been campaigning for the post since the fall.

Branch, who has been practicing law for three decades and started his own firm, sees the attorney general’s office as the biggest law firm in the state and wants to be its managing partner because he thinks he is the most qualified.

“I had the great opportunity after law school to get to work in arguably one of the state’s most important courtrooms — the Supreme Court of Texas,” Branch said at a candidates’ forum hosted by the Texas Association of Business.

“I had the opportunity to work for the Chief Justice of the Texas Supreme Court,” said Branch, who was first elected to the Texas House in 2002.

“Unlike any other court, I believe in the nation, the clerk gets to sit in and hear the Justices deliberate, cuss and discuss, if you will. It was a great experience for me.”

Paxton stressed similar qualifications for the post.

“I’ve been in the Legislature for 11 years and what I noticed about the attorney general’s office is that many of the critical issues of our time, and many of the critical issues the attorney general is dealing with, I dealt with in the Legislature,” Paxton said.

Those critical issues include voter ID, marriage laws, pro-life bills and redistricting.

“I have been practicing law for 22 years, but I also have this background going into the attorney general’s office,” Paxton said in reference to his legislative experience. “I was there for most the issues the attorney general is dealing with.”

Smitherman, on the other hand, stressed that he is the only candidate with prosecutorial experience.

“I am the only one on this stage who’s ever tried a criminal case,” Smitherman said in reference to his brief stint as prosecutor in the Harris County District Attorney’s Office before Gov. Rick Perry appointed him chairman of the Public Utility Commission.

“You need to know your way around the courtroom,” he said.

His tenure in the Public Utility Commission and subsequently in the Railroad Commission gave him the administrative experience needed to manage the attorney general’s office, Smitherman said.

“Your next attorney general needs to be a proven leader,” he said. “The reason business come to Texas is because we don’t overtax, we don’t overregulate and we don’t over-sue.”

The common denominator for Branch, Paxton and Smitherman is that, so far, they seem to agree with each other on the key issues of the campaign.

This is most evident on the state’s dealings with the federal government, particularly with President Barack Obama. Outgoing Attorney General Greg Abbott, who is now running for governor, often jokes that he goes to work every morning, sues the Obama administration, and then goes back home.

Branch, Paxton and Smitherman, who have showered Abbott with praise — especially for the 30 or so times he has sued the Obama administration — have vowed to continue the fight if they win the GOP primary and are voted in during the Nov. 4 general election.

“When we came to the Legislature, we focused on state issues; now we focus on federal issues,” Paxton said. “We are under assault from the federal government.”

And as voter’s approach the start of early voting on Feb. 18, the attorney general hopefuls are trying to out-conservative one another

“I am a conservative who gets results,” said Branch.

Branch is regarded as a mainstream conservative and is an ally of House Speaker Joe Straus. The most conservative wing of the Republican party has targeted Straus for defeat almost since he became the chamber’s leader in 2009.

“This is the last red state in the nation that gets results,” Branch said. “We’ve got to show not only that rhetoric works, but that we offer solutions that work.”

This race is also getting more attention than usual because the three candidates have raised millions of dollars, particularly Branch, whose advertisements have already hit the airwaves.

If no candidate gets more than 50 percent of the vote on March 4, there will be a runoff on May 27.

The winner will face a Houston attorney named Sam Houston in the November election. Houston is…Continued here:

John Otto Fundraiser in Liberty County draws attendees from State House

By Carol Skewes,

State Representative John Otto (District 18) held a political fundraising dinner at Dayton Community Center Monday evening Feb. 10 and brought many State Representatives to town, including Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives Joe Straus. The conference room walls were lined with yard signs for guests to take home after the event.

State Representatives in attendance included: Rep. Allen B. Ritter (District 21, Nederland); Rep. Patricia Harless (District 126, Spring); Rep. Wayne Smith, (District 128, Baytown); Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock, (District 54, Killeen); Rep. Dan Huberty, (District 127, Kingwood); Rep. Trent Ashby, (District 54, Lufkin); and Rep. Larry Gonzales, (District 52) Round Rock.

