John Carona

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John Carona
John Carona.jpg
Texas State Senate, District 16
Incumbent
In office
1997 - Present
Term ends
January 13, 2015
Years in position 17
PartyRepublican
Compensation
Base salary$7,200/year
Per diem$150/day
Elections and appointments
Last electionNovember 6, 2012
First elected1996
Term limitsN/A
Prior offices
Texas House of Representatives
1990 - 1996
Education
Bachelor'sUniversity of Texas-Austin, 1978
Personal
BirthdayDecember 14, 1955
Place of birthTexas City, TX
ProfessionExecutive Officer
Websites
Office website
CandidateVerification
John J. Carona (b. December 14, 1955) is a Republican member of the Texas State Senate, representing District 16. He was first elected to the chamber in 1996.

Biography

Carona graduated with a B.A. in insurance and real estate from the University of Texas at Austin in 1978.

In addition to being a senator, Carona is the founder, president and chief executive officer of Associa and has held that title since 1979. Prior to his election to the state senate, Carona was a member of the Texas House of Representatives from 1990 to 1996.[1]

Committee assignments

2013-2014

At the beginning of the 2013 legislative session, Carona served on the following committees:

Texas Committee Assignments, 2013
Administration
Business & Commerce, Chair
Jurisprudence
Nominations

Issues

Transportation

Carona's policy positions emphasize transportation and infrastructure. In 2008, Carona co-published an op-ed titled with Senator Kirk Watson titled the "Time is now to fix transportation" in the Austin American-Statesman in which his issue positions on transportation policy were laid out. To fight the problem of declining and outdated transportation infrastructure in Texas, Carona offered the following alternatives:[2]

• "End transportation funding diversions. The State Highway Fund has long provided money for the Department of Public Safety and other priorities. We must focus this money on roads and other transportation projects.
• Use bond funding transparently. A year ago, Texans voted to dedicate $5 billion in tax supported bonds to transportation projects. The Legislature should appropriate this money for its intended purpose and commit to using it with complete transparency and accountability.
• Support regional financing tools. Other than toll roads and privatization schemes, the state has provided few options for cities, counties and other local jurisdictions to pay for transportation. The Legislature should offer voter-approved funding mechanisms for regions to plan and pay for roads, rail lines and other projects.
• Rewrite the gas tax. Texas' primary source of transportation funding cannot provide for the state's transportation needs. The Legislature must have a serious debate about restructuring the motor fuels tax to reflect the enormity of our tasks by indexing it to inflation.
• Explore new alternatives. Texas must move past a 20th century model that relies so heavily on single-occupancy vehicles and work to create a truly comprehensive statewide system for moving people and freight. This should begin by funding the Rail Relocation Fund that voters overwhelmingly approved in 2005.
• Reform the Texas Department of Transportation. With its overt advocacy of privatization and occasional disregard for the Legislature, the department has rightly incurred the wrath of Texans and their representatives. Though we applaud the department's recent efforts to be more transparent and accountable, the Legislature must fundamentally reform the agency so that Texans are fully aware of its activities and never question its objectives."[2]

Wallace Hall impeachment trial


Seal of Texas.svg.png

University of Texas Investigations

Background
Wallace Hall impeachment trialPolitical favoritism in admissions to the University of TexasForgivable loans program at the University of Texas Law School House Select Committee on Transparency in State Agency Operations (TSAO)Joint Committee on Oversight of Higher Ed Governance, Excellence & Transparency

UT Regents
Wallace HallPaul FosterEugene PowellSteven HicksErnest AlisedaJeffery HildebrandBrenda PejovichAlex CranbergRobert Stillwell

Elected Officials
Rick PerryJoe StrausCharles PerryTrey FischerDan FlynnNaomi GonzalezEric JohnsonLyle LarsonCarol AlvaradoFour PriceJim PittsDan Branch

UT Individuals
Bill PowersLarry SagerBarry BurgdorfKevin HegartyFrancisco CigarroaCarol Longoria
See also: Wallace Hall impeachment trial

