April 26, 2017

Lead Stories

Austin American-Statesman - April 25, 2017

Statesman Exclusive: Where ‘savings’ come from in Abbott’s hiring freeze

Gov. Greg Abbott said this week that the state government hiring freeze he announced in January has already saved the state $145 million, well on the way to reaching the $200 million he said the policy would save by the time it expires at the end of August. About $99 million of the savings, however, don’t come from a streamlined state workforce but from “offsets” proposed by state agencies and public universities in exchange for getting waivers from the hiring freeze. In some cases, agency officials said they would withhold spending money they likely wouldn’t have been able to spend by the end of the budget year. Additionally, one of the largest chunks of savings Abbott is claiming — $28 million from the Department of Family and Protective Services — will actually be spent this fiscal year within the agency on needed improvements in Child Protective Services and the foster care system, according to the governor’s office.

Texas Tribune - April 25, 2017

Trump administration doesn't view Austin as "sanctuary" city, mayor says

Austin Mayor Steve Adler said he was reassured by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Tuesday that neither his city nor Travis County are considered “sanctuary” jurisdictions. But Adler said he was very careful in how he asked for that determination since there doesn’t seem to be a legal definition of “sanctuary city” — commonly known as a local entity that doesn’t enforce immigration laws. The meeting was first reported by Austin's NPR affiliate, KUT. “I didn’t ask him that question because someone could claim we’re a sanctuary city a thousand different ways,” Adler said Tuesday. Instead, Adler said he was more specific and asked what made a city sanctionable under the Trump administration’s definition of non-compliance.

Ft. Worth Star-Telegram - April 25, 2017

Without heroic rescue, this is the part where the Texas film industry dies

AMC recently premiered 10 episodes of “The Son,” a series based on the celebrated novel spanning generations of Texans written by Austin novelist Philipp Meyer. Reviews highlighted that it was filmed on location here in Texas, with the landscape giving the series an epic heft. If our Legislature eliminates the Texas Moving Image Industry Incentive Program — which there is serious talk of doing — a second season of this Texas story probably will be filmed in New Mexico. Four years ago, the Legislature put $95 million into the incentive program for 2014-15, the film industry then spent $442 million on production during those two years. During the next legislative session, the incentives for 2016-17 were cut by two-thirds, to $32 million. Production for those two years was estimated to be just above $120 million, a drop of more than $300 million. If the initial budgets this session stand — with the Senate appropriating just $3.5 million and the House nothing — it stands to reason that virtually no productions will come to Texas in 2018-19. This is called killing the Texas film industry.

Austin American-Statesman - April 26, 2017

Texas House may reverse course on LCRA sunset review

Two years after passing a measure calling for the region’s largest provider of wholesale water and electricity to open itself to further scrutiny by the Legislature, lawmakers appear set to reverse direction. The House could vote Wednesday on a measure that would repeal a law subjecting the Lower Colorado River Authority and a host of other river authorities to sunset review. The LCRA, a nonprofit utility based in Austin, operates coal- and gas-fired power plants that provide electricity to retail utilities from the Hill Country to Bastrop County, owns thousands of miles of transmission lines, oversees the dams that form the Highland Lakes, and doles out water for more than a million Central Texans. Its budget hovers around $1 billion annually.

Houston Chronicle - April 25, 2017

Cervantes: Trump's 'sanctuary cities' order is blocked; what does that mean for Texas?

A federal judge from California on Tuesday blocked President Donald Trump's executive order that would have cut off federal funds to cities that limit their police department's participation with federal immigration authorities. Judge William Orrick, based in San Francisco, said the cities that sued the federal government were likely to succeed on the merits of their challenge to the Jan. 25 executive order. His decision places a nationwide temporary hold on the directive. At issue is whether Trump had the authority to bar federal grant money from local jurisdictions which the administration classifies as so-called 'sanctuary cities.' The cities said Trump violated the U.S. Constitution by acting unilaterally, while Department of Justice attorneys argued the order was an effort to ensure local jurisdictions were complying with federal immigration law.

Ft. Worth Star-Telegram - April 25, 2017

Kennedy: Why the Texas House’s ‘sanctuary city’ bill is also about sanctuary for Republicans

We are down to the gamesmanship phase of the Texas Legislature, when looks matter most. Fort Worth Republican state Rep. Charlie Geren is carrying a bill cracking down on “sanctuary cities” in a Wednesday debate. His job is to make it look tough. Fort Worth Democratic state Rep. Ramon Romero is against the bill, which allows police to ask anyone arrested (not simply detained) their federal civil immigration status. His job is to make it look too tough. Both gain votes in their home district — Geren in Republican west Fort Worth and northwest Tarrant County, Romero in Democratic central Fort Worth — with a hard-fought debate.

Huffington Post - April 25, 2017

Energy Secretary Rick Perry Supports Paris Climate Agreement, But Wants To Tweak It

Energy Secretary Rick Perry supports remaining in the Paris climate agreement, but wants the United States to renegotiate its terms, he said Tuesday. That puts him on one side of a schism forming within President Donald Trump’s White House over how to handle the historic 195-country deal to slash emissions of greenhouse gases that cause global warming. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, first daughter Ivanka Trump and her husband, senior adviser Jared Kushner, support remaining in the agreement; chief strategist Steve Bannon and Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt ? two of the more radical, far-right voices in the White House ? want Trump to fulfill his campaign promise to exit the agreement.

The Hill - April 25, 2017

Disconnect: Trump, GOP not on same page

resident Trump is on a different page than Republican leaders in Congress just days away from a possible government shutdown. Trump and the White House are pressuring Congress to include funding to build the president’s signature wall on the U.S.-Mexico border as part of a bill to keep the government open past Friday. GOP leaders, worried their party will be blamed for a shutdown and realizing they’ll need votes from Democrats to get a stopgap measure to Trump’s desk, have said funds for the wall should be dealt with in a supplemental spending bill or as part of next year’s appropriations process. Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) last month even noted that construction on the wall couldn’t begin soon.

Associated Press - April 26, 2017

Trump proposing 'biggest tax cut' in US history

President Donald Trump is proposing "the biggest tax cut" ever, even as the government struggles with mounting debt, in an effort to fulfill his promises to stimulate job creation and middle class prosperity. White House officials on Wednesday were to release broad outlines of a tax overhaul that would provide massive tax cuts to businesses big and small. The top tax rate for individuals would drop by a few percentage points, from 39.6 percent to the "mid-30s," according to an official with knowledge of the plan. Small businesses would see their top tax rate go from 39.6 percent to the proposed corporate tax rate of 15 percent, said Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin in a Wednesday morning speech.

This article appeared in the Houston Chronicle

Dallas Morning News - April 25, 2017

Jury deciding fate of John Wiley Price is deadlocked

Near the close of their fifth day of deliberations, the federal jurors who are deciding whether John Wiley Price is a crook informed the judge they were unable to agree on some of the counts against the commissioner or his top aide. U.S. District Judge Barbara Lynn on Tuesday sent the jury home early around 3:30 p.m. to "refresh" and asked panelists to resume their attempts to find a consensus on Wednesday morning. If they still cannot agree, Lynn could ask the jury to continue for a few more days. Or she could declare mistrials on the counts that the jury can't agree on. And then, the government would have to decide whether or not to retry the defendants on those charges.

State Stories

Austin American-Statesman - April 25, 2017

Facing ‘sanctuary cities’ hunger protest, rep says he’s a ‘fat white boy’

Democratic state Rep. Victoria Neave’s four-day fast to protest the bill to ban so-called “sanctuary cities” has drawn the attention of the legislation’s House sponsor — but it likely didn’t produce the reaction she was hoping for. “I’m not doing that. I didn’t get to be a fat white boy by not eating,” said state Rep. Charlie Geren, the Fort Worth Republican carrying Senate Bill 4 in the House. The bill, already approved by the Senate, is slated for a lengthy floor debate Wednesday. Neave, who last ate Sunday morning when she received communion at mass in Dallas, has vowed to not eat until it’s over. “What I need to do is postpone it a couple days and see how hungry she gets,” Geren said, adding that he was kidding.

Austin American-Statesman - April 25, 2017

U.S. Rep. Roger Williams touts accounting that helps his dealerships

Along Interstate 20 west of Fort Worth, it’s hard to ignore the signs for U.S. Rep. Roger Williams’ myriad car dealerships. The Texas Republican, whose district stretches from downtown Austin to the southern Fort Worth suburbs, is one of the wealthiest members of Congress, due in part to his car dealing enterprise. Williams is worth approximately $27 million, making him the 16th richest member of Congress. His car dealerships and their associated real estate could be valued as high as $50 million, according to his financial disclosure. While most members of Congress leave the private sector after winning elected office, Williams continues to own his dealerships and frequently mentions his experience as a small businessman as an asset in Washington.

Austin American-Statesman - April 25, 2017

Ken Paxton: Affidavits are public even if they reveal search warrants

A search warrant affidavit becomes a public record when it is filed with a Texas court, even though it could tip off the subject before the search can take place, Attorney General Ken Paxton said in a written opinion released Tuesday. If the Legislature did not intend that result, Paxton added, there is a bill pending in the Texas House that would correct the situation. The opinion was requested in October by James Hicks, the criminal district attorney for Taylor County, who argued that the affidavit should be available to the public only after the search had begun. Doing otherwise, he said, “would allow criminals to receive forewarning that a search warrant had been issued and was imminent.”

Austin American-Statesman - April 25, 2017

Advocates push for hearings on stalled medical marijuana bills

Dr. Robert S. Marks says he routinely faces a dilemma when cancer patients and others dealing with chronic pain broach the topic of marijuana as a treatment option. “You’re in a very tough position between what the law tells you to do, and what your (medical) oath tells you to do,” said Marks, who operates two pain management clinics in Austin. “The truth of the matter is, you have a huge disconnect right now between what’s legal and what can actually help people” with fewer adverse side-effects than prescription opiates, he said. Marks was among about two dozen advocates for so-called medical marijuana, including health-care professionals and patients, who gathered at the Capitol on Tuesday.

Austin American-Statesman - April 26, 2017

Gov. Greg Abbott to keynote large charter school rally Wednesday

Gov. Greg Abbott is slated to keynote a large rally at the Capitol on Wednesday to support Texas public charter schools. The event, which starts at 12:30 p.m., is expected to draw hundreds of charter school educators, students and parents as well as state officials, according to the Texas Charter Schools Association. The goal is to raise awareness of bills that aim to bolster charter schools, including funding for charter schools to open and maintain campuses and facilities. Unlike traditional school districts, charter schools, which are publicly funded but privately operated, cannot levy property tax or hold bond elections and must turn to donors or their savings to build new schools, according to the charter schools association.

Austin American-Statesman - April 25, 2017

Lawmakers consider bill that would reduce the number of STAAR tests

A Central Texas lawmaker has filed a bill that would scale back the number of state standardized tests, including social studies and writing. More than two dozen lawmakers, both Democrats and Republicans, have signed on as co-authors of House Bill 1333, filed by Rep. Jason Isaac, R-Dripping Springs. The bill was heard in the House Public Education Committee on Tuesday. The main purpose of the bill is to reduce the number of State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness to what is required by federal law. By reducing the costs of administering the test, the state could save $1.8 million over the next two years, according to the Legislative Budget Board.

Austin American-Statesman - April 25, 2017

As controversy swirls, feral hog bait manufacturer pulls out of Texas

A grand experiment by Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller to hasten “the feral hog apocalypse” is on hold after the company producing a bait meant to poison the destructive animals has asked the Texas Agriculture Department to withdraw its approval of the product. The rollout of the product, Kaput Feral Hog Bait, had faced wide skepticism from hunters, environmentalists and meat processing plants following its promotion by Miller in February. Amid the pushback, the product has never been available for sale in Texas. The Texas House, meanwhile, quickly moved to pass a measure that called for further study of the product before its use.

Austin American-Statesman - April 25, 2017

Plastic bag ban protection wins hearing at Texas Capitol

In the pre-dawn darkness Tuesday, friends Lila Mankad and Caoilin Krathaus, both 11-years-old, piled into a car in Houston with each of their fathers to deliver a message to lawmakers in Austin: Ban single-use plastic bags. The two kids, who started an organization called Bag-free Bayous, arrived at the Capitol to discourage lawmakers from striking down bag bans in about a dozen cities around Texas, including Austin. The persistent problems of bags hanging from trees and choking waterways “give our bayous a bad reputation,” Caoilin said. She and Lila regularly clean their neighborhood park of plastic bags — only to see them soon reappear. For about a year now, they have gathered petitions to push Houston to ban plastic bags.

Austin American-Statesman - April 25, 2017

Texas students demonstrate mixed results on STAAR reading, math tests

Elementary and middle school students demonstrated mixed results this year in their performance on the first administration of Texas’ standardized tests. STAAR math scores for fifth- and eighth-grade students showed improvement, but reading scores for both grades dropped. Compared with last year, passing scores on the math test for both grade levels statewide were up 5 percentage points to 81 percent for fifth-graders and 74 percent for eighth-graders. Reading scores dropped 2 percentage points among fifth-graders to 71 percent, and 3 percentage points for eighth-graders to 76 percent.

Austin American-Statesman - April 25, 2017

Texas House to tackle lackluster inspections of farmworker housing

The House Committee on Urban Affairs on Tuesday will examine the state’s unfunded inspection program for farmworker housing, which a 2016 American-Statesman investigation found fails to ensure licensed housing for the vast majority of the state’s farmworkers. The committee is scheduled to take up HB 2365, filed by State Rep. Ramon Romero Jr., D-Fort Worth, and HB 2677, filed by State Rep. Diego Bernal, D-San Antonio, at a hearing this morning. State Sen. Jose Rodriguez, D-El Paso, has filed similar legislation in the Senate. The bills call for stricter housing inspections, tougher penalties for violators, and enhanced community outreach to growers and farmworkers in the state in hopes of uncovering unlicensed housing.

Austin American-Statesman - April 25, 2017

Lawmaker on farmworker housing bill: Inaction is ‘inexcusable’

In emotional testimony Tuesday, Texas farmworkers and advocates urged a House committee to pass a bill that would strengthen inspections of housing for agricultural workers, increase penalties on violators and require state regulators to look for unlicensed facilities. Justino De Leon, a longtime farmworker from Pharr, told members of the House Committee on Urban Affairs that he often was forced to live in unlicensed facilities with appalling conditions. “We slept on the floor, on cardboard, with a broken air conditioning,” he said. “Some had to sleep in their trucks. There were lots of mosquitoes.” Daniel Dwyer, head of the farmworker program at Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, Inc., showed the committee photos taken at an unlicensed housing facility in Premont last week with broken windows, large insects and no furnishings.

Texas Tribune - April 25, 2017

Texas teachers have mixed opinions on bid to reduce state tests

Jennifer Stratton said her third-grade son has been on the honor roll for the last three quarters but is anxious his progress could be erased if he does poorly on standardized tests. She testified Tuesday before the House Public Education Committee to support House Bill 1333, which would scale back the number of required standardized tests and reduce its importance in rating schools and districts. HB 1333 is one of several this session aimed at limiting the high stakes of standardized testing across the state.

Texas Tribune - April 25, 2017

Uber picks Dallas, Fort Worth as test cities for flying vehicle network

Uber is looking to North Texas as a testing ground for its initiative to make intra-urban flying vehicle rides a reality. The company announced Tuesday that Dallas and Fort Worth are its first U.S. partner cities for what its dubbing the “Uber Elevate Network.” The company hopes to have the first demonstration of how such a network of flying, hailed vehicles would work in three years. Uber is also working with Dallas’ Hillwood Properties to plan vertiports, sites where the aircraft would pick up and drop off passengers. Fort Worth’s Bell Helicopter is among companies partnering with Uber to help develop the actual vehicles, called VTOLs because they would vertically take off and land.

Texas Tribune - April 26, 2017

With tensions flaring, Texas House to debate "sanctuary" legislation

On the eve of a Texas House debate on legislation that would ban “sanctuary” jurisdictions in the state, lawmakers weren’t sugar-coating their expectations of how the debate would go. One member expected “trench warfare,” while another said that “battle lines have been drawn.” A third House member simply predicted “a total shitshow.” At the center of the debate is Senate Bill 4 by state Sen. Charles Perry, R-Lubbock, which would expand the immigration-enforcement abilities of local police officers and punish local entities that don’t cooperate with federal immigration officials. Addressing “sanctuary” jurisdictions was declared an emergency item by Gov. Greg Abbott in the early days of the 85th legislative session.

Houston Chronicle - April 26, 2017

Texas A&M regents to vote on extending Chancellor John Sharp's contract

Regents of the Texas A&M University System may extend Chancellor John Sharp’s contract at their meeting Thursday. Sharp joined the system in 2011, and his contract was extended four years later to expire in 2020. He is paid an annual base salary of $900,000 with additional compensation from bonuses. Thursday’s vote will take place in the afternoon after the regents meet in closed executive session.

Houston Chronicle - April 25, 2017

HC: Hopes for sanity -- New strategies for treating those coping with mental illness need lawmakers' support.

Talk to Tom Luce, the longtime Dallas attorney who now heads the Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute, and you get the idea that Texas lawmakers are beginning to understand how to calibrate the mental-health needs of their fellow Texans. That's good news, although whether those same lawmakers will adequately fund programs to meet those needs is another matter. During a phone conversation with the Chronicle editorial board last week, Luce called for a state hospital system that recognizes the need for a different treatment model for the long-term care of Texans dealing with mental illnesses. The new model can't be emergency care and also has to be more sustained than what most community health centers are able to offer. It's also something other than long-term hospital care, and certainly not "warehousing," the thoroughly discredited approach from years past when patients became lifelong wards of the state at state hospitals in Austin, San Antonio and elsewhere.

Houston Chronicle - April 25, 2017

Swastikas, bomb threats and ‘Heil Hitler’: Anti-Semitic incidents jump 50 percent in southern Texas

Anti-Semitic hate incidents like the one in Humble have jumped 50 percent this year over all of last year in the southern part of Texas, a "disturbing trend" that includes swastikas, Nazi salutes and even bomb threats, according to a report released this week by the Anti-Defamation League. The surge in the Lone Star state was part of an 86 percent increase nationwide, compared to last year. "Clearly, ADL is needed more than ever, and we will redouble our efforts to fight anti-Semitism and all types of discrimination," said ADL regional Associate Director Dena Marks. While 2016 saw 16 reported hate incidents in the League's Houston-based southwest region, the first quarter of this year logged 25 reports, including eight swastikas, one incident of allege

Houston Chronicle - April 26, 2017

Texas STAAR test results are in and the results are mixed

The results of Texas' biggest standardized test are in, showing how fifth and eighth grade students fared versus last year's class. In late March, hundreds of thousands of students took the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness or STAAR, a standardized test that measures performance in reading and mathematics. This year's score were a mixed bag. Of the 379,170 fifth grade students who took the reading test, 71 percent passed, a two percent decrease from the 2016 class. Similarly, of the 380,177 eighth graders who took the reading test, 76 percent passed, a three percent decrease from the previous year.

Houston Chronicle - April 25, 2017

Dems hope to weaponize amendments to take down 'sanctuary cities' bill

There are many differences between the Texas House and Senate, but arguably the most important one is the set of rules in each chamber. While the lieutenant governor and the Republican majority largely can change the Senate's calendar and rules on a moment's notice, that's not the case in the House. On Monday, the House had a noticeable scuffle that highlighted the divide. At issue was whether the chamber would effectively cut off debate on Senate Bill 4, the anti-"sanctuary cities" bill, when it comes to the floor on Wednesday. In particular, the Republican chairman of the Calendars Committee, Rep. Todd Hunter of Corpus Christi, wanted to ensure that all amendments to the bill would be filed by 1 p.m. Tuesday.

Houston Chronicle - April 25, 2017

Dems hope to weaponize amendments to take down 'sanctuary cities' bill

There are many differences between the Texas House and Senate, but arguably the most important one is the set of rules in each chamber. While the lieutenant governor and the Republican majority largely can change the Senate's calendar and rules on a moment's notice, that's not the case in the House. On Monday, the House had a noticeable scuffle that highlighted the divide. At issue was whether the chamber would effectively cut off debate on Senate Bill 4, the anti-"sanctuary cities" bill, when it comes to the floor on Wednesday. In particular, the Republican chairman of the Calendars Committee, Rep. Todd Hunter of Corpus Christi, wanted to ensure that all amendments to the bill would be filed by 1 p.m. Tuesday.

Houston Chronicle - April 25, 2017

Online tool to track air pollution in Texas debuts

Air pollution happens every day in Houston. Sometimes, that pollution is well within permit limits, considered safe by state environmental regulators, and sometimes, it's not. So how do Houston residents who care about air quality tell the difference? Several environmental groups have recently debuted a handy new tool that notifies people when a Texas industry anticipates releasing air pollution that exceeds permitted limits. Here's how it works. Go to www.neighborhoodwitness.org and sign up for alerts. Alerts are sent when a company tells state environmental regulators that it expects emissions will exceed permit limits, usually because of planned maintenance or repairs.

Dallas Morning News - April 25, 2017

Attacks on fasting lawmaker hint at fiery debate expected for 'sanctuary cities' bill

When Dallas Democrat Victoria Neave decided to fast in protest against the so-called sanctuary cities bill, she didn't expect messages from people like @TruckinAltRight, who tweeted: "Hopefully you'll starve to death and your body will be deported." At the same time, Neave knew what she was getting into. The controversial bill is expected to draw fiery rhetoric from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle Wednesday, when the House takes up the proposal. The bill would ban cities, counties and universities from adopting policies that prevent local law enforcement agencies from asking about a person's immigration status or enforcing immigration law.

Dallas Morning News - April 26, 2017

Ramsey: Today’s hated business tax is tomorrow’s property tax relief

Texas lawmakers are trying to get rid of an unpopular but useful tax on business — an idea that sounds better to lawmakers today than it might sound to their successors in a few years. Property values in Texas will fall someday, shifting public education costs from Texans currently stuck in the property tax vise to the state itself. And the franchise tax on business — the tax that got the state out of trouble the last time it needed money for schools — might not be there next time.

Dallas Morning News - April 26, 2017

It's the legislative session's final quarter, and Team Straus has the ball

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s visage loomed ominously from the February cover of Texas Monthly magazine, and the story inside declared him “the most influential person in Texas politics.” He was riding high, moving fast and pushing his multitudinous legislative priorities through the Senate chamber. Two short months later, the center of power in the Texas Capitol has shifted. It’s Rep. Joe Straus, the typically taciturn speaker of the House, who’s calling the shots in an atypically outspoken way that says, ‘I’ve had it up to here.’ “You’ve seen a more outspoken Speaker than we’ve seen in previous sessions,” Republican consultant Ted Delisi said. “He hasn’t been shy about weighing in.”

Dallas Morning News - April 25, 2017

Wallace: Texas has made abortion riskier

As a family physician dedicated to helping my patients and their families live their healthiest lives, I am saddened and disheartened by our lawmakers' continued assault on the right to safe and accessible health care. Once again, our state Legislature has shown intent to criminalize and further stigmatize abortion. Instead of attacking abortion care, which most Texans believe should be accessible in their communities, I hope our tax dollars can support legislation that restores trust in doctors and allows us to practice medicine in accordance with our professional judgment and training and in the best interest of all Texans. Here in Texas, we have weathered the storms of baseless legislation that tear away at the fabric of the provider-patient relationship. These laws have not made abortion safer, but rather have subjected women to substandard health care practices or increased personal costs because the few remaining clinics are burdened by overregulation.

Dallas Morning News - April 25, 2017

AG Ken Paxton continues to demand new judge to preside over his criminal trials

Attorney General Ken Paxton has repeated his request that a new judge be named to preside over his criminal cases, saying he "has not and will not" allow the judge to remain involved. On Monday, Paxton's lawyers sent Harris County District Clerk Chris Daniel a letter asking him to replace Judge George Gallagher. The existence of the letter was first reported by The Texas Tribune. "Paxton respectfully advises the Harris County District Clerk, as he did by court filing last week, that he has not and will not give the statutorily-required written consent under Article 31.09 to allow the Honorable George Gallagher or his court staff to continue to preside over the matter in Harris County," Paxton's attorneys wrote. "Accordingly, Paxton requests that the Harris County District Clerk assign these cases to a Harris County district court in the manner and as it would with any new criminal case."

San Antonio Express News - April 25, 2017

Bill to limit annexations appears to gain momentum

At least one bill that would give residents of unincorporated areas more power to fight annexation by a city won approval in the state Senate on Monday and is on its way to the House. The Senate passed Senate Bill 715, filed by Sen. Donna Campbell, R-New Braunfels, on a 20-10 vote. If it becomes law, residents would have a chance to vote on whether they want to become part of a city through annexation. Final passage of SB 715, or several other annexation bills, could dramatically curb San Antonio’s ability to grow in the future and could halt the city’s current attempts to annex a rapidly developing part of North Bexar County along Interstate 10 West — a scaled-down version of an annexation plan the city proposed two years ago.

San Antonio Express News - April 25, 2017

CPS says it is working on new ways to combat child abuse

While the rate of child victims of abuse or neglect declined somewhat in Bexar County last year, the rate of children removed from their homes for such maltreatment increased, with more than 1,900 kids being taken from their parents by the state. And last year 11 children in the county died at the hands of their caregivers, up from four such deaths in fiscal year 2015. Despite such dark statistics, officials with Child Protective Services and others involved with child welfare gathered Tuesday to discuss what the state agency is doing right to combat child abuse in Bexar County, which routinely posts some of the worst numbers in the state.

County Stories

Houston Chronicle - April 25, 2017

Waller County may replace aging jail

Waller County officials may soon replace what a recent report described as an "inefficient, outdated" jail that has been under particularly intense scrutiny since the 2015 death of Sandra Bland. The project has for years been on the county's radar, County Judge Trey Duhon said. The Texas Commission on Jail Standards has discussed it with local officials. And, with time ticking, it has again come to the forefront: county commissioners plan to talk about hiring an architect to build a new jail at a meeting on Wednesday. "It has nothing to do with any recent events, or even Sandra Bland, or anything else like that," Duhon said. Rather, he added, officials worry it will soon no longer meet state standards, forcing the county to pay to house inmates elsewhere.

San Antonio Express News - April 25, 2017

Lawmakers working to create special districts to fuel Boerne-area growth

Developers behind two large subdivisions proposed in Kendall County are asking the Legislature to create a pair of special districts to help finance construction of roads and other infrastructure. Some residents are upset over not being alerted earlier by state and local officials who knew of the legislation since the start of the year. Worries about new growth hastening the depletion of groundwater in Kendall County were tempered by word the developers are exploring out-of-county water sources rather than drilling wells. But the prospect of adding motorists to already crowded roads around Boerne remains a major concern.

San Antonio Express News - April 25, 2017

Trump tariff could drive up San Antonio home prices

The Trump administration announced Monday that it plans to slap a roughly 20 percent tariff on softwood lumber imported from Canada, a move that would likely drive San Antonio’s fast-growing home prices even higher. Lumber prices were already getting more expensive locally amid growing demand for new homes for San Antonio’s swelling population, local builders and suppliers said. Prices for Canadian lumber then surged after a trade deal between the U.S. and Canada expired last fall. For local building materials supplier Allen & Allen Co., prices went up by as much as 30 percent over the last few months, Chief Operations Officer Wade Payne said. “We’re hoping it’s only short-term, before cooler heads prevail,” Payne said of the tariff.

Dallas Morning News - April 25, 2017

Ragland: Four things to watch for after jury returns verdict in John Wiley Price's public corruption trial

Look, we don't know if the jurors in John Wiley Price's public corruption trial are hopelessly deadlocked, or if they all just need a good night's sleep. They could be log-jammed on one count -- or all of them. Neither the judge nor the jurors tipped their hand Tuesday on the fifth day -- give or take -- of deliberations, which ended with U.S. District Judge Barbara Lynn sending the panel home early to watch some "mindless television." But whenever the jury wraps up its work, there are several potential developments that bear watching.

Houston Chronicle - April 25, 2017

Letter signed by 60 Texas leaders and sent to Trump backs Ike Dike

Texas land Commissioner George P. Bush has sent Donald Trump a letter signed by more than 60 Texas leaders urging the president to include a coastal barrier in his proposed $1 trillion national infrastructure project. "We believe we have all the support necessary; what we need is the $15 billion in funds to protect this crucial part of the nation's economy," reads the letter sent Monday to the president. The White House did not respond to a request for comment. The estimate is larger than the previous one of $11.63 billion because it includes money for a ring dike around the portions of the city of Galveston behind the seawall and for a gate at the Galveston Bay entrance to Clear lake, Land Office spokeswoman Brittany Eck said.

Austin American-Statesman - April 25, 2017

Adler: Sessions says Travis County detainer policy not breaking law

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions signaled Tuesday that the Trump administration won’t punish Travis County for disregarding federal requests to detain local inmates suspected of being in the country illegally, according to Austin Mayor Steve Adler, who was among a group of big-city mayors who met with Sessions on Tuesday. Just hours after Sessions’ comments to representatives of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, including Adler, a federal judge in San Francisco blocked a Trump administration order to withhold funding from communities that limit cooperation with U.S. immigration authorities. Travis County was one of dozens of cities and counties joining a lawsuit filed in San Francisco challenging President Donald Trump’s Jan. 25 executive order.

Austin American-Statesman - April 26, 2017

‘Critical’ fire danger in Hill Country, ‘elevated’ danger in Austin this afternoon

Western portions of the Hill Country will face a “critical” threat of wildfires Wednesday afternoon because of high temperatures, dry air and fierce winds, the National Weather Service warns. The Austin metro area, including Travis, Williamson, Hays, Bastrop and Caldwell counties also face an “elevated” fire threat, forecasters say. The weather service is issuing a “red-flag” warning from noon to 7 p.m. for the western Hill Country and the San Antonio area in advance of a cooler but dry air mass making its way through the region.

City Stories

Austin American-Statesman - April 26, 2017

First Reading: Role reversal: In custody trial, Kelly Jones is the Infowarrior and Alex Jones the status quo

The Travis County courtroom where the Alex Jones-Kelly Jones child custody trial is taking place is very small. The first few days of the trial I sat hugging the back wall to be close to an outlet where I could keep my laptop plugged in. But then Judge Orlinda Naranjo last Wednesday ordered all the electronics in the courtroom unplugged, and distributed yellow pads and pens to reporters in attendance. Thus liberated from my electronic umbilical cord, I crept forward in the courtroom, which is only a few rows deep, and the last several days have sat front row center, giving me a direct view of Alex Jones, seated about two feet away.

Dallas Morning News - April 26, 2017

How did Texas, Dallas ISD fare in the first round of STAAR testing?

Fifth- and eighth-grade students in Texas treaded water on this spring's STAAR tests, performing a little better in math and a little worse in reading than a year ago, according to preliminary results released Tuesday. While the state's assessment tests are used in a variety of ways - from Texas' A-F school ratings prototype to teacher evaluations - fifth- and eighth-grade tests carry additional significance. In those grades, students are not eligible for automatic promotion to the next grade if they fail one of the tests. Those who failed will get two more opportunities to pass, in mid-May and June.

Austin American-Statesman - April 25, 2017

Kelly Jones fears children are `morphing into’ ex-husband Alex Jones

Kelly Jones took the stand at her child custody trial Tuesday and described ex-husband and Austin broadcaster Alex Jones as a “violent, cruel and abusive man” who is “enraged and out of control most of the time.” While Alex Jones and his attorneys have contended that he leaves the “bombasity” of his Infowars persona at the office, Kelly Jones said Alex Jones spouts what she views as racist, homophobic and anti-women sentiments in both his public and private life and that their children have come to echo him. “They are morphing into him,” she said. She said her son, who she said wants to follow in his father’s footsteps, had said, “I hate women,” and had grown “domineering” in his relationship with his 9- and 12-year-old sisters. She said her 12-year-old daughter had said, “Women shouldn’t be judges.”

Dallas Morning News - April 25, 2017

Dallas activists voice opposition to anti-sanctuary city bill

Maria de Jesus Garza remembers singing the national anthem with all she could to prove to immigration agents that she was U.S. citizen. She was 17 years old and boarding a Greyhound bus in San Diego when agents detained and deported her. Her father traveled from the Los Angeles area to Tijuana with documents that proved her U.S. citizenship. Now a 32-year-old organizer with the Workers Defense Project, the bilingual, U.S.-born Garza uses her story to show how racial profiling can sweep up those who aren’t even immigrants. The potential for increased racial profiling is one of the reasons Garza says she joined Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins, members of the League of United Latin American Citizens and other groups at a news conference announcing their opposition to immigration legislation headed Wednesday for a full House vote in Austin after approval by the Republican-controlled Senate.

National Stories

The Hill - April 25, 2017

House GOP circulates new changes to health bill

House Republicans are circulating the text of an amendment to their ObamaCare replacement bill that they believe could bring many conservatives on board. According to legislative text of the amendment obtained by The Hill, the measure would allow states to apply for waivers to repeal one of ObamaCare’s core protections for people with pre-existing conditions. Conservatives argue the provision drives up premiums for healthy people, but Democrats -- and many more moderate Republicans -- warn it would spark a return to the days when insurance companies could charge sick people exorbitantly high premiums.

Dallas Morning News - April 25, 2017

Leubsdorf: Do the first 100 days really mean anything for a presidency?

Trump's ultimate presidential record will be determined less by his handling of his first 100 days than whether he makes enough corrections to achieve his main campaign promises. How he reacts to the unexpected crises all presidents eventually confront will also inform his legacy. At home, his vows to create 25 million jobs, revive American manufacturing and double the country's lagging economic growth record are heavily dependent on passing legislation to simplify the tax code, cut business levies and spur infrastructure repairs. Abroad, he has pledged that more assertive leadership stressing American interests will strengthen U.S. alliances and curb the terrorist threat by destroying ISIS.

Dallas Morning News - April 25, 2017

DMN: The death penalty isn't fair, and Arkansas' rush to execute 8 men is latest example

There is one obvious takeaway from Arkansas' chaotic and misguided attempt to execute eight death row prisoners in a span of 11 days, including two who were put to death Monday evening. The death penalty is arbitrary. It is unfair. And it should have no place in the American justice system. As a newspaper that opposes capital punishment, we ask this question: Why these eight men, and why now? All eight had been sitting on death row since at least 2000 — one since 1989, when President George H.W. Bush was in office.

The Atlantic - April 25, 2017

How Democrats Came to Feel Nostalgic for George W. Bush

In February 2010, a series of billboards began popping up around the nation. A grinning, waving George W. Bush appeared beside the phrase, “Miss Me Yet?” The answer was a resounding, Eh, sorta. Bush had bounced back somewhat from his abysmal final approval rating, but while Republicans were feeling rosier about the ex-president, Democrats were not. It turns out that for some Democrats, the question was not mistaken but merely premature. “Did we ever think we would see the day when we would say, ‘Please bring back George W. Bush’?” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said during an interview with Evan Smith last week. “We really did work together.” Pelosi is the most specific but not the first example of Democrats expressing surprising fondness for the 43rd president. His refusal to endorse Donald Trump, his decision to skip the Republican National Convention, and rumors that he supported Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election softened feelings about him. Perhaps his alleged reaction to Trump’s inaugural address was the coup de grace: “That was some weird shit.”

Wall St. Journal - April 25, 2017

Americans Back Immigration and Trade at Record Levels

Americans’ support for immigration and free trade hit record highs in a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News survey, just three months after the inauguration of a president who pledged to curtail both. It remains unclear whether opinions are shifting permanently on these matters, or whether support for immigration and trade is solidifying among Democrats and independents as part of a broader reaction against the policies of President Donald Trump. Six in 10 Americans said immigration helps the nation more than it hurts—up 6 points since the last sounding, in September 2016. One-third of people in the survey said immigration hurts more than it helps.

CNN - April 25, 2017

Sh*t talking is Democrats' new strategy

Democrats in the post-2016 world have potty mouths. Swearing has become such a part of Democratic stump speeches that profane clips have become routine in Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez's speeches. With children on stage behind him, Perez told an audience in Las Vegas this weekend that Trump "doesn't give a shit about health care." ... And the swearing has made its way onto the campaign trail, too. Rep. Beto O'Rourke, a Texas Democrat who plans to challenge Republican Sen. Ted Cruz in 2018, has taken to saying "shit" on the campaign trial. O'Rourke slammed Cruz earlier this month for campaigning all over the country, something he said signals the Republican is "sure as shit not serving" his constituents. He has also used the swearing in interviews, describing Obamacare in an interview with Politico bluntly: "That shit doesn't work."

The Hill - April 25, 2017

Ted Cruz: Seize money from drug lords to fund border wall

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) is introducing a bill to allow assets seized from drug lords, like Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, to fund President Trump’s proposed wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Cruz's bill, the Ensuring Lawful Collection of Hidden Assets to Provide Order Act, also known as the "El Chapo Act," is a reference to the Mexican drug kingpin from the Sinaloa cartel. The U.S. government is seeking $14 billion from the drug lord as part of its prosecution of Guzman.

The Hill - April 25, 2017

Meet the centrist trying to strike a deal on healthcare

Just over 30 years ago, Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-N.J.) was starting his career in the insurance industry and making $13,000 a year. Now, he’s trying to find a path out of the woods for Republicans seeking to repeal and replace ObamaCare. MacArthur is only serving his second term in the House, and he became a co-chairman of the centrist Tuesday Group just three months ago. Yet he’s emerged as an influential voice in the party’s negotiations on healthcare reform even as the other two leaders of the Tuesday Group — Reps. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.) and Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) — have kept lower profiles. Dent came out against the House GOP’s first repeal-and-replace measure, while Stefanik never made her stance on it clear.

The Hill - April 25, 2017

Swing-state Iowa pivots to the right with GOP now in control

Iowa has been a swing state for decades. But this legislative session, the state swung decidedly to the right. Republicans in Iowa asserted a broad mandate after winning complete control of the state’s government in November, enacting a sweeping conservative agenda unlike anything seen in the state. Among the measures passed this year: new limits on abortion rights, a package of election reforms that includes a requirement that voters show identification at the polls, a broad expansion of gun rights, reforms to collective bargaining laws for state workers, limits on worker compensation claims, and a measure pre-empting Iowa cities and counties from setting their own minimum wages higher than the state rate.

Reuters - April 25, 2017

Government costs could rise $2.3 billion without Obamacare payments: study

The U.S. government's costs could increase by $2.3 billion in 2018 if Congress and President Donald Trump decide not to fund Obamacare-related payments to health insurers, according to a study released Tuesday by the Kaiser Family Foundation. The payments amount to about $7 billion in fiscal year 2017 and help cover out-of-pocket medical costs for low-income Americans who purchase insurance on the individual insurance exchanges created by the Affordable Care Act, often called Obamacare. Trump has threatened to withhold the payments to force Democrats to the negotiating table on a healthcare bill to replace Obamacare. He has also said he will fund the subsidies if Democrats agree to funding for his proposed border wall with Mexico as part of efforts to pass a government funding bill this week and avert a shutdown. Democrats have rejected the conditional offer.

Texas Monthly - April 25, 2017

Before the Flood

On a recent morning in Nuevo Laredo, Marciano Santiago sat in a white plastic folding chair waiting his turn to use the phone at the Instituto Tamaulipeco para los Migrantes, a state agency that provides humanitarian assistance to migrants. Near him, in identical chairs, sat four new arrivals: a bricklayer, a factory worker, a McDonald’s fry cook, and a gardener, each holding the sum of his meager possessions in clear plastic bags. Earlier that day, U.S. immigration officials who had held the four men in custody in Laredo took them across the Gateway to the Americas International Bridge and left them in the hands of Mexican officials. Eventually, they ended up here. Santiago, on the other hand, had already been in town for a while, following his second failed attempt to cross over into Texas.

Dallas Morning News - April 24, 2017

Inboden: In A Tale of Two Trumps, which will emerge as president is anyone's guess

Never before in modern American history have we known less about a presidency after its first 100 days than now. The Trump administration remains an enigma. Its ideological convictions, competency, priorities and most influential voices are all uncertain, perhaps even more so now than on Inauguration Day. In the crucial realm of national security the signs are particularly mixed. For us conservatives, the first 100 days of the Trump presidency simultaneously bring much to applaud and much to lament on foreign and defense policy. On the positive side, there are several encouraging developments such as: President Donald Trump's appointments of capable professionals to senior national security positions, which include National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, Secretary of Defense James Mattis, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, CIA Director Mike Pompeo, Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley and Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Adviser Tom Bossert.

Houston Chronicle - April 25, 2017

A look at immigrants in the US without legal status

A new study shows the number of immigrants in the U.S. illegally has fallen to 11 million since 2009, largely because of a drop-off in the number of Mexicans without legal status. The Pew Research Center reports Tuesday there were about 11.3 million immigrants in the country illegally in 2009. The study is based on survey data from 2015. The nonpartisan center says the number of Mexicans in the country illegally dropped to about 5.6 million from about 6.4 million during the six-year period. Pew didn't give a reason for the decline. But in earlier reports, it said the U.S. economy was slow to recover from the recession and border enforcement got stricter.