Rita Ashley, Candidate for the State Board of Education was in attendance as well.

Otto publicly recognized Chief of Staff for Speaker Joe Straus: Jesse Ancira, before introducing Speaker Straus.

Speaker Joe Straus said, “It’s good to be here. I was in Houston today with a couple other members. … I am trying to help out where I can. There are many representatives here and that is a real complement to John.” Straus commended the work Rep. Otto has done while he has been in the Texas House of Representatives.

State Rep. Otto acknowledged all the help of his wife, Nancy, and his staff members.

Otto thanked everyone for coming out to support him. He reminded everyone that early voting will be between Feb. 18-28 and Primary Election Day is March 4, 2014…Continued here:

Wendy Davis backs medical marijuana, would consider decriminalization

Wendy Davis (file photo)



Our newspaper’s editorial board sat down today to interview Wendy Davis and her opponent in the Democratic primary for governor, Reynaldo “Ray” Madrigal.

It was my chance to ask marijuana questions that her staff (and likely GOP opponent Greg Abbott’s staff) had been ducking me on. Let’s get right to this transcript of her answers:

Questions: As you know, both ends of the political spectrum have questioned the nation’s and state’s drug policies and the mass incarceration that has resulted. Even Gov. Perry has said positive things about decriminalization, as he defines it. What changes would you support in Texas law that now allows for jail time for small amounts of marijuana? And, as a separate question, what’s your position on medical marijuana?

Davis: “I do believe that Gov. Perry’s approach is a reasonable approach, that we as a state need to think about the cost of that incarceration and, obviously, the cost to the taxpayers as a consequence of it, and whether we’re really solving any problem for the state by virtue of incarcerations for small amounts of marijuana possession.

“With regard to medical marijuana. I personally believe that medical marijuana should be allowed for. I don’t know where the state is on that, as a population. Certainly as governor I think it’s important to be deferential to whether the state of Texas feels that it’s ready for that.

“We certainly have an opportunity to look at what other states are doing and watch and learn from that. I think Texas is in a position right now of being able to sit back a bit and watch to see how this is playing out in other arenas.”

Follow-up question: Had a bill gone to the Senate to decrease criminal provisions for possession of small amounts of marijuana, would you have voted for it?

Davis: “Yes, I would have.”

Another follow-up: If the Legislature were to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot, to let the people decide marijuana legalization, as they did in Colorado and Washington, how would you vote, as a private citizen?

Davis: “I don’t know yet. I want to wait and see what happens in Colorado. I have a daughter who lives in Denver. I think there are some challenges to that law that are presented to law enforcement. In Denver they’re already talking about…Continued here:

More Hispanics in Texas Identify With GOP

by KTRH’s Nik Rajkovic

A recent Gallup Poll shows 27-percent of Hispanics in Texas side with Republicans — the highest since 2008, and six-percent higher than anywhere else in the country.

Robert Gonzalez at the Clear Lake Tea Party is not surprised.

“A lot of the issues that they have are just like our, they’re pro-life, pro-family, pro-God, and that’s the main thing, they really are conservative and you just have to sell that,” Gonzalez tells KTRH News.

He says the GOP now has to take advantage of the numbers, and make sure Latino voters understand the message.

“Its not an us against them, we’re in it together,” says Gonzalez.  “I think most Hispanics do understand that, but we’re battling the media.”

So how will this impact future elections?

“Well its one thing to tell a poll taker I identify more with the Republican Party, but its another thing to actually turn out and pull the lever for Republican candidates,” says political insider Jim McGrath.

Fortunately, McGrath believes a candidate named Bush can help win them over.

