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PB’s White and Loya featured in Capitol Inside’s 2021 Texas Lobby Power Rankings

Capitol Inside published their 2021 Texas Lobby Power Rankings yesterday, a list released each legislative session year along with rankings for political consultants, legislators, campaigns, and more. This year, Public Blueprint CEO David White was ranked in the top 10 on their Hired Guns list: 

10. David White
Public Blueprint, Comptrollers Glenn Hegar and Susan Combs Senior Advisor

“A former high-level advisor to Comptroller Glenn Hegar and his predecessor Susan Combs, White has been the Johnny Hustle of the Austin lobby in recent years, working his extensive connections with a joyous intensity with the goal of being number one with no time to waste.”

Lee Loya, who joined Public Blueprint as a Government Relations Associate in November, was also featured #8 on the Rising Stars list

8. Lee Loya
Public Blueprint, State Rep. Oscar Longoria Chief of Staff as Appropriations Committee Vice-Chairman, State Rep. Senfronia Thompson Advisor.


PRESS RELEASE: Public Blueprint Releases New Faces Booklet Introducing 20 New Members Joining the Texas Legislature

The digital booklet includes basic background information on each new member.

AUSTIN, TEXAS — Today, Public Blueprint released their bi-annual booklet of the New Faces of the Texas Legislature. With a unique and largely contact-less session commencing, it is the hope that this digital booklet will provide an easy way for everyone to get to know the new members, even without meeting them face to face. 

The booklet includes general biographical and district information, professional experience, birthday information, and more, to help fellow legislators, staffers, stakeholders, and constituents get to know the new faces in the Capitol. 

To view the digital New Faces booklet, simply visit our website and click on the legislators you’d like to get to know more about. We encourage you to share this link with peers in your professional and personal networks.

If you have any questions or would like to request a correction of any of the information in the booklet, please send an email to info@publicblueprint.com.

We sincerely hope you enjoy the New Faces Booklet and stay safe and healthy this legislative session.

Best,

Your Public Blueprint Team


Press Release: Lee Loya Joins The Public Blueprint Team As A Government Relations Associate ​

Lee has served in the Capitol for over 20 years as a policy advisor and chief of staff, among other positions

Austin, Texas — Today, Public Blueprint announced the addition of Lee Loya as a Government Relations Associate to the firms growing GR practice. Lee’s 20 years of experience and substantive relationships around the Texas Capitol will be invaluable as the team prepares for the 87th Legislative Session, beginning on January 12.

“Public Blueprint is thrilled to have Lee join the team,” said founder and Chief Executive Officer David White. “With a COVID-19 session ahead of us, real relationships and knowledge of the process are more important than ever before and Lee’s insights will undoubtedly be a value add to our clients.”

Lee has served in many different capacities in the Capitol, most recently as the Chief of Staff for current House Appropriations Vice-Chairman Oscar Longoria, and formerly as the Chief of Staff for former Representative Kino Flores and as a policy advisor for House Public Health Chairwoman Senfronia Thompson. Lee has significant experience working with the Legislative Budget Board and on the entire budget process, as well as on a range of other policy issues including transportation, oil & gas, licensing, and more. 

“My work experience with legislators and staff on both sides of the aisle will allow me to offer a unique perspective and assist all of Public Blueprint’s clients with their goals during the 2021 session and beyond,” said Lee. “I am ready to get started and ecstatic to be a member of this young, growing firm.”

Public Blueprint is an Austin, Texas-based public affairs firm specializing in government relations, communications, digital engagement, and grassroots advocacy. Through a combination of genuine relationships in and around the Texas Capitol, an unrivaled work ethic, and a passion for innovation, we provide our clients with the counsel, planning, and execution necessary to achieve their public policy goals. Learn more at PublicBlueprint.com.


Press Release: Capitol Veteran Cara Gustafson Joins The Public Blueprint Team As Communications Specialist

Cara joins the team after serving as Representative Garnet Coleman’s Communications Director.

Austin, Texas — Last week, Public Blueprint announced the addition of Cara Gustafson as the team’s new Communications Specialist. Cara’s strong press connections and vast experience with the media landscape in Texas will bring immeasurable value to both clients and the Public Blueprint team as we approach the 2021 Legislative Session.