Texas state legislators are exploring an unprecedented legal step -- impeaching an appointed official. University of Texas Regent Wallace Hall, who was named to the post by Governor Rick Perry, is the subject of an investigation by a Texas state house committee. Legislators who are in favor of the impeachment process initially set out to investigate whether Hall failed to disclose information on his regent application, revealed protected information about students and exceeded his role as a regent in requesting massive amounts of information. Although the committee left open the possibility of revisiting impeachment, an August 11, 2014 vote passed 6-1 to censure Hall, possibly bringing a close to the more than year-long process.[3][4] In response to the censure vote, Governor of Texas Rick Perry issued a statement defending Hall's actions, saying the regent acted in the best interest of Texas "in the face of withering personal attacks."[5]

Only two elected officials in the history of Texas have ever been successfully impeached.[6] Hall is the first regent to have been censured by the Texas State Legislature.[7]

Governor Rick Perry and others have strongly criticized the attempted impeachment. Critics says it is an effort to criminalize policy differences. In late November 2013, Perry and State House Speaker Joe Straus sent letters to gubernatorial appointees to address the impeachment trial. Perry's letter explained the importance of oversight of state agencies by gubernatorial appointees. In his letter, Straus agreed with Perry and wrote, "Both board members and the Legislature need to ask difficult questions."[8][9][10][11][12]

After he was appointed in 2011, University of Texas Regent Wallace Hall began looking into what he believed to be clout scandals within the University of Texas system. Hall investigated the university's forgivable-loans program and admissions policies and preferential treatment to politically-connected individuals.[13] Hall filed FOIA requests with the University system after his inquiries via his role as a Regent were initially rebuffed.[14] According to his accusers, Hall filed requests of more than 800,000 pages, which some Texas administrators called an unnecessary burden.[15][16] However, a letter from University chancellor Francisco Cigarroa in February 2014 said that Hall requested closer to 100,000 pages.[17][18] In addition, Cigarroa wrote: "During testimony before the Select Committee, some early witnesses implied that the U.T. System has not protected the privacy rights of students, staff, and patients. This is simply not true."[19]

An effort was begun in June 2013 to try and impeach Hall from his position as Regent. Some legislators justified the impeachment on the grounds that Hall did not disclose several lawsuits that he was involved in when he originally completed his Regent background check. Hall updated Governor Rick Perry's office in April 2013 with the full list.[20][21] The lack of lawsuit disclosure by Hall is not unique -- more than 9,000 lawsuits were not disclosed by other appointed Texas officials.[22] No unelected official in Texas has ever been successfully impeached or removed from office.[23] Governor of Texas Rick Perry's spokesperson said the investigations send a "chilling message" to gubernatorial appointees.[24] He added that the investigation was "extraordinary political theater."[25] Texas state legislators have never previously tried to remove an appointed official. Only two elected officials in the history of Texas have ever been successfully impeached.[26]

Richard Legon, president of the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges, criticized the impeachment process in a November interview with the Austin American-Statesman. He called the impeachment process the "nuclear option" and said it could send a chilling signal to other members of higher education boards. Legon suggested that the board should have first been given the opportunity to address Hall's requests. "It’s fine for a board member to seek information through the appropriate path. The first layer of reining in an overly aggressive board member should be the board," he said.[27]

A January 2014 review by the law firm Hilder & Associates concluded that there was "no credible evidence of a violation of [the state government code] that would warrant a referral for criminal prosecution." The report concluded that Hall had a legitimate reason for having the documents in question. "In light of the fundamental role attorneys play, it would lead to an absurd result were it criminal for an official to provide student records to his or her attorney in the face of litigation, or anticipated litigation, involving these records," Philip Hilder wrote in the report. Hilder submitted the report to the legislative committee. The Board of Regents hired the firm to review whether Hall may have violated any federal privacy laws in his handling of student information. November 2013 testimony prompted committee-member Trey Fischer to request the inquiry. Committee member Dan Flynn said he was not surprised by the findings and was pleased the university counsel reached a conclusion.[28][29][30][31]

The hiring of Rusty Hardin to conduct an investigation into Hall's activities ultimately cost the state $500,000. Although the bills ultimately came to more than $588,000, Hardin's team told State Speaker of the House Joe Straus that a cap of $500,000 would be placed on the expenses.[32][33]