“I think George P. is doing a fantastic job and working his tail off to spread that inclusive message that we’re a place for opportunity, we’re a place where hard work and sound government, and limited government…

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A growing divide between rich and poor in Texas

Special to the Keller Citizen Bob Booth

Education is the key to closing the income inequality gap in Texas, experts say. Here, Mt. Vernon High School students Keren Posada, 15, Lizeth Martinez, 14, and authors Megan Miranda, Julie Kagawa, Megan Shepherd and TM Goeglein have a photo taken in the Escape Hatch during the YAK Fest14 at Keller Central High School on Saturday. Young Adults of Keller brought more than two dozen authors to share their books and experiences. (Special to the Keller Citizen Bob Booth)

Read more here:

By Steve Campbell

The burgeoning national debate over income inequity hits home in Texas, where the growing divide between the rich and the poor is increasingly centered on race, ethnicity and education.

Texas ranks fifth in income inequality among states, according to research by Mark Frank, an economics professor at Sam Houston State University who uses state-level data from the IRS to determine the income share of the top 1 percent and top 10 percent of earners.

Texas trails only New York, Connecticut, Florida and California, according to his data from 2011.

“You have a real difference between the lives of some and the lives of others in Texas,” Frank said Tuesday.

And that income gap is widening.

“The data for 2011 shows that the top 10 percent earned about 48 percent of all income in the state. The top 1 percent are getting nearly 21 percent of all income,” he said, just hours before President Barack Obama challenged Congress and the nation to do something about income inequality.

“For 2012, I wouldn’t be surprised if we cross the 50 percent threshold for the top 10 percent,” Frank said.

A common thread in states with the highest inequality is that they have big urban areas, Frank said, noting that wealth is increasingly centered in metro areas.

“There is a real correlation in having urban areas and having wide income gaps,” he said, adding that another factor in Texas is the substantial pockets of poverty in the Rio Grande Valley.

In the Gini index, another widely used measure, Dallas-Fort Worth ranks 34th in income inequality among the nation’s 100 largest metro areas.

McAllen, in the Rio Grande Valley, is No. 5, El Paso is No. 7, and Houston is No. 10 in the Gini index for 2010, according to the Diversity Data project at Harvard University.

In a 2012 analysis of income trends by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Texas ranked seventh-worst in the gap between rich and poor. The incomes of the richest 5 percent of households were 14.3 times bigger than those of the poorest 20 percent.

Steve Murdock, a former Texas state demographer and director of the U.S. Census Bureau, believes the state’s income gap is “a manifestation of racial and ethnic differences, which is a manifestation of education.”

In 2010, the poverty rate in Texas was 14.4 percent. The rate dropped to 10.8 percent for non-Hispanic whites but soared to 27.1 percent for blacks and 24.8 percent for Hispanics, according to the Census Bureau.

“When you look at poverty rates for African-Americans and Hispanics, they are two or three times as high as they are for non-Hispanic whites. Blacks and Hispanic incomes are 60 to 75 percent compared to whites,” said Murdock, who runs the Hobby Center for the Study of Texas at Rice University.

Education is vital

Education is the key to closing the income gap, said Murdock, who has a new book coming out in February, Changing Texas: Implications of Addressing or Ignoring the Texas Challenge, which uses census data to predict how the state will evolve through 2050.

“Historically, education has been among the single best predictors of economic resources — income, wealth and ownership,” he said.

“Part of what we are saying in this book is that if we don’t change educational levels, Texas will be poorer and Texas will be less competitive,” Murdock said.

Educational attainment among the races closely parallels the poverty figures. Non-Hispanic whites in Texas are three times as likely as Hispanics to hold a bachelor’s degree or more, according…

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State navigates course on how $2B water fund will be used

Danielle Abril

Dallas Business Journal

State agencies are working to develop rules that will provide guidance on how the state will use the $2 billion of water project funds that were approved last year as a part of Proposition 6.

“The goal is to have rules in place and finalized by the end of the year,” said Robert Mace, deputy administrator for the Texas Water Development Board. “We want to get the money out to the streets as soon as possible.”

Mace was a featured panelist Friday along with Toby Baker, Texas Commission on Environmental Quality commissioner, and Carol Baker, Texas Water Foundation executive director, at the 2014 North Texas Commission Water Summit.