Houston Chronicle - April 25, 2017

HC: Mexican journalism -- Our neighbor's civic institutions come under fire on both sides of the border.

The most dangerous country in the world for journalists today isn't Iraq or Syria, Russia or China. In fact, it is less than a day's drive from Houston City Hall. In Mexico, to be a journalist is to take your life into your own hands. So far this year, three Mexican reporters have been killed. Their death sentences were assigned for a refusal to back down on covering crime and corruption. The motive behind the killing of a fourth journalist is still unclear, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. Other reporters face attacks and assaults in response to their routine duties.

New York Times - April 26, 2017

Trump’s Tax Plan: Low Rate for Corporations, and for Companies Like His

President Trump plans to unveil a tax cut blueprint on Wednesday that would apply a vastly reduced, 15 percent business tax rate not only to corporations but also to companies that now pay taxes through the personal income tax code — from mom-and-pop businesses to his own real estate empire, according to several people briefed on the proposal. The package would also increase the standard deduction for individuals, providing a modest cut for middle-income people and simplifying the process of filing tax returns, according to people briefed on its details. That proposal is opposed by home builders and real estate agents, who fear it would diminish the importance of the mortgage interest deduction. And it is likely to necessitate eliminating or curbing other popular deductions, a politically risky pursuit.

Politico - April 25, 2017

Lawmakers: Flynn likely broke law in not revealing Russia payments

Former national security adviser Michael Flynn did not disclose payments for a 2015 speech in Moscow in his application to renew his security clearance in 2016, the leaders of the House Oversight Committee told reporters Tuesday. The omission likely broke the law, the lawmakers said. “As a former military officer, you simply cannot take money from Russia, Turkey or anybody else,” Oversight Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) said. “And it appears as if he did take that money. It was inappropriate. And there are repercussions for the violation of law.” Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, the panel’s top Democrat, noted that knowingly falsifying or concealing information on a security clearance application form, called an SF-86, is a felony punishable by up to five years in prison.

New York Times - April 25, 2017

Covert: Why Abortion Is a Progressive Economic Issue

The Democrats’ unity tour fractured into disunity almost immediately after it began. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont refused to say whether Jon Ossoff, the Democratic candidate trying to win a typically Republican district in Georgia while being outspoken in support of abortion rights, counts as a progressive. He then went on to stump for Heath Mello in Nebraska. Mr. Mello, who is running for mayor in Omaha, has sponsored legislation aimed at restricting women’s access to abortion, including a bill in 2009 that required women to be informed that they could look at ultrasounds of their fetuses. The Democratic National Committee chairman, Thomas E. Perez, didn’t do much to dampen the growing outrage among progressives who see reproductive rights as core to their values. “If you demand fealty on every single issue, then it’s a challenge,” he said last week.

New York Times - April 26, 2017

Kesler: Donald Trump Is a Real Republican, and That’s a Good Thing

What kind of conservative is President Trump? He must be some kind of conservative, because for nearly 100 days and counting, liberals have poured on him the kind of vitriol they do not reserve for moderates or ideological nobodys. Inside the Beltway, some famous conservatives have joined in the sport but for the opposite reason, that Mr. Trump, they claim, is no conservative but a populist demagogue out to discredit and destroy their beloved movement. In his three major public speeches so far — his remarks at the Republican National Convention, his Inaugural Address and his speech to a joint session of Congress — Mr. Trump did not mention conservatism at all. Even at the Conservative Political Action Conference, he claimed simply, and almost in passing, that his election was a victory for “conservative values.” What those were he did not specify, except to say that Americans believe in “freedom, security and the rule of law” and in standing up for America, American workers and the American flag.

Washington Post - April 26, 2017

Slow pace of Trump nominations leaves Cabinet agencies ‘stuck’ in staffing limbo

President Trump’s Cabinet secretaries are growing exasperated at how slowly the White House is moving to fill hundreds of top-tier posts, warning that the vacancies are hobbling efforts to oversee agency operations and promote the president’s agenda, according to administration officials, lawmakers and lobbyists. The Senate has confirmed 26 of Trump’s picks for his Cabinet and other top posts. But for 530 other vacant senior-level jobs requiring Senate confirmation, the president has advanced just 37 nominees, according to data tracked by The Washington Post and the nonpartisan Partnership for Public Service’s Center for Presidential Transition. These posts include the deputy secretaries and undersecretaries, chief financial officers, ambassadors, general counsels, and heads of smaller agencies who run the government day-to-day.

Washington Post - April 25, 2017

Trump to propose large increase in deductions Americans can claim on their taxes

President Trump on Wednesday plans to call for a significant increase in the standard deduction people can claim on their tax returns, potentially putting thousands of dollars each year into the pockets of tens of millions of Americans, according to two people briefed on the plan. The change is one of several that the White House will propose when it provides an outline of the tax overhaul pitch Trump will make to Congress and the American people as he nears his 100th day in office. He will propose a sharp reduction in the corporate tax rate, but also major changes to the taxes individuals and families pay. White House officials believe these changes will give Americans and companies more money to spend, expand the economy and create more jobs.

Washington Post - April 25, 2017

Trump’s ‘sanctuary city’ order blocked by federal judge in San Francisco

A federal judge in San Francisco dealt the Trump administration another legal blow Tuesday, temporarily halting President Trump’s threat to withhold unspecified federal funding from cities and towns that refuse to cooperate with immigration authorities. U.S. District Judge William H. Orrick imposed a nationwide injunction against Trump’s Jan. 25 executive order on what are called “sanctuary” jurisdictions and said lawsuits by Santa Clara County and San Francisco challenging the order were likely to succeed. Orrick pointed to discrepancies in the administration’s interpretation of the executive order, which broadly authorized the attorney general to withhold grant money from jurisdictions that do not cooperate with immigration officials on deportations and other enforcement actions.

Washington Post - April 25, 2017

Trump has yet to signal his approach to Obamacare birth-control mandate

President Trump had promised religious groups that he would reverse the Obama administration’s requirement that employers provide birth control to their employees under the Affordable Care Act. But his Justice Department indicated Monday that it’s not yet giving up a fight with religious schools and nonprofits that are suing over the contraception mandate. The department has asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit for an additional 60 days to negotiate with East Texas Baptist University and several other religious groups objecting to a requirement to which they are morally opposed.

Associated Press - April 26, 2017

Fewer immigrants without status since 2009 - report

The number of immigrants in the U.S. illegally fell to 11 million since 2009, largely because of a drop-off in the number of Mexicans without legal status, according to a study released Tuesday. The report by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center — using survey data from 2015 — showed the number of immigrants lacking legal status was 11.3 million in 2009. The number of Mexicans in the country illegally dropped to about 5.6 million from 6.4 million during the same six-year period. "The numbers are not going up, and in fact, the numbers for Mexicans have been going down for almost a decade now," said Jeffrey Passel, senior demographer at Pew Research Center in Washington, D.C. "And that is counter to a lot of the rhetoric you hear."

Ft. Worth Star-Telegram - April 26, 2017

More people drive while on drugs – and don't realize it's a problem, report says

Drug-impaired driving has become a bigger problem in the United States than drunken driving, and law enforcement officers need more training to identify it, while the public needs to know that it is unsafe to drive high, according to a new report released this week. The Governors Highway Safety Association and the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility, national nonprofit safety groups, reported that 43 percent of fatally injured drivers with known test results tested positive for drugs, while 38 percent tested positive for alcohol. The figures are from National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data for 2015, the most recent year available. This is the first time occurrences of drugged driving have surpassed those of drunken driving as shown by tests on dead drivers, according to Jim Hedlund, a former NHTSA official who wrote the report.

April 25, 2017

Lead Stories

Dallas Morning News - April 24, 2017

Texas lawmakers make nice as they begin negotiating state budget, but obstacles loom

House and Senate budget negotiators downplayed rivalries and made a lavish display of courtesy Monday as they began talks on the session's only must-pass bill — a state spending plan for the next two years. At their first public meeting, only two of 10 members of the House-Senate conference committee spoke. The two chambers' point persons exchanged pleasantries at what probably will be one of very few gatherings by all 10 lawmakers under the glare of cameras, lobbyists and reporters.

Texas Tribune - April 24, 2017

Tea Party leaders push back on GOP over fast-tracked "Buffett Bill"

Conservative activists are pushing back against Republican leaders who are fast-tracking the so-called “Buffett Bill,” which would let billionaire Warren Buffett hang onto his car dealerships in Texas but keep the state market closed to Tesla and other manufacturers. A who’s-who of Tea Party leaders under the banner of the Texas Free Market Coalition — including JoAnn Fleming of East Texas, Eagle Forum board member and past President Cathie Adams and NE Tarrant Tea Party leader Julie McCarty — blasted the legislation allowing a “politically favored entity” to get special treatment in the Legislature.

Washington Post - April 24, 2017

White House ‘confident’ of averting shutdown as Trump shows flexibility on wall

The White House sought Monday to calm a jittery Washington ahead of a showdown with Congress over spending, and President Trump softened his demand that a deal to keep the federal government open include money to begin construction on his long-promised border wall. Despite one-party control at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue, the brinkmanship that came to define spending battles in the Obama years has tumbled into the Trump era, as have the factional divisions over strategy and priorities that have gripped the GOP for a decade. But with a Friday deadline looming to pass a new spending bill, the Trump administration projected confidence that a shutdown would be avoided. In the face of fierce Democratic opposition to funding the wall’s construction, White House officials signaled Monday that the president may be open to an agreement that includes money for border security if not specifically for a wall, with an emphasis on technology and border agents rather than a structure.

Austin American-Statesman - April 25, 2017

Lawmakers to consider bills to scale back STAAR requirements Tuesday

The Senate could consider a bill on Tuesday that would continue a policy that allows high school students to graduate even if they fail state standardized tests. Senate Bill 463 filed by State Sen. Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo, would allow school officials to continue using individual graduation committees for high school students who fail up to two State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness. The student could still graduate through one of these committees, which is made up of the student’s teacher, principal and parents, as long as the committee gives unanimous consent and the student passes all of his or her classes, among other requirements.

Texas Tribune - April 24, 2017

Uber and Lyft call "sex" amendment disappointing, unnecessary

Five days after a controversial amendment defining "sex" as "the physical condition of being male or female" was added to a statewide ride-hailing bill, representatives from Uber and Lyft called the addition disappointing and unnecessary — though both companies stopped short of saying they'd withdraw their support. “We are disappointed that this unnecessary amendment was added to legislation that should be focused on adopting a consistent statewide framework for ride sharing,” Uber spokesman Travis Considine said. “Uber’s comprehensive national nondiscrimination policy will not change.”

Texas Tribune - April 25, 2017

Clock ticking toward 2018 as court to mull redistricting questions

A pair of federal court rulings that Texas leaders purposefully discriminated against minority voters in rejiggering congressional and state House boundaries have triggered a slew of pressing questions among politicos here: Will Texas soon see new political maps that are friendlier to Latino and black voters and, in turn, Democrats? If so, who would draw them: the scolded Republican-led Legislature or the courts themselves? Will the maps land ahead of the 2018 elections? A three-judge panel based in San Antonio will start wading through such questions on Thursday as lawyers for each side of the redistricting dispute return to court for a high-profile status conference.

Politico - April 25, 2017

Poll: 67 percent of gun owners say NRA 'overtaken by lobbyists'

With the NRA preparing to hold its annual convention this week in Atlanta, complete with a planned address from President Donald Trump, a new poll commissioned by an anti-gun-violence PAC found that less than 50 percent of gun owners polled believe the NRA represents their interests. Sixty-seven percent of gun owners polled said they either strongly or somewhat agree that the NRA has shifted from an organization dedicated to gun safety to one “overtaken by lobbyists and the interests of gun manufacturers and lost its original purpose and mission.” Twenty-six percent of respondents said they are members of the NRA, and 74 percent said they are not. Fifty percent said they voted in November for Trump, who was endorsed early in his candidacy by the NRA, while 43 percent said they voted for Democrat Hillary Clinton.

Washington Post - April 25, 2017

Public pans Republicans’ latest approach to replacing Affordable Care Act

In strategy and substance, the American public disagrees with the course that President Trump and congressional Republicans are pursuing to replace the Affordable Care Act with conservative policies, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll. Large majorities oppose the ideas at the heart of the most recent GOP negotiations to forge a plan that could pass in the House. These would allow states to choose whether to keep the ACA’s insurance protection for people with preexisting medical problems and its guarantee of specific health benefits. Public sentiment is particularly lopsided in favor of an aspect of the current health-care law that blocks insurers from charging more or denying coverage to customers with medical conditions.

State Stories

Houston Chronicle - April 25, 2017

DePillis: Texas unemployment rate now convincingly back above America's

Texas had a good long run of unemployment that rode at or below the national average — 10 years, to be exact, as the Lone Star State rode out the housing bust and entered an oil boom. That period of superiority came to a close last November. And after a few months of bouncing around, March's employment data showed that the U.S. opened up a half-point lead, as my colleague L.M. Sixel noted on Friday. (Houston's unemployment rate, of course, surged above the national average last May, as oil layoffs reached their apex.) However, that's just one, very limited way of looking at the labor market. In another way of looking at it, both Houston and Texas' job growth rate has surged ahead of the U.S. in recent months. That suggests that spiking unemployment rates may be a response to more job listings; the unemployment rate doesn't capture those who have stopped looking for work.

Houston Chronicle - April 20, 2017

Prison company struggles to get license to hold children

A top private prison company is struggling to convince Texas lawmakers to license one of its facilities to hold immigrant parents and their children together — a practice that President Donald Trump's administration recently committed to upholding. The Karnes Residential Center, 60 miles south of San Antonio, opened as a family detention center in 2014 and used to hold detainees for months, until a federal judge ruled that children held longer than 20 days must be housed in "non-secure" facilities with child care licenses. After the Texas Department of Family Protective Services granted Karnes a license, advocates sued, saying that holding children in detention causes psychological and physical harm. A state judge ruled last year that family detention centers did not qualify for licenses.

Houston Chronicle - April 24, 2017

Senate votes to abolish state refugee agency

The Texas Senate on Monday voted to abolish a state refugee agency that figured in a controversy last year over the resettlement of Syrian and other Mideast refugees in the Lone Star State. Approved by a final vote of 20-10, the Republican-supported Senate Bill 260 would permanently shutter both the Office of Immigration and Refugee Affairs and the Governor's Advisory Committee on Immigration and Refugees. In a fight last year about then-President Obama's decision to resettle Syrian refugees into Texas over state officials' objections over what they said was inadequate security screening, Gov. Greg Abbott last September withdrew Texas from the resettlement program operated by the U.S. State Department.

Dallas Morning News - April 24, 2017

Texas is getting ready for when legal weed becomes a local industry

The message of the Southwest Cannabis Conference and Expo in Fort Worth was clear: Marijuana is coming to Texas. And not in a Reefer Madness, fear-baiting kind of way. Doctors and lawyers educated attendees Saturday and Sunday about the latest cannabis research and legislation, while entrepreneurs showed off technology developed to help manufacture, extract and sell weed-infused products. Reggae music played softly in the background as attendees meandered between booths and lectures, many intent on finding their way into the local industry at the ground level.

Dallas Morning News - April 25, 2017

Hurd: With NAFTA, Mexico and the U.S. build things together

Since NAFTA was signed 24 years ago in my hometown of San Antonio, U.S. trade with Mexico and Canada has more than tripled, and it is no question that Texas has benefited the most. With easy access to two of the busiest U.S. ports of entry via land and sea - Laredo and Houston - it is no surprise that Texas exported more than any other state in 2014, almost $300 billion-worth to countries worldwide. Across the U.S., all but ten states depend on Canada or Mexico as their largest export markets. While "free trade" has been blamed for job losses in many areas of the nation, as of 2014, nearly five million jobs across the U.S. depend on trade with Mexico. These jobs are not just in Texas. In 2015, Mexico was the top first or second export destination for 30 out of 50 states.

Dallas Morning News - April 21, 2017

Olivera: Female candidates of all ethnicities and races face fundraising challenges

When Victoria Neave was 18, she remembers watching a Latina run for Congress in North Texas and thinking, "If she can do it, I can do it." Now 36 and a state representative from Dallas County, Neave knows what it's like to run for office and face a daunting but common challenge — not having a strong donor base. She offset it by recruiting scores of volunteers to help her canvass as many neighborhoods as possible in the district she now represents. Neave's experience in running for public office is not unique. Many women, of all ethnicities and races, face the same challenges, especially in fundraising.

Dallas Morning News - April 25, 2017

Will Texas continue scaling back its dependence on STAAR tests?

Texas lawmakers seem determined to chip away at standardized testing requirements as the House Public Education Committee on Monday sent out a bill that would significantly reduce the number of STAAR tests kids have to take. The bill would eliminate standardized tests in areas not required by the federal government. That would mean reducing high school end-of-course exams down from five to three —cutting U.S. history and one writing test — as well as getting rid of writing tests in fourth and seventh grades. The eighth-grade social studies tests would also be cut. The bill now goes before the House for consideration.

Dallas Morning News - April 24, 2017

Sanctuary cities ban would be 'disastrous' for workers, critics say

It's becoming a common emotion among the unauthorized workers Jose P. Garza works with across Texas: fear. There was the man who tried to rally co-workers to report wage theft on a construction site where employers refused to pay overtime. His employer threatened to have them all deported. Another man broke his arm on the job. His boss dropped him at an emergency clinic and told him not to tell doctors how he’d gotten hurt or he'd turn him over to immigration authorities. As the debate over banning sanctuary cities — local governments that provide safe harbor for unauthorized immigrants — heats up in the Texas Legislature, advocates and lawmakers who oppose a proposed ban say it would be bad for businesses.

Dallas Morning News - April 25, 2017

New Baylor CEO says Texas' high rate of uninsured is not OK

Jim Hinton took the helm as the new chief executive officer of Baylor Scott & White Health in January, succeeding Joel Allison, who led the organization for 23 years. Hinton came to Dallas from Albuquerque, N.M., where he served as CEO of Presbyterian Healthcare Services for more than two decades. His work around system integration and improving outcomes among the broader population, or population health, have garnered national recognition for that eight-hospital non-profit. Among the top priorities for Baylor Scott & White are scaling health information technology to improve the customer experience, furthering efforts to align physician and guiding investment towards “building the health system of the future.”

Dallas Morning News - April 24, 2017

Texas officials sue FDA for access to 1,000 vials of execution drug

The Federal Drug Enforcement Agency last week formally blocked Texas officials from using 1,000 vials of an execution drug that the state had tried to import from a private manufacturer in India. FDA agents said Texas officials had 90 days to destroy the drugs or return them to India. But Texas officials have been seeking permission to use the drugs for almost two years now — and they don't want to give them up. So on Monday, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice said it will challenge the FDA’s ruling in federal court.

Dallas Morning News - April 24, 2017

DMN: Texas Senate's accounting trick may be technically legal, but it's wrong

The accounting trick the Texas Senate is using to wiggle out of budget cuts may be technically legal, but it's still wrong. This take-responsibility-defying contortion act involves delaying a $2.5 billion payment of sales tax revenue to the state highway fund — but allowing the credit to nonetheless appear on the Department of Transportation's financial ledger. All that to avoid doing the responsible thing and, as the House budget proposes, using money from the Texas rainy day fund to make ends meet. Supporting a withdrawal from the state savings account, which is made up of tax money from oil and gas production, is not something we come to gladly. But we've backed dipping into the fund before, when basic needs demanded dollars not available elsewhere.

Austin American-Statesman - April 25, 2017

Herman: Proposal to require Texas lawmakers OK for state statue moves

The battle over the University of Texas’ Jefferson Davis statue is over. So now we move on to the battle over the battle. And we all know where those are fought. Let’s say it all together: “Our State Capitol.” Quick background: The statue of the Confederate president stood (proudly in the eyes of some, disgracefully in the eyes of some others) on UT’s Main Mall from 1933 until its unceremonious removal in August 2015 under orders from UT President Gregory L. Fenves. After undergoing rehab in Chicago (yes, Jefferson Davis in the Land of Lincoln) the statue recently went on permanent display at UT’s Briscoe Center for American History in an exhibit detailing the controversy it caused. UT’s Woodrow Wilson statue, which also was removed from campus, remains in storage.

Austin American-Statesman - April 24, 2017

Fuller: Funds for Texas Gulf restoration are finally flowing

The Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded almost seven long years ago, but this month marks the first time the Gulf states —including Texas — will receive money from BP’s Deepwater Horizon 2016 settlement. In total, the state will ultimately receive nearly $1 billion that can be used for Gulf coast restoration from all the different penalty funds. The sum is enormous and yet not nearly enough to tackle all of the myriad problems facing the Texas Gulf. The question facing state decision-makers is: How can we use these dollars to get the biggest bang for our restoration buck? With its 367 miles of shoreline, the Texas coast is an economic powerhouse for the entire state. Coastal tourism supports more than 168,000 jobs and draws in more than a quarter of all travel dollars spent in Texas each year, according to data from the Governor’s Office of Economic Development and Tourism.

Austin American-Statesman - April 24, 2017

Uber, Lyft distance themselves from bill’s stance on LGBTQ rights

The proposed bills that would end local regulation of ride-hailing companies such as Uber and Lyft are drawing criticism for what’s not in the language: There’s no protection for gay, lesbian or transgender passengers who could face discrimination from drivers. But Lyft and Uber both said Monday that their companies’ nondiscrimination policies would continue to bar drivers from refusing rides based on a passenger’s sexual orientation or gender identity, no matter what a final state law includes. Both companies condemned an amendment approved Wednesday to House Bill 100 that defines “sex,” in the context of ride-hailing discrimination, as “the physical condition of being male or female.”

Austin American-Statesman - April 24, 2017

Texas death row inmates subjected to inhumane conditions, study says

A study conducted by University of Texas law students has concluded that death row inmates in the state are living in cruel conditions that include poor health care, no physical contact with loved ones, and little exposure to natural light and physical activity. The UT Law School’s Human Rights Clinic for a year conducted questionnaire interviews with former death row inmates who recalled confinement to an 8-by-12-foot cell for all but an hour or two a day and being denied access to religious services. With conviction appeals crawling through the legal system, many inmates are subjected to this treatment for decades. The clinic released its findings Monday in a 48-page report titled “Designed to Break You: Human Rights Violations on Texas’ Death Rows.” It concludes that solitary confinement — which state law requires for capital murder convictions — is unnecessary except in extreme cases when the inmate poses a threat to general population inmates.

Austin American-Statesman - April 24, 2017

LBJ could be subject of new Ken Burns documentary

Lyndon Baines Johnson could soon be getting the Ken Burns treatment, the famed documentary filmmaker told the American-Statesman on Monday. Burns, who will visit Austin on Thursday to accept the Lady Bird Johnson Environmental Award and to screen a portion of his forthcoming Vietnam War documentary, said a future film could be “less on the foreign policy that sort of pulled him down and more on the domestic agenda that complemented Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal.” Burns directed the 2014 documentary “The Roosevelts” and has also won renown for documentaries on the Civil War and baseball.

Austin American-Statesman - April 25, 2017

Parents of teen who died in police custody call for state law changes

The parents of a teen who died while in custody of the Mesquite Police Department traveled to Austin on Monday night to share their son’s story with legislators in an effort to convince them that a state law allowing police departments to withhold their investigative records, even when a suspect has died, needs to be changed. In emotional testimony before the House Committee on Government Transparency and Operation, Kathy and Robert Dyer told members how, after their 18-year-old son Graham Dyer died while in the custody of Mesquite police in August 2013, the law enforcement agency was still legally able to prevent them from seeing records of what occurred that night.

Austin American-Statesman - April 24, 2017

Zak: Overhaul to Texas bail bond system would burden taxpayers

I am a bail bondsman. Let me give you a peek at my life’s work, which in 2017 suddenly is endangered by the Texas Legislature. I am in a business where I put my dollars at risk. I also put my safety at risk. I do work vital to the Texas judicial system. Friends who are judges and law enforcement officers agree. If I didn’t do this work, government would have to. Taxpayers would pay millions to city and county workers. You now pay nothing for my work. I cannot understand why some Texas lawmakers want to replace private-industry jobs with government work. I thought most Texans favored free enterprise.

Austin American-Statesman - April 25, 2017

Effort to shield local plastic bag bans gets House hearing on Tuesday

Even as conservative lawmakers hope that courts will soon quash decisions by a dozen or more Texas cities to limit the use of plastic bags at the checkout counter, an effort to shield bag bans like Austin’s is scheduled for a hearing Tuesday before a Texas House committee. The proposal, by state Rep. Gina Hinojosa, D-Austin, comes in response to a key August court decision now under appeal. The ruling by a San Antonio-based state appeals court to toss out Laredo’s ban on store-provided checkout bags technically has no immediate effect on similar bans outside the court’s 32-county South Texas district, including in Austin and Sunset Valley.

Austin American-Statesman - April 24, 2017

For the second time, Judge Naranjo denies Alex Jones’ bid for mistrial

For the second time, Judge Orlinda Naranjo has denied a motion for a mistrial by lawyers for Alex Jones. Randall Wilhite, representing Alex Jones, argued Monday morning that the editing of a clip of Jones appearing in February on a podcast by California comedian and actor Joe Rogan made it appear that Jones was offering supportive commentary for President Donald Trump’s remark on a 2005 Access Hollywood video, released in the thick of the presidential campaign, that he could get away with grabbing women by the genitals because of his celebrity standing. At the close of court Monday, Naranjo rejected the request for a mistrial.

Austin American-Statesman - April 25, 2017

Kelly Jones’ lawyer depicts Alex Jones as 'master manipulator'

Kelly Jones’ lawyer described Austin broadcaster Alex Jones in court Monday as a “master manipulator” who could turn their children against her even as he persuaded the forensic and clinical psychologist retained by the court that he was doing nothing of the sort. “You also understand that Mr. Jones is a master manipulator fully capable of turning these kids against Ms. Jones,” attorney Robert Hoffman told Jeffrey Siegel, the Dallas psychologist who prepared parental alienation reports in December 2015 and another in March — and in neither case found evidence that Alex Jones was undermining his ex-wife’s relationship with their children. “I don’t think that he did, but I’m sure he is fully capable,” Siegel replied to Hoffman.

Austin American-Statesman - April 24, 2017

Senate OKs bill to create state music museum in Austin

The Texas Senate on Monday approved legislation to create the Texas State Music Museum in Austin, a city that fancies itself as the live music capital of the world. The music museum would be housed in a previously approved state-owned building to be constructed on the site of a parking lot a few blocks north of the Capitol — creating a compact museum district at the intersection of North Congress Avenue and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. The new venue, designed to preserve Texas music and recognize the state’s musicians, would be directly east of the Bullock Texas State History Museum and south of the Blanton Museum of Art.

Austin American-Statesman - April 21, 2017

Stolow: Protect patients from nonmedical prescription switching

The Texas legislature is considering a bill that prevents health plans from unfairly denying patients essential medications prescribed by their physicians – drugs that could be their only defense against serious conditions. House Bill 2882 and its companion, Senate Bill 1967, offer a much-needed protection for Texans suffering from long-term, serious illnesses, who deserve the health care for which they signed up. This growing problem is called “nonmedical switching” — and similar legislative fixes are under way in other states. Nonmedical switching occurs when health plans decide, sometimes without notice, to either drop coverage for a previously covered drug completely or raise the co-pay so high that most patients can’t afford the out-of-pocket expense.

Texas Tribune - April 24, 2017

House tentatively backs measure allowing lottery winners to remain anonymous

Texans who win big in the state lottery came one step closer to being able to hide from unwanted attention after the House gave the idea tentative approval Monday afternoon. House Bill 59 by state Rep. Ryan Guillen, D-Rio Grande City, which would let lottery winners of $1 million or more remain anonymous — though not from child support or tax obligations — was approved by voice vote on second reading with no debate. The measure needs final approval from the House before it can be considered in the Senate. Under the Texas Public Information Act, the Texas Lottery Commission must release to the public and the media the names of the prize winners, their city of residence and the amount of the prize won.

Texas Tribune - April 25, 2017

Texas leaders to Trump: Houston area needs billions for hurricane protection

Almost a decade after Hurricane Ike killed dozens of people and caused $30 billion in damage, a group of Texas politicians and business leaders say they finally have "all the support necessary" to break ground on a massive coastal barrier that would protect the Houston area from another devastating hurricane. Now they just need $15 billion to build it. And that's what they urged the federal government to provide in a recent letter to President Donald Trump. Signers of the letter include Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush, more than 20 area mayors including Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, and several Houston-area members of the Texas Legislature.

Texas Tribune - April 24, 2017

"Bathroom bill" hearing went past this 7-year-old's bedtime. Here's what she wanted to say.

By the time the Gonzales family was called up to testify, Libby had fallen asleep. The 7-year-old transgender girl had spent hours last week at the Texas Capitol with her parents, waiting for the opportunity to explain to lawmakers how she would be deeply affected by a "bathroom bill." Citing privacy and safety concerns, some Texas Republicans are pushing for legislation to regulate bathroom use for transgender Texans. After a long day on the floor, it wasn’t until almost 2 a.m. Thursday that the Gonzales family finally got three minutes before the House State Affairs Committee.

Texas Tribune - April 24, 2017

U.S. Supreme Court justices express caution, intrigue in death penalty case

U.S. Supreme Court justices wrestled Monday with the possible implications of siding with a Texas death row inmate who argues his case should have another chance in federal court because his appellate attorney neglected to bring up a trial error. The court appeared split along ideological lines during the hearing, with Justice Anthony Kennedy — often a swing vote — sharing the same concerns as the conservative justices. A ruling on the case is expected by the end of June, when the court's term ends.

San Antonio Express News - April 24, 2017

Albertsons reportedly exploring takeover of Whole Foods Market

Idaho-based grocer Albertsons is potentially eyeing a takeover bid of Austin-based organic grocery chain Whole Foods Market, according to a news report. Cerberus Capital Management — the New York-based private equity firm that controls Albertsons — has held preliminary talks with bankers about a potential buyout, but no formal offer has been made, according to unnamed sources cited in a Financial Times report published Monday. Spokespeople for Cerberus and Whole Foods, which has two locations in San Antonio, declined to comment.

San Antonio Express News - April 23, 2017

Lewsis: More funds coming for Texas roads

The Texas Transportation Commission recently approved an update of the Texas Department of Transportation’s $70 billion Unified Transportation Program. The UTP represents a 10-year project-funding outlook that includes plans to add or improve more than 1,200 miles of roadways to enhance safety and mobility, and reduce congestion. Seventy billion dollars is a historic amount of funding and includes more than $38 billion in additional funding, which Gov. Greg Abbott and the Legislature presented to the public in 2015 for approval as Proposition 7 and the ending of diversions of highway funds for other purposes. Texas is a dynamic state with a robust economy. With more than 27 million people — a number expected to double by 2050 — this transportation funding is not only welcome, it’s crucial to our quality of life, economic health and global competitiveness.

San Antonio Express News - April 24, 2017

House, Senate budget chiefs put on a happy face

House and Senate budget chiefs put a happy face on their differences Monday at their first meeting to iron out a spending plan to pay for government services over the next two years. The hottest point of contention — how each chamber wants to pay for its respective budget proposal — wasn’t mentioned by lawmakers, even though it’s overshadowing the process as they work to reconcile their plans before the legislative session ends on Memorial Day. Senate Finance Committee Chair Jane Nelson and House Appropriations Committee Chair John Zerwas, leading their negotiating teams on the conference committee, instead cited their years of working together on budget issues and the high stakes for Texans.

San Antonio Express News - April 24, 2017

Bill to limit annexations appears to gain momentum

At least one bill that would give residents of unincorporated areas more power to fight annexation by a city won approval in the state Senate on Monday and is on the way to the House. The Senate passed Senate Bill 715, filed by Sen. Donna Campbell, R-New Braunfels, on a 20-10 vote. If it becomes law, residents would have a chance to vote on whether they want to become part of a city through annexation. Final passage of SB 715, or several other annexation bills, could dramatically curb San Antonio’s ability to grow in the future and could halt the city’s current attempts to annex a rapidly developing part of North Bexar County along Interstate 10 West — a scaled-down version of an annexation plan the city proposed two years ago.

Denton Record Chronicle - April 19, 2017

Denton Record Chronicle: Common-sense pot policy good for cities

Texas law calls for up to six months in jail and a maximum fine of $2,000 for anyone possessing 2 ounces or less of marijuana. We think that punishment is too harsh. People who go to jail often end up losing their jobs and falling behind on rent payments and other bills. We see no reason for police to destroy someone's life because the person smokes a little pot. The Dallas City Council recently approved a new cite-and-release ordinance that calls for police officers to issue tickets to anyone caught with up to 4 ounces of marijuana. In effect, offenders get what amounts to a traffic ticket instead of being hauled off to jail.

Huffington Post - April 24, 2017

Liebelson: Texas Republicans Try To Do To LGBTQ Rights What They Did To Abortion Access

Texas lawmakers have a history of finding ways to get around landmark U.S. Supreme Court decisions. They tested Roe v. Wade by dramatically restricting abortion rights in the state, shuttering abortion clinics and forcing women to drive hundreds of miles to reach an abortion provider. Now that the Supreme Court has ruled in favor of marriage equality, Texas Republicans are trying a similar strategy to chip away at LGBTQ rights. This legislative session, they’ve introduced at least two dozen bills that advocates say target LGBTQ people for discrimination. And what happens in Texas doesn’t always stay in Texas. “Often, the far-right strategies in Texas are exported to other states,” Kathy Miller, president of the Texas Freedom Network, a progressive activist group, told reporters on Monday. “We’re kind of a testing ground or a petri dish for extremist political strategies.”

Ft. Worth Star-Telegram - April 21, 2017

Texas Democrat urges Congress to stop investing in Russia — for now

State Rep. Chris Turner is calling on Congress to stop investments in Russia until a federal investigation into election tampering ends. Turner, D-Grand Prairie, recently filed House Concurrent Resolution 128, asking the United States to step back from Russian involvement. “Regardless of political party, we should all be outraged that the Russian government meddled in our presidential election,” Turner said. “It’s time for Congress to send a strong message to Vladimir Putin and his allies that playing games with our elections comes with a price.” This comes after FBI Director James Comey earlier this year stated that his agency is investigating any Russian involvement in last year’s presidential election.

KERA - April 24, 2017

Who Actually Writes The Bills Your Texas Legislators Sponsor?

Only a member of the Texas Legislature can file a bill. Technically, the term “author” refers the person who files legislation and shepherds it through the lawmaking process. Sherri Greenberg is a professor at of the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin. She served in the Texas House for a decade, starting in 1991. She says ideas for legislation come from many places. “It can be something from the member’s own experience, something from their districts, another state, a lobbyist.” she says. And, of course, ideas also come from constituents. Greenberg says one memorable bill from her career was inspired by an EMS driver.

Ft. Worth Star-Telegram - April 24, 2017

Pending insurance legislation helps insurers, hurts Texas property owners

Two broad bills at the state Capitol impair the rights of Texas property owners in insurance disputes. HB 1774 and SB 10 have passed through committee. If they are signed into law, they will only strengthen the hand of insurers in legal fights, threatening access to justice for policyholders who have been unfairly denied, delayed or underpaid on their property claims. State Sen. Kelly Hancock, R-North Richland Hills, is one of the authors of SB 10. Policyholders occupy a uniquely weak position as consumers.

KXAN - April 25, 2017

How Warren Buffett fast tracked a bill, yet no one wants to talk about it

Outrage over special treatment for Omaha-based billionaire Warren Buffett has key Republican lawmakers in the Texas Senate staying mum on what they did. A few days after reports describing Buffett’s quick meetings with top Texas leaders, a bill benefiting his company is quickly moving through the legislature. Lawmakers acting on the idea don’t want to talk about what’s been dubbed the “Buffett bill.” Our media partners at the Texas Tribune originally reported Buffett meeting with Republicans Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and what proceeded was the quick filing of SB 2279 by State Senator Kelly Hancock, R-North Richland Hills. In Texas, vehicle manufacturers are banned from owning dealerships. Consumers must buy cars through franchised auto dealers.

KVUE - April 25, 2017

Controversy surrounding confederate statues on UT campus

The City of New Orleans will spend the week taking down confederate monuments. The first one came down overnight. Three others will be removed in the next few days. Mayor Mitch Landrieu called the statues symbols of racism and white supremacy. Here in Texas, some of the most prominent symbols of the Confederacy are on the University of Texas campus. Confederate Generals Robert E Lee, Albert Sidney Johnston and the Confederacy's Postmaster General John H. Reagan line the Main Mall. The university removed the Jefferson Davis statue two years ago but controversy still surrounds statues of other confederate leaders.

Washington Post - April 24, 2017

A reelection challenge (almost) as big as Texas

TORNILLO, Tex. — Midterm elections are known to be brutal on the party in power, and if there is an anti-Republican wave in 2018, look for it to touch shore right here. The vast, volatile 23rd Congressional District of Texas is bigger in area than 29 states. It stretches from San Antonio to El Paso, and includes about one-third of the entire U.S.-Mexico border. Its overwhelmingly Latino electorate last year went for Democrat Hillary Clinton in the presidential race. But it also reelected a Republican to the U.S. House — one of fewer than two dozen in the country to split that way. Rep. Will Hurd narrowly won a second term in what turned out to be the most expensive House race in Texas history. Democrats have put Hurd’s seat in their top five targets in 2018. He will also be running to beat the fickle tendencies of a district that has ousted four different incumbents since 2006.

Corpus Christi Caller Times - April 24, 2017

CCCT: Taking away insurance customers' recourse is not reform

It may surprise Texas homeowners that the insurance industry is in crisis. Silly them, they probably thought they were the ones in crisis from increasing premiums for increasingly less coverage and higher deductibles. But, no, the problem is the homeowners and their greedy lawyers, according to the industry. The industry is trying to remedy the situation by doing something it's good at — asking the Legislature for protection. The protection sought by the industry is contained in Senate Bill 10, approved last week by a Senate committee. SB 10 would lower the penalty against insurers for deliberately slow payment of claims, require more extensive notice from customers that they plan to sue, and funnel much of the litigation to federal courts. So, in review, that means:

KXAN - April 23, 2017

State of Texas: In-Depth – A doctor’s view on health care

As the health care debate heats up again in Washington, one of the most powerful Democrats came to Austin and signaled willingness to make a deal. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi toured the new Dell Seton Teaching Hospital with Congressman Lloyd Doggett. She told reporters that Democrats would fight a GOP proposal to give states waivers to rules that require health insurance to cover a list of essential benefits, like prescription drugs, maternity care, and mental health services. But Pelosi suggested there is room for compromise. “Once he takes repeal off the table, we can talk” Pelosi said, referring to President Trump. “We know how we can make some accommodations,” she added. Many Texas lawmakers have a different view. “I think the status quo is unacceptable,” State Sen. Dawn Buckingham told KXAN host Josh Hinkle on Sunday morning’s State of Texas. The Texas Senate passed a resolution from Sen. Buckingham (R- Lakeway) which calls for an immediate repeal of the Affordable Care Act. “It’s time to move forward to a program that will be more patient-centered and help folks,” Buckingham said.

McAllen Monitor - April 20, 2017

Ramirez: Don’t reduce protections for colonia residents

Exploitative land sales in South Texas are largely a thing of the past — unless certain state legislators get their way. Several bills currently proposed in the Texas Legislature would take us back to a time when land along the border was routinely sold under false pretenses, subdivided without basic services such as water, sewer or septic or taken away from families under shady contracts for deed. Over the years, lawmakers have caught up to many of these unscrupulous practices. While local governments are still working to enforce consumer protections and provide proper drainage to these areas, the addition of street lights and other services to colonias, which developers in the past had abused, are mostly behind us.

Abilene Reporter-News - April 21, 2017

Moritz: Here's a sign Texas' lock-'em-up stance may be softening

It has long been an article of faith in Texas politics that no one ever lost an election for being too tough on lawbreakers. The inverse of that, of course, is that locking up more people for longer periods tends to pay dividends at the ballot box. But that principle was turned on its ear in the Texas House last week when legislation to raise the age of criminal responsibility from 17 years old to 18 cruised to passage by a vote of 92-52. It’s not surprising that more than 50 of the “yes” votes came from Democratic members because their party has been trending away from the “lock ‘em up” mantra for more than a generation.

Texas Monthly - April 24, 2017

Hillary Clinton as the Straw of Hope for Texas Democrats

Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton triumphed over Republican Donald Trump last year in three Texas congressional districts that, on the same ballot, reelected their respective GOP congressmen. Clinton’s party seized the result as evidence of a potential Democratic comeback in the 2018 elections. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee put on its hit list the three districts—Pete Sessions’ Thirty-second district in Dallas, John Culberson’s Seventh District in Houston, and Will Hurd’s Twenty-third District, stretching from San Antonio to El Paso. “We view 2018 as a real opportunity to win more seats here in Texas,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said recently on Overheard with Evan Smith on KLRU-TV in Austin. “We don’t just raise money in Texas. We spend money in Texas. What we raise here stays here, and we bring in more. What we saw in the last election, with at least three members being re-elected in districts where Hillary Clinton won, some of the investments over time and registrations are paying off.”