“We are all thrilled to have Cara join our growing team,” said founder and Chief Executive Officer David White. “Her deep experience in the Texas Capitol press circles and history of producing results will be invaluable to Public Blueprint’s communications capabilities.”

Most recently, Cara served as the Communications Director for Representative Garnet Coleman during both the 2017 and 2019 Legislative Sessions. During her time in Representative Coleman’s office, she placed stories with major publications including the New York Times, LA Times, Houston Chronicle, Texas Tribune, and many others. 

“I gained incredible experience in both policy and press issues working in the Capitol, specifically for Rep. Coleman. I am looking forward to using these skills in a new way for Public Blueprint’s portfolio of clients,” said Gustafson. 

Public Blueprint is an Austin, Texas-based public affairs firm specializing in government relations, communications, digital and grassroots advocacy.  Through a combination of deep relationships in and around the Texas Capitol, an unrivaled work ethic, and a passion for innovation, we provide our clients with the counsel, planning, and execution necessary to achieve their public policy goals. Learn more about Cara Gustafson and Public Blueprint at PublicBlueprint.com


Press Release: Veteran Capitol and Campaign Staffer Elliott Griffin joins Public Blueprint as COO

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: April 2, 2018

AUSTIN, Texas—Public Blueprint announced today the hiring of Elliott Griffin as chief operating officer.

Bringing extensive policy expertise, deep relationships in and around the Texas Capitol, and a wealth of experience in creating and managing winning teams, coalitions, and campaigns, Griffin is a tremendous addition to Public Blueprint’s executive team and will help guide the company during the next phase of its rapid growth.

“We’re excited to add Elliott’s unique skill set to the team at Public Blueprint,” said co-founder and Chief Executive Officer David White. “Having worked with Elliott in the past, I’m confident his abilities as a skilled manager and coalition builder will help guide the team as we expand our business.”

Most recently, Griffin served as chief of staff to State Sen. Konni Burton. Utilizing his vast knowledge in areas such as taxation, transportation, healthcare, energy, criminal justice, and the state budget, Griffin served as the senator’s lead public policy advisor and chief negotiator on and off the senate floor. He also worked closely with the governor’s office on nominations and appointments to executive and judicial positions, particularly during Burton’s time on the Senate Committee on Nominations.

“I have enjoyed working in and around the Capitol under so many great elected officials, but I am extremely excited to be joining a young public affairs firm that is innovating in so many different spaces,” said Griffin. 

Prior to his time in Sen. Burton’s office, Griffin worked with Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, leading his statewide grassroots operation in a successful run for lieutenant governor. Griffin then spearheaded the effort to staff the new office as transition director. He then joined the Office of the Lieutenant Governor as external affairs director where he provided crucial perspective from the electorate, industry, trade associations, and other members of the legislature. Griffin also launched and served as chief liaison to the Lieutenant Governor’s Advisory Boards, which consisted of prominent leaders from across many industries and backgrounds spanning the state.

Before working in the Texas Senate, Griffin served as chief of staff to Reps. Wayne Christian and Matt Krause. He transitioned to a career in state politics from the private sector in 2009 as a regional field director for Rick Perry’s successful gubernatorial reelection campaign where he worked under now-Public Blueprint CEO David White.

Learn more about the Public Blueprint team here

Public Blueprint is an Austin, Texas-based consulting firm specializing in governmental and public affairs as well as grassroots organizing and digital advocacy. Whatever the goal – creating awareness, mobilizing a movement, or winning at the Legislature – our team delivers a healthy dose of vision, creativity, and determination to make it happen. Learn more at PublicBlueprint.com


What’s next for I-35 now that toll plans are scrapped?

KVUE – January 2, 2018
by Rebeca Trejo

AUSTIN – As we begin the new year, congestion on Interstate Highway 35 continues to be a problem for commuters in Central Texas.

Late last month, TxDOT leadership voted to scrap plans to add tolls to the interstate.

So, what plans does the state have to address traffic on the interstate and other highways?

TxDOT is looking to its leadership, the Texas Transportation Commission — a government-appointed 5-member body.

Because leadership voted against tolls, TxDOT is essentially regrouping and said it is wanting to talk with local partners to get to a solution for I-35.

KVUE spoke with Ben Wear, a reporter for the Austin American-Statesman who has been covering transportation for the paper for 14 years.

He said I-35’s current projects will still continue.