Proposition 6 allowed the state to allot $2 billion from its Rainy Day fund to create the State Water Implementation Fund of Texas and the State Water Implementation Revenue Fund of Texas, both of which are aimed at supporting projects that will help the state meet its future water needs. The amendment passed Nov. 5.

Proposition 6 also requires that 20 percent of the funds given out would have to be used for conservation and reuse while 10 percent would serve rural areas.

Carol Baker said recent discussions with the TWDB suggest that the 20 percent set aside for conservation and reuse is the base of funds that will be allocated for those causes versus the ceiling.

The types of projects, in general, that could be considered for approval are those that involve any type of infrastructure – meaning projects such as pipe replacements and reservoirs. One of the biggest things that the TCEQ will look at when approving projects is cost, Toby Baker said.

But before project proposals can start flowing into the state agencies, there’s a level of education that has to be dealt with first, the panelists said.

“You can’t conserve water unless you know what you actually have,” Toby Baker said. “Many communities don’t know their systems.”

One of the changes that will help the TCEQ get a better idea of water supply is new state regulations that require communities to notify the agency when its below the 180-day supply. Previously, that process was voluntary.

But data collection needs to improve across the board, Mace said. While the TWDB’s track record is relatively good, Mace said the board’s ground water estimates could possibly be 50 percent too high.

The Houston area is piloting a tracking program that could expand if it produces reliable results, according to Carol Baker.

The TWDB’s current plan reflects drought records dating back to the 1950s. But Mace said the new plans being mapped out should be updated to reflect…Continued here:

Israel Defeats VanDeWalle in HD-50 Runoff


Updated, 11:20 p.m.:

Democrat Celia Israel will be the next representative for House District 50 after winning a special election runoff Tuesday over Republican Mike VanDeWalle.

With all precincts reporting, Israel received 59 percent of the vote in HD-50, which includes North Austin and part of Pflugerville. Mike VanDeWalle, her opponent, received 41 percent, according to the Travis County clerk’s office.

“This race is a sign of where Texans are headed,” Israel said Tuesday.

She will succeed former state Rep. Mark Strama, D-Austin, who vacated the seat last year when he took a job with Google Fiber. She will serve the remainder of Strama’s term before facing re-election in November. Both Israel and VanDeWalle have filed to run again.

Israel, a lesbian, will join state Rep. Mary González, D-Clint, as state legislators who identify as LGBT.

Her campaign received support from organizers with Battleground Texas, a group focused on registering more Democratic voters and turning them out for the party’s candidates. In a statement, Battleground Texas called Israel’s victory the “first of many to come.”

The election results reflect ballots cast during early voting last week and between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. Tuesday. They do not include provisional ballots cast Tuesday evening between 7 and 8 p.m. Election officials approved an hourlong extension at polling sites after Tuesday morning’s inclement weather in Central Texas forced several area school districts to close.

Early voting in the district was saw a paltry 4.5 percent turnout. And icy weather on election day prompted closures of eight of the district’s 36 polling places.

While turnout was low Tuesday morning, it picked up later in the day, a representative for the Travis County clerk’s office said. The runoff ultimately had an 11 percent turnout.

It followed a November special election in which VanDeWalle took first place, with 39 percent of the vote, and Israel took second, with 32 percent, ahead of two other Democrats.

Original story:

For voters in North Austin and part of Pflugerville, it’s election day. Again.

But freezing temperatures could keep many voters at home during the special election runoff for House District 50. That makes the contest, the state’s first legislative election this year, all the more heated.

Democrat Celia Israel and Republican Mike VanDeWalle face off Tuesday in a runoff for the seat vacated by Democrat Mark Strama. The winner will serve the remainder of Strama’s term before a rematch in November. Polls are scheduled to be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

VanDeWalle, the lone Republican in the special election, finished first in a four-way race in November with 39 percent of the vote. Israel placed second with 32 percent, emerging as the top Democratic candidate of three.

Political observers have keenly watched the race for Strama’s seat, which he left last year to take a job with Google Fiber. Republicans see VanDeWalle’s candidacy as an opportunity to turn a blue seat red, while Democratic groups like Battleground Texas have backed Israel as part of a statewide effort to grow their base.