Courthouse News - April 20, 2017

Jukam: Press Freedom Under Attack in Texas Legislature

A Texas Republican introduced bills in the state House that would make it easier for public officials to sue journalists for libel, force reporters to reveal their sources and prevent media outlets from publishing stories about public officials. State Rep. Ken King, a gas and oil man from the small town of Canadian in the Panhandle, last week introduced House Bill 3387, which would make it easier for public officials to sue reporters for libel, and House Bill 3388, which undermines Texas’s shield law, which allows reporters to keep their records and sources confidential. Both bills stem from an unsuccessful libel suit brought by a millionaire hedge fund trader, who also lives in Canadian. Opponents decried both bills as unconstitutional last week, at a public hearing in the Texas House State Affairs Committee.

County Stories

San Antonio Express News - April 24, 2017

Comal County Democratic Party leader killed in crash

Democrats in Comal County are mourning the loss of their county chairwoman, Roberta “Robbi” Boone, who was killed Friday evening in a traffic accident on Texas 46. The Department of Public Safety could not provide any details Monday on the incident, saying the trooper investigating it hasn’t yet filed a report. A member of Boone’s family said her Toyota Prius was hit by a truck at FM 311 and Texas 46 and she was flown to University Hospital, where she was pronounced dead.

City Stories

Austin American-Statesman - April 24, 2017

Retired UT provost Gerhard Fonken dies at 88

Gerhard Fonken scavenged apples as a youngster to help his family survive the Great Depression and went on to become executive vice president and provost of the University of Texas. Along the way, he saw the airship Hindenburg burn, served in the U.S. Army in Europe in the aftermath of World War II and in the Korean conflict, and earned a Ph.D. in chemistry. Fonken, who retired from UT in 1994, died April 13 at a nursing home in Austin at the age of 88. The cause was bladder cancer, according to his family. He earned his doctorate in chemistry at the University of California, Berkeley, in 1957 and conducted research for Procter & Gamble and the Stanford Research Institute before a one-year teaching stint at UT led to a 35-year career as a faculty member and administrator on the Forty Acres.

Dallas Morning News - April 24, 2017

Turn in 'illegal aliens': Posters call on UT-Arlington campus to do so as 'civic duty'

Posters urging people at UT-Arlington to report those in the country illegally to immigration officials were spotted on campus Monday.
The fliers, which include the website of the white supremacist group Vanguard America, call on white Americans to turn in unauthorized immigrants to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. "America is a white nation," the fliers read. In addition to the one found on campus, the Vanguard America website contains anti-black and anti-Muslim posters. It is not clear whether members of the group were responsible for hanging the posters. It's unclear when the posters first popped up, how many appeared on campus, though a university spokesman said there was more than one.

Business Insider - April 22, 2017

Harrington: Scott Pruitt came to Earth Day Texas, and the whole thing was pretty weird

When he arrived to speak nearly an hour late, Pruitt took the stage with Texas Railroad Commissioner Ryan Sitton for a "fireside chat." As the administrator spoke, his staff and security detail of eight-or-so people watched the crowd, positioned on the edges and in the aisles of the auditorium. The two discussed Pruitt's "back to basics" approach to managing the EPA that focuses on the agency's "core mission" of protecting the nation's air, land, and water. "Regulation — and this is a very profound statement — regulation ought to make things regular," Pruitt said. "I think what's happened over the last several years is we've been told as a country that we have to choose between jobs and protecting the environment, and I think that's a false choice." About a third of the way through the talk, three protesters interrupted. One by one, they stood up and accused Pruitt of committing environmental atrocities.

Dallas Morning News - April 25, 2017

Looking for a bargain on housing? Dallas isn't the place anymore

Buying a home in Dallas isn’t a bargain anymore, not like it used to be. For decades, this region’s low cost of living has attracted families and employers from around the country, helping the economy weather the booms and busts of the oil business. Now that competitive advantage is eroding in a big way. Since 2010, the median price for new and existing homes sold in the Dallas-Plano-Irving area has soared 77 percent. Over the same time, median incomes are up just 4 percent. As a result, buying a home in Dallas is beyond the reach of many, according to a measure of affordability.

San Antonio Express News - April 25, 2017

Facing state takeover, Southside ISD asks for $60 million bond

Eight people are running for three seats on the Southside Independent School District board of trustees in elections May 6 — coinciding with a state takeover of the troubled school board, which the Texas Education Agency plans for early May. Early voting began Monday and continues through May 2. For early voting polling locations, go to bexar.org and click on the elections department. The state is in the process of interviewing and choosing a board of managers who will oversee the district for at least three years. While that board is in place, no elected trustees will assume office or have any powers under state law. Many of the non-incumbent candidates said that if they win, they plan to learn from the board of managers.

Houston Chronicle - April 24, 2017

ICE raids net 95 immigrants in Houston region

Immigration agents in Houston last week arrested 95 immigrants here illegally - 86 percent with prior criminal convictions - in the region's first targeted operation under the Donald Trump administration, Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials announced Monday. It's the latest in a serious of publicized raids across the country that the government says show that it is focusing on dangerous criminals, not tearing families apart, and included immigrants convicted of murder and aggravated assault. "The importance is to secure our communities," said Bret Bradford, acting field office director for Houston. "There's bipartisan support for getting these folks off the street."

Houston Chronicle - April 25, 2017

Mayor and police chief seek to reassure immigrants they can safely report crimes

Even as the controversial 'sanctuary cities' bill winds its way through the state legislature, Houston officials came together Monday evening to reassure members of the local immigrant community that they can still use police and other city services without running into immigration problems. "Do not fear the Houston Police Department unless you're involved in criminal activity - then we want you to fear us," Chief Art Acevedo told the crowd of more than 100 gathered for the southwest Houston town hall-style panel discussion geared toward the Muslim community. MJ Khan, Islamic Society of Greater Houston president and the event moderator, peppered city officials and prominent Muslim community members with questions about immigrant rights during the hour-long panel.

National Stories

Politico - April 24, 2017

Obama’s hidden Iran deal giveaway

When President Barack Obama announced the “one-time gesture” of releasing Iranian-born prisoners who “were not charged with terrorism or any violent offenses” last year, his administration presented the move as a modest trade-off for the greater good of the Iran nuclear agreement and Tehran’s pledge to free five Americans. “Iran had a significantly higher number of individuals, of course, at the beginning of this negotiation that they would have liked to have seen released,” one senior Obama administration official told reporters in a background briefing arranged by the White House, adding that “we were able to winnow that down to these seven individuals, six of whom are Iranian-Americans.” But Obama, the senior official and other administration representatives weren’t telling the whole story on Jan. 17, 2016, in their highly choreographed rollout of the prisoner swap and simultaneous implementation of the six-party nuclear deal, according to a POLITICO investigation.

MarketWatch - April 25, 2017

Trump on track to match Harry Truman with flurry of executive orders

President Donald Trump is signing executive orders at the most aggressive pace since World War II in an effort to push through his agenda quickly and roll back major Obama administration policies in areas such as energy, the environment and the military. Trump is expected to have signed 32 executive orders by Friday, one day short of his 100th day in office. And he’s on track to sign almost 120 executive orders in his first year — the most since Harry Truman. Executive orders allow a president to shape how the federal government uses its broad powers. These orders cannot change existing laws or alter spending levels, but they can tell agencies how to use their resources and which laws to emphasize. Former President Barack Obama, for instance, used executive orders to treat certain immigrants who entered the U.S. illegally with more leniency. Trump has used executive orders to toughen immigration enforcement.

Dallas Morning News - April 25, 2017

Roberts: Trump represents unprecedented opportunity for conservative reform

Conservatism has not changed because of the election of President Donald Trump. An intellectual movement rather than a partisan ideology, conservatism transcends individual leaders, individual eras, and even individual nations, including the United States. And yet conservatism is particularly vibrant in America, where the delicate balance between freedom and the rule of law has made the United States exceptional in all of world history. The reason? The core principles of conservatism are uniquely valued in America: our belief in what great thinkers describe as the permanent things, such as an enduring moral order, natural law, the rights that flow to people from that law, and the fervent desire for limited government. This is what our first president, George Washington, called "ordered liberty."

Houston Chronicle - April 25, 2017

Tomlinson: Pick which crises will shake the global economy most

French elections are transforming Europe, China is destabilizing North Korea, Russia is sending bombers to our coastline and Venezuela is collapsing. The political risk to the global economy and international business is high, and that's not counting President Donald Trump and Congress getting ready for a week of brinkmanship over the federal debt limit. Expect a tough few weeks ahead. The French election, on the surface, should be a bright spot. Centrist Emmanuel Macron will face off against far-right populist Marine Le Pen in a run-off for president. But the fact that neither of the mainstream parties, the Socialists and the Republicans, made it into the run-off marks a dramatic departure from politics as usual in France.

Houston Chronicle - April 25, 2017

Cepeda: 'Invisible' immigrants make their presence known at tax time

The reason immigrant appreciation efforts, like the "Day Without Immigrants" events this past February, fall flat is because few people really feel any pain. Sure, some may have faced the minor inconvenience of not eating at their favorite restaurant, but it barely made a ripple on most non-immigrants' day-to-day lives. Even worse: Some immigrants were fired from their jobs for failing to show up for work. And, in some places, the protest-related school absences were considered a positive - such as at one school in Riverside County, Calif., where teachers took to Facebook to crow about how awesome it was to have the Hispanic students absent that day. Alas, the real economic impact of immigrants largely goes unnoticed when it matters most - at tax time.

Austin American-Statesman - April 25, 2017

Texas scientists closer to diabetes cure with unconventional treatment

Health researchers at the University of Texas think they have found a way to trick the body into curing Type 1 diabetes. The immune system of a person with diabetes kills off useful “beta” cells, but the UT researchers say they have found a way to make other cells in the pancreas perform the necessary work. Their approach, announced earlier this month in the academic journal Current Pharmaceutical Biotechnology, not only would have implications for Type 1, formerly called juvenile diabetes, but also could help treat the far more common Type 2 variety, also known as adult-onset diabetes.

Dallas Morning News - April 24, 2017

DMN: Texan taking over House Russia probe must find the truth — and make sure jaded Americans believe it

There is now no doubt that Russia worked overtime to help Donald Trump become this nation's president. The U.S. intelligence community confirmed this in December. In a joint appearance before Congress in March, the directors of the FBI and NSA said it was true. Investigative journalists have provided proof. Two congressional committees are looking into how Russia accomplished this, what if any impact it had on the election, and how it can be stopped in the future. That's good. But there is a larger, grimmer question that must drive those inquiries. Most of all, America deserves to know whether the Trump campaign somehow knew of, welcomed or even coordinated those efforts to sway the election.

Politico - April 25, 2017

Trump to propose 15 percent corporate tax rate

President Donald Trump is expected to propose slashing the corporate tax rate to 15 percent on Wednesday, as the White House unveils its first stab at a tax plan, according to two sources familiar with the administration’s deliberations. Cutting the corporate rate to such a low level would allow Trump to follow through on a campaign promise that has been months in the making – even if policy experts argue that getting to that rate is impossible to do without imposing a new levy like a consumption tax, or blowing a hole in the deficit. Trump has been saying since early February that the administration’s release of a tax plan was just weeks away.

New York Times - April 24, 2017

Obama Steps Back Into Public Life, Trying to Avoid One Word: Trump

Former President Barack Obama studiously avoided any mention of President Trump or the assault on his own legacy as he returned to his adoptive home on Monday for his first public event since leaving the White House. What might have been a moment for Mr. Obama to challenge Mr. Trump’s wiretapping accusations, or to assail the Republican agenda, instead became a college seminar on how to engage with a new generation of young people — and urge them to participate in political life. “The single most important thing I can do,” the former president told an audience of students, is to “help in any way I can prepare the next generation of leadership to take up the baton and to take their own crack at changing the world.”

Washington Post - April 24, 2017

Sotomayor sees ‘disturbing trend’ of unequal treatment regarding police, alleged victims

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote Monday that the court is developing a “disturbing trend” of siding with police officers accused of excessive force at the expense of their alleged victims, a notion disputed by two of her colleagues. Sotomayor was arguing that the court should have accepted the case of Richardo Salazar-Limon, who was shot in the back by Houston police officer Chris Thompson in 2010. A federal district judge dismissed Salazar-Limon’s suit before trial, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit upheld that decision. What happened in the incident that left Salazar-Limon crippled is disputed, Sotomayor wrote in her dissent, and a decision on which man is telling the truth should be made by “a jury sitting as finder of fact, not a judge reviewing a paper record.”

Washington Post - April 24, 2017

How America feels about abortion

When Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez declared Friday that “every Democrat, like every American, should support a woman’s right to make her own choices about her body and her health,” he instantaneously stirred up a completely predictable furor. The issue was raised because of Sen. Bernie Sanders’s decision to rally on behalf of a Democratic candidate for mayor of Omaha despite the candidate’s past opposition to abortion. That visible support rankled pro-choice Democrats and prompted Perez to issue his blanket admonition. That the furor was predictable doesn’t mean that it’s not without nuance. Although the political shorthand on issues of choice tends to be that Democrats support the right to legal abortion and Republicans don’t, there’s broad variance within the parties on the issue of abortion itself and on the scope of what might justify the procedure.

Washington Post - April 25, 2017

Religious groups confused by Trump administration’s push for employers to provide birth control

President Trump promised religious groups he would reverse the Obama administration’s requirement that employers provide birth control to their employees under the Affordable Care Act. But his Justice Department indicated Monday that it’s continuing to fight religious groups who are suing over the contraception mandate. The Justice Department has asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit for an additional 60 days to negotiate with East Texas Baptist University and several other religious schools and nonprofit groups objecting to a requirement to which they are morally opposed. Several religious groups are dismayed and confused by the Trump administration’s move, including the Little Sisters of the Poor — a group of nuns — that fought the mandate for several years but expected an immediate reprieve under the GOP president.

Washington Post - April 25, 2017

Senate staff perplexed by unusual White House private briefing on North Korea

The White House announced Monday that it would host an unusual private briefing on North Korea for the entire Senate, prompting questions from lawmakers about whether the Trump administration intends to use the event as a photo op ahead of its 100-day mark. Press secretary Sean Spicer told reporters that the lawmakers would be briefed Wednesday by several senior administration officials, including Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. He emphasized that the meeting plan had been convened by Senate leadership and that the White House was serving “as the location.” Yet the White House setting perplexed lawmakers who have grown accustomed to such briefings taking place in a secure location on Capitol Hill, where there is more room to handle such a large group.

Houston Chronicle - April 24, 2017

Former President Bush still under observation at Methodist hospital

Former President George H.W. Bush continues to rest comfortably at Houston Methodist Hospital, but will remain under observation for a few more days, according to a statement Monday. The statement said the medical team hopes to discharge Bush by the end of the week. Bush, 92, was admitted to Methodist on April 14 due to a persistent cough. He was subsequently diagnosed with mild pneumonia, which family spokesman Jim McGrath said last week was treated and resolved.

New York Magazine - April 23, 2017

Kilgore: What Would It Be Like If Ted Cruz Had Become President?

Does that mean Trump is now “normal”? Again, it depends on the context you choose. Ted Cruz represented the outward fringe of conservative thinking before Trump — a radical who earned extraordinary disdain from Establishment Republicans and from his Senate colleagues, not least because he made common cause with House conservatives and inspired them to threaten and even execute a government shutdown that congressional GOP leaders very much wanted to avoid. There was as much mutual disdain between Cruz and party leaders as there was more recently between Steve Bannon and Paul Ryan. Perhaps Cruz and Trump simply represent stylistic differences between two leaders of a harsh new strain of race-inflected conservatism that became dominant so quickly that it commanded 70 percent of the total Republican primary vote in 2016 (Trump got 45 percent and Cruz 25 percent). It would still be dominant if there was no Bannon in the White House and no crude materialist with a reputation for sexism to whom he was reporting. There’s nothing “normal” or reassuring about that reality.

Politico - April 24, 2017

Why Democrats Are Dropping More F-Bombs Than Ever

The last few months have seen expletives ringing from large sections of the Democratic bench. In a New York Magazine profile this month, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) included one “fuck,” two “fucking”s, one “bullshit,” one “pissed off,” one “they suck,” and a “what the hell is going on?" DNC Chairman Tom Perez has awkwardly but assuredly brought profanity into his stump speeches, saying at a January DNC Future Forum, “if you don’t have the trust of the community, then you ain’t got shit,” and telling a New Jersey Working Families Alliance event in March that Republicans “don’t give a shit about people.” Kicking off an eight-state “Come Together and Fight Back” speaking tour alongside Senator Bernie Sanders in Portland, Maine last week, Perez turned to the president’s spending proposals—“They call it a ‘skinny budget.’ I call it a shitty budget.” By Thursday, the shop at Democrats.org was selling “Democrats give a sh*t about people” shirts. Profanity’s caught on among the more junior ranks too. Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy began a healthcare-related tweetstorm in February by saying “Let me count thy ways that the leaked GOP ACA repeal plan will totally, completely, monumentally screw you.”

Fusion - April 21, 2017

The Trump Cabinet Has Its Own Weekly Far-Right Bible Study Group

First thing in the morning on April 5, before a meeting chaired by Representative John Shimkus and another with the Solar Energy Industry Association, Energy Secretary Rick Perry headed to the Department of Health and Human Services, according to a copy of Perry’s schedule obtained by Fusion. There, Perry was scheduled to meet for an hour-long “Cabinet Member Bible Study.” The schedule does not list who attended that session, but Ralph Drollinger, a right-wing pastor with a long history of ties to Perry and other Trump Administration officials, claims on his web site to be running weekly Bible sessions specially for the Trump Cabinet. He has praised the new administration for its power to “change the course of America in ways that are biblical.” A former college basketball star turned evangelical Christian whose own church disavowed him over his bigotry and radical theology, Drollinger has variously proclaimed that Catholicism is “the world’s largest false religion,” that female legislators who continue working after having children are sinners, and that homosexuality is an “abomination.”

The Hill - April 24, 2017

Warren builds her brand with 2020 down the road

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) says she's not running for president. Her office says she's focused on her Senate reelection bid. But she has the public schedule of a future presidential candidate. Warren will speak Sunday to the NAACP in Detroit, and next month she will deliver the keynote address to an annual gala held by EMILY's List, which aims to elect female candidates who support abortion rights. Both groups represent important Democratic constituencies, and the NAACP speech will bring Warren to Michigan, a key swing state President Trump wrested from Democrats last year.

New York Times - April 22, 2017

Trump Reaches Beyond West Wing for Counsel

The media mogul Rupert Murdoch is on the phone every week, encouraging Mr. Trump when he’s low and arguing that he focus on the economy rather than detouring to other issues. The developer Richard LeFrak is a soothing voice who listens to Mr. Trump’s complaints that cost estimates for the border wall with Mexico are too high. Sean Hannity tells the president that keeping promises on core Republican issues is crucial. Mr. Trump’s West Wing aides, like President Bill Clinton’s staff two decades before, say they sometimes cringe at the input from people they can’t control, with consequences they can’t predict. Knowing these advisers — who are mostly white, male and older — is a key to figuring out the words coming from Mr. Trump’s mouth and his Twitter feed.

The Hill - April 23, 2017

Trump eyeing second Supreme Court seat

Talk is already heating up that President Trump could have a chance to appoint a second person to the Supreme Court. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said this week that another opening could come as soon as this summer, and there have been rumors that Justice Anthony Kennedy, often a swing vote on the court, could retire soon. Kennedy, 80, was nominated to the court by President Reagan. Whether Kennedy or one of the court’s other justices will retire is anyone’s guess, but experts in the legal community say Trump should be ready regardless. A number of other names came up when Trump picked Neil Gorsuch to replace the late Antonin Scalia on the court.

FiveThirtyEight - April 21, 2017

When Scientists Donate To Politicians, It’s Usually To Democrats

Over the past 10 years, FEC data shows, scientists and engineers have given more than $140 million to federal candidates and parties, with nearly 60 percent of that going to Democratic candidates and party committees. This analysis considered donations to candidate committees and political parties by individual donors whose self-identified occupation fell within the disciplines of science, mathematics and engineering1 as identified by the National Science Foundation. Social scientists were excluded for the purpose of this analysis. The analysis also excluded donations to candidate-affiliated leadership and joint-fundraising committees as well as independent political groups, which often aren’t affiliated with a particular party. Donation amounts were adjusted for inflation to 2016 dollars. You can find the data on GitHub here.

Washington Post - April 21, 2017

Rubin: Democrats may finally break through in Texas, thanks to Trump

For a few election cycles now, Democrats have been vowing to put the largest, most important red state, Texas, in play. President Trump won the state by a not-very-close 9 points. Then again, Mitt Romney won it by about 16 points in 2012. Democrats still insist that as the state becomes more affluent, more diverse and more urban, it will tip Democratic. In 2016, Harris County — the most populous county in the state — went Democratic: “Ending a streak of thin electoral margins, Harris County — the biggest battleground in ruby red Texas with a population larger than 25 other states — turned solidly blue … with the largest presidential margin of victory in more than a decade. The blue wave was apparent up and down the ballot on a banner night for the county’s Democrats.” (If this sounds familiar, remember we just came through the Georgia 6th District’s special election, in which an atypical, wealthy and educated red district gave Democrat Jon Ossoff a stunning plurality of 48 percent.)

Associated Press - April 24, 2017

Republicans in position to reshape federal bench

There are currently 20 vacancies in the federal appeals courts, which are one step below the Supreme Court, and roughly 100 more in district courts, where cases are originally tried. Former President Barack Obama had around half that number of vacancies when he took office in 2009. Of the current vacancies, 49 are considered judicial emergencies, a designation based on how many court filings are in the district and how long the seat has been open. As the White House has focused on the Gorsuch nomination, Trump has so far only nominated one lower-court judge, Amul R. Thapar, a friend of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, for the 6th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals. Republican senators say they hope to see more nominations soon from the White House. "We've heard from them and we're talking to them," says Texas Sen. John Cornyn, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and the No. 2 Republican leader.

Texas Public Radio - April 19, 2017

Many Veterans Gained Health Care Through The Affordable Care Act

Almost half a million veterans gained health care coverage during the first two years of the Affordable Care Act, a report finds. In the years leading up to the implementation of the ACA's major coverage provisions, from 2010 to 2013, nearly 1 million of the nation's approximately 22 million veterans didn't have health insurance. Almost half of all veterans are enrolled in the VA health system; others get health care through employers or Medicare. But some don't quality for those options, and others don't know that they have them. Two years after the ACA's implementation, 429,000 veterans under the age of 65 gained coverage, which is a 40 percent drop in vets without insurance from 2013 to 2015. The vets were covered for the most part through Medicaid expansion, privately purchased plans and marketplace coverage, according to the report.

April 24, 2017

Lead Stories

Ft. Worth Star-Telegram - April 23, 2017

Back in Texas, Rick Perry warns of ‘gnarly’ oil and gas regulation

Dressed in a dark jacket and collarless shirt and talking at times like an evangelical preacher, U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry had a simple message at an energy conference Friday: Innovate, don’t regulate. Perry was the keynote speaker at the first Responsible Shale Energy Extraction conference at Fair Park, where energy industry executives, scientists and journalists came together to talk about the strengths and weaknesses of getting oil and natural gas from shale, a process perfected in the Barnett Shale in North Texas. Perry, who served as Texas governor for 14 years, bragged about how the Lone Star State experienced a population explosion — adding about 4.5 million people during those years — while watching pollution decline and alternative forms of energy like wind energy bloom because government didn’t stand in the way.

Dallas Morning News - April 23, 2017

'We're hoping for a miracle': Dallas lawmaker is fasting to protest Texas sanctuary cities bill

State Rep. Victoria Neave went to Mass at the Cathedral Shrine of the Virgin of Guadalupe in downtown Dallas on Sunday and took a Communion wafer. She said it's the last meal she's going to have through Wednesday. Victoria Neave Victoria Neave That's when the Texas House is set to debate the so-called sanctuary cities bill, which Neave opposes. The bill would ban cities, counties and universities from adopting "sanctuary" policies that prevent local law enforcement agencies from asking about a person's immigration status or enforcing immigration law. "I want people to know how terrible this law is," said Neave, a Democrat who represents District 107, which includes parts of Dallas, Mesquite and Garland.

Houston Chronicle - April 24, 2017

Ramsey: A word about where Texas legislators get their legal advice

Do you remember the name of the lawyer who advised the Texas House and Senate when they wrote the 2011 voter ID bill? That’s the law a federal judge in Corpus Christi found to be intentionally discriminatory on the basis of race. An appeals court told her to throw out a particular argument without retrying the case and come to a fresh conclusion. She did, and she came to the same conclusion: intentional racial discrimination. Do you remember the name of the lawyer who advised the House and the Senate — and don't forget the governor at the time, Rick Perry — on congressional and legislative redistricting after the 2010 census, counseling them as they drew lines to maximize their Republican advantage? ... You know that lawyer’s name. He was the longest-serving attorney general in the history of the state of Texas. And now he's your governor.

Politico - April 24, 2017

Republicans sound alarm on Trump's troubles ahead of 2018

Republicans say President Donald Trump needs to turn things around fast — or the GOP could pay dearly in 2018. With the party preparing to defend its congressional majorities in next year’s midterms, senior Republicans are expressing early concern about Trump’s lack of legislative accomplishments, his record-low approval ratings, and the overall dysfunction that’s gripped his administration. The stumbles have drawn the attention of everyone from GOP mega-donor Sheldon Adelson, who funneled tens of millions of dollars into Trump’s election and is relied upon to bankroll the party’s House and Senate campaigns, to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Adelson hasn’t contributed to pro-Trump outside groups since the inauguration, a move that’s drawn notice within the party, and McConnell is warning associates that Trump’s unpopularity could weigh down the GOP in the election.

Associated Press - April 24, 2017

Fearing a worker shortage, farmers push back on immigration

President Donald Trump's hard line against immigrants in the U.S. illegally has sent a chill through the nation's agricultural industry, which fears a crackdown will deprive it of the labor it needs to plant, grow and pick the crops that feed the country. Fruit and vegetable growers, dairy and cattle farmers and owners of plant nurseries and vineyards have begun lobbying politicians at home and in Washington to get them to deal with immigration in a way that minimizes the harm to their livelihoods. Some of the farm leaders are Republicans who voted for Trump and are torn, wanting border security but also mercy toward laborers who are not dangerous criminals. Farming uses a higher percentage of illegal labor than any other U.S. industry, according to a Pew Research Center study.

This article appeared in the San Antonio Express News

Washington Post - April 23, 2017

Trump aides struggle to clarify policy on ‘dreamers’ and deportation

The Trump administration is struggling to explain precisely what it intends to do about people who are in the country illegally. President Trump told the Associated Press on Friday that the “dreamers” — people brought into the country illegally as children and now protected by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program put in place under President Barack Obama — should “rest easy” and not worry about deportation. But Attorney General Jeff Sessions, echoing comments he made last week, said Sunday that anyone in the country illegally could be deported — and stressed that the Trump administration, for now, is targeting only those engaged in criminal activity.

Washington Post - April 23, 2017

Two-thirds of Americans think that the Democratic Party is out of touch with the country

You might not be surprised if I were to tell you that a majority of Americans think that President Trump is out of touch with the concerns of most people in the United States today. Sure, he won the election, but a plurality of voters opposed him, and a new Washington Post-ABC News poll shows that he hasn’t expanded his base of support significantly since then. You certainly wouldn’t be surprised to learn that there’s a broad partisan split on the question, as there is on nearly everything in politics these days. ... But none of this means that Democrats are seen as echoing the concerns of the common man. In fact, the Democratic Party is viewed as more out of touch than either Trump or the party’s political opponents. Two-thirds of Americans think the Democrats are out of touch — including nearly half of Democrats themselves.

Christian Broadcasting Network - April 22, 2017

Texas Governor Greg Abbott Talks Faith in NBC Series 'Beyond Belief: Faith in Texas'

Texas Governor Greg Abbott is opening up about his faith, which he says pulled him through one of the toughest seasons in his life. The 59-year-old spoke with NBC reporter Julie Fine for the network's "Beyond Belief: Faith in Texas" series. He shared how his faith in God was instilled in his life at an early age. He said it was critical in changing his life after an accident left him paralyzed. "Religion and faith have been part of my life for my very beginning," said the former Attorney General of Texas. "My grandfather was a pastor in the countryside of Texas where I grew up, and so it's been just a natural part of my life that has continued through life's events."

State Stories

Houston Chronicle - April 23, 2017

Missteps on Houston land plan cost McRaven political capital

Retired Adm. William McRaven met with Gov. Greg Abbott last fall in the storied, ornate conservatory at the Texas Governor's Mansion. It was a big moment for McRaven, the University of Texas System's chancellor. He wanted Abbott's support for the huge development UT had brewing in Houston. The $215 million land acquisition near the Texas Medical Center, planned largely in secret, had deeply divided constituencies inside and outside of Austin. Publicly, Abbott had stayed out of the debate. During the meeting, Abbott counseled the chancellor to back off the deal. McRaven held firm, emphasizing what he thought were the benefits of the project, according to people familiar with the conversation.

Ft. Worth Star-Telegram - April 21, 2017

Gambling in Texas: Will lawmakers roll the dice this year?

Legalizing casinos, eight-liners — even fantasy sports — all remain long shots for now in Texas as state lawmakers prepare to wrap up their legislative work by the end of May. There’s still time for plans to allow casinos, electronic machines at horse race tracks or eight-liner machines across the state to heat up, but observers say the push isn’t nearly as strong this year as it has been in the past. “Most recent legislative sessions have seen an at least halfhearted attempt by the gambling industry to pass legislation that would allow for some form of casino gambling in Texas,” said Mark Jones, a political science professor at Rice University in Houston.

Ft. Worth Star-Telegram - April 21, 2017

Waddell: Texas should provide parents more help in finding quality child care

Many Texans watched in horror on their smart phones, Facebook feeds or local news this past week the video of a Plano child care provider carelessly tossing and pushing toddlers under her supervision. We gasped here in Dallas-Fort Worth and across Texas — and the rest of the nation did, too. The viral online video also was shown on the Today Show and other national television news outlets. How could actions like this happen at a licensed child care center? Parents as consumers need and deserve a guide on how to recognize and find quality child care. Texas should help.

Austin American-Statesman - April 21, 2017

Kreis: HB 2899 diminishes rights of LGBT community, local control

In their zeal to discriminate against gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender persons, Texas legislators want a path to kill LGBT civil rights under the radar. Legislators think they found a solution in House Bill 2899, which would prevent local governments from enacting laws to ban discrimination against any class of citizens not protected under state law. HB 2899 mirrors North Carolina’s now infamous House Bill 2 in its aim to choke off LGBT individuals’ access to the political process. The real purpose of HB 2899 is clear: It is an unconstitutional attempt to harm an unpopular minority. Legislators must reject it. Under Texas law, it remains legal to deny people housing, employment or services because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Austin American-Statesman - April 24, 2017

First Reading: In midst of custody battle, Alex Jones reveals that at 16, ‘I’d already had over 150 women.’

On Saturday afternoon Alex Jones tweeted this. "LIVE: Alex Jones Responds to Sandy Hook Vampire" -- It leads to a very perplexing video he recorded over the weekend, all the more perplexing because it comes at the midpoint of his two-week child custody trial at the Travis County Courthouse, which resumes today. The video is entitled, LIVE: Alex Jones Responds to Sandy Hook Vampire And, it promises, New Sandy Hook/Newtown Information Released. It seemed an odd choice of topic. Jones’ assertion that the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School was, or may have been, a hoax, is probably the most off-putting conspiracy theory he has put forward in a career of conspiracy theorizing – the one that more than any other a lot of people can’t forgive him for.

Austin American-Statesman - April 21, 2017

Phillips: No need for bathroom bills; women’s restrooms have private stalls

I’m seriously trying to understand the problem Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, Gov. Greg Abbott and many other Republicans are trying to fix in public – and now it seems, private — bathrooms and why I have been so unaware of the abuses they cite apparently going in ladies’ rooms across Texas. They have cited concerns over privacy and the scary threat of men, pretending to be women, in order to peep, or worse, at women taking care of their business. Do they know that women’s restrooms have individual toilet stalls? Perhaps all the confusion is contributing to my own bathroom issues. During intermission at a recent performance at Austin’s Vortex playhouse I found myself along with several other women standing in line for the men’s restroom. It was the shortest line and some of us didn’t realize that the restrooms were labeled by gender. It is after all, the Vortex. Ultimately we did bail and join the women’s line, which snaked across the lobby.

Austin American-Statesman - April 21, 2017

AAS: CPS overhaul needs holistic solutions, hearty funding

The question has been asked: Is the job of a Child Protective Services investigator – or any job at the agency, for that matter –the toughest job in Texas? The answer depends on whom you ask. One thing is for certain: It doesn’t have to be. Whether or not the job – be that of caseworker, supervisor or front-line administrator – continues to be seen as among the worst occupations depends on how state lawmakers address the shortcomings that for decades have plagued the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services’ Child Protective Services, which administers the state’s troubled foster care program. Lawmakers have until May 29 to make those difficult decisions and help Gov. Greg Abbott deliver on a promise to overhaul the agency and decrease the number of child deaths due to abuse or neglect.

Austin American-Statesman - April 21, 2017

Phillips: Texas should see charter schools as success, not experiment

The sign planted on a sprawling lot in North Austin is hopeful: “Future Home of NYOS Charter School,” it says in big, black block letters. NYOS, which stands for Not Your Ordinary School, bought the vacant 10-acre lot adjacent to its main campus on North Lamar Boulevard nearly a year ago. While the grass is cut and the property well-maintained, there is no sign of construction — even though the school has outgrown two campuses. That could change quickly if the Legislature passes either of two measures — one by Houston Democrat Harold Dutton or another by New Braunfels Republican Donna Campbell — that would provide more money for facilities to NYOS and other Texas charter schools.

Austin American-Statesman - April 18, 2017

Texas job program shows unusually strong, lasting gains, study finds

A new study finds that the model for a handful of workforce-training initiatives in Texas — including one in Austin — not only lifted low-income residents to middle-class careers, it also led to earnings advantages that expanded over time, making it perhaps the first job-training program in the country to show sustained increases. According to the study, the average annual income for people who completed the Project Quest program in San Antonio rose to roughly $38,000 in their sixth year after enrolling. Even those who started but didn’t complete the program saw their average annual earnings jump to $28,000, more than double their average $11,400 annual income before entering. “Other programs have had large earnings impacts, but they haven’t taken people completely out of poverty into the middle class,” said Mark Elliott, a co-author of the study. “That is a stunning achievement.”

Texas Tribune - April 21, 2017

Epstein: Keep the concealed-carry license — and keep Texans safe

Like all parents, my biggest concern is keeping my children safe. I will do anything I can to protect them. That’s why I’m speaking out against two dangerous bills currently making their way through the Texas Legislature. These bills undermine the very core of Texas’ long and proud history of responsible gun ownership by dismantling our license-to-carry system. That system is a collective point of pride for us Texans — and it is essential in keeping us safe. We all know that with rights come responsibilities, and the license requirement exemplifies this philosophy by proving that common-sense gun laws do indeed go hand in hand with protecting the Second Amendment. As it stands, our system ensures individuals are prepared to responsibly carry loaded handguns in public. Permit recipients must generally be at least 21 years of age, lack recent convictions for certain violent crimes and complete safety training, including live-fire training.

Texas Tribune - April 24, 2017

Hectic week awaits Texans in Congress amid shutdown fears

After a two weeks back in their home districts, Texas members of Congress will return to Washington on Tuesday to a hectic week that could include both another attempt to undo President Obama's health care overhaul and an urgent effort to meet a four-day deadline to keep the government’s doors open. Back in December, Obama and the outgoing Congress passed a funding resolution to keep the federal government open through April 28. Now President Trump and the new Congress must push through a new funding bill or the government will shut down. Up until late last week, it seemed like a simple matter.

Texas Tribune - April 24, 2017

Ballpark Figures: Dive into the finances of Texas college athletics

Athletics continues to be a high-dollar enterprise for Texas colleges. The eight public Texas universities that play in the Football Bowl Subdivision — the top level of college football — spent more than $560 million on athletics in the 2015-16 school year. Football is consistently the top revenue-producing sport, followed by men’s basketball. This app, using data from NCAA financial reports, looks at the finances of those eight universities’ athletic departments. (Private universities also have to file the reports but don’t have to make them public under open records laws.)

Dallas Morning News - April 24, 2017

Recent rulings that Texas' voting laws discriminate put pressure on the state, but long road ahead

Texas has spent six years locked in legal battles over a controversial voter identification law and its congressional and statehouse district maps. Then, starting March 10, federal judges issued three consecutive rulings against the state. The first, from a district court in San Antonio, invalidated three congressional districts when it found that the Legislature drew the state's congressional maps with the intent to discriminate against minority voters. Weeks later, a federal judge in Corpus Christi upheld a finding that Texas' voter ID law was written with the same intent. And on Thursday, the San Antonio court ruled that legislators drew the 2011 statehouse maps with the intent to dilute minority voting strength.

Houston Chronicle - April 24, 2017

Former child bride in Texas aims to change marriage laws, says 'Child marriages hurt children'

In October 1983, Trevicia Williams was married at the age of 14 to a 26-year-old ex-convict and a current registered sex offender, whom she only met a few months before their wedding. She didn't become a child bride in a far-off land, but instead here in Houston. "You're only a child once in your life - only 14 years old, 15, 16 - once. To rob a child of those years - you know - from developing themselves and their character," Williams told Chron.com. "They're missing all of those important experiences." Williams is working with the Tahirih Justice Center, Rep. Senfronia Thompson, D-Houston, and Sen. Van Taylor, R-Collin, to bring awareness and legislation changes to the modern realities of child marriages in Texas.

Houston Chronicle - April 24, 2017

For soldiers whose kids have special needs, Texas hasn't been a good fit

In North Carolina, school administrators diagnosed the boy with bipolar disorder and provided therapy and tutoring. In Pennsylvania, specialists added several services, including peer group counseling. In Washington state, officials expanded the individualized education plan to include 14 different types of supports and accommodations. And then, when the Meles were transferred to the Fort Hood military base in this Central Texas city, all of it disappeared. Instead, Meadows Elementary told Col. Paul Mele, an officer deployed in Afghanistan, and his wife, Julie, that their son did not need any special education assistance at all. Against the advice of private psychiatrists, the school revoked the individualized education plan and refused to reconsider the decision - even as his condition spiraled downward.

Houston Chronicle - April 22, 2017

Brown: Texas has a revenue problem, and it's growing

With each passing legislative session, our state gets further behind on keeping pace with our population growth and inflation. Taking this into account, the 2018-2019 budget state leaders are considering is6 percent lower than last session's budget two years ago. That is, less money for higher education, public schools, Child Protective Services and retired teachers. Add to that the pressure our state's limited budget places on local governments when coupled with unfunded mandates and property-tax restrictions, and you'll soon get a glimpse of the looming budgetary crisis that will directly affect Texas families. Just because we choose to inadequately finance our state's needs doesn't mean that those needs cease to exist. Texas doesn't have a spending problem - we have a revenue problem!

Houston Chronicle - April 21, 2017

Tomlinson: Where will your power come from? Big decisions ahead for Texas

Something has got to give when it comes to how Texas generates, transmits and sells electricity. In particular, Texas lawmakers need to reconsider how generators get paid for wholesale electricity by ERCOT, the semi-governmental agency that manages the grid in most of Texas. Prices have dropped so low that electric companies say they cannot afford to invest in the new power plants the state will eventually need to keep the lights on. What these changes should look like, though, depends a lot on whether the company offering an opinion uses coal, natural gas or wind. It also depends on whether the company constructs transmission lines or sells retail electricity to customers.

Houston Chronicle - April 22, 2017

Ibarra: It's common sense: Let's add up immigration's impact in Texas

In the age of "alternative facts," Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar is sitting on a golden opportunity to provide some actual data into an important debate. It's been over a decade since the state's last real attempt to look at the implications of immigrants on our state's economy. This means many discussions about so-called "sanctuary cities," public benefits and education remain bogged down in emotion and assumption instead of research. Fortunately, the Legislature has a chance right now to give Texas leaders access to the best information available when making far-reaching policy decisions that impact all of us, no matter where we were born. Texas House Bill 826, authored by Rep. César J. Blanco, D–El Paso, would require the comptroller to annually update a 2006 special report titled "Undocumented Immigrants in Texas: A Financial Analysis of the Impact to the State Budget and Economy." The valuable report would shed light on the benefits and costs to the state associated with undocumented immigrants.

San Antonio Express News - April 23, 2017

Even with Abbott’s support, bathroom bill faces uphill climb

When Gov. Greg Abbott finally entered the fray over the bathroom bill, it was a boost for legislation that faces an uphill climb in the House. Whether Abbott’s support is enough to get such legislation to the House floor for a vote — much less to his desk —remains to be seen. “We are trying to thoughtfully examine the bill before us to see if it is something that would ultimately benefit citizens of this state,” House State Affairs Committee Chair Byron Cook, R-Corsicana, told me. Many top House members worry over the economic backlash if they pass a measure viewed nationally as discriminatory toward transgender people.

Houston Chronicle - April 23, 2017

Bill aims to ban involuntary organ donations

Body-snatching images flashed across Dr. Tom Oliverson's mind when he first heard of a case last year in which a Harris County judge allowed an unidentified man's organs to be harvested after attempts to find relatives who could provide donor consent proved futile. The Cypress anesthesiologist has served on numerous teams that have harvested and transplanted hearts, lungs, kidneys and livers, but they'd always had permission from the individual or loved ones. He'd never heard of what some critics call involuntary organ donation. "Reading about it, I was quite disturbed," said Oliverson, who was then a recent victor in the Republican primary and is now a freshman in the Texas House. "It sounded like a police state. I wondered, 'Is this the new norm, where human beings are treated like commodities, where organ donation decisions are made without knowing the individual's beliefs, wishes?'

Waco Tribune - April 21, 2017

Federal cases delay Twin Peaks trial

A judge on Friday effectively postponed the start of any Twin Peaks biker trials in McLennan County until after the federal trial of Bandidos national leaders in San Antonio or until federal prosecutors agree to share evidence with McLennan County District Attorney Abel Reyna. Judge Matt Johnson of Waco’s 54th State District Court granted a motion to delay the June 5 trial of Kyle Smith, 50, an air-conditioning technician from Kilgore and member of the Cossacks motorcycle group. Johnson’s ruling comes in the wake of Reyna filing a letter he got last month from U.S. Attorney Richard Durbin, of San Antonio, telling him that federal authorities prosecuting the Bandidos have information that relates to Twin Peaks cases but won’t share it with Reyna’s office until the federal trial is over.

Associated Press - April 23, 2017

What to Watch: Abbott breathes new life into bathroom bill

For months, Gov. Greg Abbott stayed silent and Texas' bathroom bill languished in the Legislature amid mounting criticism from LGBT activists and business groups. Now Abbott's all-in, becoming the nation's first governor to fully embrace the issue. That makes the prospects for Texas blocking its own cities and school districts from instituting transgender-friendly policies on public restrooms suddenly bright — even with barely five weeks left before the legislative session ends May 29. Abbott promised to cooperate with state lawmakers to "get a bill to my desk that I will sign into law." The Senate weeks ago rushed to approve a bill mandating that transgender Texans use public bathrooms corresponding to their birth-certificate gender. But that seemed a tough sell in the House, where Speaker Joe Straus criticized it as bad for business and the governor's previous failure to weigh in offered no cover for would-be supporters.

This article appeared in the San Antonio Express News

The Guardian - April 23, 2017

'It’s going to hit the poorest people': Zika outbreak feared on the Texas border

More than 1.3 million people live in the Valley, many in deprived neighbourhoods known as colonias, where conditions are ripe for mosquitoes to breed: sprawling settlements limit the effectiveness of spraying, standing water is common, and many houses lack window screens or air-conditioning. “You have a lot of these families who don’t even have money to get rid of their garbage,” Pena said, “and their houses are infested with all kinds of creatures, including mosquitoes.” She added that many people don’t have equipment to cut their grass, which could hide breeding pools, and that the streets lack proper drainage. “It’s going to hit the poorest people,” said Joseph McCormick, regional dean of the University of Texas School of Public Health. “People that live in areas where mosquitoes are going to breed, areas where they have poor housing, just like it is in South America.”

County Stories

Dallas Morning News - April 23, 2017

If John Wiley Price jury is hung, would feds try case again to 'put lipstick on that pig'?

Heading into the corruption trial of Dallas County commissioner John Wiley Price, legal observers thought his best hope was a jury that couldn’t reach a verdict. All it takes is one juror who disagrees with the others for a hung jury. And the prosecution’s evidence against Price underwhelmed even the judge. Now the government, not the defense, may be longing for a jury that can’t unite. If jurors can’t unanimously decide Price’s guilt or innocence on all or some of the counts of conspiracy to commit bribery, mail fraud and tax fraud, prosecutors can try him again.

San Antonio Express News - April 23, 2017

SWAT-like team responds to emergencies, defiance inside jail

Active since 1990, SERT comprises 91 detention officers — plus supervisors and reserve deputies — divided into multiple shifts of six-person teams that are on standby around the clock and constantly training for any situation that may arise. While extreme incidents of violence are as uncommon as the recent conviction of a Bexar County jailer for excessive use of force, trouble erupts when inmates feel they have “nothing to lose,” Capt. Ramiro Balarin said. “There’s 5 percent (of inmates) that come back after a big sentence. They’re pissed off at the judge, they’ve lost half their life to prison already, they don’t care, they’re going to prison anyways,” said Balarin, a former SERT member.

San Antonio Express News - April 23, 2017

Three water bills to watch in the Texas Legislature

Ah, the Texas Legislative session: A 140-day mad scramble to amend the laws of our big state between Jan. 10 and Memorial Day, with more than 9,000 bills filed so far. Of those, roughly 375 introduced in this 85th Legislature have something to do with water. They cover a huge variety of subjects including water utilities, groundwater rights and regulation, navigation and environmental protection. Here are three of the most interesting water bills this session, chosen for their relevance to San Antonio and its surroundings. Sewage and streams -- Senate Bill 1796, sponsored by state Sen. Jose Menéndez, D-San Antonio, could put an end to a long-running battle over whether sewage plants should be allowed to discharge treated effluent into streams that eventually flow into the Edwards Aquifer Recharge Zone.

City Stories

Austin American-Statesman - April 23, 2017

Has Austin council’s lone conservative, Troxclair, worn out her welcome?

To her colleagues, she’s undermining city policies. To her supporters, she’s the last voice they have left. Austin City Council Member Ellen Troxclair moved through a crowd of revelers at a Circle C Community Center Family Fun Night on a recent spring evening, shaking hands and making introductions, then went inside to take questions about an upcoming transportation bond. Jim Schaffrath, a 20-year resident of the area, raised his hand. What could the people of southwestern Austin do to push back against its liberal city leadership, spending money worse than drunken sailors, he said, on everything except highway expansion? “You’re Joan of Arc against these idiots,” he told Troxclair.

Reporting Texas - April 24, 2017

Austin’s Efforts to Curb Short-Term Rentals Fail to Budge Long-Term Controversy

Austin homeowner David King views the city’s growing short-term property rental market with frustration. King, a former president of Austin Home Alliance who lives in the Zilker Park neighborhood, says noise and trash are just some of the effects that come when visitors inhabit properties where the owners don’t live full-time. “[It’s] taking homes away from families, and this is impacting our schools’ enrollments,” King said. “People don’t want to live next to [these] homes. They have no place in residential areas.” The city of Austin has been trying to regulate short-term rentals since 2012, but a small enforcement staff hasn’t been able to keep up despite subsequent changes in the law. Owners are willing to take the risk in renting short-term because of the low probability of getting caught and light or no penalties if they do.

National Stories

Rio Grande Guardian - April 23, 2017

Cornyn, Cabeza de Vaca forge new alliance

A new alliance was forged at Anzalduas International Bridge recently when U.S. Sen. John Cornyn and Tamaulipas Gov. Francisco García Cabeza de Vaca learned they had similar views on border security, international trade, and U.S.-Mexico relations. The two were at the bridge to celebrate a plaque being unveiled in Sen. Cornyn’s honor – with Anzalduas International Bridge board thanking Texas’ senior senator for his national, state and local public service. “The Senator and the Governor see eye to eye on so many issues important to this region,” Hidalgo Mayor Martin Cepeda told the Rio Grande Guardian. “You name it, border security, international trade, the future of NAFTA, U.S.-Mexico relations, they are forging a new alliance that can only help our region.”

Dallas Morning News - April 24, 2017

Suprun: Trump makes 100 days feel like an eternity

One hundred days is a short glimpse into a presidency. It feels an eternity. Four months ago I wrote that I thought Donald Trump was wrong to be president. His demagoguery, his foreign policy inexperience and his conflicts of interest were disqualifiers. Since Jan. 20, the president has proved me right. He immediately set forth to deny certain people travel rights, including American citizens. Multiple federal courts have stopped his travel ban. His administration is on a third version of movement restriction for people who are not a threat. He promised an isolationist foreign policy. Instead, in these first 100 days, we see him wandering into Syria and North Korea.

New York Times - April 24, 2017

Ousted Over Sexual Misconduct Claims, and On to the Next Teaching Job

For many years, when teachers at private schools were forced out over claims of sexual misconduct, administrators let the accused quietly move on to teach elsewhere. The pattern was so common it earned its own grim moniker: “passing the trash.” A report released this month by Choate Rosemary Hall, an elite Connecticut boarding school, is filled with instances of men who had been accused of sexually abusing students, yet were allowed to keep teaching. Now accusations have emerged that two of the men may have abused students at other schools. Two women have come forward to accuse one former teacher, Frederic Lyman — who was forced to leave Choate over claims of sexual misconduct in 1982 — of inappropriate behavior while he was on the faculty at Phillips Academy in Andover, Mass., before he came to Choate.

New York Times - April 24, 2017

Uber’s C.E.O. Plays With Fire

Travis Kalanick, the chief executive of Uber, visited Apple’s headquarters in early 2015 to meet with Timothy D. Cook, who runs the iPhone maker. It was a session that Mr. Kalanick was dreading. For months, Mr. Kalanick had pulled a fast one on Apple by directing his employees to help camouflage the ride-hailing app from Apple’s engineers. The reason? So Apple would not find out that Uber had been secretly identifying and tagging iPhones even after its app had been deleted and the devices erased — a fraud detection maneuver that violated Apple’s privacy guidelines. But Apple was onto the deception, and when Mr. Kalanick arrived at the midafternoon meeting sporting his favorite pair of bright red sneakers and hot-pink socks, Mr. Cook was prepared.

New York Times - April 24, 2017

Will the Government Be Open in a Week? Here Are the Dividing Lines

Congressional leaders and White House officials have steered the nation to the brink of a government shutdown that virtually all parties agree would be a terrible idea. While lawmakers seem eager to forge a deal before government funding expires Friday, the Trump administration wants to use the deadline as a point of leverage that Democrats — and at least a few Republicans — do not believe they have, raising the prospects of a shutdown that had seemed unlikely. President Trump’s team is straining to demonstrate progress on key campaign promises like money for a border wall and increased military spending, hoping to project success before Mr. Trump’s 100th day in office on Saturday. But any measure will require bipartisan support, and Democrats are unlikely to budge.

Washington Post - April 24, 2017

These border towns could be first to get Trump’s “big, beautiful” wall

Despite more than a year of campaign rhetoric about a “big, beautiful wall” spanning the entirety of the southern border, the Trump administration plans to start with a much less ambitious footprint focusing only on the most highly trafficked corridors, according to a Department of Homeland Security planning document. Identified as “high priority” in the document are the border sectors of the Rio Grande Valley in the southern tip of Texas -- encompassing Rio Grande City, McAllen and Weslaco -- as well as El Paso, Tucson and San Diego. The areas were selected because of their proximity to urban centers and roads, allowing those who cross to vanish quickly, according to the document, which was made public by congressional committee staffers.

New York Times - April 24, 2017

Bearing Witness to Executions: Last Breaths and Lasting Impressions

They often enter in silence. They almost always leave that way, too. The death penalty holds a crucial, conflicted place in a nation deeply divided over crime and punishment, and whether the state should ever take a life. But for such a long, very public legal process, only a small number of people see what unfolds inside the country’s death houses. Witnesses hear a condemned prisoner’s last words and watch a person’s last breaths. Then they scatter, usually into the night. There is no uniformity when they look back on the emotions that surround the minutes when they watched someone die. The most recent person to be executed, Ledell Lee, died at the Cummins Unit here in southeast Arkansas late Thursday.

Los Angeles Times - April 20, 2017

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz raises money and woos supporters in Orange County

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who came in second in the race for the GOP presidential nomination last year, is raising money and courting prominent Republicans in Orange County on Thursday as he prepares for a reelection campaign in 2018. A fundraiser for Cruz will be hosted Thursday evening by Palmer Luckey, a Long Beach native who became one of the nation’s wealthiest young entrepreneurs by creating a virtual-reality headset. Attendees are being asked to contribute up to $2,700 to Cruz’s reelection bid to attend a reception at an undisclosed location. Earlier in the day, Cruz mingled with a few dozen prominent Republicans and supporters of his unsuccessful 2016 presidential bid. The event took place at the Newport Beach law firm of Michael McClellan, Cruz’s Orange County finance chairman and one of his top dozen bundlers in the nation.

Austin American-Statesman - April 24, 2017

White House: Trump may not sign government funding bill without border wall

White House budget director Mick Mulvaney said Sunday that President Donald Trump might refuse to sign a government spending bill that does not include money for a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, leaving open the possibility of a federal government shutdown toward the end of the week. "Will he sign a government funding bill that does not include funding for the border wall?" Chris Wallace, host of "Fox News Sunday," asked Mulvaney during a televised interview. "Yeah, and I think you saw his answer just in your little lead-in, which is: We don't know yet," Mulvaney responded. He was referring to comments Trump made to the Associated Press.

New York Times - April 21, 2017

Sanctuary Cities Face Aid Cuts as Justice Dept. Tightens Screws

The Trump administration escalated its confrontation with so-called sanctuary cities that limit cooperation with federal immigration authorities, threatening them anew Friday with the loss of grant money if they do not remove certain barriers. The Justice Department sent letters to officials in New York City, Philadelphia, California and other places singled out last year by the agency’s inspector general for regulations that interfere with the ability of police or sheriffs to communicate with federal immigration authorities about the status of prisoners in their custody. “Many of these jurisdictions are also crumbling under the weight of illegal immigration and violent crime,” the Justice Department said in a news release.

Washington Post - April 23, 2017

Saudi Arabia, a kingdom built on oil, plans a future beyond it

Ever since oil was discovered in the Arabian desert in 1938, Saudi Arabia has been the world’s premier petro-state and the dominant force within the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries. Flush with oil revenue, the country has had neither income taxes nor corporate taxes while bestowing on its people heavy subsidies for food and fuel. And the royal family has built spacious palaces at home while buying swanky houses abroad in places like London and yachts in the south of France. But now the oil-rich kingdom wants to look beyond oil. The crash in crude oil prices that began in 2014 has left the country with a gaping budget deficit. And while oil prices have recovered, climate activists have tried to bring the end of the hydrocarbon age closer and many analysts have predicted the approach of “peak demand” that would mark the end of a long climb in global oil consumption.

Politico - April 23, 2017

Macron, Le Pen headed to runoff in French presidential election

PARIS — Centrist Emmanuel Macron and far-right firebrand Marine Le Pen appeared positioned Sunday to move to the second round of the most tightly contested French presidential election in decades, in the latest test of a global populist wave that led to surprise electoral results in the United States and elsewhere. If polls conducted before the first round of voting Sunday prove true, Macron will likely be the next president, an outcome that would come as a relief to both bureaucrats in Brussels and international investors. French politics have been reshaped dramatically this year — both of France’s traditional parties, the Socialists and Les Républicains, collapsed — but it appears the center may hold

Politico - April 23, 2017

Trump to sign executive orders on drilling, cybersecurity and a rural America task force

The orders come in the run-up to the president’s 100th day in office. By Friday, Trump will have signed 32 executive orders, the most signed by a president in the first 100 days since World War II, according to the White House.One order will mark the administration’s first steps this week toward expanding oil and gas drilling in waters off the U.S. coast. The order will call for a “review of the locations available for offshore oil and gas exploration and of certain regulations governing offshore oil and gas exploration,” the White House said. Former President Barack Obama put large portions of the Chukchi Sea in the Arctic and dozens of underwater canyons off the East Coast permanently off limits for drilling during his final weeks in office. H

Politico - April 23, 2017

Poll: Trump approval rating at 42 percent

President Donald Trump's approval rating as the 100-day mark nears is the lowest for any president since pollsters started measuring it in 1945, according to an ABC News/Washington Post poll released Sunday. Forty-two percent of Americans say they approve of Trump's performance as president, while 53 percent say they disapprove. Eight years ago, Trump's predecessor, Barack Obama, had an approval rating of 69 percent, with 26 disapproving. Trump doesn't appear to have to worry yet about whether support from those who voted for him in November will falter. Ninety-six percent of respondents who voted for Trump say it was the right thing to do, with only 2 percent regretting the decision, according to the poll.

Washington Post - April 23, 2017

Showdown looms as Trump demands funding for wall on U.S.-Mexico border

President Trump and White House officials pressed congressional Republicans on Sunday to use the looming threat of a government shutdown to win funding for a wall along the border between the United States and Mexico, a top priority for the administration as it nears the symbolic 100-day mark. Trump wants funding to be included in a spending measure that would keep the government open past April 28, a determined effort that has prompted a possible standoff with lawmakers in both parties, who hope to avert a federal closure next weekend. Trump’s push for fast action on his pledge to build the border wall is part of a mounting and, at times, tense scramble inside the administration to kick-start the president’s agenda, even if it risks dire political consequences. It follows weeks of frustration within the White House over inaction and stalemates on Capitol Hill over big-ticket items such as health care and tax cuts.

The Hill - April 23, 2017

Poll: Almost half say Trump off to poor start

Almost half the respondents in a new poll say President Trump is off to a “poor start” in office. Forty five percent of Americans in an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released early Sunday said the president’s first 100 days in office have been “poor.” Fourteen percent said he’s off to a “great start” while 21 percent said it has been “good” and 19 percent said it was “fair.” NBC News noted that in April of 2009, 54 percent of Americans in a similar poll said former President Obama was off to either a “good” or “great” start.

The Hill - April 23, 2017

Sanders: Democratic Party's model is 'failing'

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said Sunday that the model of the Democratic Party is failing. “I think what is clear to anyone who looks at where the Democratic Party today is, that the model of the Democratic Party is failing,” Sanders told CBS’s “Face the Nation.” Sanders cited President Trump’s win, the GOP-controlled Congress, and Republican victories in state legislatures as reasons why Democrats are in trouble. “Clearly the Democratic Party has got to change. And in my view, what it has got to become is a grassroots party, a party which makes decisions from the bottom on up, a party which is more dependent on small donations than large donations,” Sanders said.

Politico - April 23, 2017

Trump’s Fake War on the Fake News

When he is not fulminating on stage or on Twitter, the president himself has mustered a number of cordial interactions with reporters since taking office, often showing them more courtesy than he grants his own staff. When White House chief strategist Steve Bannon is not labeling the media “the opposition party,” he can be found sending crush notes to journalists to let them know they’ve nailed a story. And when Spicer is not popping off from his podium, he is often busy maintaining old relationships with journalists and building new ones. (Spicer did not respond to requests for an interview for this article or to a long list of questions.) As much as West Wing staffers might fantasize about breaking the backs of the mainstream media, they are too divided and too obsessed with their own images to do so. And for all the frustration of covering an administration with a shaky grasp on the truth and a boss whose whims can shift from one moment to the next, reporters have feasted on the conflict and chaos.

Washington Examiner - April 23, 2017

Wash Post poll hides: Trump still beats Clinton, 43%-40%

A new Washington Post poll that declares President Trump as "the least popular president in modern times," waits until the second to last paragraph to reveal another tidbit: He'd still beat Hillary Rodham Clinton if the election were held today and in the popular vote, not just Electoral College. ... It's not until the second to last paragraph of the long story that it's shown Clinton would still lose to the president, despite the high disapproval ratings and problems with his first 100 days detailed by the paper. It reads: The new survey finds 46 percent saying they voted for Clinton and 43 percent for Trump, similar to her two-point national vote margin. Asked how they would vote if the election were held today, 43 say they would support Trump and 40 percent say Clinton.

Texas Tribune - April 21, 2017

Simpson: Acts of war and the limits on presidential power

Killing innocent civilians is murder. It is especially reprehensible when blanket methods are employed such as poison gas that indiscriminately kills all children and adults who breathe it. Even more horrific are such actions when the target is your neighbor or own citizenry. Thwarting such atrocity appears most righteous. Many from right and left have applauded President Trump’s decision to launch 59 cruise missiles into Syria to reduce the means of disseminating the chemicals. But some, including myself, are dismayed and alarmed that such offensive military action was undertaken unilaterally by the president without any attack upon the United States or declaration of war or military authorization by Congress.

Austin American-Statesman - April 23, 2017

Boenigk: Pass tax reform to cultivate growth of small businesses

In 1989, my mother and I started a business out of our garage. We worked hard, raised money to get our business started and developed an office chair based on my dad’s expertise in ergonomics. We still believe it’s the best chair on the market. Two years later, as our business was gaining steam, we discovered an unwelcome surprise: We owed an additional $86,000 in taxes on top of what we had already paid. It wasn’t because of ill intent or carelessness; it was because our complex, outdated tax code was engineered — by accident — to prevent small businesses from starting and growing here in the United States. In our case, the tax bill was a penalty for taking the necessary steps to make our company successful. Instead of counting inventory as a deductible investment in our business, it was instead considered a taxable asset. Lesson learned — at a cost of $86,000.

Washington Post - April 23, 2017

Nearing 100 days, Trump’s approval at record lows but his base is holding

President Trump nears the 100-day mark of his administration as the least popular chief executive in modern times, a president whose voters remain largely satisfied with his performance, but one whose base of support has not expanded since he took the oath of office, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll. Trump’s first months in office have produced some tangible successes. Beyond the continued enthusiasm of his most loyal supporters, a small majority of Americans see him as a strong leader. A bigger majority approves of his efforts to pressure U.S. companies to keep jobs in this country. Those who say the economy is getting better outnumber those who say it’s getting worse by the biggest margin in 15 years in Post-ABC polling. But the president’s balance sheet overall tilts toward the negative.

Washington Post - April 23, 2017

Sandy Hook truther Alex Jones asks for privacy in custody battle ‘for the sake of my children’

Who is Alex Emerick Jones, really? Is the InfoWars founder an intemperate Barack Obama-hating, demon-impersonating conspiracy theorist who believes the government has weaponized the weather and Lady Gaga’s Super Bowl halftime show was a satanic ritual? Or is he a nurturing, doting father, perfectly suited to attend to the emotional needs of his three impressionable children? Those questions are at the heart of the sometimes-bizarre battle going on in a Texas courtroom as Jones and his ex-wife spar over custody of their children. For the first time since the hearing started, Jones has weighed in publicly. It’s unclear why he chose to speak out Friday — or if it’s in any way related to the lambasting he’s received by critics and late-night comedians.

Washington Post - April 23, 2017

Gorsuch casts death-penalty vote in one of his first Supreme Court cases

Supreme Court Justice Neil M. Gorsuch cast his first consequential vote Thursday night, siding with the court’s other four conservatives in denying a stay request from Arkansas death-row inmates facing execution. Hours later, the state executed one of the men, the first lethal injection carried out there since 2005. New justices have described being the final word on whether a death-row inmate is executed — often during a late-night, last-chance appeal to the Supreme Court — as a time when the responsibility of the role crystallizes. Indeed, one of the court’s most solid death-penalty supporters, Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., was tasked on his first full day as a justice in 2006 with deciding whether to dissolve a stay that kept Missouri from going forward with an execution. The stay was upheld, and Alito was not listed among the dissenters.

April 23, 2017

Lead Stories

Politico - April 21, 2017

Trump tells Dreamers to 'rest easy'

President Donald Trump said Friday that Dreamers, a term used for undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children, should “rest easy” about his presidency because his administration is “not after the Dreamers, we are after the criminals.” “That is our policy,” Trump told The Associated Press in an interview. Trump campaigned for the presidency as a staunch opponent of illegal immigration, pledging to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border and rescind Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, an Obama administration policy program that grants some young undocumented immigrants protection from deportation. Trump’s rhetoric on the issue often drew criticism and alarmed immigration activists during his run for the presidency — starting from his campaign launch speech, when he referred to some Mexican immigrants as “criminals” and “rapists.”

Dallas Morning News - April 23, 2017

Thompson: Legislature's fix to Dallas police and fire pension would perpetuate the disaster

The bill before the Texas Legislature to fix the failing Dallas Police and Fire Pension System is no solution. House Bill 3158 would only perpetuate the disaster. It's unfair to taxpayers, and history explains why. In 1996, the pension board members representing the police and firefighters (the beneficiaries) voted to increase their pension board majority from four-out-of-seven members to a super majority of six-out-of-10 (and later to eight-out-of-12). In 1998, the beneficiaries voted themselves guaranteed returns of 8 to 10 percent on their DROP (Deferred Retirement Option Plan) savings accounts.

Texas Tribune - April 21, 2017

Ethics reform now includes keeping revolving door to lobby wide open

A major pillar of Texas ethics reform — stopping politicians from immediately becoming lobbyists when they leave office — appears to be crumbling in the final weeks of the 2017 legislative session. The author of the “revolving door” bill in the Texas House, Fort Worth Republican Charlie Geren, said he stripped out a provision imposing a two-year “cooling-off period” on state lawmakers who want to become registered lobbyists for special interests when they leave office. Geren, a top lieutenant of House Speaker Joe Straus and the point guy for Gov. Greg Abbott’s “emergency” ethics reform package in the chamber, said a cooling-off period would not stop legislators from going to work for private industry and attempting to influence their former colleagues.

New York Times - April 22, 2017

Comey Tried to Shield the F.B.I. From Politics. Then He Shaped an Election.

The day before he upended the 2016 election, James B. Comey, the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, summoned agents and lawyers to his conference room. They had been debating all day, and it was time for a decision. Mr. Comey’s plan was to tell Congress that the F.B.I. had received new evidence and was reopening its investigation into Hillary Clinton, the presidential front-runner. The move would violate the policies of an agency that does not reveal its investigations or do anything that may influence an election. But Mr. Comey had declared the case closed, and he believed he was obligated to tell Congress that had changed. “Should you consider what you’re about to do may help elect Donald Trump president?” an adviser asked him, Mr. Comey recalled recently at a closed meeting with F.B.I. agents.

Houston Chronicle - April 23, 2017

With nuclear warheads showing their age, Perry faces major test

Military leaders have long warned that the United States' nearly 4,000 nuclear warheads are getting dangerously old and in need of an overhaul, the scale of which the United States hasn't attempted in decades. Now, a quarter century after the Cold War ended and the United States halted production of nuclear weapons, the task of bringing into the modern age the country's nuclear arsenal and the laboratories and facilities that maintain it will fall on the shoulders of Energy Secretary Rick Perry, the former Texas governor. At a time when tensions with North Korea are rising over its nuclear weapons program, Perry will be charged with setting into motion a decadeslong project to refurbish and modernize the warheads, a critical element in a larger upgrade of the U.S. nuclear weapons complex that will mean new bombers, submarines and other infrastructure that is estimated to cost upward of $1??trillion.

Washington Post - April 23, 2017

Ryan promises to keep government open — and makes no promises on health care

House leaders told GOP lawmakers Saturday that they plan to devote their energy in the coming week to keeping the federal government open, conspicuously avoiding an immediate commitment to take up health care despite pledges to do so by conservatives and the White House. House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.), speaking on a conference call with GOP members Saturday afternoon, offered no specific plan on how or when lawmakers might see details of a new proposal to revise the Affordable Care Act, which White House officials suggested might receive a vote by Wednesday. Ryan also made clear that his top priority was to pass a stopgap spending bill to keep government open past April 28, an objective that requires Democratic support. “Wherever we land will be a product the president can and will support.” Ryan said, according to a senior GOP aide on the call.

State Stories

San Antonio Express News - April 23, 2017

Lawmakers in Austin pushing to qualify more death penalty defense lawyers

Lawmakers in Austin are considering legislation that could quickly double the number of death penalty-qualified defense attorneys in Bexar County, backed by judges who say a critical shortage of such lawyers is delaying trials and possibly undercutting their fairness. Rep. Barbara Gervin-Hawkins is sponsoring House Bill 3411, which would loosen a requirement that lawyers have experience in presenting “mitigating” evidence to a jury if they’re going to represent capital murder defendants who might face the death penalty. Plenty of otherwise able attorneys with death penalty expertise have never done that and can’t be appointed to such cases, backers of the measure say.

Houston Chronicle - April 22, 2017

Falkenberg: Dear state legislators, please flush the second bathroom bill, too

The whole point of having Texas lawmakers meet only every other year is so they can't do too much damage in a limited time frame. Yet somehow, some end up using their precious hours on bills that are harmful or flat-out unnecessary, and some that are both. So it is with the bathroom bill. For a while, it seemed cooler heads had finally flushed away the Senate's menacing legislation regulating potty time in public facilities, an odd fixation of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick. Apparently, somebody forgot to jiggle the handle. Last week, it came back up in the House. Bathroom Bill 2.0 is supposed to be a kinder and gentler version - a compromise that the business community can hold its nose and support.

Houston Chronicle - April 22, 2017

Ambitious Alamo remodel faces scrutiny over design, funding

Some of the Alamo devotees who drew a defiant line in the sand against a conceptual plan for the Texas shrine have modified their stance, now saying elements of it would improve the mission and battlefield. In the days since renderings were publicly revealed April 11, residents, Hispanic heritage scholars and Alamo lovers worldwide have registered strong opinions about the most ambitious project ever presented for redevelopment of Alamo Plaza and the surrounding area. A third public meeting on the plan is set for May 2. The second meeting on Tuesday ran nearly twice as long as planned as 56 people addressed officials of the city, Texas General Land Office, nonprofit Alamo Endowment and design team members.

Dallas Morning News - April 23, 2017

Texas AG Ken Paxton sides with Senate on budget maneuver poo-pooed by House leaders

Attorney General Ken Paxton has blessed the Senate's budget plan to delay transfer of sales tax money to the road fund. The move would ease the severity of proposed budget cuts but is one that has drawn scorn from House leaders as an "Enron-esque" move. On Friday, Paxton told Senate Finance Committee Chairwoman Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, that it would be permissible for the state comptroller to delay a scheduled transfer of $2.5 billion in general-purpose sales tax to the road fund by one month in each of the next two fiscal years. The issue is one of the biggest sticking points as House and Senate budget negotiators try to reach an accord on the session's only must-pass bill — a two-year spending plan.

Dallas Morning News - April 23, 2017

Haynes: Treat prostitutes as victims, not criminals

There is a misconception that women choose to go into prostitution because it is a quick way to make easy money. However, the vast majority of these women are forced to engage in prostitution. According to the Institute on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, there were over 300,000 victims of human trafficking in Texas last year, including more than 78,000 child victims of sex trafficking. Traffickers and pimps use a system of control and domination by seeking out teenagers (overwhelmingly girls) who are vulnerable because of unstable home lives. The trafficker then uses his power to exploit a girl or woman by selling her body for money.

Dallas Morning News - April 23, 2017

How the man who led the bin Laden raid is now leading the way on addressing campus sexual assault

Bill McRaven didn't care about the headlines, the shock or the "fear factor." He knew within a couple of days, that would die down. There it was, on the front page: "15 percent of female undergraduates at UT have been raped, survey says." Yes, it was shocking. But it was also true, and the chancellor of the University of Texas System wasn't going to run away from it. In fact, he broke the news. "The first couple donors I bumped into right after this, it was, 'How is this happening? What are you doing about this?' " McRaven said. "But within a week, no kidding, the donors were stopping by and saying, 'Hey, we're glad you're getting ahead of this.' "

Dallas Morning News - April 23, 2017

Joseph, Schnurman: Why Texas has so much riding on trade and Mexico

We like to say everything's bigger in Texas. In trade, the brag rings true. Texas easily ranks No. 1 in state exports, and Mexico is our top trading partner by far. How will President Donald Trump affect that success story? As a candidate, he railed against the North American Free Trade Agreement and Mexico. Since the inauguration, his anti-trade stance appears to have softened, and the value of the peso has rebounded. Let's hope for a reset, because no state has more riding on free trade. It's natural that Texas would benefit from NAFTA, given its long border with Mexico and shared cultural history. Since the trade deal went into effect in 1994, Texas exports have grown much faster than exports for the rest of the U.S.

Dallas Morning News - April 23, 2017

Congressman Michael Burgess' latest town hall draws less hostile — but plenty angry — crowd

Weeks after his last town hall erupted with shouting, booing and hissing, Rep. Michael Burgess on Saturday drew a somewhat smaller and quieter — yet still plenty angry — crowd. Like the Flower Mound town hall in March, Saturday's gathering at Harvest Baptist Church centered largely around upset over plans to replace and repeal the Affordable Care Act. But the crowd's questions and grievances for Burgess, a doctor, also wound through global warming, U.S relations with Russia and tax reform. Many of Burgess' responses drew angry shouts from the crowd of about 200, but the event was rather mild.

Dallas Morning News - April 23, 2017

Texas needs a child care quality rating system

Last week many Texans watched on their smartphones, Facebook feeds or local news a video of a Plano child care worker carelessly tossing and pushing toddlers. We gasped here in North Texas, and the rest of the country did too, as the video went viral via the Today Show and other national outlets. How on earth could this happen at a licensed child care center? One thing is clear. Parents as consumers need and deserve a guide on how to recognize and find quality child care. Decades ago, child care became a national need, and licensed child care businesses flourished, as did women in the workforce. Child care may have begun as a support for working parents, but today, early care and education is much more. Brain scientists, researchers, educators and even economists agree: The first five years of children's lives have tremendous impact.

Texas Tribune - April 21, 2017

State's top lawyer sides with Texas Senate in budget dispute

Attorney General Ken Paxton sided with the Texas Senate Friday in a dispute among legislative budget-writers over an accounting trick using state transportation funds. The Senate wants to delay a payment from sales tax proceeds to the state’s highway fund from August 2019 to September 2019 — an accounting stunt that would push the payment from the last month of the next budget cycle to the first month of the one that follows and allow the Senate to spend $2.5 billion more in the next budget. House leaders raised objections to the transfer, calling it Enron-style accounting, and argued against it after the Senate asked Paxton for his legal opinion.

Texas Tribune - April 22, 2017

Controversial insurance bill moving in Legislature

Texas property owners could face new hurdles when they try to sue their insurer over storm claims under controversial legislation being cheered by groups seeking curbs on lawsuits but jeered by consumer advocates and some businesses. Senate Bill 10 emerged this week from a Senate committee that narrowed the bill to include only storm lawsuits and property damage claims. A few days earlier, Dallas businessman Brint Ryan, a Republican megadonor who had been opposed to a more expansive incarnation of the bill, endorsed the effort. Ryan's name was on a long list of high-profile business supporters put out by the chief group promoting the bill, Texans for Lawsuit Reform. The list included heavyweights such as San Antonio billionaire Red McCombs, Dallas billionaire Ross Perot, Jr. and Robert McNair, owner of the Houston Texans.

Texas Tribune - April 22, 2017

Castro faces tough decision as Senate announcement nears

After U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro wrapped up speaking here Wednesday, completing the latest stop on his statewide tour ahead of a potential Senate run, one man in the crowd turned to another and voiced some ambivalence. "I don't know if he should do it," the man said, alluding to what would be an uphill battle against U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas. "He's got a good thing going." It's the question hanging over the San Antonio Democrat as he nears an announcement on his plans for 2018: Is it worth giving up his seat in Congress, where he has had a steadily growing profile, for a long-shot challenge of Cruz, particularly when another Democrat, U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke of El Paso, is already running?

Texas Tribune - April 21, 2017

A&M System Chancellor John Sharp poised to receive a contract extension

Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp's tenure in Aggieland is poised to last into the next decade. At its meeting next week, the A&M System Board of Regents is expected to consider extending the powerful, hard-charging chancellor's contract into 2023. He wouldn't receive a pay raise, according to a briefing on the meeting obtained by The Texas Tribune, but it would add three years to his current deal. The extension appears to be almost certain. The Tribune communicated with seven regents about the proposed extension on Friday. Five — a majority of the nine-member board — indicated that they support striking such a deal. At least two regents are opposed to the idea, however, setting up a potentially tense meeting next week.

Austin American-Statesman - April 22, 2017

Wear: 500 more Texas toll roads? Activist’s claim doesn’t hold up

Like most of us in this Time of Trump, my truthiness antennae have been getting a workout. And sometimes an alternative fact or two can flit by those groggy sensors unnoticed. But 500 toll projects on the way in Texas? That one came courtesy last week of Terri Hall, the indefatigable toll road opponent from Comal County who has been showing up at Capitol hearings to say her piece since at least 2005. Hall was one of the speakers Monday in a tea party news conference and rally. After folks had spent more than a half-hour talking about gun rights, immigration, abortion and the budget in a conference room off the Texas House chamber, Hall’s turn came. She had a lot to say about double taxation, removing tolls from existing turnpikes and the long-term leases with private companies that the Texas Department of Transportation a few times has used to build tollways.

Austin American-Statesman - April 21, 2017

State panel limits teaching phenomena that challenge evolution

By swapping out a few words in high school biology curriculum standards, the State Board of Education has limited the teaching of scientific phenomena that challenge the theory of evolution, a move that liberals hailed as a victory. The panel on Friday approved a pared down version of the high school biology curriculum standards after committees of teachers and scholars worked for months to streamline the state’s voluminous science curriculum for all grades. The standards that covered evolution became the most hotly debated issue during the process. “It was clear from testifiers that many who had varied concerns found the compromise language chosen by the board to be acceptable, addressing both the need to streamline content while still encouraging critical thinking by students,” said board chairwoman Donna Bahorich, R-Houston.

Austin American-Statesman - April 23, 2017

PolitiFact: Texas deputy’s death gets turned into fake news

Several websites put a fake headline on a real news story about a Texas sheriff’s deputy being shot and killed, falsely reporting that three Muslim refugees pulled the trigger. “Texas law enforcement officer fatally shot upon arriving for work by 3 Muslim refugee (sic),” read the April 4 post on SouthernConservativeExtra.com. “Do you support to deport them?” the headline added. ... While the post is a real news article posted without attribution, the headline is altered to stoke prejudiced sentiments toward Muslims. It’s a gross misrepresentation of the circumstances surrounding a law enforcement officer’s death. We rate the headline Pants On Fire!

Austin American-Statesman - April 23, 2017

In Austin, Mexican official talks NAFTA with Texas Republicans

Mexico’s secretary of the economy last week met with Gov. Greg Abbott and House Speaker Joe Straus in Austin in an effort to encourage U.S. politicians who support free trade to tout the benefits of the North American Free Trade Agreement as President Donald Trump seeks to amend or abolish the landmark 1994 accord. Ildefonso Guajardo Villarreal, an economist and politician with Mexico’s governing Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, said he also met with state Reps. Tan Parker, R-Flower Mound, and Rafael Anchia, D-Dallas. “They are very confident that they can share this with the new U.S. administration in Washington to understand through the everyday economic life at the state level how important trade policy and trade integration is for most of the states of the U.S.,” Guajardo said.

Austin American-Statesman - April 22, 2017

EPA cuts could mean more Rio Grande pollution

Sewage gushing into the Rio Grande offers a pungent reminder of problems that could worsen under the Trump administration’s plan to reduce the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency budget by nearly a third and eliminate dozens of anti-pollution programs. Joint U.S.-Mexico spending under the 1993 North American Free Trade Agreement has helped stop release of millions of gallons daily of Nuevo Laredo wastewater into the river. The EPA has spent $650 million on water projects on both sides of the border, bringing drinking water and sewer connections to tens of thousands of people in colonias.

Austin American-Statesman - April 22, 2017

Two Views, Maher: Families caring for abused kids deserve community’s support

How did we fail Colton Turner? This is the question Texas was asking itself in the wake of the two-year-old’s death in 2014. Now, the entire state is yet again asking a similar question while attempting to address the statewide broken system that is Child Protective Services. Senate Bill 11 and similar proposals are the legislative body’s most recent attempt to reform the overburdened system and actually ensure the safety of Texas’ most vulnerable children — something the state has historically been inept at doing. Don’t get me wrong — CPS is a necessary safety regulator that many children need for protection. However, a Texas federal judge ruled in 2014 that the state was causing more harm to the children and young adults in its custody and speculated that those children may have been better off never having been removed in the first place.

Austin American-Statesman - April 22, 2017

Two Views McCormick: : Gay, lesbian couples are solution to foster care backlog

The backlog of children in the Texas foster care system awaiting placement with a foster family has been front and center in recent debates about how to best reform the state’s child welfare system. News reports of children sleeping in the offices of Child Protective Services caseworkers has led many people to question why there is such a critical shortage of foster families across the state. Despite this awareness, many agencies who recruit and license foster parents have little desire to work with gays and lesbians interested in becoming foster parents. Research overwhelmingly suggests that children raised by gays and lesbians are just as healthy, happy and successful as children raised by heterosexual parents.

Austin American-Statesman - April 23, 2017

A Texas Republican congressman holds town halls, and finds no dissent

Eden — Pastor Steve Belote, who runs the Hallelujah Trail Cowboy Church, opened a town hall meeting in a storefront civic space near the geographic center of Texas this week by asking God to give U.S. Rep. Mike Conaway, R-Midland, “the nerve and knowledge to answer our questions.” The atmosphere here, a few hours’ drive northwest of Austin, was genial, if somber, as mostly white-haired residents lobbed queries about internet privacy, wool production subsidies in the coming farm bill — Conaway is chairman of the House Agriculture Committee — and the impending closure of a local major employer, a for-profit prison housing federal inmates. There were no questions about President Donald Trump’s tax returns, no questions about the House investigation into possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russia, an inquiry which Conaway now leads. No one shouted, “Do your job!”