“TxDOT is going to continue doing projects on I-35 as tax money is available,” Wear said

But as far as adding toll lanes to I-35:

“That has morphed over time from one lane each side, to two lanes each side, to adding lanes to the upper deck, to taking down the upper deck,” said Wear. “It’s had several different versions and several different cost estimates. But the whole idea of adding toll lanes to I-35, at least for now, I think is dead.”

So how best to address congestion?

David White with Texans for Traffic Relief said the solutions may have to come from next year’s state legislature.

“The governor and lieutenant governor, they have made historic investments in transportation,” said White. “Unfortunately, that is not enough to get us where we need to go long-term, and so we anticipate in 2019 there being a lot of conversation about how we’re going to fund our roads moving forward.”

We also spoke with Terri Hall, with Texans for Toll-Free Highways. She said TxDOT needs to draw up new ideas.

“What happened was they consumed all those new funds on a bunch of low-priority projects so they could come back and still toll all the major urban corridors,” said Hall. “Now that they can’t toll all the major urban corridors, they’re gonna need to go back to the drawing board and get those funds reallocated to the top-priority projects.”

While I-35’s future of possible expansion remains to be seen, 183 South, a toll project on the way to the airport, is currently under construction.

Also ahead in 2018: New sound walls on MoPac; improvements to the intersection of 183 and I-35; and I-35 and Old Settlers Boulevard in Round Rock.

We also spoke with Texas Senator Kirk Watson’s office regarding the I-35 project.

In a statement, he said in part, “It is a disservice to Texans and flat-out wrong to assert that Texas has all of the transportation funding we need. While we have more money than before, the funds are insufficient to address the state’s infrastructure needs without other sources of revenue, including tolls.”


Toll lanes not coming to I-35 after unanimous vote

Spectrum News – December 15, 2017
by Claire Ricke

AUSTIN, Texas – Toll lanes will not be coming to Interstate 35 after a unanimous vote by the Texas Department of Transportation.

TxDOT is removing all of their toll projects from a 10-year transportation plan. The plan originally included adding toll lanes on each side of I-35 through Central Texas.

The project called, Capital Express, would have added toll lanes spanning from Farm to Market Road 1431 in Round Rock to State Highway 45 near Buda.

The group Texans for Traffic Relief is not happy with the decision. Spokesman David White said the vote isn’t surprising, but puts vital transportation projects in jeopardy.

“We have a massive funding gap that I’m sure will be a main topic of discussion in the next legislative session,” said White. “Texans for Traffic Relief looks forward to being part of the conversation as we work towards the goal of alleviating traffic congestion for all Texans.”


If not tolls or taxes, what then? Texans grapple with funding highways

Texas Standard – November 20, 2017
by Jill Ament

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In an attempt to manage the growing congestion on Texas highways – and the corresponding rates of frustration for drivers – the Texas Department of Transportation, or TxDOT, has been implementing what could be called  a market-driven approach to driving. Rather than spend more state dollars on highway-building, Texas has turned to the private sector, which has built toll roads where the cost to drivers fluctuates with traffic demand.

Bob Garrett, an Austin bureau reporter for the Dallas Morning News, says even conservative, free-market-loving Texas officials think something’s gone wrong with how the state funds its highways and how much it costs individual drivers must pay for the privilege of using them.

With opposition to toll roads at an all-time high, Garrett says a new group, Texans for Traffic Relief, headed by lobbyist and former conservative activist David White, aims to educate commuters about the cost of highway construction. The group’s message is that if Texans don’t want increased taxes, but do want more roads, then the money will have to come from somewhere – including tolls..

In 2015, voters approved dedicating a portion of sales tax revenue to road projects, provided the money would not be used for building toll roads. In October, faced with a shortage of road-building funds, TxDOT discussed the possibility of diverting some of that money to “managed-lane” projects, Garrett says.

“Boy, did the Tea Party react negatively to that,” Garrett says.

Activists weren’t alone. Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick denounced the TxDOT idea, which was shelved.

Toll roads aren’t popular with those who drive them, either, as congestion-pricing rates and late-payment penalties strain pocketbooks.

“The nub of it is that under Rick Perry, we tried to build our way out of this congestion without putting more tax money in it – by doing more toll roads,” Garrett says. “And now, for the last five years, we’ve been backpedaling from toll roads. The question is, have we put enough money in it to really catch up with our deficit.”


