In Texas politics: Up, down and in-between

Published on Saturday, 7 March 2015 09:01 - Written by WILL WEISSERT, Associated Press

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Rep. David Simpson is a leading Libertarian voice, best known for attempting an unsuccessful tea party insurrection against the Republican House speaker, fiercely opposing airport security pat-downs and championing a law exempting the purchase of gold and silver coins from sales tax.

So it's not much of a surprise the Longview lawmaker would sponsor a blanket marijuana legalization proposal. But his rationale is a shocker: promoting pot on Christian grounds.

"All that God created is good, including marijuana," Simpson said. He argued that it should be utilized for medical reasons, to produce fiber "or simply for beauty and enjoyment."

Simpson's bill almost certainly won't pass, but it succeeded in turning heads. Here's a look at other people and issues that had strong — and not so strong — weeks in Texas politics.

WHO'S UP:

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz

The tea party favorite's potential 2016 presidential campaign hired a top Iowa conservative activist, Bryan English, as a senior adviser. English is a former staffer for GOP kingmaker and Iowa Rep. Steve King, and it's no coincidence that his state has the nation's first presidential caucus. Cruz's book, "A Time for Truth," is also coming out June 30 — checking another box for a would-be White House hopeful.

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Former Gov. Rick Perry

Not to be outdone, Texas' other expected 2016 presidential contender celebrated his 65th birthday this week by hiring the digital firm Targeted Victory to boost national voter outreach. A handful of Perry allies also formed a super-PAC to spend unlimited bucks on his behalf.

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UT System regent nominees

Last week, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott's three choices for the board that oversees the University of Texas System's 15 campuses faced hours of scathing questions from GOP members of the Senate Nominations Committee. The committee then left the trio's approval to the full Senate pending. Seven days later, though, two nominees were approved unanimously and the third got a 6-1 committee endorsement. Full Senate confirmation should be easier.

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WHAT'S DOWN:

Libel bill

Republican Sen. Joan Huffman is sponsoring a proposal backed by media groups that would protect journalists from libel lawsuits when they report a whistleblower's allegations — even if those allegations turn out to be false. But Huffman's bill drew tepid responses from many of her colleagues on the Senate State Affairs Committee, which left it pending. Such a cool debut may not bode well for the bill's chances.

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WHO'S INBETWEEN

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick

The former conservative talk radio host held three news conferences this week, one for each day the Senate met. So much media face time may not accomplish much, though. On Monday, Patrick helped demand changes to the joint federal-state Medicaid program that Washington will likely ignore. The next day, he announced broad plans to overhaul classrooms — but didn't yet unveil much-anticipated school voucher plans. And Patrick's final media foray focused on a plan to let conservative legislators increase state spending without casting the ever politically unpopular vote to bust the self-imposed state spending cap. House Speaker Joe Straus promptly panned that idea, and without his chamber's support, it's going nowhere fast.

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