Quorum Report News Clips

December 18, 2017: All Newsclips

Early Morning - December 18, 2017

State Stories

Associated Press - December 17, 2017

Lack of transparency clouds spending decisions after Harvey

Texas has been awarded billions of dollars in federal aid to help recover from Hurricane Harvey and the devastating flooding that followed, but it’s unclear how the state is spending its share of the money. State records don’t indicate which contracts are storm-related, making fund tracking — and spending accountability — nearly impossible. Disaster recovery experts say a lack of transparency in Texas could hinder coordination, encourage fraud and squander an opportunity not only to rebuild after one of the country’s costliest natural disasters, but also to mitigate the risks of the next monster storm.

This article appeared in the Austin American-Statesman

Austin American-Statesman - December 16, 2017

PolitiFact: College credit promise becomes a compromise

When he was running for Texas governor, Greg Abbott spelled out a pile of proposals including his vow to make it easier for students starting in a community college to transfer course credits toward a degree at a four-year college. Specifically, Abbott called for requiring Texas public colleges and universities to give transfer students credit for taking freshman- and sophomore-level core courses at community and junior colleges. He said he’d exempt from the mandate four-year institutions designated as research or emerging research universities by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. ... Given the degree put in motion by the 2015 Legislature, we rate this Abbott promise a Compromise.

Austin American-Statesman - December 16, 2017

Saenz: How housing costs are changing Central Texas’ demographics

The demographic trends in Texas are clear: The combination of a youthful Latino population and an aging white population has led to Latino dominance in the state’s population growth. Between 2006 and 2016, the Latino population grew six times more rapidly than the white population. Of the nearly 4.4 million persons added to the Texas population during this period, 57 percent are Latino, while 12 percent are white. This is pretty much the trend that we find throughout the state.

Austin American-Statesman - December 15, 2017

Fenves, Anderson: Why congressional tax plans would crush scholarship funds

We are the presidents of two universities in Texas — one public, one private. Many students from both the University of Texas and Trinity University rely upon financial aid that is drawn from endowments. Both the House and Senate bills that are now being resolved by a conference committee propose a 1.4-percent excise tax on certain private nonprofit university endowments. This puts the college educations of many current and prospective students at risk — and it jeopardizes the financial stability of many private universities. The recent Senate vote on the tax bill brought Congress one step closer to enacting this and other policy changes that will have dire impacts on affordability at all American universities.

Austin American-Statesman - December 15, 2017

Bush: End Texas’ long history of abusing juveniles in detention

Ten years ago, I published a commentary in this newspaper on the physical and sexual abuse of youth in Texas’ juvenile correctional facilities. Noting that adult officials had participated in or sanctioned the abuse of youth placed in their care, I warned that the state had traveled this path several times before. Today’s reports sadly echo the lurid inventory of abuses that has characterized juvenile correctional facilities in Texas over the past century. Indeed, the Gainesville State School has a checkered history. Founded in 1915 to serve delinquent girls, Gainesville has been investigated by state authorities repeatedly since its inception.

Austin American-Statesman - December 16, 2017

Herman: A Texas town weirder than Austin?

Yes, we all know that Austin is the righteous and rightful center of the universe and there’s not much reason to care about what goes on in the lesser world around us. But I think it’s healthy to periodically glance outward beyond the Superiorplex and see what’s going on elsewhere in Texas, especially when the goings-on going on in other towns rival our town’s weirdness. So let’s peer today behind the Pine Curtain, the mythical yet powerful barrier between the Deep East Texas Pineywoods and The Rest of The Known World.

Texas Tribune - December 15, 2017

Brand: Bail reform should not be derailed

The cash bail system is outdated, discriminates against people without financial resources and fails to improve public safety. Momentum to eliminate cash bail in Harris County has been building for several years, and the campaign received a huge boost when District Attorney Kim Ogg supported a lawsuit calling the practice unconstitutional last year. But recent local attempts to undermine reform efforts and misrepresent reality threaten to derail one of the most important changes to Houston’s criminal justice system in decades. I feel the need to set the record straight.

San Antonio Express-News - December 17, 2017

Democrat Valdez Video Interview: Proud of dog-training program — and yes, she’ll pack heat on campaign trail

For the first time in years, Texas Democrats will fight it out over the nomination for governor. Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez was first to declare. She is up against a number of candidates including Andrew White, the son of former Gov. Mark White. Sheriff Valdez discussed her path to victory with host Jason Whitely and Star-Telegram columnist Bud Kennedy.

San Antonio Express-News - December 17, 2017

Was Harvey an ‘equal-opportunity storm?’ Hardly, says new report

The lengthy barrage by Hurricane Harvey spared few residents along the Texas coast. But it was far from an equal-opportunity storm, according to a new analysis. Three months after Harvey, poor and minority communities are still struggling to rebuild from a storm that disproportionately affected them, and which worsened chronic issues related to inequality, according to a report released last week by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Episcopal Health Foundation.

San Antonio Express-News - December 17, 2017

Fikac: Democrats, heartened by Alabama, liken their team to the Spurs

Gov. Greg Abbott had a flip response when a reporter asked him about the Democrats vying to challenge him next year. “Patrick, I think you intimidate me more,” the Republican governor told Texas Tribune reporter Patrick Svitek on Tuesday. Just hours later, deep-red Alabama voted against a deeply damaged Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate, giving heart to Texas Democrats who predict that an anti-Trump wave also will help lift their lagging fortunes.

Dallas Morning News - December 17, 2017

Unresponsive -- More women are going to jail in need of drug and alcohol treatment. Help often comes too late

Alicia Skeats was a tall blond Texan who believed in second chances: for stray cats, unreliable boyfriends and her own battle with addiction. She took methadone to fight an old heroin habit; her scanty legal troubles involved traffic violations. The 33-year-old climbed into a cab in Mesquite on April 15, 2014; five days later she was found “unresponsive,” dead on the floor of the Dallas County jail. Law enforcement officials labeled her death as “natural causes”; her autopsy said drug withdrawal killed her. As a record number of women go to jail in Texas, sheriffs are increasingly coping with a special class of inmates: women with minor criminal records but major mental-health and addiction problems. A recent federal survey found that almost a third of women in jails showed symptoms of serious psychological distress, even higher than the rate for men.

Dallas Morning News - December 16, 2017

Jeffers: Dallas Rep. Sessions confident he'll hold seat despite hard-charging Democrats

Rep. Pete Sessions says he'll keep his seat in Congress by highlighting the successes of the Republican Party, including the GOP tax plan that could be approved next week. The Dallas Republican is being targeted by state and national Democrats who see his district, won in 2016 by Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, as primed for change. "All across the country, there will be challengers and there will be people who will have to defend their seats," Sessions said during a recording of Lone Star Politics, which airs at 8:40 a.m. Sunday on KXAS-TV (NBC5). "I'm going to have to defend not only what I stand for, but by the accomplishments we have."

Phys Org - December 11, 2017

New statistical method links vast records, shows negative effect of Texas voter ID law

"Our evidence suggests a smaller number of people lack ID than recent survey evidence suggests, and it also suggests a discriminatory effect of the law, in line with concerns of those who believe these laws disproportionately affect minorities," noted Eitan Hersh, associate professor of political science at Tufts University and co-author of the paper. "Specifically, we found that white registered voters are significantly more likely to possess a voter ID than African-American or Hispanic voters."

KUT - December 11, 2017

Texas Landowners Take The Wind Out Of Their Sales

Trey Murphy is a grad student in North Carolina, but he has dreams of owning land in West Texas. A few months ago, he was looking at real estate online and came across something strange. “I saw that there was this particular listing that was selling the surface estate, but not willing to sell the wind estate,” he says. Most people would have no idea what that means. But Murphy is originally from Texas, and, as luck would have it, he studies “energy geography.” He knows that in Texas, one tract of land can be owned in different ways by different people.

Texas Observer - December 14, 2017

Barajas: What Does Discrimination Look Like to Fifth Circuit Judge Edith Jones?

Before any of the attorneys even uttered a word, Judge Edith Jones already sounded irritated. She called the case before her and the two other Fifth Circuit judges “twice-chewed food.” She even seemed to caution the lawyers: “Given that, maybe you can stimulate us.” The occasion was a hearing last week on Texas’ strict voter ID rules, which the state is pushing to implement despite multiple rulings that lawmakers first passed them in 2011 with discriminatory intent. Jones sounded unenthused that the case’s circuitous route through the courts had brought the issue back to her bench.

Texas Observer - December 14, 2017

Hooks: Four Things to Watch as Election 2018 Gets Underway in Texas

We have extremely bad news for you: It’s election season again. It has been a year filled with too much Politics, but more is coming, and will keep coming, ad infinitum, until the sun swallows the earth. Monday was the official candidate filing deadline for the state’s March 6 primary, which will likely be followed by run-offs in May. That means the next five months will be a period of frenzied political activity that will have as much to say about how the state is run as the subsequent general election.

County Stories

Dallas Morning News - December 14, 2017

DMN: Dallas County's next sheriff needs to be more than a jailer

On paper, the Dallas County sheriff has a pretty basic set of duties: serve warrants; provide bailiffs for the courts and run a safe jail. The job could — and should — be much more. Now that Sheriff Lupe Valdez has resigned to run for governor, it's important to think carefully about what skills and priorities are most important for the next sheriff to embody. A proven track record in law enforcement and the management skills to run the day-to-day operations of the nation's seventh-largest jail seem to be obvious requirements.

Ft. Worth Star-Telegram - December 14, 2017

2018 Election: ‘As Tarrant County goes, so goes the state,’ says Beto O’Rourke

U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke said Tarrant County is the real battleground in the 2018 race for the U.S. Senate. He knows the stats: No Democrat has won a statewide office in Texas since 1994 and that Tarrant County is one of the reddest communities around. But O’Rourke, a Democrat challenging U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz for his Senate seat next year, said he will keep coming back here, reaching out to locals and listening to their concerns.

City Stories

Austin American-Statesman - December 15, 2017

Wear: The numbers — and all those Fords — tell the story of new MoPac toll lanes

The people running the MoPac toll lanes want you to know, first of all, that the new ribbons of pavement segregated behind plastic pylons aren’t merely “Lexus lanes.” During a wide-ranging presentation to the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority board on the toll lanes’ first six weeks of full-fledged operations, officials included a chart showing the top five vehicle makes spotted since the two toll lanes on MoPac Boulevard (Loop 1) were fully online in late October after four years of much-delayed construction. Leading the way: Ford, with 15 percent.

San Antonio Express-News - December 17, 2017

Pasadena PD to carry narcotic antidote in fight against opioid epidemic

Harris County's three largest law enforcement agencies are now arming patrol officers with an anti-overdose medication to combat a growing opioid epidemic that killed 311 people in the county last year. The Pasadena Police Department is the latest to join the ranks - agreeing to provide in January half of its patrol officers with Narcan, an emergency nasal spray for treating people who overdose on fentanyl, morphine or heroin. The Houston Police Department and the Harris County Sheriff's Office already equip some officers with Narcan.

Austin American-Statesman - December 15, 2017

Even in progressive Austin, women still lag behind

In Central Texas, gender disparities remain even as the region’s economy grows. Austin women continue to lag behind men in income, safety and financial security, and women and children are disproportionately living in poverty. But there have been some improvements, too, and a number of nonprofits are taking on these disparities directly. The latest data comes from a report by the Women’s Fund of Central Texas, a grant-making nonprofit that focuses on specific outcomes from area women and children.

D Magazine - December 17, 2017

Could Dallas’ Innovation Economy Compete With Silicon Valley?

Innovation drives economic progress. It’s easy to see that looking backward in time. Today’s Americans live so well because of a string of inventions over the past 100 years or so—from electricity, automobiles, airplanes, and air-conditioning to television, computers, the internet, and smartphones. The benefits of future innovations aren’t yet clear. We hear about the next big thing all the time, but we don’t really know what wonders they’ll bring to our lives. We don’t know what disruptions they’ll cause, including job losses.

National Stories

Washington Post - December 17, 2017

GOP faces 5-day scramble to pass tax bill, avoid government shutdown

Republicans return to Congress on Monday facing a packed agenda with little time to enact it, as party leaders aim to quickly pass their massive tax plan and then cut a budget deal with Democrats before the end of Friday to avert a government shutdown. Republicans’ tight timing on taxes is self-imposed. GOP lawmakers have for months been racing to meet President Trump’s demand that they send him tax legislation before Christmas — a timeline that gained new urgency when Alabama Democrat Doug Jones won the Senate seat currently occupied by Sen. Luther Strange (R).

Wall St. Journal - December 17, 2017

GOP Tax Bill Would Set Up Years of Challenges

Republicans are on the cusp this week of passing a historic overhaul of the U.S. tax system but might also be ushering in a new period of instability in the tax code, because the plan is advancing without bipartisan support and with expiration dates that guarantee it will be revisited for years. A $1.5 trillion reduction in the overall tax burden over a decade accompanies the most sweeping rewrite of U.S. business and income taxes since the Reagan era, achieving goals long sought by many conservative economists and politicians. But to get the bill through a closely divided Congress, Republicans made many of its pieces time-limited.

Austin American-Statesman - December 15, 2017

Navarrette: Dreamers: Don’t let Democrats fool you

So Democrats are now the saviors of the Dreamers? How in the world did that happen? For those of us who have paid close attention to the immigration debate over the last couple decades, it’s surreal watching Democrats in Congress threaten to go to the mattresses for a legislative fix that protects undocumented young people. After all, when Democrats had the chance to get Dreamers out of harm’s way by legalizing them, they were asleep at the switch. It’s not politics. Most Democrats don’t have anything against Dreamers, many of whom they see as future Democratic voters. Blame Republicans for that, since their approach to immigration is often belligerent, boorish and boneheaded.

Dallas Morning News - December 16, 2017

New JFK files show FBI misplaced Oswald's fingerprints, and CIA opened his mail -- and John Steinbeck's

The National Archives unsealed thousands of pages from the Kennedy files on Friday. And while assassinations buffs weren't likely to find any major revelations - no proof of a second gunman, a Cuban plot, or evidence the killer could have been stopped - they'll have plenty to chew on. The 3,539 records include FBI and CIA reports on Soviet spies, the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., and Lee Harvey Oswald's trip to Mexico City a few weeks before he murdered President John F. Kennedy in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963.

New York Times - December 16, 2017

Uproar Over Purported Ban at C.D.C. of Words Like ‘Fetus’

The Department of Health and Human Services tried to play down on Saturday a report that officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had been barred from using seven words or phrases, including “science-based,” “fetus,” “transgender” and “vulnerable,” in agency budget documents. “The assertion that H.H.S. has ‘banned words’ is a complete mischaracterization of discussions regarding the budget formulation process,” an agency spokesman, Matt Lloyd, said in an email. “H.H.S. will continue to use the best scientific evidence available to improve the health of all Americans. H.H.S. also strongly encourages the use of outcome and evidence data in program evaluations and budget decisions.”

Politico - December 17, 2017

Paranoia grips Capitol Hill as harassment scandal spreads

The details change almost daily, but the rumor won’t die: A credible news organization is preparing to unmask at least 20 lawmakers in both parties for sexual misconduct. Speculation about this theoretical megastory is spreading like wildfire across Congress and beyond, a lurking bad-press boogeyman that’s always described as on the verge of going public. And it’s far from the only worry that’s seeped into the collective psyche of Capitol Hill, where members and aides are now perpetually bracing for the next allegation to drop.

Politico - December 17, 2017

The secret backstory of how Obama let Hezbollah off the hook

In its determination to secure a nuclear deal with Iran, the Obama administration derailed an ambitious law enforcement campaign targeting drug trafficking by the Iranian-backed terrorist group Hezbollah, even as it was funneling cocaine into the United States, according to a POLITICO investigation. The campaign, dubbed Project Cassandra, was launched in 2008 after the Drug Enforcement Administration amassed evidence that Hezbollah had transformed itself from a Middle East-focused military and political organization into an international crime syndicate that some investigators believed was collecting $1 billion a year from drug and weapons trafficking, money laundering and other criminal activities.

Dallas Morning News - December 15, 2017

DMN: Cornyn, Cruz shine as 8 GOP members back bipartisan reform of how Congress handles harassment claims

Twenty senators have taken an important, and delightfully bipartisan, step toward ending the awful mismanagement by Congress of sexual harassment claims by women, and sometimes men, who work in the Capitol. Eleven Democrats and eight Republicans in the Senate signed onto a bill introduced Thursday by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York that will mandate annual sexual harassment prevention training for everyone who works for Congress, including the lawmakers themselves. It would also change the way alleged harassment is reported and how it is investigated.

Houston Chronicle - December 15, 2017

Tomlinson: Doctors just want to get paid, but how much is fair?

Doctors just want to get paid. That's been the refrain since I wrote a column blasting physician groups that operate emergency rooms and then choose to remain out of the hospital's insurance networks. Some groups do this to charge higher rates, and when insurers don't pay them, they demand payment directly from patients, a process called balance billing. This business strategy begs the question, what is a fair payment? And whenever you dig deep into the problems with America's health care system, it all comes down to this question.

Politico - December 16, 2017

GOP lawmaker: Top FBI officials will be subpoenaed

A Republican on the House judiciary committee said Saturday he's gotten a commitment from committee chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) to subpoena top officials at the FBI and Justice Department in their ongoing inquiry into claims of bias against President Donald Trump. Republicans have zeroed in on deputy FBI director Andrew McCabe, top counterintelligence agent Peter Strzok, FBI attorney Lisa Page, former associate deputy attorney general Bruce Ohr and his wife Nellie, who reportedly worked for Fusion GPS, the firm that compiled opposition research on Trump in 2016.

Washington Post - December 16, 2017

After Alabama loss, Trump has ambitious plans to campaign in 2018 midterms

President Trump is not on the ballot in 2018, but the White House is planning a full-throttle campaign to plunge the president into the midterm elections, according to senior officials and advisers familiar with the planning. Trump’s political aides have met with 116 candidates for office in recent months, according to senior White House officials, seeking to become involved in Senate, House and gubernatorial races — and possibly contested Republican primaries as well.

Austin American-Statesman - December 16, 2017

Mark Hamill takes a lightsaber to Ted Cruz on Twitter

Mark Hamill used a bit of force with Texas Sen. Ted Cruz Sunday when he rebutted a tweet sent by Cruz attempting to school Hamill on net neutrality. Hamill tweeted about Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai Saturday morning, calling him “profoundly unworthy (to) wield a lightsaber” and accusing him of lying to “enrich giant corporations.”Hamill was tweeting in response to a video featuring Pai titled “7 things you can still do on the internet after net neutrality” in which Pai swings a lightsaber through the air to Star Wars music.

Washington Post - December 17, 2017

Trump says he won’t fire Mueller, as campaign to discredit Russia probe heats up

President Trump on Sunday sought to douse speculation that he may fire special counsel Robert S. Mueller III amid an intensifying campaign by Trump allies to attack the wide-ranging Russia investigation as improper and politically motivated. Returning to the White House from Camp David, Trump was asked Sunday whether he intended to fire Mueller. “No, I’m not,” he told journalists, insisting that there was “no collusion whatsoever” between his campaign and Russia.

Politico - December 16, 2017

Jeff Sessions Isn’t Giving up on Weed. He’s Doubling Down.

Thanks to Congress’ fumbling over the spending bill, the AG’s yearning to battle legal marijuana may get a major boost without him having to lift a finger. That’s because Rohrabacher-Farr, a little-known and even less discussed amendment that protects state-legal medical marijuana programs from federal interference, is close to expiring. If the government shuts down at the expiration of the current continuous resolution on December 22, or if negotiations in an upcoming appropriations conference committee fail to insert it in the final draft of the spending bill—entirely possible given House Republicans’ hostility to marijuana—Sessions would be free to unleash federal drug agents on a drug, which according to federal drug law, is considered the equal of heroin and LSD.

Dallas Morning News - December 15, 2017

May: Cyprus is at the center of a circle of corruption surrounding Trump

The country of Cyprus has a long history as a laundromat for dirty money, particularly from Russia. Cyprus is referenced 530,937 times in the Panama Papers, and the Bank of Cyprus, the country's largest bank, is referenced 4,657 times. And the cast of characters linked to the bank and President Donald Trump is troubling. -When Oleg Deripaska, the founder of Russian aluminum company Rusal, began paying Paul Manafort $10 million a year in 2006 to act as a secret emissary for Russian President Vladimir Putin with Western governments, he paid Manafort through the Bank of Cyprus.