Ft. Worth Star-Telegram - April 22, 2017

Kennedy: Democrats, Republicans try to make local elections ‘D’s-vs.-‘R’s; it’s not that easy

For the first time, both Democrats and Republicans are trying to put party labels on the nonpartisan May elections. Neither got it right. On the weekend before voting begins Monday for city, school and local offices, Tarrant County Republicans emailed a list claiming to show candidates’ party affiliations. Don’t believe it. Or the Democrats’ list. River Oaks City Council candidate Dan Chisholm said he’s ticked. He used a stronger word. “I’ve been a Republican candidate and now they can’t even list me right!” he said. “They couldn’t even spell my name!” Chisholm, a 2012 candidate for constable, was mistakenly listed as unaffiliated with “no party history” against three steady Republicans.

KUHF - April 21, 2017

Why Don’t More Texas School Buses Have Seat Belts?

Despite a Texas law passed a decade ago to equip more school buses with shoulder seat belts, relatively few buses have them today. Why? We’ll start our story on a Tuesday morning in September of 2015. A Houston Independent School District bus plunged off an overpass on the South Loop. It fell 21 feet, onto Telephone Road. Sheanine Chatman lost her daughter that day. She testified about her experience in Austin, earlier this month. “I had to identify my daughter,” she said, her voice shaking. “She was unrecognizable. And I live with that every day.”

County Stories

Dallas Morning News - April 23, 2017

DMN: Sen. Don Huffines is right: Dallas County Schools should be abolished

Dallas County Schools operates in relative obscurity. Few county residents know what it does or remember voting for its trustees. It's a public agency that collects property taxes but doesn't operate schools. Its main function is providing bus service to local school districts. Dallas County Schools has been in the news this year because of financial and management problems — and because it could soon disappear. Sen. Don Huffines, R-Dallas, has written a bill, SB 1122, that would abolish the agency, its board of trustees and its superintendent. That's a painful step, but a necessary one. DCS has outlived its utility. School districts still need bus service; they just don't need DCS to provide it. The bill is expected to go before the full Senate next week.

City Stories

Austin American-Statesman - April 23, 2017

Transgender bathrooms overshadow Dripping Springs school board race

Three candidates, including two incumbents, are vying for two school board seats in Dripping Springs, where a battle over which bathroom a transgender student should use has overshadowed a typically low-key race. The trio — incumbent Ron Jones, a consultant; incumbent Barbara Stroud, a family law attorney; Trey Powers, a senior mortgage loan officer — said there are far greater challenges facing the district, including growth, sustaining academic rigor and increased fiscal constraints because of the estimated $3.1 million in property tax revenue the district must hand over to the state for recapture, which helps fund property-poor school districts under the Texas school finance laws.

San Antonio Express News - April 21, 2017

In Panama, Medina’s company received at least $2.5 million in government contracts

As a candidate to become San Antonio’s next mayor in the May 6 election, Manuel Medina has repeatedly condemned “special interests getting special favors” and what he claims is a “pay to play” culture at City Hall. As a political consultant in Panama, his company, Medata S.A., received at least $2.5 million between 2009 and 2014 from government agencies there after the candidate Medina had worked for was elected president. The payments to Medata in checks and bank transfers are found in publicly accessible records of the Panama comptroller’s office.

Houston Chronicle - April 23, 2017

Does climate change mean more big storms?

As a string of thunderstorms rolled through Harris County last week, local flood control officials were monitoring creeks and bayous, all of which stayed safely in their banks. That's in sharp contrast to last spring, when back-to-back floods dumped biblical amounts of rain, prompting many Houston residents to wonder if heavy downpours were the new normal thanks to climate change. Local leaders aren't sure. They are still searching for definitive proof, bristling at the notion that current climate change projections should alter flood control efforts.

Austin American-Statesman - April 23, 2017

Austin employers boost hiring, but jobless rolls remain elevated

Austin-area employers keep adding jobs fast enough to absorb the region’s expanding labor pool, but recent workforce data suggest a job market that’s increasingly skewed toward skilled workers despite the region’s broad-based payroll growth. While the competition for white-collar and high-tech talent raged on during the first quarter of 2017, the number of unemployed workers — most of whom have less training or education — also remained at elevated levels compared with recent years. The number of unemployed workers in the area rose to nearly 42,000 in February, reaching levels not seen since 2014, according to the Texas Workforce Commission.

Dallas Morning News - April 23, 2017

'You're a monster': EPA chief Scott Pruitt visits Dallas' Earth Day event, is met with protests

Scott Pruitt, President Donald Trump's pick to head the Environmental Protection Agency, made a brief appearance in Dallas on Friday as part of the city's Earth Day festivities at Fair Park — a visit that wasn't particularly appreciated by some in the environmental community. Protesters disrupted both Pruitt's "fireside chat-style" conversation with Texas Railroad Commissioner Ryan Sitton as well as an impromptu reception held when the discussion was delayed and moved to another room at Fair Park's Hall of State.

Dallas Morning News - April 23, 2017

Ragland: If we want to make Dallas a more equitable city, how do free transit and stronger public schools sound?

The mere thought of Dallas seeking to become a more equitable city — a metropolis built on the egalitarian principles of economic, political and social equality — is an encouraging sign of civic progress. The question is, "Are we ready to roll up our sleeves and do the nitty-gritty work?" As idealistic or elusive as it may sound, this notion of leveling the playing field for those living on the edge of the nation's ninth most populous city — bridging the divide, if you will — is a goal well within our reach. Yes, we can get there from here.

National Stories

Dallas Morning News - April 23, 2017

Critical Choices: Seven stories why health care reform is so hard

LaRonda Hunter has run the numbers. Providing health insurance for employees at the five Fantastic Sams salons she owns could cost more than $200,000. And though the business has been successful, there’s just no way she can afford it. “It could put me out of business,” said Hunter, 57. The Fort Worth woman once worked as an accountant at American Airlines. After 14 years, she wanted a lifestyle change. One option was becoming a franchisee. She had a good credit score and enough money, so in 2006, she bought her first salon in Saginaw.

Washington Post - April 23, 2017

A scholar asks, ‘Can democracy survive the Internet?’

Even without the Russians, the campaign of 2016 highlighted the degree to which elections are carried out on terrain far different from when television and traditional print organizations were the dominant media. Persily argues that the 2016 campaign broke down previously established rules and distinctions “between insiders and outsiders, earned media and advertising, media and non-media, legacy media and new media, news and entertainment and even foreign and domestic sources of campaign communication.” Candidate Trump understood the new landscape far better than did Hillary Clinton, and that might be one reason he sits in the Oval Office today. Clinton played by old rules; Trump did not. He recognized the potential rewards of exploiting what the Internet offered, and he conducted his campaign through unconventional means. “That’s what Donald Trump realized that a lot of us didn’t,” Persily said. “That it was more important to swamp the communication environment than it was to advocate for a particular belief or fight for the truth of a particular story,” Persily said.

Washington Post - April 23, 2017

Why people are marching for science: ‘There is no Planet B’

Thousands of people gathered in the rain Saturday on the soggy grounds of the Washington Monument to turn Earth Day into an homage to science. After four hours of speeches and musical performances, they marched down Constitution Avenue to the foot of Capitol Hill, chanting “Build labs, not walls!” and “Hey, Trump, have you heard, you can’t silence every nerd!” The March for Science began as a notion batted around online on Reddit after the Women’s March on Washington, which was held Jan. 21, the day after President Trump’s inauguration. The idea snowballed after it was endorsed by numerous mainstream science organizations, which vowed that it would not be a partisan event. It eventually became a global phenomenon, held in more than 600 cities on six continents — and cheered on by scientists on a seventh, Antarctica.

Washington Post - April 23, 2017

Bernie Sanders’s strange behavior

Over the last few days, Sanders's has at times offered some odd comments for a guy pushing for Democratic unity. To wit: He said that he still isn't actually a Democrat. He repeated his line that President Trump “did not win the election; the Democrats lost the election” — drawing some angry responses from Hillary Clinton supporters who see this as either a shot at her or as something that Sanders's primary campaign contributed to (or both). Sanders's message has differed from Perez's in a couple key ways. But the most puzzling development this week is Sanders's decision to keep Georgia special election candidate Jon Ossoff at arms-length. Sanders hasn't endorsed Ossoff, and in an interview with the Wall Street Journal, he seemed to suggest Ossoff's progressive bona fides were in question.

New York Times - April 23, 2017

Major Hurdle for Trump’s Tax Plan: Real Estate Industry

President Trump has promised a sweeping tax plan, arriving in the days ahead, that will be “bigger, I believe, than any tax cut ever.” It will aim to bring down individual and corporate rates, simplify the overall tax code and unleash economic growth. Many tax experts say a key element to any fundamental overhaul is getting rid of certain deductions for businesses — the “special-interest giveaways that are masked as tax breaks,” as House Republicans describe many of them in their own proposal. That is the only way tax rates for much of the country can go down without starving the Treasury, the experts say. But there is a major roadblock to that fundamental change, and it comes from a sector well known to the president: the real estate industry.

Politico - April 23, 2017

‘The Ideas Made It, But I Didn’t’

His first date with his future wife was spent in a New Hampshire motel room drinking Wild Turkey into the wee hours with Hunter S. Thompson. He stood several feet away from Martin Luther King Jr. during the “I Have a Dream” speech. He went to China with Richard M. Nixon and walked away from Watergate unscathed. He survived Iran-Contra, too, and sat alongside Ronald Reagan at the Reykjavík Summit. He invaded America’s living rooms and pioneered the rhetorical combat that would power the cable news age. He defied the establishment by challenging a sitting president of his own party. He captured the fear and frustration of the right by proclaiming a great “culture war” was at hand. And his third-party candidacy in 2000 almost certainly handed George W. Bush the presidency, thanks to thousands of Palm Beach, Florida, residents mistakenly voting for him on the “butterfly ballot” when they meant to back Al Gore. If not for his outsize ambition, Pat Buchanan might be the closest thing the American right has to a real-life Forrest Gump, that patriot from ordinary stock whose life journey positioned him to witness, influence and narrate the pivotal moments that shaped our modern world and changed the course of this country’s history.

Reuters - April 21, 2017

U.S. states realign in legal battle over Trump's travel ban

President Donald Trump's travel ban on citizens of six Muslim-majority nations faces its second challenge at a U.S. appeals court next month, and this time more Republican states are backing the measure, while one Democratic state attorney general dropped out of the legal fight this week. Some legal experts say the states' realignment could signal that the changes made last month to Trump's original executive order have strengthened the government's case. Sixteen Democratic state attorneys general and the District of Colombia on Thursday filed a "friend of the court" brief backing Hawaii in its bid to block the March 6 executive order, which two federal judges put on hold before it could be implemented. Hawaii and other states argue the ban violates the U.S. Constitution because it discriminates against Muslims.

The Hill - April 22, 2017

ObamaCare repeal: Where the GOP-Trump plan stands right now

A White House effort to win House approval next week for an ObamaCare repeal bill is running head-on into a divided GOP conference struggling to reconcile its differences. While centrist Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-N.J.) and conservative Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) say they are close to a deal, other Republicans say they are not a part of the agreement and that MacArthur is not bringing other centrists along with him. Republican lawmakers will hold a conference call on Saturday to discuss the issue. They’re also likely to confer on another problem: keeping the government open.

New York Times - April 22, 2017

Obama's silence to end, but he won't criticize Trump

Barack Obama’s extended post-presidential vacation is about to end. After spending weeks in French Polynesia — including time on the yacht of the movie mogul David Geffen along with Bruce Springsteen, Tom Hanks and Oprah Winfrey — Mr. Obama will return to Chicago on Monday for his first public event as a former president. His self-imposed silence since Inauguration Day will end with a series of events over the next four weeks. A Monday event with students at the University of Chicago will be followed by an awards ceremony in Boston; a series of public remarks as well as private paid speeches in the United States and Europe; and an appearance at the Brandenburg Gate in Germany with Chancellor Angela Merkel. And yet, Mr. Obama’s supporters, who have been waiting eagerly for the former president to respond to his successor’s accusations and policy reversals, are likely to be disappointed.

April 21, 2017

Lead Stories

Washington Post - April 21, 2017

Fact Checker: How is Medicare affected by the House GOP health plan?

We have been asking readers for questions about statements made at congressional town halls, and one reader directed us to a very contentious session held April 13 by Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) in liberal-leaning Hood River, Ore. There are times when Walden’s answers could barely be heard over the hooting and hollering. Some of the questions concerning the House Republicans’ replacement for Obamacare — the American Health Care Act — turned on local issues, but there were two statements of broad interest worth exploring in The Fact Checker. We’re not issuing Pinocchios, as Walden’s statements were defensible, but simply noting some of the fine print behind his remarks.

Texas Tribune - April 20, 2017

House Democrats disavow ride-hailing bill after addition of “sex” amendment

Several members of the Texas House have removed their names as co-authors of a bill that would regulate ride-hailing companies after the addition of an amendment that defines “sex” as the “physical condition of being male or female.” The amendment passed with a 90-52 vote Wednesday after House Bill 100’s author, Chris Paddie, R-Marshall, accepted the amendment, saying he views it as “further defining something that’s already defined.” But soon after, Democrats started pulling their support, saying the bill opened the door for discrimination against LGBT Texans. That issue has permeated the legislative session since Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick prioritized a “bathroom bill” that would require transgender people to use the restroom in some places that matches their "biological sex."

Dallas Morning News - April 21, 2017

Dallas lawmaker Eddie Bernice Johnson preparing to run for re-election to Congress

After thoughts of retirement, Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson is instead preparing to run for re-election. Two people close to her told The Dallas Morning News that the Dallas Democrat is close to announcing that she'll seek one more two-year term, dousing speculation that she will retire as the representative For District 30 when her term ends Dec. 31, 2018. Aides are now working on a campaign roll-out, and Johnson is about to step up her fundraising. She has two events in Washington, on May 18 and May 23. Her team is also planning a series of receptions in Dallas.

Houston Chronicle - April 21, 2017

Cervantes: Alternative House bathroom bill draws skepticism, too

A Senate bill regulating bathroom use in public buildings already has been declared unwelcome in the Texas House. Now, a House proposal touted as an alternative may face similar opposition, particularly after the powerful chairman of a committee that held an all-night hearing on the bill expressed skepticism such a measure was even needed. At several moments during the six-hour hearing before the House State Affairs Committee, Chairman Byron Cook, R-Corsicana, questioned the need for a so-called "bathroom bill" that supporters argue is intended to protect women and girls in public restrooms. "I haven't seen it and I've been on this committee a long time. I've never seen that community present any problems," Cook said.

Houston Chronicle - April 20, 2017

Report ranks Texas industrial markets among nation's weakest

Online real estate marketplace Ten-X ranked four Texas industrial real estate markets, including Houston, among the five weakest in the country. San Antonio, Dallas, Fort Worth and Indianapolis also make the list of markets where conditions are most likely to motivate investors to sell industrial properties, according to the latest U.S. industrial market outlook put out by Ten-X. Christopher Muoio, senior quantitative strangest with Ten-X in New York, stressed that the outlook was generally positive for industrial markets nationwide, and that the ranking was relative.

Texas Tribune - April 21, 2017

Lawmakers want to rein in Texas universities — four years after gutting their oversight board

There might be no more dangerous place for a university official this year than a Texas Capitol committee room. On several occasions in recent months, a chancellor, university president or regent has sat down at a hearing and been chewed out by lawmakers who were frustrated about rising tuition rates, expensive land purchases or new programs being pursued against the wishes of elected officials. But left out of those complaints about schools run amok has been a key detail about how that happened in the first place: Just a few years earlier, the Legislature willingly gave Texas universities more freedom.

Dallas Morning News - April 20, 2017

Gov. Abbott let investigator jobs languish despite pleas from agencies

Incompetent nurses. Jail escapes. Investment swindlers. All are supposed to be investigated by state workers whose job is to protect the public. But many investigative jobs across Texas remain unfilled after Gov. Greg Abbott declared a state hiring freeze in January, according to a review by The Dallas Morning News. In some cases, vacancies have persisted for more than two months despite pleas from officials of state agencies asking for exceptions to the freeze in the name of public safety. The governor’s office agreed to fill dozens of state investigative jobs after The News on April 5 asked for public records on agencies’ requests to hire workers despite the freeze.

Dallas Morning News - April 20, 2017

Villalba: I refuse to allow Dallas to break its pension promise to police officers and firefighters

Two years ago during the last Legislative session, I authored a bill to provide a 25-foot halo of protection around police officers so that when they were working to protect our community they would not be assaulted or harassed by freelance video journalists. The bill did not prohibit filming, nor did it limit in any way the use of footage acquired by such activists. It did, however, incite thousands of people from around the country to proclaim that I am an enemy of free speech who deserves death. During that time, my family and I received more than 100 death threats. Most threats were the benign musings of angry bloggers. Some, however, were quite specific, such as the threat to nail my newborn to a tree.

The Hill - April 20, 2017

Poll: Voters support controversial border-adjustment tax

A majority of registered voters support a proposal to impose a new 20 percent tax on imports, according to a new poll. The Harvard-Harris Poll survey found that 62 percent of Americans would support a 20 percent tax on all goods made outside the United States. The idea is backed by 77 percent of Republicans, 61 percent of independents and 51 percent of Democrats, according to the poll. A new tax on imports is a key part of the tax-reform plan from Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.). The border-adjustment tax would impose the 20 percent tax on imports and reduce taxes on exports.

Politico - April 20, 2017

DOJ official leading Trump-Russia probe to step down

The Justice Department official who is leading the government’s investigation into potential collusion between President Donald Trump’s campaign and the Russian government will step down next month. Mary McCord, who has served as acting assistant attorney general for national security since October, informed DOJ employees this week that she will be leaving in mid-May, a spokesman confirmed to POLITICO. DOJ's National Security Division is leading the agency’s inquiry into possible links between Trump campaign aides and Moscow, as well as the Kremlin’s alleged digital meddling campaign during the 2016 presidential race.

State Stories

Texas Tribune - April 21, 2017

Ramsey: Legislating, from business class to coach

Two bills working through the Texas Legislature this week illustrate the random swings of politics and influence as well as anything so far this year. You could spot lawmakers’ favorites by the receptions they got. The first, favored by Berkshire Hathaway, is on an express train through the Legislature after a visit by that company’s famous chairman, Warren Buffett. The other, a proposed replacement for the Senate’s “bathroom bill,” was the subject of a long hearing conducted during hours favored only by vampires, musicians, barflies and the Texas House State Affairs Committee.

Texas Tribune - April 20, 2017

Warren Buffett visits Capitol and "Buffett Bill" is born

A couple of years ago, famed billionaire Warren Buffett got into the auto dealer business without realizing a protectionist state law could stop him from selling cars in Texas. On Monday, Buffett met with Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and — according to multiple Capitol sources and an unchallenged news story — Gov. Greg Abbott. On Tuesday, the Texas Senate used emergency powers to introduce what was quickly dubbed the “Buffett Bill,” Senate Bill 2279, granting the Oracle of Omaha a special exemption. On Wednesday the author set the bill for a public hearing in a Senate committee. And on Thursday it shot out of the panel like a lightning bolt toward the Senate floor.

Texas Tribune - April 20, 2017

Holbrook: Adult prisons are no place for youths

When babies are born, hospitals do not provide a “how to” manual to accompany the new bundles of joy. Years later, it’s sobering to learn you have no control over their actions when they are out of your sight. That’s where PTA comes in — as an official “parent guide” from diapers to dorm rooms. The foundation for PTA is family engagement. PTA teaches moms and dads how to become effective parents without becoming “helicopters.” From the parental viewpoint, it’s about making choices and balancing good direction and guidance with just enough liberation for children to learn to flap their own wings. Children gradually need parents less and less and want freedom more and more. No matter what our early childhood discipline strategies and unconditional love, our children — for a variety of reasons, —sometimes fall short.

Texas Tribune - April 21, 2017

Ted Cruz reports $5.2 million total ahead of re-election campaign

As expected, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz is maintaining a massive cash advantage ahead of his 2018 re-election race, with a total of more than $5.2 million in the bank. That war chest total comes after he raised more than $1.7 million among three allied groups during the first quarter of 2017, according to campaign finance reports released over the past several days. His re-election campaign took in $1.3 million of that total, and it has $4.9 million cash on hand. The Texas Republican already has a Democratic challenger for 2018, U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke of El Paso. O'Rourke raised $208,000 in the first quarter, though he announced his Senate campaign on the last day of the period, March 31, and is said to have raked in hundreds of thousands of more dollars in the following days. His campaign has $535,000 cash on hand — a tenth of Cruz's war chest.

Texas Tribune - April 20, 2017

Falola, Faria: A better place to build a wall

In all the talk of building a border wall, Austin’s Marlena Rios wishes she could build a wall of her own to keep the children safe in her community. President Trump’s budget blueprint promises to defend national security by a $54 billion increase to military and defense spending including $2.6 billion for a border wall and $80 million to combat “illegal entry and unlawful presence.” But is a nation really “secure” if it cannot protect the lives of its most vulnerable? Rios, a working mother of three, keeps watch everyday on the children in her public housing community because security here is weak. Even the police admit it: Henry Moreno, an Austin Police liaison with the city, says most crimes in Rios’ neighborhood in southeast Austin, 80 percent, in fact, are not committed by those within the community. Yet staff at Rios’ complex acknowledge that they remain understaffed, underfunded and unable to protect residents.

Texas Tribune - April 21, 2017

How many doses of lethal injection drugs does Texas have?

Since 1977, lethal injection has been the method for executing Texas criminals sentenced to death. But the drugs used in executions have changed over the years, as the state has struggled to get a hold of enough life-ending doses. Texas, along with other states that hold executions, has been engaged in a battle for years to keep an adequate inventory of execution drugs. Currently, the state uses only pentobarbital, a sedative it has purchased from compounding pharmacies kept secret from the public. To promote transparency, The Texas Tribune has obtained the inventory history and current supply of execution drugs held by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.

Austin American-Statesman - April 21, 2017

First Reading: Sex and drugs and alcohol, gleanings from the Alex Jones Famous Fiction Writers School

I was sitting on a bench yesterday in the Travis County Courthouse where the Alex Jones-Kelly Jones child custody trial was in its fourth day, my head down looking at my laptop, when I heard a low muttered growl and something about “famous fiction writer.” I looked up and saw it was Alex Jones, breezing past me on the way back into the courtroom. Narcissist that I am, I thought Jones was talking about me. Until I read Charlie Warzel’s report on the Day in Jones in the Daily Beast: Earlier in the hallway, he referred to a group of reporters as “famous fiction writers” and told another reporter “man you must be so desperate.” OK. Famous Fiction Writers, plural.

Austin American-Statesman - April 20, 2017

State board mulls integrating ethnic studies in high school curriculum

In what could be the first step in integrating ethnic studies into Texas high school curriculum, the State Board of Education is considering a new English class that examines works of authors from different ethnic backgrounds. Board member Georgina C. Pérez, D-El Paso, has proposed a comparative literature class for juniors or seniors that would include works by authors from diverse backgrounds. The optional course would fulfill students’ English 3 or 4 requirement and would follow established curriculum, so the board wouldn’t have to take on the complicated and lengthy process of creating new curriculum standards.

Austin American-Statesman - April 20, 2017

Senate OKs bill capping legal fees at $250,000 in certain cases

Voting along party lines, the Texas Senate gave initial approval Thursday to a bill that would cap legal fees at $250,000 if the state loses lawsuits challenging redistricting plans and the way public schools are financed. Democrats opposed Senate Bill 949, saying it was a blatant attempt to discourage lawsuits, particularly from frequently low-income Texans who allege violations of the Voting Rights Act — cases that typically take years to litigate and can cost millions of dollars in legal work, expert witnesses and other expenses. “Your bill will make it harder for citizens of this state who are aggrieved by actions that violate the Constitution, to bring these cases,” Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, told the bill’s author, Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham.

Austin American-Statesman - April 20, 2017

Herman: Alex Jones, often offensive, plays defense at custody trial

The strategy was simple, transparent and exactly what you would do if you were battling Alex Jones in a child custody case: try to make the Alex Jones on the witness stand look like the Alex Jones on Infowars. Success, by any means necessary under the rules of courtroom engagement, could mean jurors in the Jones family soap opera would see him as a guy you wouldn’t ask for directions, much less continue to have custody of his three kids. During several hours of friendly questioning from his lawyer, we saw photos of the kids and heard that Jones’ current wife is due with their first child next month. Bobby Newman of Houston, the aggressive lawyer representing Jones’ ex-wife Kelly Jones, then rose Thursday morning to do his darnedest to make Alex Jones look like a bad dad who delegates many of his parental responsibilities.

Austin American-Statesman - April 20, 2017

Texas AG Ken Paxton sides with ExxonMobil in climate change case

Coming to the aid of a powerful Texas oil and gas company in a case involving climate change science, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton on Thursday filed a brief in federal court in New York supporting ExxonMobil’s efforts to stave off an investigation by attorneys general in New York and Massachusetts. Paxton’s friend-of-the-court brief in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, argues the ExxonMobil investigation by the northeastern attorneys general has amounted to a fishing expedition that impinges on the company’s free speech protections.

Austin American-Statesman - April 20, 2017

Wendell: ‘Blue tarp bills’ threaten Texas property owners

Your property rights are under assault at the Texas Capitol. Insurance lobbyists and their allies at the self-styled “Texans for Lawsuit Reform” are pushing legislation that will mean insurance companies pay you as little as late as possible for claims. House Bill 1774 and Senate Bill 10, better known as the “blue tarp bills,” strengthen the hand of insurance companies in property-claims disputes. The end result is homes, businesses, schools and churches will be blanketed in blue tarps after storms when they’re cheated out of their policy benefits. Central Texans are no strangers to bad weather and know the stakes. Protection from nature’s fury is one of the main reasons we buy insurance, though we’ve been paying more for our policies while receiving less in coverage for many years now.

Austin American-Statesman - April 20, 2017

Texas police withheld records of their son’s death. Now they know why.

Kathy and Robert Dyer received the phone call out of every parent’s nightmares at 3 a.m. on Aug. 14, 2013. A Mesquite police officer was telling them their 18-year-old son, Graham, was in the hospital with a serious head injury. They should come as quickly as possible. They sped in the dark south to Dallas from their home on a dirt road outside of Paris, in Northeast Texas, arriving at Baylor University Medical Center at dawn. Graham lay unresponsive in the intensive care unit beneath a bristle of medical tubes and instrumentation. Outside his room, Kathy recalled, a group of police officers prevented them from entering: “They said he was in serious trouble — that he had felony charges for assaulting an officer.” The police told her Graham had been out of his mind on LSD and had bitten one of the officers while they were taking him into custody.

Austin American-Statesman - April 20, 2017

Court: Texas House map drawn to dilute minority voters

Republicans redrew Texas House districts in 2011 to gain partisan advantage by intentionally and improperly diluting the voting strength of minority Texans, a federal court ruled Thursday. In a 2-1 decision, the San Antonio-based federal court panel said “invidious discriminatory purpose” underlies the map that set district boundaries for the state’s 150 House members in violation of the U.S. Voting Rights Act and the Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection. “The impact of the plan was certainly to reduce minority voting opportunity statewide, resulting in even less proportional representation for minority voters,” the court said.

Houston Chronicle - April 20, 2017

Pipeline CEO Kelcy Warren approved for Texas Parks & Wildlife seat

A committee of the Texas Senate narrowly approved Kelcy Warren’s nomination to the Texas Parks & Wildlife Commission on Thursday, despite months of environmental protests and marches against his pipeline company, Energy Transfer Partners. All three Democrats on the Senate’s Nominations Committee voted against the move; four Republicans voted in favor. A full Senate vote with a two-thirds majority is now needed to approve Warren’s appointment. Gov. Greg Abbott appointed the billionaire CEO to the sought-after post 18 months ago. Warren has since been the subject of regular activism at the parks department, at his offices and at his home.

Houston Chronicle - April 21, 2017

George HW Bush still in hospital; George W Bush visits

Former President George H.W. Bush got a hospital visit from another former president — his son. A photograph was posted on Bush's Twitter account Thursday, showing him with former President George W. Bush. Both were smiling as the elder Bush spent another day at a Houston hospital where he's under observation after recovering from a mild case of pneumonia.

Houston Chronicle - April 21, 2017

What happened to Texas' other state-run venture capital fund?

In 2015, the Texas Legislature shut down the state's decade-old venture capital program, after high-profile bankruptcies and accusations of political favoritism sullied its reputation. But at the same time, another government-funded venture capital program was operating out of public view. This one was composed of federal money rather than local taxes, which may explain why it got so little attention. Although it's too soon to render final judgment, so far the fund's investments appear to have lost money overall, again raising the question of whether government should be involved in the venture capital business at all. The Jobs for Texas program, or J4T, was Texas' $46.5 million chunk of the $1.5 billion that Congress parceled out to states in 2010 with the aim of boosting investment across the country at a time when the recession had made capital very hard to come by.

Houston Chronicle - April 17, 2017

Business group takes aim at Culberson over border tax

A conservative business group is launching ads Tuesday targeting Houston Republican John Culberson and three other GOP lawmakers, urging them to oppose a controversial border adjustment tax favored by House Republican leaders. The $500,000 digital and TV ad buy comes amid a deepening divide within GOP ranks over the proposed tax, which could increase the cost of imported goods by as much as 20 percent. Republican backers of the plan, including House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady of The Woodlands, say it would help boost domestically produced goods. The new ads, sponsored by the Club for Growth, appear to target lawmakers who could help tilt the balance within the House GOP caucus. Democrats appear to be solidly opposed. Besides Culberson, the ads take aim at Reps. Diane Black of Tennessee, Martha Roby of Alabama, and Tom Rice of South Carolina.

Houston Chronicle - April 20, 2017

Floyd: Plan for tap room limits will protect small Texas brewers

It's not uncommon for a person's first taste of beer to be a sip of their dad's favorite brand. Growing up in Houston in the 1990s, the choices for my first taste of beer were pretty limited because Texas wasn't known for its wide selection. I, however, was very lucky that my dad had spent the late 1970s and early '80s in California as a sailor and had developed a taste for brands like Sierra Nevada and Anchor Steam. As such, he tended to stay away from the watered-down, mass-produced lagers that still dominate the market today. While I can't remember exactly what my first taste of beer was, I do know that it wasn't until college that I came across those watered-down lagers. You could say that in a roundabout way, my dad laid the ground work for me to become a craft beer lover. I have turned my love for craft beer into a career.

Dallas Morning News - April 20, 2017

Graham: Baylor's new female president is on the edge of a classic glass cliff

Baylor University, the country's largest Baptist university, has named the first woman president in its 172-year history. Linda Livingstone takes over from interim president David Garland, as fallout continues from the school's campus rape scandal, which includes accusations that the school covered up assaults by members of its football team. Former Baylor president Ken Starr was pushed out last year over his mishandling of the mess. Now Livingstone will be in charge of cleaning it up. Livingstone's historic appointment is a rather extreme example of a phenomenon known as the glass cliff: the tendency of women to be appointed to leadership only when an organization is in crisis. The phrase was coined in 2005 by two researchers intrigued by a British news article that observed that companies with more female board members seemed to perform worse on Britain's top stock index. Was it really true that "companies that decline to embrace political correctness" are superior? Actually, the researchers found, it's not that women are bad for business, but that businesses tend to embrace women only when times are bad.

Dallas Morning News - April 20, 2017

Garland: Why I chose to attend Baylor despite the sexual assault scandal

I knew that sexual assault was happening at Baylor University. I chose to be a part of the 2020 class anyway. The process of picking a college for me occurred during the time when stories about the sexual assault cases involving Baylor football players were breaking in the news. I was a senior at James Martin High School in Arlington, juggling advanced placement classes, working as co-editor-in-chief of the yearbook and going through the nerve-wracking process of college applications. If you had asked my friends, they would tell you I spent most of my junior year in full support of calling the hogs at the University of Arkansas. However, when I received my acceptance letter in the fall of my senior year, I could not have been more apathetic. Instead, around December I found myself waiting in anticipation for an acceptance letter from Baylor.

Dallas Morning News - April 20, 2017

House nods at changing 100-year-old law that treats 17-year-old criminals as grown-ups

The Texas House on Thursday voted to change a nearly century-old law that treats 17-year-olds as adults in the criminal justice system and increases the age of criminal responsibility to 18. Texas is one of only six states that treat 17-year-olds as adults in the criminal justice system. The law was adopted in 1918, when lawmakers increased the age of responsibility from 8 to 17. The bill by Houston Democratic Rep. Harold Dutton, approved on a vote of 92-52, would end that practice. Anyone younger than 18 would be treated as a juvenile, a move juvenile justice advocates say will produce better results for youths and the state. "Sending 17-year-olds to the adult system increases the likelihood we will be less safe as a community," Dutton said.

Dallas Morning News - April 21, 2017

From ads to architecture, Austin isn't the creative jobs capital of Texas ... Dallas is

Outsiders seem to like ragging on Dallas as a soulless, business-obsessed concrete jungle without the creative energy of some other Texas metros you could name. (Ahem, Austin.) A new study from the University of North Texas’ Economic Research Group throws some cold water on that idea. “When comparing the overall size of Dallas-Ft. Worth’s creative economy against other regions in Texas, it emerges the clear leader,” the report says. The study found that D-FW’s creative industries funnel $34 billion into the broader economy annually, as well as almost $4 billion in taxes.

Dallas Morning News - April 19, 2017

Campbell: We must protect Texas' military installations from encroaching wind turbines

In Texas, we value our military and the role military bases serve our communities. According to the governor's Texas Military Preparedness Commission, they contribute more than $136 billion annually to our economy. Our military is among the leading industries in the state, and as vital to Texas as the $170 billion oil and gas industry, according to Texas Comptroller calculations, and the $100 billion economic impact provided by agriculture. The 15 military installations spread across Texas help keep us secure and employ almost 900,000 Texans, both directly and indirectly, according to the governor's commission.

Dallas Morning News - April 20, 2017

Texas children could use school food pantry, avoid lunch shaming under proposed legislation

Lawmakers are trying to make it easier to feed hungry kids while preventing them from being shamed when their families don't have enough money to pay for lunch. The House gave preliminary approval Thursday to a bill that allows schools to create food pantries on campus using surplus from the cafeteria that would otherwise be discarded. Another bill by Rep. Helen Giddings, D-Dallas, would prevent schools from taking away meals served to students whose accounts run out of money. The education committee is expected to hold a hearing on the legislation next week. This comes shortly after New Mexico passed a similar law aimed at preventing "lunch shaming."

San Antonio Express News - April 20, 2017

Federal court: State House districts drawn to dilute minority strength

A federal three-judge panel ruled Thursday that the Republican-dominated Legislature intentionally diluted minority voting strength in creating state House districts in 2011. Citing factors including “the existence of racially polarized voting throughout Texas,” the court panel said in a 2-1 decision that it found “invidious discriminatory purpose” underlying the redistricting map. It found problems in districts in a slate of counties including Bexar and Harris. “The impact of the plan was certainly to reduce minority voting opportunity statewide, resulting in even less proportional representation for minority voters,” said the three-judge panel based in San Antonio in its 2-1 decision, which found problems in a slate of House districts in counties including Bexar and Harris.

Ozy - April 19, 2017

The Lone Star State's head honcho lobbyist

Texas Lobbyist Andrea McWilliams’ whole life has revolved around one building: the Texas State Capitol. She grew up across the street in the ’70s. Her dad owned a modest burger joint on S. Congress Ave, above which the family of four lived. Her father later took over a cafeteria that was directly across the Capitol lawn in a state building; the favored lunch spot for elected Texas officials was known for its homemade German bread and fresh sweet rolls. “It was always a tradition that the first day each governor would take office, they would come eat at my dad’s place to show they were accessible to everyone,” McWilliams recalls. At 15, she took a job as a messenger at the big white dome. Later, the Capitol would serve as the site for a meet-cute with her now-husband Dean, who was a fellow staffer. Today, she has the closest consultancy office to the Capitol, she says, in the whole state. It sits just across the street.

Texas Tribune - April 20, 2017

Thompson, Mischer: Keep the promise, Texas lawmakers — don’t cut highway funding

Texas voters overwhelmingly approved the allocation of a small portion of sales tax revenue for roads in the 2015 election. The support from 83 percent of the voters sent Austin a clear message to invest more of our resources on roads and bridges to make highways safer and to address ever-growing traffic congestion. Now, Texas legislators are considering a measure to pull back more than $2 billion of this highway funding before it has begun to flow. Doing so would completely disregard the voters. It’s time to remind our elected officials in the Texas Capitol to keep the promise. Gov. Greg Abbott had a clever TV campaign spot in 2014, when he rolled his wheelchair alongside gridlocked traffic and made the wry observation that he could move faster than the vehicles on the highway. He has made congestion relief a priority.

Texas Observer - April 20, 2017

Overnight Hearing on House ‘Bathroom Bill’ Draws 95 Percent Opposition

Lawmakers on the House State Affairs Committee didn’t begin considering the chamber’s so-called bathroom bill until nearly midnight Wednesday, after a marathon debate of other bills that lasted almost 12 hours on the House floor. For a high-profile meeting on the most controversial bill of the session, the committee hearing was relatively quiet. Lawmakers, activists and reporters were worn down from hours of waiting, and only 72 of the 120 people signed up to testify on the bill did so. (Jonathan Saenz, an anti-LGBT provocateur who frequents the Capitol, slept through hours of testimony in an adjacent overflow room.)

San Antonio Express News - April 20, 2017

Garcia: Castro buoyed at Indivisible event by new poll

Joaquin Castro already had taken questions on policy matters ranging from gun control to pesticides. The San Antonio congressman’s “Call to Action” event at The Cove was winding down, and he was thanking the crowd of about 350 loyal Democrats for coming. That’s when Shannon Perez Green used a joke to get serious. “I have a question,” asked Perez Green, one of the leaders of the progressive TX21 Indivisible group, which organized Castro’s Wednesday night event. “Will you please be my senator?” It was the question everyone had on their minds, even if no one had come right out and asked it.

Associated Press - April 20, 2017

FDA finalizes refusal to give Texas execution drug shipment

Federal officials on Thursday finalized their refusal to allow Texas prison officials to receive a foreign shipment of a drug the state has used to execute death row inmates. The refusal centers on a shipment of 1,000 vials of sodium thiopental detained by federal officials at Houston Bush Intercontinental Airport in July 2015. The drug was from an unidentified foreign drug supplier. In a document filed Thursday in federal court in Galveston, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said it "has made a final decision, refusing admission of the detained drugs into the United States." The decision is based on the FDA view "that the detained drugs appear to be unapproved new drugs and misbranded drugs. As such, the shipments must be exported or destroyed," FDA spokeswoman Lyndsay Meyer said in a statement.

This article appeared in the San Antonio Express News

Associated Press - April 21, 2017

Texas unemployment rate in March up slightly to 5 percent

The Texas unemployment rate rose slightly in March to reach 5 percent. The Texas Workforce Commission on Friday reported that compares to a statewide jobless rate of 4.9 percent in February. Nationwide unemployment was 4.5 percent in March. A commission statement says Amarillo had the lowest unemployment rate statewide last month at 3.5 percent.

This article appeared in the San Antonio Express News

San Antonio Express News - April 21, 2017

Former Alamo manager had to repay credit card charges

Ian Oldaker, the Alamo’s former chief operations officer, resigned in March after agreeing to repay more than $1,600 in personal expenses that did not qualify for reimbursement, according to records obtained by the San Antonio Express-News through the Texas Public Information Act. A spreadsheet document showed that Oldaker accrued $1,661.42 in personal expenses that were unauthorized, or for which there were no receipts, using a credit card issued through Alamo Complex Management, a subsidiary of the nonprofit Alamo Endowment, whose board is chaired by Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush.

KVUE - April 20, 2017

Concern over methane released on land owned by UT

Around 150 members of University of Texas' faculty have expressed concern over the amount of methane being released from oil and gas facilities operating on land owned by the University of Texas. They signed a letter that was sent to Chancellor William McRaven Wednesday asking him to reduces methane emissions leaks at the oil production facilities operating on more than 2 million acres of UT owned land. They believe this can be done by using technology that reduces methane leaks. "It's an opportunity show that faculty can not only teach but lead," University of Texas at San Antonio lecturer David Matiella said.

Texas Observer - April 18, 2017

Novack: Texas’ Maternal Mortality Rate Tops Any Developed Country. What are Lawmakers Doing About It?

State Representative Armando Walle, a Democrat from Houston and an Astros fan, has an analogy that he uses to describe the social safety net for pregnant Texas women: the protective netting that many major league teams have installed to protect fans from errant hits. “There are many foul balls hitting moms in the face,” he said, “because that safety net is tattered.” New mothers in Texas are dying of pregnancy-related causes at a higher rate than anywhere else in the developed world, “a life-or-death issue” that Walle says is “getting drowned out” by distractions such as the so-called bathroom bill. The state’s maternal mortality rate has doubled within a two-year period, according to a 2016 study, though experts say more research is necessary to explain the troubling spike.

County Stories

Dallas Morning News - April 20, 2017

Embattled Dallas County Schools moves closer to extinction

The controversial Dallas County Schools bus system moved a step closer to elimination Thursday when the Senate Education Committee voted to send it to the full chamber. The measure, brought by Sen. Don Huffines, R-Dallas, would do away with the system that provides busing and other services to member districts. The agency has struggled in recent months amid reports of questionable business dealings, drivers running red lights, financial problems and complaints from local school districts that DCS was falling down on the most important job: transporting kids. "For far too long, the students, taxpayers and schools in Dallas County have endured the unreliability, dangerous buses and financial corruption of Dallas County Schools," Huffines said in a prepared statement after the vote.

Houston Chronicle - April 21, 2017

TxDOT awards contract for SH-99 segments in Liberty, Montgomery and Chambers counties

Following a thorough vetting and scoring system that ranks positives and negatives of bidders, the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) has awarded the contract to build the SH-99 segments in Liberty County. Grand Parkway Infrastructure, whose equity members include Ferrovial Agroman US, Granite Construction Co. and Webber, LLC, were selected to serve as the design-builder to develop, design, construct and maintain approximately 44 miles of SH 99/Grand Parkway Segments H, I-1 and I-2 in Chambers, Harris, Liberty and Montgomery counties. According to Danny Perez, spokesperson at TxDOT, the toll-lane project begins at US 59 and connects to the existing 1-2A portion, continuing on to SH 146 to ultimately complete the northeast segments of the 180-mile Grand Parkway loop.

Dallas Morning News - April 20, 2017

Jury deciding fate of John Wiley Price will regroup for third day of deliberations

The federal jury deciding the bribery and tax evasion case against Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price concluded its second day of deliberations Thursday without reaching a verdict. The jury will regroup Friday morning to resume its work, but only for a half day, as was previously scheduled. Also on Thursday, prosecutors filed a brief arguing that seven of the 11 counts against Price that involve deprivation of honest services through mail fraud should not be tossed out.

Austin American-Statesman - April 20, 2017

Central Texas home sales decline in March

Home sales in the Austin area dipped in March year-over-year, while the median home-sales price climbed more than 5 percent, the latest figures show. The Austin Board of Realtors said 2,509 houses changed hands last month, down 1.4 percent from March 2016. Half of the residences sold for more than $295,767 and half for less, for a 5.6 percent rise in the median home-sale price, the board said. It was the second month this year of lackluster sales — volume rose just 0.9 percent in February in the Austin metro area, which stretches from Georgetown to San Marcos. That was the smallest increase for a February since 2009, when sales tanked 29 percent year-over-year.

City Stories

Austin American-Statesman - April 20, 2017

Alex Jones tears up, says ex-wife’s lawyer has ‘no decency, zero’

Alex Jones, the provocative Austin broadcaster with a tough-guy persona, teared up on the stand Thursday afternoon and, in an emotional outburst, told his ex-wife’s attorney that the lawyer has “no decency, zero.” “You sit here and twist things, I’ve never seen anything like it in all of literature or the movies,” Jones told Bobby Newman, an attorney for Kelly Jones, seated a few feet in front of him in a Travis County courtroom. “You have won the award sir. No decency, zero.” The confrontation came as Newman, on the fourth day of the Jones custody trial, sought to undermine Alex Jones’ claims to being the superior parent under whose primary custody for the last 30 months the three children, ages 9, 12 and 14, have flourished.

Dallas Morning News - April 21, 2017

Reports of voter fraud in West Dallas have 'deeply troubled' Mike Rawlings, Rep. Eric Johnson

Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings and state Rep. Eric Johnson say they are "deeply troubled" by reports of potential voter fraud in West Dallas. Some West Dallas residents have said they received mail-in ballots they didn't request, raising the possibility that someone else might be trying to cast their ballots for them. Rawlings and Johnson sent a letter to county Elections Administrator Toni Pippins-Poole, asking her to "take whatever steps necessary to restore voter confidence in West Dallas." It's unclear what steps that could include. Pippins-Poole has previously asked anyone affected to call her office after she had received three dozen complaints.

Dallas Morning News - April 21, 2017

Schnurman: One reason for Dallas’ soaring home prices and labor shortage: Immigrants aren’t coming to work

Dallas home prices are climbing rapidly, and homebuilders are complaining about labor shortages and soaring wages for construction workers. But something else makes this housing boom different from others: Immigrants aren’t riding to the rescue. For decades, Mexicans and other foreign-born workers have been coming to Texas to build homes, apartments and office towers. By one estimate, they fill almost half the construction jobs in the state, which is about twice as many as in the rest of the nation. That total includes legal and unauthorized immigrants. In the construction industry, both groups are roughly the same size in the U.S., according to the Pew Research Center.

National Stories

Ft. Worth Star-Telegram - April 21, 2017

Congress’ top tax man isn’t waiting for Trump’s blessing to get going on an overhaul

Top Republicans in the House of Representatives are prepared to begin public hearings next week on an effort to overhaul the nation’s tax code, which threatens to divide Republicans in Congress for the second time in the opening months of President Donald Trump’s administration. Republican Rep. Kevin Brady of Texas, chairman of the powerful Ways and Means Committee, which oversees the nation’s tax policy, is prepared to learn from the mistakes of the failed effort to repeal parts of Obamacare. A comprehensive tax overhaul has not been achieved since President Ronald Reagan’s administration. Instead of devising a tax bill behind closed doors with minimal public input, Brady is prepared to hear weeks, possibly months, of intricate testimony and conversations before lawmakers vote on legislation that could slash personal income taxes for the wealthy, cut corporate tax rates and perhaps impose a 20 percent border tax on goods made in other countries.

Washington Post - April 21, 2017

Henry Kissinger’s lukewarm non-endorsement of Jared Kushner is even more damning than it seems

Time magazine has named top White House adviser Jared Kushner as one of its 100 most influential people. Usually, when you're given that distinction, a magazine like Time will reach out to someone who knows you and can vouch for your superior influential-ness and prowess. Instead, Kushner got Henry Kissinger. Here is Kissinger's write-up for Kushner, with whom he has apparently spoken a few times: "Transitioning the presidency between parties is one of the most complex undertakings in American politics. The change triggers an upheaval in the intangible mechanisms by which Washington runs: an incoming President is likely to be less familiar with formal structures, and the greater that gap, the heavier the responsibility of those advisers who are asked to fill it.

New York Times - April 21, 2017

NYT: Torn From Their Families for No Good Reason

Anyone wanting vivid examples of the unjust consequences of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly’s hard-line immigration policy need look no further than Maribel Trujillo-Diaz, a mother of four children living near Cincinnati, who is her family’s main breadwinner and who has no criminal record. Or Juan Manuel Montes, a 23-year-old Californian who came to the United States when he was 9 and had been shielded from deportation under President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. Neither fits the profile of a “criminal alien” or threat to the homeland. On the contrary. Ms. Trujillo had applied unsuccessfully for asylum and had been ordered deported to Mexico. But Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials sensibly saw no good reason to remove her, and allowed her to remain and care for her children — who are 3, 10, 12 and 14, and are American citizens — as long as she checked in regularly with them.

Washington Post - April 21, 2017

Will the March for Science backfire by politicizing science? It depends on this.

On Saturday, thousands of scientists and supporters will converge in Washington and hundreds of other locations to March for Science. Organizers hope the march will launch a broader movement to increase the public profile of science and defend it from political attack. But some scientists worry that the event will depict scientists as a liberal constituency and increase polarization on science policy questions. Will science activism expand public support or create division? Science and medicine are widely respected — but opinion is sharply polarized on some issues Scientists bring credibility to the march. That’s a powerful political resource, especially considering the decline in public confidence in many other sources of authority.

Washington Post - April 21, 2017

What Trump told The Post he’d get done in his first 90 days

Thursday is Donald Trump’s 90th full day as president of the United States. In March 2016, before he secured the Republican nomination for the presidency and well before he won the general election, Trump sat down for an interview with The Washington Post’s Robert Costa and Bob Woodward. Over the course of that interview, Trump was asked what he hoped to accomplish in his first 90 days, should he be lucky enough to be elected president. Here’s what he said: Trump: What I would do — and before I talk about legislation, because I think frankly this is more important — number one, it’s going to be a very big tax cut. Because the middle class has been … And Larry Kudlow and numerous people have liked very much … You know, I put in a plan for tax cuts, and I’ve gotten some very good reviews. I would do a tax cut.

Politico - April 21, 2017

Trump scoffs at 100-day mark as 'ridiculous standard'

President Donald Trump on Friday claimed that he won’t get the credit he deserves for the first 100 days of his administration, seeking to manage expectations around what he called the “ridiculous standard” of the upcoming milestone date. “No matter how much I accomplish during the ridiculous standard of the first 100 days, & it has been a lot (including S.C.), media will kill!” Trump wrote on Twitter Friday morning. Trump’s dismissive remark is a notable shift from his campaign rhetoric, considering he issued in late October a contract with voters that included a “100-day action plan to Make America Great Again.” On some points, like green-lighting the controversial Keystone XL pipeline and instituting a temporary hiring freeze on all federal workers, Trump has already followed through.

Politico - April 21, 2017

How Trump Blew Up the Conservative Media

Months before Donald Trump blew up American politics with his surprise win in November, he did the same thing to the conservative media. Through much of the campaign, two very different media moguls with colliding visions for the Republican Party vied for Trump’s soul: Roger Ailes, the longtime president and CEO of Fox News, and Steve Bannon, the executive chairman of the populist online tabloid Breitbart. Both were angling to be the media Svengali whispering in Trump’s ear. At one point, it seemed they might have been allies: Bannon worked to insinuate himself at Fox, and Ailes’ network aired some of his populist documentaries. Then came the first Republican primary debate in August 2015, when Megyn Kelly, Fox’s feisty prime-time anchor, hammered the candidate from all sides. It was at that moment that Bannon says his relationship with Ailes began to sour. “The big rift between Breitbart and Fox was all over Megyn Kelly. She was all over Trump nonstop,” Bannon said in an interview. He says he warned Ailes that Kelly would betray him. “I told him then, I said, ‘She’s the devil, and she will turn on you.’”

Politico - April 21, 2017

Trump scrambles Ex-Im Bank politics

The politics around the Export-Import Bank just got much weirder. President Donald Trump is reaching for a compromise in the debate raging around the bank, aiming to keep the agency open while putting an outspoken, ultra-conservative opponent of the institution at the helm. In doing so, Trump has confused the politics around the export credit agency, which had been a major boost to American manufacturers such as Boeing, GE and Caterpillar before Republicans took steps to crimp the flow of financing.

The Hill - April 20, 2017

Business groups silent on Trump's Ex-Im nominee

Businesses that support the Export-Import Bank are silent on President Trump's pick to helm the agency, former Rep. Scott Garrett. The New Jersey Republican voted to close the bank while in Congress, raising questions about how he would run the agency, which has been hobbled by partisan bickering. The 57-year-old Garrett, who failed to win reelection in November after seven terms on Capitol Hill, is a founder of the House Freedom Caucus and has called the Ex-Im Bank "crony capitalism."

The Hill - April 21, 2017

Trump eyes cap on charitable deductions

The Trump administration is taking a serious look at capping tax deductions for charitable contributions, according to a source familiar with the discussions. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Trump’s other senior advisers are mulling their next steps on tax reform, and the proposal to limit deductions for charitable giving hasn’t yet gained widespread acceptance, two officials said. A senior Senate aide said limiting charitable giving is “within the realm of possibility,” although Mnuchin has not raised it explicitly in his meetings with some GOP senators.

Politico - April 20, 2017

Trump plans executive actions on finance, tax rules

President Donald Trump on Friday plans to order a review of key financial rules — less than three months after he directed an even broader examination of Wall Street regulations. Trump will send a signal that two important regulatory powers adopted in the wake of the financial crisis are in the crosshairs, along with tax rules put out by the Obama administration last year. Yet none of the executive actions will have an immediate, tangible impact on any rules. They are the latest in a series of moves to assuage executives and lawmakers impatient over the slow pace of deregulation and tax relief. They also come as the administration is trying to rack up victories before the end of the president's first 100 days in office.

Politico - April 20, 2017

Poll: Voters support allowing Syrian refugees

A majority of voters now support admitting refugees from Syria into the United States, a reversal from a year-and-a-half ago, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released Thursday. Fifty-seven percent of registered voters support accepting Syrian refugees into the country, the poll shows, while only 38 percent oppose accepting refugees from the war-torn, Middle Eastern nation. The last time Quinnipiac asked the question, in December 2015, just 43 percent supported accepting refugees from Syria, while a 51-percent majority opposed allowing them to come to the U.S.

Washington Post - April 20, 2017

White House could provoke a spending showdown over funding for border wall

White House budget director Mick Mulvaney said Thursday that he hopes to use negotiations to keep the government open past April 28 in an effort to force Democrats to back some funding for creating a new wall along the U. S-Mexico border — a risky move that could provoke a spending showdown with congressional Democrats next week. Mulvaney said the White House would be open to funding some of the Democrats’ priorities — such as paying insurance subsidies under the Affordable Care Act — if Democrats agree to fund some of the more controversial parts of President Trump’s agenda, notably the border wall. The new request threatens to undermine weeks of negotiations between Republican leaders and Democrats in Congress to pass a stopgap spending bill to avoid a government shutdown.

Texas Tribune - April 20, 2017

Nancy Pelosi mocks Trump, is bullish on 2018 midterms

A restive and rollicking House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi repeatedly mocked President Donald Trump and House Republicans in a spirited interview with Texas Tribune CEO Evan Smith on Thursday. "Did we ever think we would see the day when we would say, 'Please bring back George W. Bush?" she asked during an Austin taping of the KLRU-TV program Overheard with Evan Smith. "We really did work together." About Trump, she added: "This is a very unusual person to be president of the United States because I don't know if he doesn't know or doesn't care what the American people think ... Maybe it's both."

Associated Press - April 20, 2017

Health care lobby pushes back on Hawaii LGBT fertility bill

Health care lobbyists in Hawaii are pushing lawmakers to kill part of a bill that would expand access to fertility treatments to same-sex couples who want to have a child. They're saying requiring insurers to cover fertility treatments for gestational carriers that male couples rely on could lead to legal problems. Under Hawaii law, insurers are required to cover one round of in vitro fertilization for some married, heterosexual couples. Advocates from the gay and lesbian community are pushing for equal access to that money-saving benefit.

This article appeared in the San Antonio Express News

Dallas Morning News - April 20, 2017

Economy should work 'for all of us,' Bernie Sanders tells crowd at Grand Prairie rally

Calling for an end to corporate welfare and greater opportunities for the middle class, former Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders stormed North Texas on Thursday to rally local voters against the agenda of President Donald Trump. "We have to have an economy that works for all of us, not just the top 1 percent," he said to a crowd of about 2,000 supporters at Grand Prairie's Verizon Theatre. The Vermont senator was in town as part of the national Come Together and Fight Back tour, in which he and Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota, deputy chair of the National Democratic Committee, are visiting red and purple states around the country in a bid to mobilize voters and revitalize the party.

Dallas Morning News - April 20, 2017

Can the GOP salvage its health care bill? Some experts predict crisis comes first

Despite the sharp divisions that sandbagged Republican efforts to overhaul Obamacare last month, many GOP leaders, including President Donald Trump, are holding on to hope that a deal can be reached when Congress returns from a two-week recess. “I think it can be passed. It should be passed,” said Rep. Joe Barton, a Republican from Arlington, in an interview this week. But while media reports suggest lawmakers are nearing compromise, some health care experts are skeptical, predicting Obamacare will reach crisis level before Congress acts. There are such "fundamental divisions and dichotomies between the different branches of the Republican conference, you have to get a sense that if one isn’t a barrier to reaching an agreement, they’ll come up with another one that will work,” said Tom Miller, a resident fellow with the conservative American Enterprise Institute.

Bloomberg - April 20, 2017

Trump Can't Stop California Bullet Train Paid With Bond Sale

California isn’t letting litigation or Donald Trump stand in the way of one of the most expensive and controversial projects in the U.S. The state on Thursday sold $1.25 billion in taxable bonds to finance a $64 billion high-speed rail system, the first debt issue for construction since voters approved it nearly a decade ago. The offering marks a show of faith from officials that the project will proceed despite a lawsuit from a county and farmer opposed to it and roadblocks from the Trump administration, which has delayed a grant that would have benefited the bullet train running from San Francisco to the Los Angeles area.

CNBC - April 20, 2017

Treasury's Mnuchin: We're 'pretty close' to bringing forward 'major tax reform'

The Trump administration is close to bringing forward "major tax reform," Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Thursday, days after he tempered expectations for how quickly it will pass. Mnuchin, who this week backed off of his earlier goal of passing tax reform by August, said the White House will unveil a plan "very soon." However, the Trump administration previously missed several of its deadlines for releasing its tax plan. In terms of timing, he said he hoped passing a tax overhaul will not "take till the end of the year." Mnuchin spoke at the Institute of International Finance Washington Policy Summit, where White House chief economic advisor Gary Cohn was set to appear later Thursday.

Austin American-Statesman - April 20, 2017

The Trump administration has deported a 'dreamer' for first time, advocates say

Juan Manuel Montes Bojorquez appeared to have a promising future in the United States. He is now one of the first dreamers to be deported by President Donald Trump, immigration advocates and lawyers say, violating the protected status undocumented people brought to the United States as children are expected to have. As recently as February, the 23-year-old — who was brought to the United States as a child — had a job picking fruits and vegetables in California fields while he pursued a degree in welding. Montes is a "dreamer" — a beneficiary of President Barack Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

Washington Post - April 20, 2017

GOP leaders play down revisions to health-care bill offered by House moderate

Republicans, under heavy pressure from the White House, are inching closer to passing a bill to repeal and replace parts of the Affordable Care Act, but possible revisions released Thursday may not clinch a deal. The White House said the plan is to circulate revised legislative language Thursday night, followed by a conference call Saturday to gauge support. A top White House official said a tentative aim is for the House to vote next Wednesday on the GOP-backed measure, which would roll back the law’s major health coverage expansions and repeal its taxes and mandates. Yet House Republican leaders are playing down the likelihood that changes to the GOP health-care measure proposed by moderate Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-N.J.) would win over enough conservative and moderate holdouts, who have butted heads over removing some of the Affordable Care Act’s key insurance regulations.

Washington Post - April 20, 2017

Americans prefer how Obama handled foreign policy to how Trump does

A little nugget from a Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday: Half of Americans think that President Trump’s handling of foreign policy is worse than that of President Barack Obama — including a plurality of independents. Interestingly, the poll also finds that a plurality of Americans are more likely to approve than disapprove of Trump’s handling of specific international relationships. Powered by strong support from Republicans, more Americans say they approve of how Trump is handling U.S. policy toward China, North Korea and Syria than say they disapprove. Only on the subject of Russia do more Americans disapprove of Trump’s actions — thanks to softer support from Republicans.

New York Times - April 20, 2017

White House Officials, Craving Progress, Push Revised Health Bill

White House officials, desperate to demonstrate progress on President Trump’s promise to repeal the Affordable Care Act, are pushing to resurrect a Republican health care bill before his 100th day in office next week. Some members of the president’s team have grown consumed by that deadline, worrying that appraisals of the president’s tenure will be brutal and hoping that a last push on health care might bring a measure of salvation. But Congress usually cannot take on two big things at once. At the same moment Mr. Trump hits his 100th day on Saturday, April 29, Republican congressional leaders face a far more urgent deadline: Much of the federal government will run out of money.

April 20, 2017

Lead Stories

Austin American-Statesman - April 19, 2017

Texas House gives preliminary OK to $1.6 billion school finance fix

Legislators on Wednesday embarked on a lofty first step to fixing Texas’ troubled school finance system that has vexed school district leaders across the state for the last couple of decades. The Texas House voted 134 to 16 to give preliminary approval to a $1.6 billion school finance bill after four hours of debating a slew of amendments that would determine how much public schools would get in extra funding over the next two years. The measure will still need a procedural final vote but it will likely move to the Senate. The extra boost in funding stands in stark contrast to the Senate spending plan, which doesn’t propose any extra money beyond what is dictated by enrollment growth and cuts $1.4 billion in state support for public education.

Texas Observer - April 19, 2017

Hooks: The Case of the Missing Governor -- What does Greg Abbott want?

We’re now more than halfway through Greg Abbott’s first term as governor, and we still know little about what makes him tick. He makes periodic public appearances and policy pronouncements, but they often seem oddly detached from what’s happening on the ground in Austin. He has shown neither the zeal nor the ability of his predecessor to shape the world around him to his will. He remains, generally, a mystery. Depending on your policy preferences, it may be a great thing that Abbott has taken a backseat. A lot of people hated Rick Perry’s bullying style, and pre-Perry governors were traditionally pretty toothless. The problem is that eventually — maybe in the next few months — Abbott’s political courage will be tested and he’ll be forced to make choices with big consequences for the state. But with so little evidence available regarding his inclinations, it’s difficult to predict how he’ll respond.

Austin American-Statesman - April 19, 2017

Orrenius, Phillips: Without globalization, adios ‘Texas miracle’

Texas’ outsized economic success is sometimes referred to as the “Texas miracle.” Since 1990, the state has added over 5 million jobs, growing nearly twice as fast as the nation. The numbers for 2017 show Texas growing at an annual rate near 3 percent. Today’s Texas economy rose out of the ashes of the 1980s oil bust and banking crisis and has been one of the biggest economic success stories in the nation. Though tere is no shortage of factors contributing to the state’s emergence, none has been more significant than trade and Texas’ role in globalization. The state’s exports have risen 270 percent in real terms since 1994, the year the North American Free Trade Agreement was implemented. By 2002, Texas was the No. 1 exporting state in the nation. Texas exports totaled $233 billion in 2016, exceeding No. 2 California by $71 billion.

Ft. Worth Star-Telegram - April 19, 2017

Congress’ top tax man isn’t waiting for Trump’s blessing to get going on an overhaul

Top Republicans in the House of Representatives are prepared to begin public hearings next week on an effort to overhaul the nation’s tax code, which threatens to divide Republicans in Congress for the second time in the opening months of President Donald Trump’s administration. Republican Rep. Kevin Brady of Texas, chairman of the powerful Ways and Means Committee, which oversees the nation’s tax policy, is prepared to learn from the mistakes of the failed effort to repeal parts of Obamacare. A comprehensive tax overhaul has not been achieved since President Ronald Reagan’s administration. Instead of devising a tax bill behind closed doors with minimal public input, Brady is prepared to hear weeks, possibly months, of intricate testimony and conversations before lawmakers vote on legislation that could slash personal income taxes for the wealthy, cut corporate tax rates and perhaps impose a 20 percent border tax on goods made in other countries.

Houston Chronicle - April 19, 2017

Senate passes bill to bar Texas from ever again capping special ed access

The Texas Senate moved Wednesday to ban state officials from ever again imposing a cap on the percentage of students allowed to receive special education services. The chamber voted unanimously in favor of Senate Bill 160, putting the legislation just one step away from the desk of Gov. Greg Abbott, who already has indicated his support of the measure. That last step, a vote on the floor of the Texas House, is expected to take place soon.

Dallas Morning News - April 19, 2017

Texas ordered to pay $600,000 to couples who fought gay marriage ban

Two Texas couples who fought to overturn the state's ban on same-sex marriage were awarded more than $600,000 in attorneys fees and other costs, a federal appeals court decided this week. Mark Phariss and husband Vic Holmes and Cleopatra DeLeon and wife Nicole Dimetman waged a years-long legal battle to do away with Texas' anti-gay-marriage laws. On Tuesday, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals awarded their attorneys $585,470.30 in fees and $20,202.90 in other costs. "We're thrilled," said Phariss, who married Holmes in Frisco just months after the U.S. Supreme Court declared same-sex marriage legal nationwide. "It means that our attorneys finally get compensated for all of their hard work."

Politico - April 19, 2017

GOP strategists: Georgia results are a wake-up call

The official Republican message on Wednesday, one day after Georgia’s special election, was that it meant nothing. There is no cause to be alarmed by Democrat Jon Ossoff’s indisputably strong performance. Republican nominee Karen Handel is going to defeat him in the June runoff. There’s no reason to worry about the party’s standing going into the 2018 midterm elections. Unofficially, however, there were plenty of Republican operatives who viewed last week’s Kansas special election and Tuesday’s contest in Georgia as a harbinger of tough times ahead — warning signs that congressional leaders would be crazy to ignore as they craft their legislative strategy for the months ahead.

New York Times - April 20, 2017

Donald Trump Threatens to Sabotage Obamacare

After Republican leaders in Congress failed to destroy the Affordable Care Act last month, President Trump tweeted that the law would “explode.” Now he seems determined to deliver on that prediction through presidential sabotage. Mr. Trump is threatening to kill a program in the A.C.A. that pays health insurers to offer plans with lower deductibles and out-of-pocket expenses to about seven million lower-income and middle-class people. The president thinks that this will get Democrats to negotiate changes to the 2010 health law. This is cruel and incredibly shortsighted. Without these subsidies, health care would be unaffordable for many Americans, including people who voted for Mr. Trump because they were frustrated by high medical costs.

State Stories

Dallas Morning News - April 19, 2017

AT&T, Jerry Jones and other Texas business elite helped bankroll Trump's inauguration

More than 12 percent of President Donald Trump's $106.7 million inauguration fundraising effort came from Texas, as the state's corporations, business executives and big-name GOP donors produced a high-dollar gusher. Among the top Lone Star State givers to Trump's record-breaking haul were Dallas-based AT&T ($2.1 million), Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones ($1 million), Irving-based Exxon Mobil ($500,000) and Kelcy Warren, boss of Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners ($250,000). The fundraising data for the late January spectacle was released early Wednesday in a disclosure posted online by the Federal Election Commission.

Dallas Morning News - April 19, 2017

Texas House's top Democrat urges NFL, NBA to speak out against bathroom bills

The chair of the House Democratic Caucus is urging commissioners of the NFL and NBA to oppose bathroom legislation that he says would be "antithetical to the NFL's stated goals of tolerance and inclusiveness." Arlington Rep. Chris Turner, who represents the area that includes the Dallas Cowboys' AT&T Stadium, sent letters to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and on Wednesday urging them to reject any bills that are inconsistent with their organizations' promises to oppose discrimination. The letters was sent the same day the State Affairs Committee will debate House Bill 2899, which is scheduled to be debated on Wednesday afternoon, would ban cities from passing laws allowing transgender people to use the bathroom that corresponds to their gender identity. It would still allow school districts and municipalities to implement rules to keep trans Texans out of certain restrooms.

Dallas Morning News - April 19, 2017

DMN: House lawmakers should give this costly bathroom bill the boot for good

At a time when the state is scraping together every penny to try to make its budget ends meet, it was alarming to hear Gov. Greg Abbott signal this week that he'd sign an ill-advised "bathroom bill" into law that could zap billions from the Texas economy. Abbott had quietly stood on the sidelines for months as fierce debate on this unnecessary legislation raged in Austin. We'd urged him to take a public stand in defense of Texas by announcing he'd veto the bill. Why is Texas still in the business of trying to dictate where Texans do their business anyway? The governor should be standing with with House Speaker Joe Strauss and other lawmakers who have said since the beginning of this ridiculous controversy that this is a solution looking for a problem.

Dallas Morning News - April 20, 2017

Dallas city officials oppose House bathroom bill during late-night debate

By the time the Gonzales family stood to speak early Thursday morning, their young daughter had fallen asleep. Slung over her father's back, Libby fidgeted and, at one point, yawned, as her parents pleaded with House lawmakers to defend her rights as a transgender girl and a Texan. "Many, many families in Texas, including my own, are counting on you to keep our children safe," Libby's mother Rachel Gonzales told the House Committee on State Affairs just before 2:00 a.m. "Please do not let us down." Libby, 7, had wanted to speak. But she had nodded off, so her parents pleaded on her behalf. House Bill 2899, the so-called bathroom bill being debated that night, would put Libby in danger, her mother: "It's scary enough as a part to know you won't always be able to protect your children from the ugly in this world."

Dallas Morning News - April 18, 2017

Texas House members balk at bill to help CPS workers connect with traumatized kids

A little-noticed bill that proponents say could change Texas' beleaguered child-welfare system for the better seemed headed for passage Tuesday before it hit a speed bump known as the House Freedom Caucus. After several members of the staunchly conservative group said they fear the bill might have been written to aid just one company, its author pulled the measure down. Sugar Land GOP Rep. Rick Miller said Freedom Caucus members, who are generally critics of Speaker Joe Straus, were unfairly casting aspersions and didn't understand his bill. Rep. Rick Miller, R-Sugar Land (2015 AP File Photo) Rep. Rick Miller, R-Sugar Land (2015 AP File Photo) But he agreed to give skeptics time they sought for more study by postponing further consideration.

Dallas Morning News - April 19, 2017

Texas Senate passes 'Tim Tebow Bill' to allow home-schooled students to compete in UIL sports

The Texas Senate passed a bill on Wednesday to allow home-schooled students to participate in University Interscholastic League sports. Senate Bill 640, which passed by a vote of 23-8, would end a years-long ban on home-schooled students from playing with public school teammates. It still needs to pass the Texas House. Sen. Van Taylor, R-Plano, filed the so-called Tim Tebow bill to allow home-school families to pay a fee to participate in University Interscholastic League events. It's named after the former NFL and University of Florida quarterback who was home-schooled in Florida but competed with public-school teammates.

Dallas Morning News - April 19, 2017

Texas public schools would see some funding increases under bill passed by House

The House late Wednesday tentatively approved what its leaders hope will be the first of a multiyear scrubbing of Texas’ barnacle-encrusted system for funding public schools. Lieutenants of Speaker Joe Straus, who has made a school finance overhaul one of his top goals, fended off hostile amendments and advanced the bill despite opposition from some staunch conservatives. The vote was 134-16. The bill, though, has poor prospects of clearing the Senate because of stark differences in the two chambers’ education priorities.

Rep. Dan Huberty (center), R-Houston, conferred with Rep. Byron Cook (left), R-Corsicana, and Rep. Diego Bernal, D-San Antonio, on the House floor before Huberty's bill to add money to most public schools came up for debate Wednesday. (Eric Gay/The Associated Press)

Rep. Dan Huberty (center), R-Houston, conferred with Rep. Byron Cook (left), R-Corsicana, and Rep. Diego Bernal, D-San Antonio, on the House floor before Huberty's bill to add money to most public schools came up for debate Wednesday. (Eric Gay/The Associated Press) If the measure made it to Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk and were signed, though, it would add $38 million a year to Dallas ISD — which is among the 95 percent of districts statewide that would pocket at least some gain.

Dallas Morning News - April 19, 2017

Ted Cruz may face close re-election race in 2018, early Texas poll shows

Sen. Ted Cruz may face a competitive race in his bid for re-election in 2018, a poll released Wednesday shows. The Texas Republican was tied at 30 percent with Rep. Beto O'Rourke, an El Paso Democrat who launched his campaign to challenge Cruz last month, in an early poll of the race conducted by the nonpartisan Texas Lyceum. And Cruz trailed Rep. Joaquin Castro, a San Antonio Democrat expected to announce by the end of the month whether he will also challenge Cruz, by a slim margin of 35 percent to 31 percent. Despite the unusually close numbers, a plurality of Texans — 37 percent — responded that they have not yet thought about the race, which is still 18 months away.

Dallas Morning News - April 19, 2017

Dallas man admits to fraudulently buying and flipping highway land to state at huge profit

A Dallas real estate man has admitted to buying land cheap alongside Interstate 35E and then flipping it to the state at inflated prices after lying about bogus development plans he said would be ruined by the planned highway expansion. Wade Blackburn, 34, pleaded guilty Wednesday in federal court in Sherman to one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud in connection with the land deals with the Texas Department of Transportation in Denton County. He was indicted one year ago along with Kevin Bollman, his business partner. Bollman, 49, has pleaded not guilty and is awaiting trial.

Ft. Worth Star-Telegram - April 19, 2017

Arlington council candidate accused of harassing state Rep. Tony Tinderholt’s wife

A candidate for Arlington City Council is accused of sending threatening, obscene messages to a state representative’s wife, according to an arrest warrant affidavit. Arlington police arrested Matthew Powers, a candidate for District 5, on Feb. 8 after he allegedly sent offensive messages on Twitter to Bethany Tinderholt, wife of state Rep. Tony Tinderholt, according to jail records and the arrest warrant affidavit. On Valentine’s Day in 2016, messages from the Twitter account @CzarofSwag solicited sexual favors from Bethany Tinderholt for $1 and $5, suggested that he watched her in her home and picked the locks, and also mentioned her children: “(A)lso I hope one of your kids gets raped by a pedophile or killed by someone texting. You can thank your husband for that,” one message read, according to the affidavit.

San Antonio Express News - April 19, 2017

Texas Civil Rights Projects urges landowners to seek fair compensation before ceding land for border wall

While landowners may not be able to stop President Donald Trump’s border wall from being built on their property, they can negotiate the price. In recent weeks landowners in western Hidalgo County and Starr County received notices that the Justice Department has resumed condemnation cases on their properties for sections of border wall that were planned but never completed under the 2006 Secure Fence Act. As the government moves forward with its plan to build 34 miles of border fence and levee wall in the Rio Grande Valley, the Texas Civil Rights Projects is urging landowners to consider their right to a jury trial before accepting the U.S. government’s compensation offer.

Austin American-Statesman - April 19, 2017

State Board of Education compromises on how evolution is taught

The State Board of Education has compromised on how Texas high school students will learn about the theory of evolution in school. “I think this is a product … of the board recognizing the input … and working with the committee to come up with an acceptable language … that both meets the expectations of the committee and also balances with it the input I’ve received from constituents, educators, community members and a lot of other folks,” said board vice chairman Marty Rowley, R-Amarillo. On Wednesday, the panel gave preliminary approval of new high school biology curriculum that is slightly pared down from the current standards. The move follows a months-long process examining how evolution should be taught in classrooms.

Austin American-Statesman - April 19, 2017

VA hopes to revitalize Waco research program after troubled past

The Department of Veterans Affairs will look to reboot its once troubled Waco Center of Excellence research program as it inaugurates a long-awaited, 53,000-square-foot facility during a ribbon-cutting ceremony Thursday. The new facility — with enough space for 100 staff members and trainees, a custom-built laboratory wing and numerous examination rooms — will tackle a number of research projects involving traumatic brain injury, Gulf War illness, post-traumatic stress disorder and other psychological injuries suffered by returning war veterans. So far there are 69 staff and faculty members working in the building.

Austin American-Statesman - April 20, 2017

First Reading: Alex Jones: `We’re the most bona fide, hard-core, Real McCoy thing there is.’

I don’t know, but I think before the Alex Jones trial is over I may have to put some money in the Infowars coffers and buy me some Caveman. "It’s the ultimate in true paleonutrition with bone broth, turmeric root, chaga mushrooms and seven total primal superfoods in a single great-tasting forumla. Caveman. It’s those people, living in the wilds, actually having to build civilization that are our superior ancestors, and we need to do everything we can to recapture that." Jones, who does the ad, is, of course, its best advertisement, from his trademark growl to his indefatigable energy. I offer as evidence the following Infowars video. I don’t know exactly when he taped this, whether it was before court yesterday, or immediately after, but just as I filed my story yesterday evening for today’s paper, there in my inbox was an email from Infowars with this.

Austin American-Statesman - April 19, 2017

Texas House gives initial approval to state ride-hailing bill

A bill that would take ride-hailing regulation statewide — and thus smother Austin’s 2015 ordinance governing that industry here — easily passed the Texas House on Wednesday after an exhaustive five-hour debate and the rejection of more than a dozen amendments. Those spurned changes, generally proposed by Austin and Houston Democrats and rebuffed by 100 or more representatives, included attempts to require ride-hailing companies to fingerprint their drivers and to abide by local public votes on ride-hailing regulation. House Bill 100 passed on second reading 110-37. Austin Reps. Gina Hinojosa, Celia Israel, Dawnna Dukes, Donna Howard and Eddie Rodriguez — all of them Democrats — opposed the bill. Central Texas Republican Reps. Larry Gonzales, Paul Workman, Jason Isaac and Tony Dale supported it.

Austin American-Statesman - April 20, 2017

‘COUNTING ON YOU’: Texans testify against transgender bathroom bill through the night

Transgender Texans, and parents of transgender children, flocked to a Capitol hearing that began before midnight and lasted until the early morning to oppose a bill that would block cities and school districts from enacting or enforcing transgender-friendly restroom policies. Several choked back tears as they decried House Bill 2899 as discriminatory, recalling years of rejection, harassment and fear about something most people take for granted – going to a public restroom. “Trans people, we can choose not to transition and hate ourselves, or we can step out and be authentic and often invite hatred upon ourselves merely by existing,” said Emmett Schelling of San Antonio. “This basically green lights citizens who might have a bias already to openly be worse than they already are.”

Austin American-Statesman - April 19, 2017

Senate panel OKs plan to scale back, rather than repeal, top 10% law

A state senator is abandoning his plan to repeal a 20-year-old law that grants high-ranking students automatic admission to any of the more than three dozen public universities in Texas. Instead, Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo, wants to give the schools authority to limit such students to 30 percent of their incoming students living in Texas. The Senate Higher Education Committee, which Seliger chairs, approved his substitute version of Senate Bill 2119 Wednesday afternoon 4-2. The automatic admission law, also known as the top 10 percent law, was enacted in 1997 with a goal of bumping up minority enrollment, especially at the University of Texas, after a lawsuit and a state attorney general’s ruling halted affirmative action in admissions.

Austin American-Statesman - April 19, 2017

As Tesla bills stall, Lege weighs loophole for Buffett

The latest effort by Tesla Inc. to sell the electric cars that it makes directly to Texas consumers appears to have stalled in the Legislature, even as a bid by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc. to win an exception to the strict regulations preventing automobile manufacturers from also owning dealerships is racing forward. Senate Bill 2279 — filed Tuesday by state Sen. Kelly Hancock, R-North Richland Hills — would allow manufacturers to own dealerships “so long as the vehicles they sell or service are not the same type of motor vehicle that they manufacturer or distribute.” It has been scheduled for a Thursday Senate committee hearing. Berkshire Hathaway Automotive, which has 85 dealerships in 10 states and is based in Irving, needs the exception to avoid violating existing Texas law because its parent company owns recreational-vehicle maker Forest River Inc., as well as a large stake in Chinese electric-car maker BYD Co.

Austin American-Statesman - April 19, 2017

Alex Jones means what he says, Infowars host testifies in trial

Testifying at his child custody trial, Alex Jones said Wednesday that he means what he says on Infowars, though he also indulges in satire and comedy on the show. On its multiple platforms Jones’ show reaches at least 70 million people a week, he said. “I believe in the overall political program I am promoting of Americana and freedom,” said Jones, discounting any suggestion that, in his on-air persona, he is “playing a trick on the public.” Jones, who testified for a little more than an hour at the end of the day and will return to the stand on Thursday, described a life in which he successfully melds his on-air role and leadership of a successful media “combine,” and what he described as his most important role as a parent to three children, ages 9, 12 and 14.

Austin American-Statesman - April 19, 2017

UT investment company’s name, board to take on more of an Aggie flavor

You wouldn’t know it at first blush, but the University of Texas Investment Management Co. doesn’t just oversee stocks, bonds and other assets for Longhorn Nation. The $18 billion Permanent University Fund endowment it manages also benefits Aggieland. The investment company’s name and the makeup of its board of directors will soon take on more of an Aggie flavor. On Wednesday, the UT System announced that Chancellor Bill McRaven has decided to relinquish his seat on the nonprofit investment company’s nine-member board of directors so that the UT System Board of Regents can name a representative of the A&M System to the position. The A&M System would thus have three representatives or appointees rather than two on UTIMCO’s board.

Austin American-Statesman - April 19, 2017

Texas bill that would allow ban of same-sex foster parents debated

With the start of a Texas Capitol hearing on a transgender bathroom bill pushed into the late-night hours Wednesday, attention shifted toward a bill that seeks to protect the religious practice of those participating in the child-welfare system. Senate Bill 892 by Sen. Charles Perry, R-Lubbock, seeks to protect faith-based child-placement agencies and foster families from being required to take actions that violate their beliefs — allowing, for example, same-sex couples to be declined as foster parents, or foster children to be denied access to contraceptives or abortion. Opponents — many who were also waiting to testify on the transgender bathroom legislation — called the child-placement bill a state-issued license to discriminate under the guise of protecting religious belief.

Texas Tribune - April 20, 2017

Texas man convicted in double slaying gets Supreme Court hearing Monday

The now-nine justices of the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments Monday morning in the Texas death penalty case of a Fort Worth man who killed a 5-year-old and her grandmother during a children’s birthday party. The issue before the court in the case of 30-year-old death row inmate Erick Davila focuses on a legal distinction between ineffective lawyering in the trial court and during state appeals. The high court’s newest justice, Neil Gorsuch, previously ruled against an argument similar to Davila’s when he sat on the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Texas Tribune - April 19, 2017

Texas education board tentatively votes to change high school biology standards

The Texas State Board of Education tentatively voted to remove language in high school biology standards that would have required students to challenge evolutionary science. Currently, the curriculum requires students to “evaluate” scientific explanations for the origins of DNA and the complexity of certain cells, which some have argued could open the door to teaching creationism. Wednesday's vote, which had been preceded by a lengthy and contentious debate in recent months, would change how science teachers approach such topics in the classroom.

Texas Tribune - April 19, 2017

Gender identity debate seeps into Texas House vote on ride-hailing regulations

After a lengthy debate among lawmakers over the best way to regulate services like Uber and Lyft, the Texas House backed a proposal that would override local regulations concerning ride-hailing companies. House Bill 100, by state Rep. Chris Paddie, R-Marshall, would establish a statewide framework to regulate ride-hailing companies and undo local rules that the two companies have argued are overly burdensome for their business models. Cities enacting such rules say those regulations bring a needed layer of security. As of mid-morning Wednesday, 79 members in the 150-member House — including Paddie — had signed on to the bill as authors or co-authors.

Texas Tribune - April 20, 2017

For troubled foster kids in Houston, sleeping in offices is "rock bottom"

The walls, painted blue and yellow, are accented with inspirational words: “HOPE. BELIEVE. DREAM. FAITH.” Shelves and cubbies line one wall, stacked with toys and books. The room has a television and a limited supply of board games. Cribs are set up next door for napping infants. There’s a laundry room, showers, and a large closet full of extra clothes and toiletries. Sometimes the staff take the kids outside to use the basketball pavilion. That’s about all there is to do. No one is supposed to sleep or spend more than a few hours in this little building at the Harris County Youth Services Center, called the Point of Entry. It’s meant to be a waiting area for young children whose families are being investigated for abuse or neglect.

Houston Chronicle - April 20, 2017

HC: Legislative failure -- Texas legislators need to figure out how to fund a budget to meet the needs of the state.

What's happening under the pink dome of our state capitol would be funny if it weren't so serious. Something like a dysfunctional family starring in a situation comedy, the politicians running the Texas Senate and House are bickering and sniping at each other over a lot of silliness seemingly included in the Legislature's storyline strictly for entertainment value. As Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick steals scenes with his potty protection plan, it's only by contrast that House Speaker Joe Straus seems like the straight man. But what we're paying these characters to do in Austin is no laughing matter.

Houston Chronicle - April 20, 2017

Legislative fix to Texas' billboard ban is racing against end-of--session deadline

State lawmakers are racing against the clock to correct Texas’ sign ordinance, struck down last year by an appeals court, or else “Keep Texas Beautiful” might take a two-year hiatus when it comes to billboards. State House and State Senate committees both in the past week discussed legislation to make highway sign rules rely on prohibiting commercial use of signs near roadways and not on what message is being conveyed. The Texas House Transportation Committee passed its version of a fix Thursday morning. Similar legislation is pending in the Senate Transportation Committee, which discussed it Wednesday.

Austin American-Statesman - April 19, 2017

Dallas Fed: Oil recovery adds momentum to region’s growing economy

The energy sector’s continued stabilization, an increase in retail sales and solid demand across a wide spectrum of industries boosted regional economic activity in recent weeks, according to a report Wednesday from the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. In its chapter of the Beige Book, an anecdotal survey of the economy compiled every six weeks by the Federal Reserve banks, the Dallas Fed said the economic activity in its district “expanded moderately … with a slight acceleration from the prior reporting period.” The Dallas Fed’s district includes all of Texas and parts of New Mexico and Louisiana. Texas accounts for more than 95 percent of the region’s economic activity.

Houston Chronicle - April 18, 2017

'Barbecue bill' has Texas pitmasters excitedly watching the Texas legislature

Some barbecue fans and pitmasters are watching the legislature closely as a bill that could change how they are charged at their favorite barbecue counter goes before the Texas House. A proposed law, House Bill 2029, would exempt certain businesses, like barbecue restaurants, from having to register scales for inspections. The bill could be voted on this week. It was scheduled to be looked at on Tuesday, April 18. On Monday Texas Monthly's barbecue boss Daniel Vaughn wrote about the bill, noting that it would exempt places where foods are weighed for immediate consumption, and not deli or butcher counters.

Abilene Reporter-News - April 18, 2017

Thompson admired as politician, professor

One of the first professors Tom Brite met when he enrolled at Abilene Christian University in 1978 was Dr. Gary Thompson, who was just beginning a campaign for a seat in the Texas Legislature. Brite had an interest in politics and began volunteering in Thompson’s office – which soon became a full-time gig. “I basically ran his campaign,” Brite, now an attorney in San Antonio, recalled of his mentor Thompson, who died Thursday [Apr. 13] in Blacksburg, Virginia, after a brief illness. Thompson, 80, will be buried at 4 p.m. Saturday in the Texas State Cemetery in Austin.

Houston Chronicle - April 19, 2017

House to AG: Declare Texas Senate budget plan illegal

In a clear signal of a war over the state budget, House leaders are asking Attorney Ken Paxton to block an accounting maneuver by Senate leaders that would give them an additional $2.5 billion to balance their draft version of the budget. At issue: A four-word phrase in the Texas Constitution that directs the Texas comptroller to deposit the $2.5 billion for highway funding "in that state fiscal year" when the revenue was collected as taxes. At a time when final budget negotiations between the two chambers are poised to start, House Speaker Joe Straus and Rep. John Zerwas, the House's budget czar, blasted the Senate plan to delay the transfer of money into the state highway fund as "clearly and unambiguously" violating the state Constitution on such transfers.

KTVT - April 19, 2017

Study: Texas Among Top 20 States With Most Distracted Drivers

Many people guilty of using their phones while driving – even if they don’t admit it. According to a new study, distracted driving is probably worse than you think, with drivers looking at their smartphones on 88 out of 100 trips. The study conducted by Zendrive has Texas as the 17th worse state for phone-distracted drivers. The study found that during an hour-long trip, drivers in the U.S. spent an average of 3.5-minutes using their phones. Some North Texans who have their phones out while on the road say they use the devices to listen to music, check social media, or just stay reachable. But Garland police spokesman Lieutenant Pedro Barineau said none of those are more important than safety. “Put your phone down. You can text or get on your phone later. But when you’re driving it’s very, very important to pay attention to what’s going on around you.”

Texas Public Radio - April 17, 2017

Could A San Antonio Federal Panel Resolve Texas’ Redistricting Issue After Six Years?

It might be hard to believe, but Texas’s voting maps, those lines that decide where your representative district is and what seat you’re voting for, have been in flux for the past six years. Large swaths of the state from Dallas to San Antonio out towards El Paso have had their congressional and state House districts disputed since 2011. That’s when the state’s Republican-led legislature re-drew the maps. The Texas Constitution requires the state legislature re-draw these districts after each census, to make sure these geographic boundaries contain the same amount of people. Minority advocacy groups did not like those 2011 maps, and said they were deliberately designed to negatively affect African American and Latino voters. Cue lawsuits, court battles, and then just last month a panel of federal judges ruled three Texas congressional districts were illegal.

Texas Observer - April 18, 2017

Sadasivam: Lawmaker Hopes Bill Will Encourage Legislature to End Shady Accounting Practice

Texas collects millions of dollars every year from residents to improve air quality, but almost never spends it all. Instead, the Legislature hoards the money through an accounting gimmick and uses it to balance the budget. A Texas lawmaker laid out a plan to end that practice at a committee hearing Tuesday morning, but faced opposition from environmental and business groups. Representative Joe Pickett, D-El Paso, introduced two bills in the House Environmental Regulation Committee that would in part suspend more than $200 million in collections into the Texas Emission Reduction Plan fund — a program that provides money to improve air quality — in the hopes that it would spur lawmakers to appropriate money from the current $1.27 billion balance in the fund. While advocates from environmental and business groups agreed that the fund balance should be spent to reduce smog, they argued that halting revenue to the fund might make it difficult to restart the program down the line.

Wide Open Country - April 19, 2017

Map Shows Texas Divided into 9 Equal States

To say Texas is big would be the understatement of the century. It would take about 12 hours to drive across the state from Texarkana to El Paso. Throughout Texas, you’ll find lush forests, rolling hills, flatlands, beaches and desert. Along with a changing landscape, you encounter small towns, sprawling cities and a variety of individual cultures. Much ado has been made about how many states (and even countries!) could fit inside the state of Texas. But what if Texas itself was divided into separate states? A helpful Redditor created a map of Texas, divided into nine equal states based on population. Each “state” has a population of around 3 million. Take a look.

McAllen Monitor - April 19, 2017

Keller, Lakey: Texas Legislature needs to 'transform' state's mental health hospitals

Imagine this common, tragic scenario: Your previously healthy family member has developed increasing difficulty managing their finances, job or relationships. A doctor diagnoses depression or another mental illness. There is a risk the patient could hurt themselves or others. Or maybe they committed a minor crime such as trespassing, and were arrested. At the police station they are diagnosed as having a mental illness and need to go to a hospital. In both cases your loved one may spend weeks or even months in jail before being sent to a Texas state mental health hospital, which is poorly designed for healing. At some of those hospitals, entire wards are closed due to mold. Up to five patients share a room. Campuses, which were built to house 3,000 people a century ago, now hold 300 people and the unused wards remain, rotting and falling down. Because of the poor healing environment, your loved one stays in the hospital longer than needed. Taxpayer money is wasted because of the poor design of the facility and the length of stays. Staff and patients are more likely to be physically injured because of the crowded conditions.

New York Times - April 20, 2017

Beeson: Texans Gone Wild

IN the wee hours of Nov. 9, I had an overwhelming urge to climb up on my roof here with a megaphone and shout to the rest of the country, “Welcome to Texas, y’all!” Republicans have controlled all three branches of government in my home state for more than a decade. Many policies now being championed by President Trump and Congressional leaders seem old hat to Texans: defunding public education, going after immigrants, shredding the safety net. But rather than resting their boots on the table, political leaders in Texas have moved farther to the right. Our 140-day every-other-year Texas legislative session began in January. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick — who controls the Senate and is arguably more powerful than Gov. Greg Abbott — is leading the far-right charge. Under his sway, the Senate has already passed bills that starve government, crack down on undocumented immigrants and discriminate against transgender people.

McAllen Monitor - April 18, 2017

Lt. Governor appoints 'Chuy' Hinojosa to critical budget committee

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick brought relief to many in the Rio Grande Valley by appointing state Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa to the critical budget conference committee on Tuesday, a move that could be beneficial for the new medical school. “I am honored to have been selected by Lt. Gov. Patrick to serve on the Senate Conference Committee,” Hinojosa said in a written statement. “It is critical we work together to sort out the significant differences between the House and Senate versions to invest efficiently in our state programs.” The conference committee is made up of members of the Senate and House, with each chamber appointing five members to work out differences in state’s two-year spending plan.

Texas Monthly - April 19, 2017

Mann: As they lose sway among Texas Republicans, big businesses should try something radical: an alliance with Democrats.

he accusations started flying in December. The Texas Legislature was about to convene its eighty-fifth session, and those darn liberals were once again obstructing progress, or so conservatives claimed. On December 13, the right-wing advocates at Empower Texans posted a piece on their website titled “Just Another Liberal Lobby Group” in which they wrote with typical restraint, “One prominent Austin lobby group has been in the tank for bigger government for a long time, but their vanity is now taking them even deeper down the drain.” A week earlier, socially conservative state representative Matt Shaheen, of Plano, had written an op-ed for the Texas Tribune attacking the same group for “partnering with liberal anti-traditional family groups, opposing religious freedom, and supporting ordinances that prosecute citizens for believing in traditional marriage.” Who were these wild-eyed leftists? The ACLU? MoveOn.org? Hollywood Liberals for a Blue Texas? No, no, and no (in fact, that last one doesn’t actually exist). Turns out, the group in question was the Texas Association of Business.

County Stories

San Antonio Express News - April 19, 2017

Bexar County STAAR results show reading scores declined

Passing rates for fifth- and eighth-graders who took Texas’ standardized reading test were down compared to last year at most traditional public school districts in Bexar County, according to data released Tuesday. Results on the math exams for both grades were mixed, with passing rates increasing in some districts and dropping in others. Statewide averages for the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness, or the STAAR, likely will not be available until next week, said DeEtta Culbertson, a Texas Education Agency spokeswoman.

Dallas Morning News - April 19, 2017

Ragland: Prosecutors may have thrown jurors a curveball with too many flimsy charges against John Wiley Price

By swinging wildly for the fences in their public corruption case against Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price, prosecutors could strike out. I'm not saying that Price didn't do anything wrong — or possibly even criminal, as the 11 federal counts of bribery, conspiracy and tax evasion against him charge. What I am saying is that prosecutors presented such a muddled and meandering legal case that it may make it impossible for 12 jurors to agree on anything — except, perhaps, for the tax-related stuff. You know the saying: If the government can't get you on anything else, it can always nail you on your taxes. That's how the feds got Al Capone.

Houston Chronicle - April 19, 2017

Proposed Harris County 'recovery school' gets green light

Harris County students struggling with substance abuse and addiction could soon have a high school to address their specific needs, part of a nascent trend toward viewing drug abuse by teenagers and others as something that requires treatment rather than punishment. The Harris County Department of Education voted 4-0 this week to create a "recovery high school" in one of the department's facilities in North Houston and provide $950,000 to help launch it. Plans call for the school to open in September with about 30 students. It would be the first traditional public school in the region - and the third in Texas - to specifically target students accused of substance abuse. Currently, only two schools educate such students in the Houston area, according to the Association of Recovery Schools. Both charge tuition, although one is private and the other is a private-charter hybrid.

City Stories

Houston Chronicle - April 20, 2017

Lyda Ann Thomas, ex-Galveston mayor who guided city through Hurricane Ike, dies at 80

Former Galveston Mayor Lyda Ann Thomas, who led the city during Hurricane Ike and in the long recovery from the storm's devastation, died Wednesday after a long illness with a rare form of cancer. She was 80. Thomas died about 2 p.m. at her home, said Trey Click, a family friend. Thomas was one of the city's most popular politicians, serving 12 years on the City Council as a council member and mayor. She was also a member of the Kempner family, one of three influential families whose members have helped shape Galveston throughout its history.

Austin American-Statesman - April 20, 2017

From traffic to tacos, poll gauges diverging Austin attitudes

Austin is a pain to get around in, things cost too much, and there are too many people when you do manage to get there. But what a great place to live! That’s the takeaway from the latest Zandan Poll, a wide-ranging look at Austin-area attitudes about everything from transportation to tacos, from gentrification to guacamole, and from President Donald Trump to, well, Trump’s border wall. Transportation and affordability, as they were in a similar 2015 survey by pollster Peter Zandan, remain the greatest concerns of the 800-plus people who were interviewed online in March for the poll. Asked to name the three most important issues facing Central Texas, 74 percent cited traffic and roads and 46 percent pointed to some combination of affordability, the cost of living, affordable housing and gentrification.

National Stories

Washington Post - April 20, 2017

Blake: The Trump administration is way behind the times on marijuana

The Trump administration is threatening a crackdown on states that have legalized marijuana for recreational use. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said the drug is only “slightly less awful” than heroin. And Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly this week labeled it a “dangerous gateway drug.” They are way behind the times. A new CBS News poll — it's 4/20, get it? — shows the fast march toward legal marijuana continues apace, with 61 percent of registered voters favoring it — an all-time high (so to speak). This includes 46 percent of Republicans who are now, remarkably, about evenly split on the question (46 percent in favor vs. 49 percent against).

Washington Post - April 19, 2017

Supreme Court case could pave the way for vouchers for Christian schools — or do just the opposite

The specific question that the Supreme Court discussed Wednesday morning may have been settled before the justices even heard the case. The matter concerns a Lutheran church in Missouri which applied for state funding to refurbish its preschool playground, but was told that the state Constitution forbids financially supporting a religious institution. The question of whether the church should be eligible for the playground funding made it all the way to the highest court in the nation — but then last week, Missouri’s new governor declared that he was changing the policy, and the church could apply for the playground program after all. Case closed, right? Not for the Supreme Court, which heard arguments in Trinity Lutheran Church v. Comer on Wednesday despite the late-breaking news from Missouri.

The Hill - April 19, 2017

Health subsidy demand jams up shutdown fight

Democrats’ demand that ObamaCare subsidies be wrapped into a must-pass spending package is complicating GOP efforts to prevent a government shutdown at the end of next week. Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) has signaled no plans to include the subsidies in a bill to keep the government open, but President Trump’s recent threat to withhold the subsidies to insurers has led several top Republicans to intervene. The GOP critics warn that eliminating the subsidies would upend insurance markets and steal coverage from their most vulnerable constituents.

Washington Post - April 20, 2017

Trump and his aides sow confusion by sending mixed signals on foreign affairs

As he nears his 100th day in office, President Trump’s efforts to appear decisive and unequivocal in his responses to fast-moving global crises have been undercut by confusing and conflicting messages from within his administration. Over the past two weeks, policy pronouncements from senior Trump aides have often been at odds with one another — such as whether Syrian President Bashar al-Assad must leave power as part of a negotiated resolution to end that nation’s civil war. In other cases, formal White House written statements have conflicted with those from government agencies, even on the same day. For example, Monday brought disparate U.S. reactions — supportive from Trump, chiding from the State Department — to the Turkish referendum this week that strengthened President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s authoritarian rule.

Dallas Morning News - April 19, 2017

Adeptus files for bankruptcy after string of losses

The nation's largest freestanding ER announced today that it is filing for bankruptcy after a long string of losses as its business model cratered. Dallas-based Adeptus said in a news release that its facilities were operating normally during the restructuring. "As always, our facilities are open 24-7, and we are continuing to offer rapid access to board-certified physicians on-site. Importantly, we expect to continue working with our vendors and supporting the medical staff in our facilities as normal throughout this process," Gregory W. Scott, interim chief executive officer of Adeptus, was quoted in the release as saying.

Politico - April 20, 2017

5 reasons the government might shut down

The deadline to keep the federal government open is just about here, but a deal is far from done. With just five workdays left until government funding expires, lawmakers return next week to all the same sticking points that have made full-year funding so elusive and now threaten a government shutdown. Working down to the wire on a spending package is nothing new for the modern Congress. And the odds are against a funding lapse. But both parties see the must-pass funding bill as leverage to secure their priorities, making the situation dicey.

Politico - April 20, 2017

Judge attacked by Trump to oversee 'Dreamer' deportation lawsuit

Gonzalo Curiel, the judge Donald Trump attacked as a candidate because of his “Mexican heritage,” will hear another case involving the president — this time, a lawsuit filed against his administration by a 23-year-old undocumented immigrant who was recently deported. Juan Manuel Montes, who had protected status under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, also known as the Dreamers program, filed a complaint on Tuesday arguing that government officials who deported him to Mexico failed to offer him documents outlining why his deportation was legal.

Politico - April 20, 2017

Lowry: A Trump Victory on the Border

Donald Trump's saber-rattling may or may not deter Kim Jong-Un, but it has had an effect south of the border. In the first few months of this year, illegal border crossings have dropped precipitously, according to federal statistics and anecdotal evidence. It is an early proof of concept that, yes, it is possible to secure the border and a victory, even if a provisional and incomplete one, for President Trump's enforcement agenda. Once you stripped away the bluster and impossibilities from Trump's rhetoric on immigration during the campaign — there wasn't going to be a wall along the entire border paid for by Mexico, nor were there going to be mass deportations and a Muslim ban — the irreducible core of his message was a commitment to crack down on illegal border crossings.

Associated Press - April 20, 2017

Busy year for protests could cost Washington millions

The major protests in Washington that have greeted President Donald Trump's first year in office are set to return in force, continuing an already expensive year for city officials who work to keep people safe during mass gatherings. With polls showing Trump facing unusually strong disapproval of his agenda in the first 100 days of a presidency, organizers are promising spring rallies for a variety of mostly liberal causes including science, climate change, immigrants' rights, gay rights and arts funding. Last weekend, demonstrators called on Trump to release his tax returns. District of Columbia officials are accustomed to accommodating First Amendment demonstrations. But there's a real chance the city will burn through the money it gets every year from Congress to cover police overtime and other costs.

This article appeared in the San Antonio Express News

Associated Press - April 20, 2017

Arkansas execution plan again thrown into doubt

An aggressive effort by the state of Arkansas to carry out its first executions since 2005 stalled for the second time this week as courts blocked lethal injections planned for Thursday, prompting Gov. Asa Hutchinson to express frustration at what he believes are legal delaying tactics. While the latest court rulings could be overturned, Arkansas now faces an uphill battle to execute any inmates before the end of April, when one of its lethal injection drugs expires. The state originally set eight executions over an 11-day period in April, which would have been the most by a state in such a compressed period since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976. But Arkansas has faced a wave of legal challenges.

This article appeared in the San Antonio Express News

Associated Press - April 20, 2017

Applications for US jobless aid rise but remain at low level

More people sought U.S. unemployment benefits last week, yet total applications remained at a historically low level that suggests workers are enjoying solid job security. THE NUMBERS: Weekly applications for unemployment benefits rose 10,000 to a seasonally adjusted 244,000, the Labor Department said Thursday. The four-week average, a less volatile measure, fell to 243,000. The number of Americans seeking benefits dropped 49,000 to 1.98 million, the fewest since April 2000. That figure has declined 7.7 percent in the past year. THE TAKEAWAY: Applications are a proxy for layoffs. They have been below the 300,000 benchmark for 111 weeks. That's the longest such streak since 1970.

Houston Chronicle - April 20, 2017

Tomlinson: H-1B debate is much ado about very little

Rarely have so many people produced so much hot air, or spilled so much ink, over an issue of such little importance as the H1-B visa program. Only 65,000 people a year participate in the system by which U.S. companies hire highly-skilled immigrants or recent foreign graduates of U.S. universities. That's 0.0004 percent of the 160 million Americans who make up the nation's workforce. The 65,000 H1-B visas granted in 2016 represent only 0.3 percent of the 2 million jobs created in the United States in 2016. And yet President Donald Trump and conservative Republicans would have you think that possible visa abuse presents a clear and present danger to the economic future of the average American. Bull hockey!

Houston Chronicle - April 20, 2017

HC: Democracy speaks -- Critics should not "shut up" about this nation's broken immigration system.

Yessir, General! Sir! What were we thinking? Ours is not to reason why; ours is but to do or. "Shut up!" We're quoting Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, a retired four-star Marine general, one of Donald Trump's coterie of military tough guys who revert occasionally to their Pattonesque persona. Trump, perhaps recalling his military-school youth, is no doubt thrilled. The rest of us, citizens of a fractious democracy where debate and disagreement are patriotic duties, need to remind these guys that they're no longer in uniform. Their wish is not our command.

Politico - April 19, 2017

Companies with issues before government wrote big checks for Trump's inauguration

President Donald Trump’s record $106.7 million inauguration fundraising haul drew heavily from U.S. companies with policy issues in front of the new Republican administration, according to documents released Wednesday. AT&T, the largest single corporate donor for January’s official government handover, gave $2.1 million as it awaits federal approval of its merger with Time Warner. San Diego-based Qualcomm donated $1 million while it continues to fight an Obama-era Federal Trade Commission anti-competitiveness complaint. Other Trump inauguration corporate donors — named in an exhaustive 510-page Federal Election Commission report — are among those who have been directly criticized by Trump himself. General Motors supplied nearly a half-million dollars to the president’s inauguration, including “in-kind” donations of vehicle services, even as it fends off his criticism for making Chevy Cruze models in Mexico. Defense contractor Boeing gave $1 million despite Trump’s complaints about its new Air Force One contract.

Washington Post - April 19, 2017

Even in red states, Republicans feel free to criticize Trump on his taxes and travel

Oklahoma may be Trump country, but that did not prevent James Lankford (R), the state’s junior senator, from criticizing President Trump this week by saying he ought to “keep his promise” to release his tax returns. Nor did Trump’s popularity in Iowa stop Sen. Joni Ernst (R) from telling her constituents there that she is perturbed by the president’s frequent jaunts to his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Fla. “I do wish he would spend more time in Washington, D.C. That is what we have the White House for,” Ernst said at a town hall meeting Tuesday in Wall Lake, Iowa. She said she has not spoken to Trump about “the Florida issue,” but it “has been bothering not just me, but some other members of our caucus.”

Washington Post - April 19, 2017

There’s also a partisan split in *when* people vote.

Cook Political Report’s Dave Wasserman made an interesting observation on Twitter on Tuesday evening. "Increasing polarization of U.S. elections isn't just geographic; it's how we vote. Dems show up early, Republicans voting on Election Day." He was responding directly to the results of a special election in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District. As expected, based on who’d already returned ballots, Democrat Jon Ossoff jumped out to an early lead when the state published the results from early voting. But as votes from Election Day itself were counted, Ossoff’s lead narrowed quickly. He went from having more than 70 percent of the vote to less than 50 percent as the night wore on — not enough to avoid a runoff race in June. Wasserman was also referring, though, to any number of other recent, similar examples.

Associated Press - April 19, 2017

Newspaper decline continues to weigh on AP earnings

Earnings at The Associated Press shrank substantially last year compared with 2015, when the news organization enjoyed a large tax benefit that skewed its results. Revenue also edged downward, reflecting continued contraction in the newspaper industry and a stronger U.S. dollar that reduced the value of overseas sales. Net income last year shrank to $1.6 million from $183.6 million in 2015, a 99 percent decline. The 2015 profit figure was bolstered by a one-time, $165 million tax benefit. AP's 2014 net income of $140.9 million was also boosted by a large non-recurring gain from the sale of a stake in a sports data company. In 2013, net income at the AP — a nonprofit news cooperative — was $3.3 million.

This article appeared in the San Antonio Express News

Politico - April 19, 2017

Sessions: ‘We can’t promise’ DREAMers won’t be deported

Attorney General Jeff Sessions could not promise that so-called DREAMers, or participants in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, will not be deported, when he was interviewed Wednesday morning on Fox News. Sessions fielded questions from host Jenna Lee about an undocumented immigrant who claims he was deported to Mexico despite his enrollment in the program, which was created through administrative action during the Obama administration. The program allows undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. at a young age to apply for deportation relief and work permits. In a federal lawsuit filed Tuesday, Juan Manuel Montes, a 23-year-old enrollee in the program, claimed he was sent to Mexico in February despite active DACA status.

Dallas Morning News - April 19, 2017

Forbes, Kudlow, Laffer, Moore: Trump should tackle tax reform now

In the aftermath of the health care blowup, President Donald Trump and the Republicans need a legislative victory. Tax reform probably should have gone first, but now is the time to move it forward with urgency. Unfortunately, the White House seems all over the map on the subject. One day there is a trial balloon for a value-added tax. The next, there's the idea of a carbon tax or a reciprocal tax. And now we are hearing the curveball of a payroll tax cut. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin has thrown cold water on the idea of any tax bill meeting the August deadline. One sure lesson from the health care setback is the old admonition "Keep it simple, stupid." The Republicans tried to fix the trillion-dollar health insurance market instead of keeping the focus on repealing the Affordable Care Act. They have a chance to make amends with a new tax bill and still hit the August deadline. We advised Trump during his election campaign, and we believe the Republican Party's lesson for tax reform is this: Don't try to rewrite the entire tax code in one bill.

Dallas Morning News - April 19, 2017

Leubsdorf: Bernie Sanders is taking over the Democratic Party

The 2016 presidential nominating race was barely over, and already Bernie Sanders was looking ahead. Days before the Democratic National Convention formally nominated Hillary Clinton, the Vermont senator transformed his 2016 campaign organization into Our Revolution to promote his progressive proposals, back like-minded candidates and, in essence, take over the Democratic Party. "We have begun a political revolution to transform America, and that revolution, our revolution, continues," Sanders told the convention, endorsing Clinton but making clear his quest to remake the Democratic Party would continue, regardless of the outcome.

April 19, 2017

Lead Stories

Austin American-Statesman - April 19, 2017

House set to OK statewide ride-hailing law

A bill that would take ride-hailing regulation statewide, and thus smother Austin’s 2015 ordinance governing the industry here, is expected to sail through the Texas House Wednesday. The legislation, House Bill 100, sponsored by state Rep. Chris Paddie, R-Marshall, would require a second vote as early as Thursday for final passage. Paddie’s bill would put businesses such as Uber, Lyft, Fasten and RideAustin under the oversight of the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation and includes substantial annual fees for those businesses.

Austin American-Statesman - April 18, 2017

Gov. Abbott says he wants to sign a transgender bathroom bill

No longer silent on an issue that has roiled the Legislature for months, Gov. Greg Abbott said Tuesday that he wants to work with the House and Senate to approve a transgender bathroom bill. “I support the principles of both the Senate and House to protect privacy in bathrooms. We will work to get a bill to my desk,” Abbott said via Twitter. Abbott’s statement of support came one day before a House committee was to begin debate on a new measure that would block cities, counties and school districts from enacting or enforcing transgender-friendly restroom policies.

Texas Tribune - April 18, 2017

Texas House approves online posting of politicians' personal financial statements

Inching toward 21st century transparency, the Texas House on Tuesday preliminarily approved — in a unanimous vote — to require that the personal financial statements of state politicians and bureaucrats be posted online. The proposal, offered by Rep. Chris Turner, D-Grand Prairie, was tucked into a non-controversial bill, HB 1377, making minor tweaks to the content of the personal financial disclosures. The disclosures, filed annually with the Texas Ethics Commission, can highlight potential conflicts of interest by legislators and agency heads. Previous attempts to require online posting of the reports, which under current law cannot be published on the internet by the Ethics Commission, have gone nowhere — drawing criticism from ethics watchdogs who say the lawmakers don’t want sunlight on their financial holdings.

Texas Tribune - April 18, 2017

Senate budget "unambiguously" unconstitutional, House leadership says

Accusing Senate budget writers of “clearly and unambiguously” contradicting the Texas Constitution, House leaders on Tuesday urged the state’s top lawyer to take their side in a dispute over how state lawmakers should be allowed to balance the books. It’s the latest development in an ongoing battle between the two legislative chambers as they seek to reconcile major differences in their budget proposals about what public programs to fund and how to fund them. At issue is a controversial accounting maneuver intended by the Senate to free up $2.5 billion by strategically delaying a payment to the state’s highway fund.

CNN - April 18, 2017

FBI used dossier allegations to bolster Trump-Russia investigation

The FBI last year used a dossier of allegations of Russian ties to Donald Trump's campaign as part of the justification to win approval to secretly monitor a Trump associate, according to US officials briefed on the investigation. The dossier has also been cited by FBI Director James Comey in some of his briefings to members of Congress in recent weeks, as one of the sources of information the bureau has used to bolster its investigation, according to US officials briefed on the probe. This includes approval from the secret court that oversees the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) to monitor the communications of Carter Page, two of the officials said. Last year, Page was identified by the Trump campaign as an adviser on national security.

The Hill - April 19, 2017

Dem Jon Ossoff fails to avert runoff in Ga. special election

Democrat Jon Ossoff is projected to advance to a runoff in Georgia's special election after failing to clinch a majority of the vote on Tuesday in order to avoid another election in late June. Ossoff led the crowded 18-candidate field in Tuesday’s “jungle primary” to fill the seat vacated by Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price. But since he didn’t clear the 50 percent threshold, he will now compete in a runoff with the second-place finisher, Republican Karen Handel, on June 20. Democratic hopes that Ossoff could win outright were buoyed early Tuesday evening by promising early vote returns, but Ossoff’s vote share continued to drop as more precincts reported their votes. Reports of technical glitches stemming from Fulton County delayed the results for hours as Ossoff hovered right at that 50 percent threshold.

Dallas Morning News - April 19, 2017

McClure: The Texas Legislature passed up an opportunity to save taxpayers a lot of money

Earlier this month Texas lawmakers overlooked an opportunity to expand two very effective means of preventing child maltreatment, opportunities that would have saved the state a lot of pennies for tomorrow. Billions, in fact. We know from research the root cause of people repeatedly flowing into our social welfare and corrections systems is often child maltreatment. A landmark study by Kaiser Permanente and the Centers for Disease Control surveyed Kaiser's 17,000 patients to determine the major drivers of health care costs for diseases such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease and cancer. They found that in step-wise fashion, the more adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) their patients suffered, sexual or physical abuse, neglect, parent incarceration and similar events, the more likely these patients engaged in maladaptive coping behaviors such as substance abuse, smoking and poor eating, which contributed to life-threatening disease in adulthood.

The Hill - April 18, 2017

House Democrat introduces bill to amend presidential removal procedures

A House Democrat has introduced legislation to enhance the Constitution’s presidential removal procedures in response to concerns about President Trump’s behavior. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) filed the bill during the House's two-week April recess to empower former presidents and vice presidents of both parties, in coordination with the sitting vice president, to determine if a president is fit for office. “It is hard to imagine a better group to work with the vice president to examine whether the president is able to discharge the duties of the office. When there are questions about the president’s ability to fulfill his or her constitutional responsibilities, it is in the country’s best interest to have a mechanism in place that works effectively,” Blumenauer said in a statement.

Time - April 18, 2017

The Koch Brothers Are Helping More Immigrants Get Help

For years, few of Morella Aguado's Miami neighbors wanted to talk too deeply about their immigration status with her. Some were in the United States legally; others were not. But regardless, they preferred to keep their chatter with an immigration attorney who lived down the block on safer subjects like how their families were doing. ... “It is chaotic. People are very, very worried about their situation," says Aguado. "One of the things that has been a positive thing through this stress that people have is that they’re more interested in becoming U.S. citizens. She now spends time volunteering to help her neighbors and strangers alike to figure out their immigration status, get papers in order and, in many cases, start the process of converting their legal status into citizenship. The patrons who organize these consultation? The conservative billionaires Charles and David Koch and their deep-pocketed pals who are continuing to spend millions to help promote free-market ideas in Latino communities across the country.

Dallas Morning News - April 18, 2017

McManus: Trump's populist revolution is already over — for now

Not yet 100 days into Donald Trump's presidency, the populist revolution he seemed to promise is already over — at least for now. Two weeks of head-spinning policy reversals have put Trump squarely inside the chalk lines of conventional Republican conservatism on both economics and foreign affairs. His impulsive management style and his fact-challenged rhetoric are still intact. But most of his policy positions are now remarkably similar to those espoused by the GOP's last establishment nominee, Mitt Romney, in 2012. Consider: In foreign policy, Trump once derided traditional alliances like the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, said he'd seek an alliance with Russia's Vladimir Putin and promised to avoid entanglement in Syria's civil war. In the last 10 days, Trump praised NATO, confronted Russia and ordered a missile strike against Syria in retaliation for a chemical weapons attack.

Austin American-Statesman - April 18, 2017

State bill to overturn Austin short-term rental rules clears Senate

A state bill that would overturn Austin’s rules governing short-term rental properties passed the Texas Senate on Tuesday, bringing it a step closer to becoming law. The bill, from Sen. Kelly Hancock, R- North Richland Hills,would bar cities from prohibiting short-term rentalsand allow jurisdictions to regulate them only for health and safety purposes. The fight over short-term rental properties, often listed on sites such as Airbnb or HomeAway, has been contentious in Austin,pitting neighbors complaining of party houses in residential areas against ownerswho say they provide a valid service. City rules passed last year place strict limits on capacity in such houses and phase out full-time short term rentals altogether by 2022.

State Stories

Austin American-Statesman - April 18, 2017

Senate panel weighs future of state’s tax abatement law

During a state Senate committee hearing Tuesday, there was broad agreement that high property taxes in Texas are a big potential impediment to businesses that might consider relocating here. But there was less agreement on whether the Texas Economic Development Act — a 16-year-old law that allows school districts to waive a portion of a company’s property tax bill for a decade in exchange for a deal to move significant operations within its boundaries — has helped or exacerbated the problem. Such tax abatement deals “subsidize some businesses on the backs of other businesses and taxpayers” across the state because the school districts are reimbursed from state coffers for the tax revenue they agree to give up, said state Sen. Konni Burton, R-Fort Worth.

Austin American-Statesman - April 19, 2017

First Reading: In Alex Jones’ moment of truth, the call should go out, `Get me Roger Stone’

Alex Jones is expected to testify at the child custody trial he is engaged in with his ex-wife Kelly Jones at the Travis County Courthouse today. Meanwhile, Roger Stone – devoted friend and ally – will be filling in for him hosting Infowars. But where Alex Jones really needs Roger Stone is as part of his legal strategy team. As he prepares to testify, Jones’ lawyers have placed him in a bit of a bind by making the case that Jones is not really whom he appears to be on the air, that the raging, bellowing Jones of Infowars is a character, a role he is playing, performance art. But, what they really need is a lighter, surer touch.

Austin American-Statesman - April 19, 2017

Slight majority of Texans disapprove of President Trump

In a U.S. Senate seat match-up between U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-El Paso, most Texans haven’t decided how to vote; a majority of Texas adults approve of the job Greg Abbott is doing; and Texans are polarized about how they feel about President Donald Trump, with a slight majority disapproving of the job he’s doing, according to a political poll released Wednesday. The annual poll conducted by the Texas Lyceum, a nonprofit association for young Texas leaders, surveys 1,000 adults, not just registered or likely voters. Because Texas Republicans have higher voter participation rates than the population as a whole, the annual Lyceum poll tends to portray a less conservative state than most political polls do. The poll’s overall margin of error is 3.1 percentage points.

Austin American-Statesman - April 19, 2017

Bill that permanently eases STAAR requirements moves to Senate

A bill that would allow students to graduate high school even though they don’t pass all their state standardized tests has advanced to the Senate floor. To graduate from high school, students must pass five end-of-course State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness. A bill in 2015 revised the requirement so that students who fail one or two of the tests could still graduate as long as they meet all other requirements, including passing all of their classes. A committee of the student’s teacher, principal and parents must give unanimous consent to his or her graduation. The provisions in the bill are set to expire in September.

Austin American-Statesman - April 18, 2017

The politics of teaching evolution in Texas comes down to one word

The State Board of Education is expected to resolve on Friday a months-long tug-of-war over whether Texas high school students should continue learning theories that challenge the scientific understanding of evolution. It started in January when a committee of educators and scholars appointed by the State Board of Education to streamline the state’s voluminous biology curriculum standards recommended changing or removing four standards that require students to learn about scientific phenomena that critics say evolution can’t readily explain. The majority-Republican board in February proposed restoring most of the language so that students would continue to evaluate the complexity of cells, the origin of DNA and abrupt appearance and stasis in fossil records.

Austin American-Statesman - April 18, 2017

House to consider $1.6 billion school finance bill Wednesday

The House will consider and possibly approve a $1.6 billion school finance bill and a slew of other amendments on Wednesday that would determine how much public schools will get in extra funding over the next two years. Under House Bill 21 filed by Rep. Dan Huberty, R-Houston, most school districts would see a boost but because of the complex school finance system, some would actually see less money. The Austin school district would receive an additional $11.5 million in fiscal 2018 and $12.3 million in fiscal 2019.

Austin American-Statesman - April 18, 2017

Breaking ground, House panel OKs gun carry with no license

Breaking new ground in a concerted effort to expand gun rights, a Texas House committee approved legislation Tuesday that would allow handguns to be carried — concealed or in a holster — without a state-issued license. Approval came on a 6-2 party-line vote even though all six Republicans voting in favor of House Bill 1911 did so despite reservations — one over concerns that unlicensed carry could hinder police officers and five because they believed the bill didn’t go far enough to remove restrictions on gun owners. “I’m voting for it, and I’m proud to do so,” said state Rep. John Wray, R-Waxahachie. “It’s the first bill to be voted on in the Texas House to allow permitless carry of a handgun.”

Austin American-Statesman - April 18, 2017

Herman: The children in Alex Jones’ life — his, Sandy Hook’s

In a third-floor courtroom in downtown Austin, the mask, if there is one, might come off of Alex Jones. If it does come off, the more than 20 years he’s spent cultivating something of a cult following as the blowhard skeptic who skeptically blows hard about all manner of conspiracies could be out the window. And if it doesn’t come off, he could lose custody of his three kids. That — and the fact that Jones has evolved from cable access TV curiosity to national figure significant enough to get respectful participation from a successful presidential candidate and rueful parodying from Stephen Colbert — makes this high courtroom drama.

Austin American-Statesman - April 19, 2017

Texas bill would grant auto ownership exemption for Berkshire Hathaway

A bill has been filed in the Texas Senate that potentially would enable Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc. to navigate around regulations that currently prevent automobile manufacturers from also owning dealerships in Texas. Senate Bill 2279, filed Wednesday by state Sen. Kelly Hancock, R-North Richland Hills, would allow car makers to own dealerships “so long as the vehicles they sell or service are not the same type of motor vehicle that they manufacturer or distribute.” Berkshire Hathaway owns automobile dealerships in Texas and other states, and it also owns a large stake in Chinese electric-car maker BYD Co., seemingly putting it in violation of the current rules.