Carona's stance on impeachment

Carona said in July 2014 that he opposes Hall's impeachment. "In my view, Wallace Hall should not be impeached. Were I to have returned to the Senate in 2015, I would have voted against any resolution to do so. I’ve never met Mr. Hall, but I believe that he was probably just doing his job as a regent. If there is any fault in his actions, it may have been in his approach and handling of certain confidential data. That said, it seems to me that impeachment is a leap too far. As to the admissions process itself, it is clear that certain policy changes are in order," Carona said.[34]

Elections

2014

See also: Texas State Senate elections, 2014

Elections for 15 of the 31 seats in the Texas State Senate took place in 2014. A primary election took place on March 4, 2014. The general election was held on November 4, 2014. The signature-filing deadline for candidates wishing to run in these elections was December 9, 2013. Donald Huffines defeated incumbent John Carona in the Republican primary. Mike Dooling (L) filed for election but did not appear on the general election ballot. Huffines was unopposed in the general election.[35][36][37]

Prior to the March 4 primary, Huffines said Carona was too liberal and described the 18-year incumbent as out-of-touch in the district.[38] After Huffines declared for the seat, Carona said: "I’m surprised Mr. Huffines was running as a Republican considering that he spent a small fortune attacking Republicans in the 2012 presidential campaign, but I welcome a thorough debate on the issues facing Texans."[39] In 2012, Huffines helped form a SuperPAC that supported Ron Paul and spent more than $400,000 in the race.[38] Texas Monthly named Carona one of the worst legislators in 2013, pointing in part to his long absence during the session.[40]

2012

See also: Texas State Senate elections, 2012

Carona ran in the 2012 election for Texas State Senate, District 16. Carona ran unopposed in the May 29 primary election and was unchallenged in the general election which took place on November 6, 2012.[41]

2008

See also: Texas State Senate elections, 2008

On Nov. 4, 2008, Carona won election to the 16th District Seat in the Texas State Senate, defeating opponents Rain Minns and Paul Osborn.[41]

Carona raised $1,305,604 for his campaign while Minns raised $113,061 and Osborn raised $0.[42]

Texas State Senate, District 16 (2008)
Candidates Votes Percent
Green check mark transparent.png John Carona (R) 122,439 56.26%
Rain Minns (D) 89,346 41.05%
Paul Osborn (L) 5,825 2.67%

Campaign donors

Comprehensive donor information for Carona is available dating back to 1998. Based on available campaign finance records, Carona raised a total of $6,811,221 during that time period. This information was last updated on August 22, 2013.[43]

John Carona's Campaign Contribution History
Year Office Result Contributions
2012 Texas State Senate, District 16 Won $1,341,636
2010 Texas State Senate, District 16 Not up for election $1,069,144
2008 Texas State Senate, District 16 Won $1,305,604
2006 Texas State Senate, District 16 Not up for election $1,032,200
2004 Texas State Senate, District 16 Won $926,768
2002 Texas State Senate, District 16 Won $792,637
1998 Texas State Senate, District 16 Won $343,232
Grand Total Raised $6,811,221

2012

Carona won re-election to the Texas State Senate in 2012. During that election cycle, Carona raised a total of $1,341,636.
Texas State Senate 2012 election - Campaign Contributions
Top contributors to John Carona's campaign in 2012
Texas Assocation Of Realtors$30,019
Andrews, Barry G$25,000
Aycox, Rod A$25,000
AT&T$25,000
Time Warner Cable$16,000
Total Raised in 2012$1,341,636
Source:Follow the Money

2010

Carona was not up for election to the Texas State Senate in 2010. During that election cycle, Carona raised a total of $1,069,144.

2008

Carona won re-election to the Texas State Senate in 2008. During that election cycle, Carona raised a total of $1,305,604.

2006

Carona was not up for election to the Texas State Senate in 2006. During that election cycle, Carona raised a total of $1,032,200.

2004

Carona won re-election to the Texas State Senate in 2004. During that election cycle, Carona raised a total of $926,768.

2002

Carona won re-election to the Texas State Senate in 2002. During that election cycle, Carona raised a total of $792,637.

1998

Carona won re-election to the Texas State Senate in 1998. During that election cycle, Carona raised a total of $343,232.

Scorecards

See also: State legislative scorecards and State legislative scorecards in Texas

Legislative scorecards are used to evaluate elected public officials based on voting record. Some scorecards are created by political advocacy groups with a focus on specific issues, while others are developed by newspapers and are broad in scope. Scorecards are meant to be used as a tool for voters to have a quick picture of whether their views align with a particular legislator's record.

Because scorecards can be specific to particular issues or general to a state’s legislative term, for example, each report should be considered on its own merits. Each entity that publishes these reports uses different methodologies and definitions for the terms used.

An overview for scorecards in all 50 states can be found on this page. To contribute to the list of Texas scorecards, email suggestions to scorecards@ballotpedia.org.

Please see our writing guidelines if you would like to add results from an individual scorecard to this legislator's profile.

2013

In 2013, the Texas State Legislature was in its 83rd legislative session from January 8 through May 27. Thirty minutes after the regular session ended, Governor Rick Perry called legislators back for a special session starting that evening.[44] Two additional called sessions were held from July 1 through July 30 and July 30 through August 5.[45]

  • Legislators are scored on bills which relate to economic freedom, the size and scope of government and individual liberty.
  • Legislators are scored based on their votes on bills relating to the organizations principles, missions and goals of responsible, conservative solutions for Texas.
  • Legislators are scored based on their votes on bills relating to core budget and free enterprise issues.
  • Legislators are scored based on votes for bills with the greatest impact on Texas’ environment and public health.
  • Equality Texas - Equality Texas rankings for the Texas House during the 83rd regular legislative session
  • Legislators are assigned grades reflecting votes on LGBT issues.
  • Legislators are scored based on their votes on bills relating to taxes and property rights.
  • Legislators are scored based on issues critical to businesses, taxpayers and families.
  • Legislators are scored based on votes relating to conservative issues.
  • The 2013 TLCV scorecard covers a range of votes and issues, including: water, global warming, environmental regulation, clean energy, clean air, good government, oil and gas regulation and energy efficiency.
  • Legislators are scored based on votes for bills relating to this issue of abortion.
  • Mark P. Jones is the Chair of the Department of Political Science at Rice University. He builds a ranking of Texas state representatives each year based on their votes from the previous session. Jones then ranks legislators based on how liberal and conservative they are according to legislative history.
  • Legislators are scored on their votes on key conservative issues.
  • Legislators are scored based on votes for Amendments 2, 12, 51, 95 and 118.
  • Young Conservatives of Texas: Legislative Ratings for the 83rd Legislature
  • Legislators are scored based on votes for House Bill 2.
  • Legislators are scored on their votes on key small business issues.
  • Concerned Women for America of Texas: Legislative Scorecard for the 83rd session.

2011

In 2011, the Texas State Legislature was in its 82nd legislative session from January 11 through May 30. A special session was called for May 31 through June 29.[45]

  • Legislators are scored based on their votes on bills relating to the organizations principles, missions and goals of responsible, conservative solutions for Texas.
  • Legislators are scored based on their votes on bills relating to core budget and free enterprise issues.
  • Legislators are scored based on votes on social issues, economic issues and other issues.
  • The Humane Scorecard assesses support on a broad range of animal protection issues.
  • Legislators are scored based on votes relating to conservative issues.
  • Legislators are scored based on votes relating to environment and conservation issues.
  • Legislators are scored based on votes for bills relating to this issue of abortion.
  • Mark P. Jones is the Chair of the Department of Political Science at Rice University. He builds a ranking of Texas state representatives each year based on their votes from the previous session. Jones then ranks legislators based on how liberal and conservative they are according to legislative history.
  • Legislators are scored based on 56 House votes and 38 Senate votes that offer clear public policy choice.
  • Legislators are scored based on votes for bills with the greatest impact on Texas’ environment and public health.
  • Legislators are scored based on consumer-related bills.