Turnout during early voting was extraordinarily low. Just 4.5 percent of eligible voters cast early ballots in the election — about half as many as in the last special election runoff in Travis County, according to the county clerk’s office.

Supporters of both campaigns have acknowledged the awkward timing of both early voting and election day. Early voting began last Tuesday, one day after the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, and ended Friday, when polls opened five hours late because of icy weather.

Meteorologists predict icy conditions with a low of 25 degrees in Austin on Tuesday, which could lead to further voting delays.

A chiropractor in North Austin, VanDeWalle has billed himself as a conservative opposed to government regulation and the Affordable Care Act. Representatives for his campaign did not respond on Monday to requests for comment, but Rosemary Edwards, chairwoman of the Travis County Republican Party, called VanDeWalle a “friend to small business” with “strong conservative principles.”

Israel, who got her political start working for former Gov. Ann Richards, said her focus on funding public education resonated with voters in the district, 61 percent of whom cast their ballots for a Democrat in the first special election. The challenge, she said, was not persuading voters, but getting them to the polls.

“Support for public education, that’s the No. 1 issue at the door,” Israel said. “We feel like we’ve got the more energized campaign.”

Low voter turnout makes the race’s outcome more difficult to predict, both Republicans and Democrats said.

Joe Deshotel, a spokesman for the Travis County Democratic Party, said the runoff election would be a first test for the Democratic Party’s infrastructure before November. The county party will host a fundraiser Tuesday evening featuring Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Wendy Davis as a keynote speaker. Deshotel said he was confident that he could announce Israel’s victory at the fundraiser, “and Battleground will be able to claim one of their very first victories to help push Wendy across the line.”

Edwards praised VanDeWalle’s campaign as a true grass-roots effort within HD-50 and said the involvement of Battleground Texas in Israel’s campaign “shows desperation.”

For both candidates, Tuesday’s special election is a preface to a larger showdown in November. Each has filed to run again for a full term in 2014, in what is likely to be a higher-profile contest. But Tuesday’s winner will have the advantage of incumbency.

“It’s going to really depend on turnout,” Edwards said.

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Straus, Beebe clash over Legislature’s impact

John W. Gonzalez

SAN ANTONIO — They agreed on a few topics, but Texas House Speaker Joe Straus of San Antonio and his GOP re-election opponent in District 121 differed sharply on several key issues Tuesday in the first — and possibly last — joint appearance of their rematch campaign.

While Straus, R-San Antonio, praised the 83rd Legislature’s actions to restore public school funding and to address long-term water and transportation needs, his tea party-backed opponent Matt Beebe said 2013 lawmaking sessions were a collection of missed opportunities to apply conservative principles to state spending and social issues.

Both candidates told the Express-News Editorial Board they oppose term limits for state officials, saying they put their trust in voters. Even so, Beebe, who lost to Straus in the 2012 GOP primary by a 63-37 percent vote, contends it’s time for new leadership in the district that includes Alamo Heights, Olmos Park, Terrell Hills and a large part of city’s North Side.

Straus, a House member since 2005 and speaker since 2009, said, “We had an enormously successful session in 2013” that included changes to the testing regimen in public schools and implementation of a state water plan that won overwhelming voter approval in November.

“On all of those promises, we delivered,” Straus said, adding, “We did all that in the context of limited spending.”

Beebe, who has an IT and computer security business, said he has the same reason for running that motivated him in 2012.

“We just weren’t getting the kinds of conservative reforms that I thought were necessary. We’re back at it again this time because most of that hasn’t changed. A lot of good, solid reforms were killed, and the gentleman seated to the right of me had his hand in a lot of that,” Beebe claimed.

Beebe asserted that Straus, while leading the 150-member House, was focused on state issues at the expense of District 121.

“I’m running to represent the district because, in fact, the district doesn’t really have representation at all right now,” Beebe said.

He said the House should have ended in-state tuition for undocumented immigrants and reduced state spending. Beebe was critical of what he called unfunded mandates for public schools, and he…Continued here: