Quorum Report News Clips

June 28, 2017: All Newsclips

Early Morning - June 28, 2017

Lead Stories

Houston Chronicle - June 27, 2017

Lawmaker wants sex assault reporting requirements added to special session

With a special legislative session set to begin next month, state Sen. Joan Huffman wants Gov. Greg Abbott to add a bill imposing new sexual assault reporting requirements on college officials to lawmakers' to-do list. In a June 27 letter to the governor, Huffman, a Houston Republican, requested that Abbott add "legislation requiring institutions of higher education in Texas to establish safe, appropriate, and reliable avenues for reporting instances of sexual assault and violence." Abbott called a special session to begin July 18, following a regular session that ended in May, and listed nearly 20 items for state lawmakers to consider.

Politico - June 27, 2017

Senate GOP seethes at Trump impulsiveness

Top GOP officials and senators say White House chaos and impulsiveness are crippling efforts to expand the Republican Senate majority in 2018, unraveling long-laid plans and needlessly jeopardizing incumbents. There's a widespread sense of exasperation with the president, interviews with nearly two dozen senior Republicans reveal, and deep frustration with an administration they believe doesn’t fully grasp what it will take to preserve the narrow majority or add to it. The most recent flash point involves Nevada Sen. Dean Heller, who was attacked by a White House-sanctioned outside group after announcing his opposition to the now stalled Obamacare repeal bill. Heller, the most endangered GOP incumbent up for reelection in 2018, was initially targeted with a surprise $1 million digital, TV and radio assault — an act of political retaliation that stunned senators and other top GOP officials.

Bloomberg - June 26, 2017

Why Americans Feel So Good About a Mediocre Economy

A strange thing seems to be happening to the U.S. economy. On surveys, businesspeople and consumers say the future looks bright. But recent economic activity hasn't appeared very robust. Andrew Ross Sorkin of the New York Times noted this in a recent article about mergers and acquisitions. A number of surveys have been reporting that chief executive officers are highly optimistic. For example, the website Chief Executive and the Wall Street Journal/Vistage Small Business CEO Survey both report a surge in CEO confidence since the 2016 election, while Business Roundtable’s CEO Economic Outlook Survey finds an average level of confidence. But as Sorkin reports, M&A activity is at its lowest level since 2013, and has fallen 40 percent in the past two years.

San Antonio Express News - June 27, 2017

Organizations across globe pummeled by another cyberattack

Organizations around the world, including banks, multinational companies and one law firm with offices in Texas, were hit Tuesday in a global wave of cyberattacks. Law firm DLA Piper was experiencing issues with some of its systems “due to suspected malware,” a spokesperson from the firm said in a statement Tuesday. The firm has offices in Austin, Dallas and Houston, but it was unclear if those specifically were impacted. The wave of cyberattacks follows the recent ransomware attack known as WannaCry, which spread quickly and infected more than 300,000 computers in about 150 countries. “The firm, like many other reported companies, has experienced issues with some of its systems due to suspected malware,” the spokesperson for DLA Piper said in a statement. “We are taking steps to remedy the issue as quickly as possible.”

Kaiser Health News - June 26, 2017

Texas Hospitals Fear Losing $6.2B Medicaid Deal

Texas rejected billions in federal aid to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, calling the program “broken.” But now it’s asking the Trump administration to renew a deal that’s brought the state an additional $6.2 billion a year under Medicaid to help care for the poor. Half the money is used to help hospitals finance care for the uninsured, and the rest goes to hospitals and other providers to test regional programs to improve care and access, such as opening school-based health clinics to steer people away from expensive emergency room visits. State officials are hoping to win a 21-month extension of an agreement that began in 2011 and will expire in December.

State Stories

Austin American-Statesman - June 27, 2017

UT faces new lawsuit over role of race in admissions policy

The use of racial and ethnic preferences in admissions at the University of Texas violates state law and the Texas Constitution, according to a lawsuit filed Tuesday by a group whose leader who took a similar case to the U.S. Supreme Court twice and lost. This time, Edward Blum has set his sights on the state courts of Texas rather than making another run at the federal courts. The Supreme Court upheld UT’s use of affirmative action by a 4-3 vote in June 2016. Blum’s nonprofit, Students for Fair Admissions, which says it has more than 20,000 students, parents and other members in Texas and elsewhere around the nation, contends that UT grants preferences to African-American and Hispanic applicants at the expense of white and Asian applicants.

Austin American-Statesman - June 27, 2017

Herman: Energy Secretary Rick Perry energetic in White House spotlight

Our current governor might be decidedly down on Austin, but, bless his heart, our most recent former governor on Tuesday put in a high-profile tourism pitch for his former longtime hometown. During a half-hour guest appearance at Tuesday’s White House briefing (back on camera this time!), Energy Secretary Rick Perry turned a somewhat-awkward answer about France into an invitation for folks to visit something France-related in Austin. The line of questioning started with John Gizzi of Newsmax.com. I knew Gizzi well enough when I worked the White House to know that in 1979 he worked for seven months as a clerk-typist at the Travis County tax office. So he’s not unfamiliar with Austin.

Texas Tribune - June 27, 2017

Man behind Fisher affirmative action case files new lawsuit against UT-Austin

One year after the U.S. Supreme Court ended his years-long legal fight against affirmative action at the University of Texas at Austin, the man who recruited Abigail Fisher to sue the university has found another way to take UT-Austin to court. This time, former Houston businessman Edward Blum claims the university's use of affirmative action to give a boost to black and Hispanic applicants violates the Texas Constitution, not the U.S. Constitution. But his new case makes the same argument as his previous one: that the school’s admissions policies discriminate against white and Asian students.

Texas Tribune - June 27, 2017

City of El Paso joins plaintiffs in suit against Texas immigration law

The city of El Paso voted on Tuesday to join the growing list of local governments that have filed a legal challenge in hopes of stopping Texas’ new immigration enforcement law from going into effect. The city council’s unanimous vote to join El Paso County and the cities of Dallas, Austin, San Antonio and Houston to halt the legislation, Senate Bill 4, means Fort Worth is the only major Texas city that hasn’t registered its opposition to the bill. Maverick and Bexar counties and the border city of El Cenizo are original plaintiffs in the lawsuit, which was filed in a federal court in San Antonio in May, just one day after Gov. Greg Abbott signed the bill.

Houston Chronicle - June 27, 2017

DePillis: Triple-digit temperatures could threaten Texas' economic future

Last week, as temperatures in Phoenix climbed past 120 degrees, plane traffic literally ground to a halt. At a certain point, overheated air molecules expand so much that they can no longer support aircraft, even with extra fuel to speed takeoff. My plane was able to leave, while it was only about 100 degrees at 8:45 in the morning. But even attempting to walk outside in the baking heat while attending a conference in Phoenix got me to thinking: How hot does it have to be before extreme temperatures start taking a real toll on the region's economic health? The answer, research shows, is not much: Each degree increase carries with it the risk of decreased productivity and weakened health, threatening to become a drag on the growth of a region that has expanded with abandon despite evidence that the local environs aren't exactly hospitable to human life.

Houston Chronicle - June 27, 2017

Retired teachers feel pinch of health plan changes

As health care costs continue to skyrocket, retired Texas teachers under the age of 65 - who generally aren't yet eligible for Medicare because they're too young for the federal program - will be asked to shoulder an increasingly large financial burden for their treatment under plans recently approved by state legislators and officials. For many of the state's 55,000 retired teachers under age 65, the additional costs could total thousands of dollars apiece in 2018 - with even higher payments in the years to come. Without this year's changes, which were unanimously approved by the GOP-controlled legislative chambers and signed recently by Gov. Greg Abbott, the retired teachers' fund faced a shortfall of up to $1.5 billion by 2019.

Dallas Morning News - June 27, 2017

Texas gets a 'D' in safety report, ranking the state 26th in the nation

What's the safest state? According to a National Safety Council report released Tuesday, it's not Texas. In fact, the first of its kind report placed Texas as the 26th safest state out of 50 states and the District of Columbia. The report ranked states on 62 safety indicators, which were assigned a weight based on their effectiveness at preventing death and injury. Texas had only 48 percent of these safety indicators for an overall grade of D. No state reached the 70 percent benchmark to receive an A, although Maryland -- the report's "safest state" -- came close, meeting 69 percent of the indicators.

Dallas Morning News - June 27, 2017

Wilson: How news organizations, including this one, unintentionally misinformed the public on guns

Here is the unfortunate story of how a couple of teams of researchers and a whole bunch of news organizations, including this one, unintentionally but thoroughly misinformed the public. It all started in 2015, when University of New Hampshire sociology professor David Finkelhor and two colleagues published a study called “Prevalence of Childhood Exposure to Violence, Crime, and Abuse.” They gathered data by conducting phone interviews with parents and kids around the country. The Finkelhor study included a table showing the percentage of kids “witnessing or having indirect exposure” to different kinds of violence in the past year. The figure under “exposure to shooting” was 4 percent.

Dallas Morning News - June 27, 2017

DMN: When police officers show lack of self-control at home, it can predict use of deadly force at work

Police officers are in one of the most stressful occupations in America. When they go to work, they don't know what they might encounter — or whether they will return home safely. Like the rest of us, they probably struggle to keep their work stress from coming home with them — and to keep crises in their personal lives from spilling over into the job. But our work selves and our personal selves are not so easy to separate. A groundbreaking new study from researchers at the University of Texas at Dallas underscores the link: It found that officers struggling with divorce, debt and other factors linked to lack of self-control are more likely to use deadly force on the job.

KAMR - June 24, 2017

Greg Sagan Announced His Candidacy For The U.S. House of Representatives

AMARILLO - Local Democrat Greg Sagan announced his candidacy for the U.S. House of Representatives today. Sagan wants to represent District 13. He announced his plans today at a public meeting held at the Amarillo Public Library. ... The seat has been held by Republican Mac Thornberry since 1995. The next election for this position is in 2018.

Abilene Reporter-News - June 24, 2017

Moritz: How Texas lawmakers make the best of making the 'Worst' list

Well-connected Democratic political operative Harold Cook likes to have a little fun with how he’d advise lawmakers to respond to being selected to Texas Monthly magazine’s list of 10 best, or 10 worst list of legislators. So two years ago he wrote – and last week he recycled – a fill-in-the-blanks news release that the chosen lawmakers could circulate regardless if they were among the cream of the crop or scraping the bottom of the barrel, as viewed by the slick magazine that has been publishing the watched-for list since 1973. Here’s one of the sample quotes Cook offered: “It is truly a great reflection on my district that (pick one) this out-of-touch liberal Austin insider gossip rag trashed me or this fine conservative news publication has finally recognized my achievements.”

Houston Press - June 23, 2017

After California AG Bans Travel to Texas, Ken Paxton Gets Passive-Aggressive

The California attorney general appears to be the kind of guy who believes in the old trope that actions speak louder than words: Instead of just condemning Texas's anti-LGBT adoption law, Attorney General Xavier Becerra banned state and public university employees from traveling to Texas on any state-sponsored trips. Becerra rescinded the employees' travel privileges to the Lone Star State after Texas Governor Greg Abbott and the state's Legislature passed a law that will allow adoption agencies to discriminate against prospective LGBT parents based on "sincerely held religious beliefs." Becerra has the right to do it based on California's own anti-discrimination legislation that passed in January, allowing him to suspend travel to discriminatory states.

County Stories

Houston Chronicle - June 27, 2017

Memorial Hermann lays off 350 more employees

The Memorial Hermann Health System, Houston's largest employer, is laying off another 350 employees, bringing its total to more than 460 this year. Memorial Hermann announced the layoffs Tuesday, the same day it notified most of the affected employees. The reduction, which represents less than 2 percent of Memorial Hermann's 25,000 employees workforce, affected people at all levels. "This is an unprecedented time in healthcare," Chuck Stokes, Memorial Hermann's interim president, wrote in an internal email. "We continue to face an uncertain healthcare environment with escalating costs and declining reimbursements. In addition, we are impacted by a softened local economy."

Ft. Worth Star-Telegram - June 23, 2017

Tarrant lawmakers tapped to lead charge against mail-in voter fraud in Texas

Gov. Greg Abbott called on two Tarrant lawmakers to lead the way in cracking down on mail-in ballot fraud in Texas. Abbott recently pointed to state Rep. Craig Goldman, R-Fort Worth, and state Sen. Kelly Hancock, R-North Richland Hills, as leaders in this issue once the special session starts July 18. “The right to vote is sacred in this country, and ensuring the integrity of the ballot box is one of the most fundamental functions of government,” Abbott said in a statement. “I prosecuted countless cases of mail-in ballot fraud as Attorney General, but the problem continues to exist today.

Austin American-Statesman - June 27, 2017

Williamson sheriff’s cold case unit may get its own TV show

The Williamson County sheriff’s office has signed a two-year contract with a New York production company to film its cold case unit at work, Sheriff Robert Chody said Tuesday. If the company, called Hit +Run Creative, sells the show to a television network, Chody said, viewers could provide new clues about unsolved cases. “Some of these cases are 15 to 25 years old,” Chody said. “A lot of people over the years have moved away and this is a possible way to reach those witnesses outside the state if they watch the show.”

Houston Chronicle - June 27, 2017

Astrodome project takes another step forward

The proposed Astrodome renovation took another step forward Tuesday as Harris County Commissioners Court voted to seek a "construction manager at risk" for the project. The court voted unanimously to advertise for the construction manager position. The construction manager would help the county get a more specific cost estimate of the construction, expected to cost roughly $95 million to raise the Dome's floors and install two levels of parking underneath.

City Stories

Austin American-Statesman - June 27, 2017

Austin police rape kits: Mold found on containers, memo says

Hundreds of sexual assault kits in Austin police storage have been determined to have mold growing on the outside of them, prompting officials to seek guidance from state and national experts about how to properly preserve the evidence and raising questions about whether forensic samples may have been compromised. So far, officials said they have no indication that the mold will prevent analysts from obtaining DNA samples and that, because the kits had never been tested, evidence from them has never been used to build a case against or convict a defendant. An Austin company recently hired to help test the kits reported to Austin police last week that “there were no observable issues with any of the samples they processed with the case reported to have mold,” Assistant Police Chief Troy Gay wrote in a lengthy memo Friday.

Houston Chronicle - June 27, 2017

Protesters rally at Cruz's Houston office as vote on health care bill delayed until after July 4

Nearly two dozen protesters gathered across the street from Ted Cruz's offices in downtown Houston Tuesday afternoon to pressure the junior senator from Texas on his coming vote on the Republican healthcare bill. Cruz is seen as one of a handful of GOP senators whose vote would be critical to the legislation's passage. The senator has said he is not prepared to vote on the bill and reportedly has been serving as a mediator to make the bill more palatable to conservatives. In a tweet on Tuesday, he stated: "I'll continue working to bring GOPs together to honor our promise, repeal Obamacare & adopt common-sense reforms that can be passed into law."

National Stories

Washington Post - June 27, 2017

Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort files as foreign agent for Ukraine work

A consulting firm led by Paul Manafort, who chaired Donald Trump’s presidential campaign for several months last year, retroactively filed forms Tuesday showing that his firm received $17.1 million over two years from a political party that dominated Ukraine before its leader fled to Russia in 2014. Manafort disclosed the total payments his firm received between 2012 and 2014 in a Foreign Agents Registration Act filing late Tuesday that was submitted to the U.S. Justice Department. The report makes Manafort the second former senior Trump adviser to acknowledge the need to disclose work for foreign interests.

Texas Tribune - June 27, 2017

Senate Republicans halt health care overhaul as Cruz maintains opposition

After days of arm-twisting, Senate Republican leaders on Tuesday essentially conceded that they had not secured the votes to move forward on a massive overhaul of the American health care system and would pick up the issue again in July. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky emerged with the updated plans from a lunch with other GOP senators, along with the news that the chamber's Republicans were headed to the White House for a meeting with President Donald Trump. Both U.S. Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz were at the lunch, as were several senior advisers to the president.

Washington Post - June 27, 2017

‘Repeal and replace’ was once a unifier for the GOP. Now it’s an albatross.

For Republicans, Obamacare was always the great unifier. In a fractious party, everyone agreed that the Affordable Care Act was the wrong solution to what ailed the nation’s health-care system, with too much government and too little freedom for consumers. Replacing Obamacare has become the party’s albatross, a sprawling objective still in search of a solution. The effort to make good on a seven-year promise has cost the Trump administration precious months of its first year in office, with tax restructuring backed up somewhere in the legislative pipeline, infrastructure idling somewhere no one can see it and budget deadlines looming.

Dallas Morning News - June 27, 2017

Perry: Republicans have long dreamed of cutting Medicaid and this time they might really do it

As disabled protesters were being dragged, bleeding, from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's office on Thursday after he released his version of Trumpcare, I sat at home working line by line through the 142-page bill. As many have observed, it contains deep cuts to Medicaid, redistributes wealth from the poorest to the richest, and guts all the hard-won protections on preexisting conditions, reproductive care and lifetime spending limits that the Affordable Care Act had brought. What struck me, though, is how familiar all the material on Medicaid looks. Republicans have been trying to gut funding for Medicaid for more than 35 years. The only difference is that this time, they might get away with it.

Associated Press - June 27, 2017

Supreme Court playground ruling feeds school voucher debate

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and other proponents of school voucher programs are praising a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that said a Lutheran church was wrongly denied a state grant for its preschool playground. But opponents say the ruling is far from an endorsement of the use of public money for religious schools. The court, by a 7-2 vote, sided with Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Missouri, which had sought a state grant to put a soft surface on its preschool playground. “We should all celebrate the fact that programs designed to help students will no longer be discriminated against by the government based solely on religious affiliation,” DeVos said after the justices ruled Monday that Missouri violated the First Amendment in denying the grant.

Austin American-Statesman - June 27, 2017

PolitiFact: When are health-care ‘cuts’ really cuts?

Politics and math don’t always get along, and counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway raised a common complaint about how people talk about the future of Medicaid spending under the Senate Republican health care bill. In an interview Sunday, ABC news host George Stephanopoulos brought up the bill’s projected $800 billion in Medicaid savings and asked Conway if that undermined the president’s campaign promise to spare Medicaid from cuts. “These are not cuts to Medicaid, George,” Conway said on This Week. “This slows the rate for the future.” ... However, the proposals include policy changes that will leave fewer people eligible for Medicaid. That’s a cut. Conway’s claim has an element of truth but leaves out critical facts that would give a different impression. We rate the claim Mostly False.

Politico - June 27, 2017

Inside the GOP’s surprise health care flop

Senate Republicans had no inkling of what they were walking into on Tuesday afternoon as they filed into the Mike Mansfield room on the Capitol’s second floor. Mitch McConnell’s 51 colleagues, from his most junior members to his closest lieutenants, fully expected the Senate to vote this week on the Senate GOP’s wounded Obamacare repeal bill. They knew the whip count was far worse than advertised but were ready for McConnell to either admit defeat or start a furious round of deal-making to try to win their support. They took McConnell at his word that a vote would occur, regardless of the result. Then the Kentucky Republican shocked them all as he dispassionately informed them at the top of the meeting that the vote would be delayed, and that he would continue the painful exercise of trying to get 50 of the caucus’ 52 votes for Obamacare repeal.

Dallas Morning News - June 27, 2017

Cornyn says 'We haven't finished our conversation' on health care overhaul

It’s a tough week to be a member of Senate Republican leadership. Just ask Texas Sen. John Cornyn, the No. 2 member whose job it is to wrangle votes for the GOP’s overhaul of the Affordable Care Act. The effort was dealt a major setback Tuesday when Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell shelved a planned vote on the overhaul due to lack of support. Last month, the Texan and majority whip confidently predicted the Republican plan would pass the Senate by August, a goal that remains in reach. But in recent weeks, Cornyn adopted McConnell’s urgency and pushed for a vote before the Fourth of July break.

Kaiser Health News - June 26, 2017

Patients With Mental Disorders Get Half Of All Opioid Prescriptions

Adults with a mental illness receive more than 50 percent of the 115 million opioid prescriptions in the United States annually, according to a study released Monday. The results prompted researchers to suggest that improving pain management for people with mental health problems “is critical to reduce national dependency on opioids.” People with mental health disorders represent 16 percent of the U.S. population. The findings are worrisome, the researchers reported. They had expected that physicians were more conservative in prescribing these painkillers to people with mental illness.

Dallas Morning News - June 27, 2017

Wall prototypes to be constructed this summer, border patrol says

A U.S. Customs and Border Protection official said Tuesday that the agency aims to start construction on border wall prototypes by the end of summer. The border patrol has reallocated $20 million to begin wall planning and fund construction of four to eight prototypes. After narrowing the number of applicants, there are still a "considerable number" of companies vying for the job, Acting Deputy Commissioner Ron Vitiello said. "Completion of the prototype construction is expected within 30 days after the issuance of the notice to proceed," he said. The prototypes will be built along the existing border fence in San Diego, several at the same time, Vitiello added.

Grabien - June 27, 2017

Warren Buffett: Single payer is 'the best system' for America

Admitting that he's not an expert in health-care, political heavyweight and investment tycoon Warren Buffett is recommending America scrap its health-care system in favor of a British-style single-payer, state-run plan. The Berkshire Hathaway CEO said America "can afford" to provide all Americans with government health care. A single-payer program is "probably is the best system," Buffett said Monday in an interview on PBS's NewsHour. "Because it is a system, we are such a rich country, in a sense we can afford to do it. But in almost every field of American business, it pays to bring down costs. There's an awful lot of people involved in the medical -- the whole just the way the ecosystem worked, there was no incentive to bring down costs."

The Hill - June 26, 2017

Agencies scramble to put travel ban in place

Federal agencies are scrambling to figure out how to implement a limited version of President Trump’s travel ban now that the Supreme Court has allowed it to partially take effect. Officials are eager to avoid the chaos and confusion that dogged the first rollout of the executive order earlier this year but have to resolve major questions about how the ban will be enforced. Critics of the order are already warning that there could be a flood of litigation as the U.S. government determines who qualifies for the new criteria outlined by the high court.