Empower Texans Fiscal Responsibility Index

See also: Empower Texans Fiscal Responsibility Index

Empower Texans produces the Fiscal Responsibility Index as "a measurement of how lawmakers perform on size and role of government issues." The index uses "exemplar votes on core budget and free enterprise issues that demonstrate legislators' governing philosophy."[46] Legislators were graded along a 0 through 100 scale in 2013 and on an A through F grading scale in 2011.

2013

Carona received a score of 60 in the 2013 Fiscal Responsibility Index, compared to the grade of B+ that Carona received for the 2011 Fiscal Responsibility Index.

2011

John Carona received a grade of B+ on the 2011 Fiscal Responsibility Index.

  • 2011 Taxpayer Advocate. Carona was named a "2011 Taxpayer Advocate," which is "an award presented by Texans for Fiscal Responsibility to legislators based on their strong rating on the most recent Fiscal Responsibility Index."

Personal

Carona and his wife, Helen, have five children: Joey, Jeff, Will, Kirsten and Kel.

Controversies

University of Texas Law School

See also: Political favoritism in admissions to the University of Texas

Senator Carona was implicated in a Texas Watchdog December 2013 report on political favoritism at the University of Texas. Carona's son Jeffrey Steven Carona, along with two other sons of Texas state lawmakers, failed the Texas bar exam repeatedly after graduating from the University of Texas Law School. This was unusual for University of Texas Law School graduates, as less than 10 percent had to retake the exam in the eight years prior to 2013. State Senator Judith Zaffirini (D), to whom Carona has given over $30,000 in campaign contributions, and State Representative Jim Pitts (R) were also implicated in the report, as their sons had similar difficulties. The report found that between the three lawmakers' sons, they had taken the bar exam 10 times -- with only two passing the exam. The report was released following months of investigations into University Regent Wallace Hall and his FOIA requests of the University system. Hall implied that there were issues of clout and corruption within the Texas school system, alleging that legislators were using their political influence to affect law school admissions. The Watchdog report was issued following its investigation, which it said did not include details from Hall's FOIA requests.[47]

Private plane reimbursements

Carona owns a private plane. In 2008-2009, according to an investigation by Texas Watchdog, Carona used his personal plane to travel in Texas, and was reimbursed $17,000 by state taxpayers for the cost of the flights he took on his private plane between January 1, 2008-May 1, 2009. According to the watchdog website, Carona could have flown on cheaper commercial transportation for the flights in question. His most expensive flight was between Dallas and El Paso in July 2008, at a roundtrip cost of about $1,300.[48]

Relative to the flights, Carona said that he flies on his private plane because he has responsibilities in the state senate and in his job as president and CEO of Associa, a national firm that specializes in homeowner association management. Carona said, "Covering both responsibilities in an efficient fashion necessitates that I avoid canceled flights and long delays in airport terminals. Therefore, by necessity, I fly private aircraft whenever possible. It allows me to fulfill my duties, without disruption, to both my constituents and my clients."[48]

Other state senators who spent taxpayer money on noncommercial airfare include Carlos Uresti and Robert Duncan.