Texas transportation nonprofit to advocate for toll roads

Associated Press – November 20, 2017

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — An advocacy group troubled by scarce funding to ease traffic congestion in Texas’ metro regions is taking on tea party activists who oppose toll roads.

Business groups, local elected officials and highway industry interests have formed Texans for Traffic Relief. The group targets commuters to raise awareness about the lack of funds needed to ease traffic in North Texas, Houston, San Antonio and Austin, the Dallas Morning News reported.

“Common-sense solutions” that add to available road money and embrace innovation are important to easing congestion when the state’s highway budget remains inadequate, said David White, spokesman for the group and a GOP lobbyist.

“The Legislature has made historic investments in transportation, but with our exploding population growth it is not enough,” White said. “Raising taxes is off the table, so if we aren’t going to take advantage of innovative opportunities to fund our roads, then I guess we can just ask Santa Claus to pick up the tab.”

White’s nonprofit plans to educate commuters on toll roads, or what members call “managed lanes.” Managed lanes rely on private companies or government toll agencies to put up capital or take on debt for up-front construction costs. Drivers’ tolls are then used to repay those costs over time.

Members of the tea party oppose the tolls. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Republican Sen. Bob Hall of Edgewood have denounced tentative plans by the Texas Transportation Commission to add managed lanes to 15 major projects in the Unified Transportation Program, the state’s 10-year highway plan.

“The Texas Legislature and voters have made additional revenues available,” Patrick said. “In fact, Texas is spending record amounts on transportation.”

The Texans for Traffic Relief will travel to political meetings around the state to rebut criticisms of the Unified Transportation Program. White said the group has no financial commitments yet.


New Texas transportation group vows to fight tea party on how to ease traffic jams

Featured in The Dallas Morning News by Robert T. Garrett, Austin Bureau reporter – November 20, 2017

AUSTIN —  Business groups, local elected officials and highway industry interests are launching a new group targeting commuters to raise awareness about the lack of funds needed to ease traffic congestion in Texas’ four biggest metro areas, including Dallas-Fort Worth.

Frustrated by tea party activists’ vehement opposition to toll roads, such as the proposed “managed lanes” for Interstate 635 East in Dallas County, the transportation funding boosters have formed Texans for Traffic Relief.

As motorists hit the road for the Thanksgiving holidays, the nonprofit will launch a website and begin educational efforts, said spokesman David White.


Although voters in two recent statewide elections approved shifting general-purpose state revenues to roads, Texas’ highway budget remains inadequate, he said.


“Common-sense solutions” that add to available road money and embrace innovation are crucial to easing congestion, he said.

White, a GOP lobbyist and public relations adviser with roots as a conservative activist, said Texans for Traffic Relief would engage commuters in North Texas, Houston, San Antonio and Austin. It will inform them about how the Texas Department of Transportation’s finances aren’t rosy and ask their views on what should be done, he said.

Opening shot

“The Legislature has made historic investments in transportation, but with our exploding population growth it is not enough,” White said. “Raising taxes is off the table, so if we aren’t going to take advantage of innovative opportunities to fund our roads, then I guess we can just ask Santa Claus to pick up the tab.”

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Edgewood GOP Sen. Bob Hall, though, have vehemently denounced tentative plans by the five-member Texas Transportation Commission to add “managed lanes” to 15 major projects in the state’s 10-year highway plan. Tolls would vary, depending on traffic.

White’s group embraces managed lanes where the new lanes are built with government money. It says Texas also should consider expanding capacity with private investors’ money. Companies once again would be allowed to lease portions of existing right of way and build and operate toll lanes.

Ordinary Texans need the facts “about the challenges facing Texas’ strained transportation system,” which are dire, he said.

But Terri Hall of San Antonio, founder of the anti-toll road group Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom or TURF, waved off the new group. It’s just one of many she’s fought since 2005, when she started organizing against toll roads, she said.

Same old, same old

“We’ve had Texas Good Roads, the Association of General Contractors, every chamber of commerce, every mobility coalition around the state and the association of all the engineering firms,” she said. “They’ve been coming at us for a long time. They’re on the wrong side, and that’s why they keep losing.”

Patrick and Bob Hall have depicted the commission as flouting the will of the Legislature.