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References

  1. Project Vote Smart, "Biography," accessed May 24, 2014
  2. 2.0 2.1 Austin American-Statesman, "Time is now to fix transportation," November 26, 2008 (dead link)
  3. Dallas Morning News, "Panel censures but doesn’t impeach UT Regent Wallace Hall," August 11, 2014
  4. Austin American-Statesman, "Panel censures UT Regent Wallace L. Hall Jr.," August 11, 2014
  5. Your Houston News, "Statement by Gov. Perry on UT Regent Wallace Hall," August 11, 2014
  6. Texas Public Radio, "UT Regent Wallace Hall Will Testify In Impeachment Hearing," November 13, 2013
  7. Austin Business Journal, "A first: UT regent censured," August 11, 2014
  8. Texas Tribune, "Perry, Straus reach out to appointees amid Hall inquiry," December 21, 2013
  9. Daily Caller, "Texas tries to topple higher-ed transparency," November 21, 2013
  10. Fort Worth Star-Telegram, "Perry calls regent impeachment “political theater”," October 30, 2013
  11. Lubbock Online, "Perry, Straus Reach Out to Appointees Amid Hall Inquiry," December 22, 2013
  12. Texas Tribune, "Letter from Rick Perry to Appointees," November 22, 2013
  13. American Spectator, "Transparency for Thee," October 25, 2013
  14. Daily Texas Online, "Facing impeachment, Regent Wallace Hall defends actions in debate with Sen. Kirk Watson," September 28, 2013
  15. Daily Texas Online, "Former UT System vice chancellor alleges Regent Wallace Hall’s ‘clear intent to get rid of Bill Powers’," October 24, 2013
  16. Dallas Morning News, "UT regent sought 800,000 documents, official says in impeachment hearing," October 22, 2013
  17. Watchdog, "‘Witch hunt’ fallout: Speaker calls for narrower public records law," February 5, 2014
  18. Texas Tribune, "UT System Responds to Transparency Committee Directives," February 3, 2014
  19. Texas Tribune, "Cigarroa letter to the Committee on Transparency in State Agency Operations," February 1, 2014
  20. Texas Tribune, "UT Regent Wallace Hall Updates Lawsuit Disclosures," April 30, 2013
  21. Real Clear Policy, "The Campaign Against Wallace Hall," August 15, 2013
  22. Watchdog.org, "Case against UT regent Wallace Hall is a sham — here’s proof," September 6, 2013
  23. News-Journal, "University of Texas regent not worried by impeachment inquiry," September 9, 2013
  24. Texas Tribune, "Transparency Committee to Mull Impeachment of UT Regent," June 25, 2013
  25. Texas Tribune, "Perry Blasts Impeachment Probe of Wallace Hall," October 30, 2013
  26. Texas Public Radio, "UT Regent Wallace Hall Will Testify In Impeachment Hearing," November 13, 2013
  27. Austin American Statesman, "A UT regent impeachment could make other boards cautious, expert says," November 29, 2013
  28. Dallas Morning News, "UT Regent Hall didn't commit crime, university attorney concludes,"January 16, 2014
  29. Watchdog, "UT Report: Charge against Hall is legally 'absurd'" January 14, 2014
  30. Texas Tribune, "Report: Regent Didn't Violate Student Privacy Laws," January 15, 2014
  31. Texas Tribune Uploads, "Hilder & Associates Report," January 13, 2014
  32. Houston Chronicle, "UPDATED: Wallace Hall impeachment probe cost $500K," July 22, 2014
  33. KWTX, "Cost Of UT Regent Probe Reaches Almost $600,000," July 22, 2014
  34. Dallas Morning News, "John Carona’s right: Wallace Hall should not be at risk of impeachment," July 15, 2014
  35. Office of the Secretary of State, "1992 - Current ELECTION HISTORY," accessed July 26, 2014
  36. Green Party of Texas, "Greens Release Candidate List," accessed July 26, 2014
  37. The Libertarian Party of Texas, "2014 Texas Senate Candidates List," accessed July 26, 2014
  38. 38.0 38.1 Dallas Morning News "Republican developer Don Huffines says he’ll be challenging Senate veteran John Carona from the right," October 28, 2013
  39. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named trib
  40. Texas Monthly "The Worst: Senator John Carona" accessed January 20, 2014
  41. 41.0 41.1 Texas Secretary of State, "1992 - Current Election History," accessed February 17, 2014
  42. Follow the Money, "2008 Candidate funds," accessed May 24, 2014
  43. Follow the Money, "Carona, John," accessed August 22, 2013
  44. kten.com, "Texas Lawmakers To Tackle Redistricting In Special Session," May 29, 2013
  45. 45.0 45.1 Legislative reference Library of Texas, "Texas Legislative Sessions and Years," accessed June 13, 2014
  46. Empower Texans, "Fiscal Responsibility Index," accessed February 22, 2014
  47. Texas Watchdog, "Children of Texas lawmakers get into UT School of Law, but struggle to pass bar exam," December 18, 2013
  48. 48.0 48.1 Texas Watchdog, "State senators rack up big bills using charter flights, personal planes," November 5, 2009
Political offices
Preceded by
John Leedom
Texas Senate District 16
1997-present
Succeeded by
NA