“The Texas Legislature and voters have made additional revenues available,” Patrick recently wrote Commission Chairman J. Bruce Bugg Jr., an appointee of Gov. Greg Abbott. “In fact, Texas is spending record amounts on transportation.”

Thank you Lt. Gov. @DanPatrick for setting @TxDOT straight on “no more toll roads”! Leadership we can count on! #txlege https://t.co/30p7l7cM5z— Grassroots America (@GAWTP) November 16, 2017

In written statements, Bob Hall has accused Bugg and the other commissioners, all of whom were picked by Abbott or former Gov. Rick Perry, of “defiantly refusing to acknowledge or follow [Abbott’s] very clear instructions.”

Abbott’s vow

Last year, Abbott tweeted, “I promised to build more roads WITHOUT raising taxes, tolls, fees, or debt. We’re doing that now.”

According to the commission’s October briefing materials, though, TxDOT can identify only 14 percent of the federal, state and local money it would take to embark on six major projects for relieving Dallas-Fort Worth. That includes the $1.8 billion “LBJ East” project on I-635 and a $3.2 billion improvement to I-35E between I-635 in Dallas and Denton.

How to fund local projects?

Six major projects for relieving traffic congestion in Dallas-Fort Worth are underfunded, according to the Texas Department of Transportation.

Commission member Victor Vandergriff of Arlington, a Perry appointee, said he sympathizes with people who believed TxDOT finally has received ample state funds and are upset to be told that’s not totally accurate.

“I understand there’s an angst about toll roads and public-private partnerships,” in which private companies put up money for construction, said Vandergriff, former chairman of the North Texas Tollway Authority.

When Perry was governor, Texas filled in gaps by borrowing on the state’s credit — issuing  bonds — and resorting to toll projects . The projects relied on private companies or government toll agencies to put up capital or take on debt for up-front construction costs. Over time, drivers’ tolls are then used to repay those costs.


The tea party, among others, has led a backlash against both tolls and what it claimed is excessive state debt. So those “financing tools” have fallen out of favor, Vandergriff noted.

Deal had ‘asterisk’

Nearly five years ago, state leaders and TxDOT began telling voters that the agency needed $5 billion more per year of state money just to maintain current congestion levels. But the transportation professionals didn’t do a good job of explaining one key detail, Vandergriff said.

“There was an asterisk associated with it and that is it assumes the use of all these financing tools” from the Perry years, he said. “We don’t have those anymore, so it has an impact.”

So voters in 2014 and 2015 approved state constitutional amendments that shifted existing tax money from savings and the general budget to the State Highway Fund. Road spending also got a boost from lawmakers, who stopped diverting nearly $700 million a year from the highway account to pay for state troopers and transportation functions by other departments.

Instead of a net increase of $5 billion a year in new money, though, “it’s probably closer to $4 billion,” Vandergriff said.

“We’re in a better position than we were but it remains to be seen how far we can go” in easing congestion, he said. “Hard choices have to be made.”
Earlier this month, though, Hall’s TURF and dozens of other tea party, libertarian and social conservative groups sent a letter to state leaders and key lawmakers scolding TxDOT for “squandering the new funding on lower-priority projects.”

She said “unelected boards,” such as the commission and NTTA, “are imposing virtually a runaway tax system” of expensive tolls.

White, the new group’s spokesman, said selective tolling can make sense. Tea party adherents who criticize TxDOT’s attempt to update the 10-year highway plan are misstating or ignoring big funding shortfalls, he said.

‘The money boys’

While Texans for Traffic Relief opposes higher taxes, it also is against doing nothing, White said. He predicted inaction would force an eventual tax hike. State and federal gasoline taxes haven’t been increased in more than two decades. Inflation has sapped their purchasing power, road planners and highway industry leaders complain.

Hall said the new group “will be representing the money boys.”

White said that while some engineering firms, road contractors, equipment rental companies and haulers are likely to join, the group has no financial commitments yet.

White, no stranger to GOP politics, is a former state chairman of the Young Conservatives of Texas who’s worked for staunchly conservative Republican politicians such as Railroad Commissioner Wayne Christian.

He said his group’s members will travel to political meetings around the state to rebut the anti-toll road activists’ criticisms of the proposed 10-year road plan, known as the Unified Transportation Program.

The commission is scheduled to consider the 2018 version of the plan Dec. 14.


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