Austin American-Statesman - April 18, 2017

Following 2015 Wimberley flood, bill would make 911 calls confidential

Saying his bill was personal, not political, a longtime member of the Texas House is proposing to make recordings of 911 calls confidential unless the caller gives permission for their release. State Rep. Todd Hunter, a nine-term Republican from Corpus Christi, said he was motivated by the 2015 Memorial Day weekend flood that killed eight people from his city — leaving only one survivor from three families who were vacationing along the Blanco River in Wimberley. The victims included his dentist and a member of his legislative staff. “For two years, the Corpus Christi community has grieved,” Hunter told the House Homeland Security and Public Safety Committee during a Tuesday hearing on House Bill 3640.

Austin American-Statesman - April 17, 2017

Israel: Protecting our state workforce and applauding their service

As a state representative, some of my favorite moments are the opportunities I have to visit with constituents who teach in our public schools, ensure the reliability of critical state services and demonstrate Texas government at its best. Many of these women and men have dedicated entire careers to Texas, and I respect their service. Whether caring for our foster care children, designing bridges, running ferries over Port Lavaca or serving as game wardens, biologists, engineers or maintenance workers, the state owes our workforce a stable pension and reasonable support for their health care. For our state’s future success, we also must ensure competitive wages.

Texas Tribune - April 18, 2017

School districts beg Senate panel to keep expiring state aid program

Bobby Easterling rattled off a list of the cuts his West Texas school district would have to make if the state lets a controversial state aid program expire in September. Jim Ned CISD administrators would have to fire 20 teachers, get rid of 80 percent of aides and other support staff, or simply shut off its water and gas without the $1 million it receives from the program, the superintendent told the Senate Education Committee Tuesday morning. Easterling joined a long line of administrators in supporting Sen. Lois Kolkhorst's Senate Bill 419, which would extend Additional State Aid for Tax Reduction, or ASATR, to 2023.

Texas Tribune - April 19, 2017

Senate panel considers bill to simplify school finance formula

Fort Bend ISD's Chief Financial Officer Steve Bassett started his career in the financial sector, working for powerhouse corporations like AT&T and PricewaterhouseCoopers. None of that work was as complex as learning Texas' school finance formula, he said. That's why he showed up at Tuesday's Senate Education Committee hearing to support chairman Larry Taylor's Senate Bill 2145, which would simplify the patchwork of formulas the state uses to fund public schools. The hearing on the senator's bill comes as both chambers are discussing how to fix a school finance system that has been the subject of various lawsuits, with educators arguing it does not give them the money they need to get students up to state academic standards.

Texas Tribune - April 19, 2017

Dallas officials say state lawmakers share blame for city's pension woes

The Texas Legislature doesn’t send any state funds to the beleaguered Dallas or Houston pension systems. But legislators nonetheless find themselves mediating city-level disputes over a collection of bills aimed at shoring up at least $14 billion in the cities’ collective shortfalls. Under a practice that dates back to at least the Great Depression, state law dictates a lot of the financing, governance and benefits of dozens of local pension funds. Some say it’s a good use of checks of balances. Others say it’s another example of the state controlling local matters and dictating how a city's money must be spent. “If they mandate that we have to contribute a certain amount of our general fund to a particular use, that’s a mandate they’re not funding,” said Lee Kleinman, a Dallas City Council member.

Texas Tribune - April 19, 2017

Ramsey: How cars and booze might split sellers, buyers and lawmakers

Being a politician has to be easier when constituents aren’t at odds with one another. That’s clear from the reactions — particularly among Republicans in the current Legislature — to the gulf between their business supporters and their voters on bathroom regulations for transgender Texans. It’s not just bathrooms, though: Conservative businesses and conservative consumers could easily part company over other issues, like whether carmakers can sell directly to Texans, or why the state’s alcoholic beverage laws seem tailored for incumbent makers, distributors and retailers. For lawmakers with friends on both sides, issues like those can be troublesome.

Texas Tribune - April 18, 2017

Texas bill requiring burial of fetal remains passes out of House committee

Texas hospitals and abortion clinics would have to bury or cremate fetal remains under a measure that passed out of a House committee on Tuesday. It's a rule that has its roots in Texas' fiery reproductive rights debate: While supporters argue the bill has nothing to do with abortion and is about "ensuring the dignity of the deceased," opponents say it's yet another way for the state to punish women who choose to legally terminate a pregnancy. House Bill 35 by state Rep. Byron Cook, R-Corsicana, is the legislative counterpart to a Texas Department of State Health Services rule that was supposed to go into effect in December but was delayed when a federal judge blocked it in January.

Texas Tribune - April 18, 2017

Texas Gov. Abbott signals support for "bathroom bill" from Texas House

Gov. Greg Abbott is signaling support for House legislation that some hope will serve as an alternative to the Senate's "bathroom bill." In a statement Tuesday, Abbott called the House alternative developed by state Rep. Ron Simmons, R-Carrollton, a "thoughtful proposal." The revised version of Simmons' House Bill 2899, which will be the subject of a committee hearing Wednesday, would invalidate local trans-inclusive bathroom policies, including anti-discrimination ordinances meant to allow transgender people access to public bathrooms based on gender identity and some school policies meant to accommodate transgender students.

Texas Tribune - April 18, 2017

Texas House panel approves bill to pay for bulletproof vests for police

A state House committee on Tuesday advanced a measure that would create a grant program to pay for bulletproof vests for all officers on patrol in Texas. The $25 million program approved by the House Homeland Security and Public Safety Committee is an answer to the fatal shooting of five Dallas officers in July. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said in January that Texas should "protect those who protect us" by paying for bulletproof vests, which can withstand rounds from high-caliber firearms. The program would support 50,000 officers throughout the state. Homeland Security and Public Safety Chairman Phil King, R-Weatherford, laid out the measure Tuesday, calling it a "very good bill," and three law enforcement witnesses briefly testified in support of the bill. Shortly before adjourning, the committee quickly voted to approve the measure, Senate Bill 12.

Houston Chronicle - April 18, 2017

Embattled Baylor University picks new president

Linda Livingstone will lead Baylor University starting in June, stepping in to lead as the Baptist university is entrenched in lawsuits and investigations concerning how it handled student allegations of sexual assault. Livingstone is a dean and management professor at the George Washington University School of Business who has previously worked at Baylor’s business school as a professor and associate dean. “Dr. Livingstone brings an accomplished academic career to Baylor, combined with a strong appreciation and support of Baylor’s mission,” Board of Regents chair Ronald Murff said in a statement. “A longtime Baptist and former Baylor faculty member, she has a passion for the distinctiveness of Baylor’s Christian mission in higher education.”

Houston Chronicle - April 17, 2017

Cervantes: Storming the Capitol

GOP legislators will get an earful today from their most loyal constituents, the block walkers and phone bankers who have cemented the state's Republican legislative majorities in recent years and all but ensured them for the foreseeable future. Today, a coalition of right-wing groups that dominate much of Republican politics in this state will press their case that the legislature has dragged its feet on several issues that GOP faithful, the thousands who showed up the party's state convention last summer, voted to include in the platform. For example, they want Senate Bill 415 to get to the governor's desk already. The measure, by Lubbock Sen. Charles Perry, would ban abortions where the fetus is dismembered, as abortion opponents refer to a late-term procedure called dilation and evacuation in which a doctor dilates a woman's cervix and extracts the fetus with tools.

Houston Chronicle - April 18, 2017

Bills would let schools, restaurants stock anti-allergy shots

Parents and children from around the state advocated for several bills on Tuesday that would allow public places such as restaurants, sporting venues and colleges campuses to stock medicine to counteract life-threatening allergic reactions. Legislation from Republican and Democratic lawmakers this session would allow private schools, day care centers and other public places to stock life-saving epinephrine injections and would provide immunity to those administering the drug. Lawmakers overwhelmingly approved a bill in 2015 that allowed public school districts and charter schools to keep epinephrine auto-injectors on hand for students and staff who may not know they have food allergies.

Houston Chronicle - April 18, 2017

Governor throws support behind Texas House version of bathroom bill

Gov. Greg Abbott, who has been coy about the need for a so-called bathroom bill in Texas, said Tuesday he wants to work with lawmakers to forge a measure he can sign into law. “I applaud the House and Senate for tackling an issue that is of growing concern to parents and communities across Texas who are now looking to the Legislature for solutions. … As the debate on this issue continues, I will work with the House and Senate to ensure we find a solution and ultimately get a bill to my desk that I will sign into law,” Abbott said. Abbott praised a measure by Rep. Ron Simmons, R-Carrollton, that will be heard in the House State Affairs Committee on Wednesday. Simmons’ bill is an alternative to Senate Bill 6, a measure championed by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and approved by the Senate last month.

Dallas Morning News - April 18, 2017

Revelle: How Texas is undermining language arts education

Imagine your child in class surrounded by peers eagerly recommending books to each other. Across the room, the teacher is working with a small group of student authors completing final edits on the poems they will share with the class tomorrow, and at the media station, another group huddles over its tablets creating a presentation to critique a new local policy. Last year, a group of Texas educators dared to dream of joyful language arts classrooms with robust learning experiences beyond the STAAR tests, and then we got to work and made it real. Proudly, we presented the standards to the State Board of Education. Then the board took that dream away. I was honored to be one of the educators asked to write the new English Language Arts and Reading (ELAR) state standards.

Dallas Morning News - April 18, 2017

Cyberbullies could face school expulsion, criminal charges under proposed Texas law

Parents of students who took their own lives after aggressive online harassment told a legislative panel Tuesday that it's time to make cyberbullies face consequences. Raul Vela described how classmates' bullying was like a growing cancer that tormented his teenage daughter, Brandy, to the point at which she saw no way out. The 18-year-old shot herself in front of her parents, cousins and other family members who were trying to stop her. "My daughter had to take her life to get these bullies to stop. ... Unfortunately, the last words to me were, 'Dad turn around. I don't want you to have to see this,' " he said.

Dallas Morning News - April 18, 2017

Q&A: GOP lawmakers on their latest efforts to crack down on abortion

A news conference meant to heap praise on abortion opponents in the Texas House on Tuesday turned into a question-and-answer session about key anti-abortion bills and their potential ramifications statewide. Lawmakers answered questions from The Dallas Morning News about their bills, addressing the concerns of abortion rights advocates and doctors about the real-life effects of their proposals. Here's a recap of the conversation, which has been edited for length and clarity.

Dallas Morning News - April 18, 2017

Trump talks tough on H-1B visas, but will it have an effect on jobs in Texas?

KENOSHA, Wis. — Turning back to the economic populism that helped drive his election campaign, President Donald Trump signed an order Tuesday that he said should help American workers whose jobs are threatened by skilled immigrants. At the headquarters of hand and power tool manufacturer Snap-on Inc., Trump signed an order aimed at curbing what his administration says are hiring abuses in a visa program used by U.S. technology companies. Dubbed "Buy American and Hire American," the directive follows a series of recent Trump reversals on economic policies. "We are going to defend our workers, protect our jobs and finally put America first," Trump declared, standing in front of an American flag fashioned out of wrenches.

Dallas Morning News - April 18, 2017

Better child-trauma training is one Texas lawmaker’s fix for CPS mess — though sales job incomplete

A little-noticed bill that proponents say could change Texas' beleaguered child-welfare system for the better seemed headed for passage Tuesday before it hit a speed bump known as the House Freedom Caucus. After several members of the staunchly conservative group said they fear the bill might have been written to aid just one company, its author pulled the measure down. Sugar Land GOP Rep. Rick Miller said Freedom Caucus members, who are generally critics of Speaker Joe Straus, were unfairly casting aspersions and didn't understand his bill. Rep. Rick Miller, R-Sugar Land (2015 AP File Photo) Rep. Rick Miller, R-Sugar Land (2015 AP File Photo) But he agreed to give skeptics time they sought for more study by postponing further consideration.

Ft. Worth Star-Telegram - April 18, 2017

Norcross, Gonzales: The Texas budget battle: the good, the bad and — well, at least it’s not all ugly

The battle over Texas’ next two-year budget is underway. On April 10 the House passed a $218 billion bill after debates over hot-button issues, including funding for school vouchers, an “alternatives to abortion” program, and even the federal border wall. Texas’ solid financial position has begun to slip — at least relative to other states — so lawmakers should treat this process as a chance to shore things up. In the upcoming 2017 edition of our annual state fiscal health rankings, to be published by the Mercatus Center at George Mason University this summer, Texas slides from 16th to 23rd in the nation. Based entirely on the states’ own, often-overlooked financial reports, our study gives non-budget experts the opportunity to see where their governments stand.

KXAN - April 16, 2017

State of Texas: In-Depth – Budget deals behind the scenes

A small group of lawmakers will soon make big decisions about how to spend your tax dollars. Both the House and Senate passed roughly the same size budget but there are drastic differences. Now, a group of 10 negotiators – five from the House and five from the Senate – must turn those differences into a final budget. State Representative Larry Gonzales has been one of those negotiators before. The Round Rock Republican will likely be part of the conference committee this time around. He spoke to KXAN Political Reporter Phil Prazan on Sunday morning’s State of Texas program. “For the next several weeks we are going to go through the budget kind of line-by-line making sure that everything adds up.” Gonzales said most of the process goes smoothly, with differences in many line-item numbers getting ironed out quickly. “It’s usually the really big conceptual things where the budget gets bogged down,” Gonzales explained.

San Antonio Express News - April 18, 2017

San Antonio legislator says Texas should wrangle floods to ease droughts

A state legislator from San Antonio has a plan to solve some of Texas’ water woes by capturing the floodwaters that occasionally inundate the state and stopping the evaporation that robs reservoirs of water. Republican Rep. Lyle Larson has filed legislation to study and create incentives for getting rights to this water and storing it in underground reservoirs known as aquifer storage and recovery systems, or ASRs. The grand proposal is not the first Larson has put forth to address Texas water shortages. Larson, who chairs the House Natural Resources Committee, is perhaps best known for his bill in the 2015 legislative session that would have required the Texas Water Development Board to study the possibility of a vast “hydrovascular network,” which opponents named “Gridzilla.” That bill passed the House but died in a Senate committee.

New York Times - April 18, 2017

Patrolling the Border on Four Legs

LA GRULLA, Tex. — Just over two years ago, asylum seekers fleeing persecution in Central America swarmed the Rio Grande Valley, and many of them eagerly surrendered to Border Patrol agents. But in the past few months, the number of immigrants caught illegally crossing here has plummeted to about 100 people a day from over 600. John F. Kelly, the homeland security secretary, has said the drop stems from aggressive enforcement, but migrant experts say improving conditions in the countries that people have been fleeing have also contributed to the decline. Border Patrol agents comb the area in trucks and on bicycles on main roads. Helicopters and blimps, known as aerostats, provide aerial surveillance, while boats keep watch over the waterways.

San Antonio Express News - April 18, 2017

Ted Cruz touts small businesses, bashes Obamacare at Mi Tierra in San Antonio

U.S. Senator Ted Cruz, R-Texas, made a pit stop in the Alamo City Tuesday afternoon at Mi Tierra Cafe & Bakery, where he discussed business issues with members of San Antonio's Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. Forty business leaders were part of the event, where job growth, economic development, small business and education were topics of discussion, according to the chamber's Facebook page. Cruz said during the meeting that some of his priorities going forward are repealing Obamacare, along with tax and immigration reform. "It was a pleasure to sit and listen to their concerns," Cruz said of his meeting at Mi Tierra.

Houston Chronicle - April 19, 2017

Poll shows Texans divided along party lines on just about everything

A new poll released Wednesday shows Texans are deeply divided by party lines on just about everything, from the job-approval rating of Gov. Greg Abbott to the economy to NAFTA. The independent Texas Lyceum Poll shows 82 percent of Republicans think Abbott is doing a good job, as he prepares to ramp up a reelection campaign later this year for a second term, while 53 percent of Democrats disapprove. In a race between incumbent U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, a Republican, and U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke, an El Paso Democrat who has announced plans to run against him, the survey shows a tie at 30 percent each -- with 37 percent of Texans saying they simply haven't thought about that race.

San Antonio Express News - April 18, 2017

Lawsuit filed in fatal church bus crash

A wrongful death lawsuit was filed Monday in Uvalde County against Jack D. Young, who authorities said caused the March 29 crash there that killed 13 congregants of a New Braunfels church. Brought by Ross Allen, a son of crash victim Howard B. Allen, the lawsuit against Young, 20, and his father, Joseph B. Young, includes an unusual plea for the Legislature to enact a statewide prohibition of texting while driving. It seeks more than $1 million in damages for what it terms the defendants’ negligence and gross negligence, accusing Jack D. Young of smoking marijuana, texting while driving, consuming prescription pills and failing to maintain control of the pickup he was driving when the head-on collision occurred on U.S. 83 about 6 miles north of Concan.

Dallas Morning News - April 19, 2017

Uber, Lyft drive Texas House to debate statewide ride-hailing regulations

The Texas House on Wednesday will debate whether cities or the state should be responsible for regulating companies like Uber and Lyft, a question that has plagued policymakers since an Austin election prompted the ride-hailing giants to leave the city. Now, cities are responsible for deciding what guidelines, if any, should be in place for ride-hailing companies. Lawmakers will debate a bill from Rep. Chris Paddie on Wednesday that would shift that authority to the state and bar local governments from creating the regulations. "Ride-sharing brings so many benefits to cities in Texas," Lyft spokeswoman Chelsea Harrison said in an interview. "In order to really preserve that and make sure that the industry is able to grow and continue providing those, having a consistent set of uniform rules is really important."

Dallas Morning News - April 19, 2017

Former NFL player Colin Allred launches campaign to unseat Pete Sessions

Civil Rights attorney Colin Allred has launched a campaign to unseat incumbent Rep. Pete Sessions of Dallas. But first the former NFL player will have to run in a potentially crowded Democratic primary for Congressional District 32. A former Hillcrest High School standout, he hopes his connection to the North Dallas district attracts him to voters. "I was born and raised in this district by a single mother who taught in Dallas public schools for 27 years," Allred said. "This community -- my mom, my teachers, and my coaches -- gave me the opportunity to succeed, play in the NFL, become a civil rights attorney and work for President Obama. I want to make sure future generations have the same opportunities and to make sure those values are being represented in D.C."

Houston Chronicle - April 19, 2017

DePillis: 10 things you should know about Gov. Abbott's State of the State

State of the State addresses are a chance for governors to brag about their accomplishments and highlight their priorities. Governor Greg Abbott's annual remarks, which he gave Tuesday at a Greater Houston Partnership luncheon downtown as part of a series of speeches around Texas, was no exception. "The fact is, Texas is doing better than it ever has," he preened. Of course, that's debatable. Let's go through some of Abbott's most noteworthy statements and put them in context. 1. "More Texans have jobs today than ever before in the history of the Lone Star State." Sure, that's true. Texas payrolls more than rebounded after the last recession, to nearly 12.2 million workers. But it's also important to look at the unemployment rate: Texas now stands at 4.9 percent, which is substantially higher than the 4.3 percent average it achieved in both 2007 and 2000, and higher than the national average of 4.5 percent.

San Antonio Express News - April 18, 2017

Severely disabled children struggle under managed care program

The state’s new managed care system for young disabled Medicaid recipients is causing unnecessary delays in care for the state’s most medically fragile kids, said parents and advocates for those children. Tammy Baldera’s 10-year-old daughter Chloe is one of about 6,000 severely disabled children in the state’s Medically Dependent Children’s Program, which provides nursing care at home. On Nov. 1, participants in the program were required to start using a new managed care system known as STAR Kids. Baldera said the new system requires prior consultations and referrals that are dangerously disrupting her daughter’s medical care.

Ft. Worth Star-Telegram - April 18, 2017

Kennedy: Texas talks new ‘bathroom bill,’ and now Fort Worth is listening

Instead of a “bathroom bill,” the Texas House now is giving us Bathroom Light. And as of this week, Fort Worth now has even more money at risk if the Texas Legislature doesn’t calm the Great Political Bathroom Panic. A Carrollton Republican’s bill set to go before a House committee Wednesday would leave city nondiscrimination laws in place everywhere except bathrooms, showers and locker rooms, protecting LGBT equal-rights laws but punting to state law the politically volatile question of how transgender Texans decide bathrooms. In most of Texas outside the 12 cities with LGBT equal-rights laws, nothing would change if House Bill 2899 were passed. Unlike Brenham Republican Sen. Lois Kolkhorst’s more punitive Senate Bill 6, it doesn’t fine governments up to $10,500 for not policing gender closely. Until Houston politics got all wadded up over bathroom rights three years ago, breaches of peace were handled perfectly well under Texas’ disorderly conduct law, which prohibits entering or even peeking into a bathroom or locker room for a “lewd or unlawful purpose.”

Austin American-Statesman - April 18, 2017

Texas Senate pitches simplified school funding formula

The day before the House is slated to consider its big school finance fix, the Senate education panel weighed even loftier changes to the complicated and outdated school funding formula on Tuesday. Sen. Larry Taylor, R-Friendswood and chairman of the Senate Education Committee, has proposed a package of bills that would make substantial changes to funding formula, including eliminating several components of it. Although it’s unlikely that such a substantial change will be approved this legislative session, it could be considered more seriously in the future when the Legislature explores school finance fixes during the interim and following sessions.

Austin Chronicle - April 14, 2017

Whittaker: Bill of the Week: We the People

Rewriting the U.S. Constitution isn't hard. All it takes is 34 state legislatures to call on Congress to summon a constitutional convention, then Congress to agree, then 38 states to ratify any amendments. To that end, in January Gov. Greg Abbott announced his "Texas plan," a full-bore agenda intended to constrain the powers of the federal government. His list of nine amendments reads like something a Prohibition-era bootlegger would dream up when the revenuers were on his tail, giving the states supremacy over the federal administration and U.S. Supreme Court, and demanding Congress pass a balanced budget. The Texas Senate has dumped eight of his nine demands, but is pushing ahead with a call for a balanced budget convention. The plan actually breaks down into three component pieces of legislation. First, SJR 2, the actual request to Congress. Next, Senate Bill 21 establishes the rules for being a delegate. Finally, SJR 38, an administrative fix, revokes all previous calls for a convention. (This is not Texas' first rodeo on that front.)

KUT - April 18, 2017

Most Texans Are In Favor Of Immigration, But Many Worry About Border Security

Immigration is at the forefront of political discourse in Texas according to the Texas Lyceum Poll, an independent opinion poll that is conducted each year to gather the opinions of Texans on major policy issues facing the state. Daron Shaw, a professor of government at The University of Texas and one of two coordinators of the Lyceum Poll, says that immigration and border security have been key issues for Texans since the first poll in 2007. “For a couple of years, the economy and jobs were one of the top two issues,” Shaw says. “But even then, during the collapse of the American financial system, border security and immigration at the state level was on par with the economy and jobs.”

KUHF - April 18, 2017

Title X Changes ‘Shouldn’t Affect Texas Women’s Health Clinics’

The president’s signature won’t immediately change anything — it only gives states the freedom to determine who does and does not get Title X money to fund family planning and preventive health services. Texas receives Title X funds through the non-profit Women’s Health and Family Planning Association of Texas. That group is responsible for distributing $14 million to Texas clinics — 11 here in the Houston area. Kami Geoffray is the association’s CEO. “This money comes directly from the federal government to us. So it does not pass through the state in any way. So today, nothing — nothing — will happen with how we are administering these funds. We are able to continue funding quality family planning services throughout Texas with our network.” Geoffray says family planning care is funded through a patchwork of multiple streams. States that are not set up to distribute Title X funding like we do in Texas might start feeling the loss of those funds starting next year.

Texas Observer - April 18, 2017

Novack: Texas’ Maternal Mortality Rate Tops Any Developed Country. What are Lawmakers Doing About It?

State Representative Armando Walle, a Democrat from Houston and an Astros fan, has an analogy that he uses to describe the social safety net for pregnant Texas women: the protective netting that many major league teams have installed to protect fans from errant hits. “There are many foul balls hitting moms in the face,” he said, “because that safety net is tattered.” New mothers in Texas are dying of pregnancy-related causes at a higher rate than anywhere else in the developed world, “a life-or-death issue” that Walle says is “getting drowned out” by distractions such as the so-called bathroom bill. The state’s maternal mortality rate has doubled within a two-year period, according to a 2016 study, though experts say more research is necessary to explain the troubling spike.

County Stories

WFAA - April 18, 2017

Political group files complaint over ballot irregularities in Dallas Co.

A political group in North Texas is taking notice and investigating complaints of residents receiving mail-in ballots they claim they never requested. Direct Action Texas (DAT) recently filed a criminal complaint against Dallas County with the Texas Secretary of State’s office. The concern is centered around mail-in ballot irregularities possibly linked to vote harvesting. “You need to really think about what you are doing, because we are going to expose it,” said Aaron Harris, the executive director of DAT. Harris said the locally-focused conservative political organization was already investigating vote harvesting in Dallas County when it heard about a mail-in ballot received by Alice Washington in West Dallas.

Dallas Morning News - April 18, 2017

John Wiley Price’s defense offers a fiery denial of bribery and tax evasion charges during closings

Jurors on Wednesday will begin the painful, detailed process of deciding whether County Commissioner John Wiley Price was a generous benefactor who helped his friends financially or whether they helped him pocket about $1 million by trading votes for bribes. On Tuesday during closing arguments, prosecutors and defense attorneys tried to persuade jurors that the same bits of circumstantial evidence meant different things, drawing two very different conclusions about what stacks of documents such as bank statements really mean. Was the use of multiple checks made out to banks, for example, done to conceal what was really going on between Price and his co-defendants or were the friends being transparent by using banks and cash withdrawal slips?

Austin American-Statesman - April 18, 2017

Travis County seeks new tool to spur affordable housing

Travis County is considering creating a new tool to encourage developers to build more affordable housing. Under a proposed policy, the county would require landowners and developers who create public improvement districts — special districts that fund projects such as road construction or wastewater lines — to either build a certain amount of on-site public housing or pay a fee that would go toward funding affordable housing projects elsewhere. Diana Ramirez, director of economic development and strategic investments, outlined how the policy would work at Tuesday’s Commissioners Court meeting. County staffers say it would be the first of its kind enacted by a local government, according to their research.

Houston Chronicle - April 19, 2017

HC: County cash -- Politicians reveal their priorities by spending millions on outside lawyers.

How do you defend the indefensible? If you're Harris County, you hire a professional. Commissioners Court voted last week to hire famous Washington D.C. lawyer Charles Cooper to aid 15 county judges in the ongoing lawsuit alleging the county's bail system is unconstitutional. Cooper has an impressive resume for any litigant aspiring to be on the wrong side of civil rights history. Most recently, he unsuccessfully tried to defend a ban on same-sex marriage before the U.S. Supreme Court. Now he's lined up to advocate for Harris County's miserable bail system - a system that most of Commissioners Court will admit unfairly penalizes the poor. Consider it a preemptive move. Cooper will only work on appeals stemming from a potential pre-trial suspension of the current bond structure.

City Stories

San Antonio Express News - April 18, 2017

In response to violence, SAPD wants to hire 15 officers to address gang activity

In response to a prolonged increase in violent crime, the San Antonio Police Department is asking the city to allocate $2 million to hire an additional 15 officers and buy seven patrol cars for the Street Crime Unit, which deals primarily with gang activity. Chief William McManus told City Council’s Criminal Justice, Public Safety and Services Committee on Tuesday that the new positions would significantly help the unit, which has a prominent role within the new Violent Crimes Task Force, a multiagency group that focuses on criminal activity rather than specific geographic areas. As of early April, the task force had arrested 1,140 people, 125 of which were gang members. Only about 350 of those arrests were made by SAPD officers, said Jim Kopp, with the city attorney’s office.

Wall St. Journal - April 18, 2017

Bryce: Thanks for Giving Me Your Tax Money

Now that tax day has passed, I must thank you, my fellow federal taxpayers. You all are the wind beneath my solar panels. Pardon me for mixing energy metaphors, but it’s only appropriate that I express appreciation for the generous subsidy you provided for the 28-panel, four-array, 8,540-watt photovoltaic system I installed on my metal roof last year. Thanks to the investment tax credit, I slashed my 2016 federal tax bill by $7,758. Before going further, let me be clear: I’m opposed to all energy subsidies—unless, of course, I’m the one collecting them. And thanks to the incentives for rooftop solar, I’ve snared three subsidies. In addition to the federal subsidy, Austin Energy (our city-owned utility) paid $6,593 of the cost of my system. Thus, after subtracting local and federal subsidies, the net cost of my 8.54-kilowatt system was $18,100, or about $2.12 per watt of installed capacity.

El Paso Times - April 18, 2017

Attorney general, Homeland chief to visit El Paso

New U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Department of Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly will visit El Paso on Thursday as part of a tour of the U.S.-Mexico border. The visit is part of a tour of various parts of the border with Mexico. On April 11, Sessions visited the border in Nogales, Ariz., where he spoke about a getting tougher on immigration prosecutions. It was Sessions' first visit to the border as the nation's top law enforcement official. “I am honored that they accepted my invitation to come and see the El Paso community and all that we have to offer," El Paso Mayor Oscar Leeser said. "I look forward to our meeting on Thursday and the opportunity to share our perspective on immigration, border security, and international trade.”

Austin American-Statesman - April 18, 2017

Family of man injured in police shooting condemns jail conditions

Relatives of Lawrence Parrish, the man was shot and injured earlier this month by Austin police at his East Austin house after officers said he raised a gun at them, said they are upset that Parrish was placed in jail two days after he had to have surgery, which included having at least one finger amputated. “He’s forced to live in places, in areas, in the jail that (are not) clean enough to put a person with these type of wounds in,” said Cluren Williams, Parrish’s brother, during a small protest Monday at Givens Park to demand Parrish’s release from jail. Travis County sheriff’s officials who run the jail disagree. The medical staff and facilities are more than up to the task of caring for inmates who suffer trauma, they said Tuesday.

Austin American-Statesman - April 19, 2017

City releases CodeNext zoning maps

Austin’s controversial bid to completely rewrite its land-use code took a giant step forward Tuesday, as city officials rolled out draft maps that showed how the proposed rules would be implemented citywide. But in a town where fights over individual projects can turn into years-long battles between developers and surrounding neighborhoods, initial reactions to the maps amounted to a shrug. “I don’t think you’re going to get a lot of people running down to City Hall screaming tomorrow,” said Jim Duncan, the former head of Austin’s planning department and a longtime neighborhood activist who leads the citizen group overseeing CodeNext.

Dallas Morning News - April 18, 2017

Judge limits McKinney's authority over development of adjacent land

McKinney has control over thousands of acres of land adjacent to its city limits, but a state district judge has declared there are limits to that authority. The ruling by judge Mark Rusch came in a civil suit involving Collin County over permitting rights for a storage unit business. At issue is land in unincorporated areas of the county that have been marked for future annexation by McKinney, areas known as the city's extraterritorial jurisdiction, or ETJ. According to the ruling, which must still be finalized, the city's building codes apply in its ETJ if the property is being subdivided or platted. Otherwise, the county maintains authority over permitting, meaning that anyone who wants to build on the land would deal with county officials.

National Stories

Dallas Morning News - April 18, 2017

What a new generation of protesters can learn from veteran activists

Political and social change start small. Then grass-roots movements either grow or fizzle. The difference? Knowing how to organize and fund a movement and having the stamina to stick with it, says political scientist and community activist Yvonne Scruggs-Leftwich, author of Soundbites of Protest. Leftwich-Scruggs' long resume includes teaching administrators of settlement houses, which were founded in the late 1800s to help immigrant communities, how to tap government funds made available by President Lyndon Johnson's War on Poverty. "The poverty program required that in order for these urban communities to earn access to these funds, they had to have a plan," she says. In other words, good intentions aren't enough. And understanding the glacial pace of change is important, too. Leftwich-Scruggs suggests that Black Lives Matters organizers were overly optimistic about the effect their passionate early protests would have.

Houston Chronicle - April 18, 2017

Former President George H. W. Bush back in hospital but recovering

Former President George H. W. Bush is back in the hospital with a mild case of pneumonia, but he is already recovering, a spokesman said Tuesday. Bush's case has been treated and resolved, said family spokesman Jim McGrath. "President Bush is in very good spirits and is being held for further observation while he regains his strength," said McGrath.

Houston Chronicle - April 18, 2017

DHS chief fires back at deportation critics

Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly has a blunt message for lawmakers and others who criticize the Trump administration's aggressive new use of raids and deportations against people living in the U.S. illegally. "If lawmakers do not like the laws that we enforce, that we are charged to enforce, that we are sworn to enforce — then they should have the courage and skill to change those laws," he said Tuesday. "Otherwise they should shut up and support the men and women on the front lines." In a combative speech, his first since President Donald Trump picked him to lead the department that oversee immigration enforcement and border security, Kelly painted a picture of a disheartened department facing a dangerous world.

Vox - April 18, 2017

Trump says his wall will cost $12 billion. Senate Dems: More like $70 billion.

President Donald Trump wants to build a wall on the southern border of the US. It’s going to be expensive. That’s about specific as it gets with the White House’s proposal to build roughly 2,000 miles of walls and fences across the southern border. An initial estimate floated by the administration pegged the cost at $12 billion. But a recent report put together by Democrats on the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs estimated the price tag for the wall and patrolling technology at a whopping $70 billion — more than four times Trump’s initial figure.

Washington Examiner - April 17, 2017

Jurisdictional issues tie up cyber efforts on Capitol Hill

Congressional committees continue to lock horns over who has jurisdiction over cybersecurity, a recurring problem and frustration for lawmakers trying to deal in this policy space. Congress is in the middle of a two-week recess, but during the last legislative session, the House Science Committee passed a bill directing the National Institute of Standards and Technology to audit other agencies' cyber practices. The bill was opposed by all but one Science panel Democrat, but its real problem is the intense opposition it has drawn from the House Oversight and Government Reform and other committees, according to congressional and industry sources.

WKNO - April 18, 2017

Philanthropy In America Is Becoming 'Ideological Arms Race,' Author Says

When Forbes first listed the 400 richest Americans in 1982, there were 13 billionaires on that list. Today, every single person on the Forbes 400 list is a billionaire. Many have become philanthropists, and they are reshaping public policy, and society, as they see fit. And because of their numbers, they have far more influence than the philanthropists of the past, argues David Callahan, author of a new book on philanthropy, The Givers: Wealth, Power and Philanthropy in a New Gilded Age. Many are now household names: the Gates, the Kochs, the Waltons, the Steyers, the Mercers, to name a few. They come in all political stripes. "We're seeing just an escalating ideological arms race as more money pours in from wealthy donors across the spectrum," says Callahan, who founded the news website Inside Philanthropy.

Reuters - April 18, 2017

Asylum applications in Mexico surge after Trump election win

The number of people applying for asylum in Mexico has soared by more than 150 percent since Donald Trump was elected U.S. president, according to Mexican data, as more Central American migrants seek to stay rather than take their chances in the United States. Between November 2016 and March, Mexico's refugee agency, COMAR, received 5,421 asylum applications, up from 2,148 over the same period in 2015 and 2016. The number of detentions along the southwestern U.S. border has fallen about 4 percent over the same five-month period, as Trump's tough immigration proposals sent a chill through migrant communities. Just like the vast majority of Mexico's asylum applicants, many of those detained on the U.S. border come from the violent countries of Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador.

USA Today - April 18, 2017

Trump's new rules could swamp already backlogged immigration courts

In San Antonio, an immigration judge breezes through more than 20 juvenile cases a day, warning those in the packed courtroom to show up at their next hearing — or risk deportation. A Miami immigration lawyer wrestles with new federal rules that could wind up deporting clients who, just a few weeks ago, appeared eligible to stay. Judges and attorneys in Los Angeles struggle with Mandarin translators and an ever-growing caseload. Coast to coast, immigration judges, prosecutors and defense attorneys are straining to decipher how the federal immigration rules released in February by the Trump administration will impact the system — amid an already burgeoning backlog of existing cases.

Washington Post - April 18, 2017

U.S. tough talk belies its focus on diplomacy to contain Kim

As tensions mounted on the Korean Peninsula this month, the U.S. military made a dramatic announcement: An aircraft carrier had been ordered to sail north from Singapore toward the Western Pacific, apparently closing in on North Korea and its growing nuclear arsenal. But the ship that some officials portrayed as a sign of a stepped-up U.S. response to threats was in fact, at the moment that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un mounted a defiant show of military force last weekend, thousands of miles away from the Korean Peninsula, operating in the Indian Ocean. Officials’ nebulous — if not seemingly misleading — statements about the whereabouts of the USS Carl Vinson come as the Trump administration attempts to deliver a dual message on one of its most thorny foreign problems: at once illustrating a willingness to employ force against a dangerous adversary while also steering clear of steps that could spiral out of control.

Texas Tribune - April 18, 2017

Cruz defends House Freedom Caucus against White House critics

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, on Tuesday defended conservative lawmakers against what he described as critics in the White House who are not serving President Donald Trump's best interests. "I will say those voices in the White House that are trying to get the White House to unload on conservatives, to unload on the Freedom Caucus, are doing the bidding of the left, of Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, and profoundly damaging our prospects of success," Cruz said during a panel discussion about Trump's first 100 days in office. Cruz's remarks came as he spoke of the consequences if Republicans under Trump do not fulfill their longtime promises, including repealing and replacing Obamacare.

Politico - April 18, 2017

Dems show surprising strength at start of brutal 2018 midterm

Though no one denies Senate Democrats are in for a rough 2018 midterm election, a host of their vulnerable incumbents just posted some eye-popping fundraising numbers — a sign the party won’t easily cede more ground to Republicans next year. Of the 10 Senate Democrats up for reelection in states Donald Trump won last fall, six brought in at least $2 million in the first quarter of 2017. Most Democrats far outpaced fundraising compared with the two Senate Republicans being targeted by Democrats next year: Dean Heller of Nevada and Jeff Flake of Arizona, both of whom raised $1.4 million during the first three months of the year.

Washington Post - April 18, 2017

A month after dismissing federal prosecutors, Justice Department does not have any U.S. attorneys in place

Attorney General Jeff Sessions is making aggressive law enforcement a top priority, directing his federal prosecutors across the country to crack down on illegal immigrants and “use every tool” they have to go after violent criminals and drug traffickers. But the attorney general does not have a single U.S. attorney in place to lead his tough-on-crime efforts across the country. Last month, Sessions abruptly told the dozens of remaining Obama administration U.S. attorneys to submit their resignations immediately — and none of them, or the 47 who had already left, have been replaced. “We really need to work hard at that,” Sessions said when asked Tuesday about the vacancies as he opened a meeting with federal law enforcement officials.

Washington Post - April 18, 2017

Trump’s inaugural committee reports record-shattering fundraising of $107 million

President Trump’s inaugural committee said Tuesday that it raised nearly $107 million for festivities surrounding his Jan. 20 swearing-in, about double the haul for any other incoming president. The previous high was $53 million for President Barack Obama’s first inauguration in 2009. Trump’s team set no limits on what corporations and individuals could contribute to the inaugural committee, which coordinated more than 20 events over six days to mark the arrival of the new Republican president. A filing by the committee with the Federal Election Commission was not yet available as of Tuesday evening.

Washington Post - April 18, 2017

This Beltway insider is in charge of hiring for the Trump administration. It’s taking a while.

If Johnny DeStefano applied for a job in the Trump administration, chances are pretty good that Johnny DeStefano wouldn’t hire him. DeStefano is the president’s official headhunter, responsible for filling up to 4,000 political jobs — about 500 of which are really important jobs — in a government that his boss promised to clear of the permanent class of capital insiders to drain the Washington swamp. So the ideal applicant wouldn’t have spent much of his career on Capitol Hill as DeStefano has, starting with a college internship. Or served as political director for former House speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio), who embodies the GOP establishment. Or raised money for House Republicans, then built a data operation used by the Republican National Committee.

Politico - April 18, 2017

Edwards: The Ever-Shrinking Senate

The Supreme Court has grown back to its proper size, and the United States Senate has continued to get smaller, locked in a long process of shrinking, on issues both foreign and domestic, from the days when it could with a straight face claim to be the world’s greatest deliberative body. We saw the latest instance of this a week ago, when President Donald Trump reacted to the Syrian government’s atrocities by launching missile strikes. Senators had a variety of responses—praise, calls for even more of the same, some questions about the strikes’ effectiveness, a smattering of opposition. But there were virtually no voices insisting that the choice to take military action is constitutionally the province of Congress, not the executive. It doesn’t matter who is president or which party is in power: The single most important element in the United States Constitution is that which leaves to the people, through their representatives, the sole authority to determine whether or not to engage in war.

Washington Post - April 19, 2017

On Russia, Trump and his top national security aides seem to be at odds

The message was defiantly optimistic, like a suitor determined to hold a relationship together despite mounting obstacles. “Things will work out fine between the U.S.A. and Russia,” ­President Trump declared on his Twitter account last week. “At the right time everyone will come to their senses & there will be lasting peace!” Trump’s interest in achieving warm relations with Moscow has been a consistent theme since the earliest days of his campaign, and it stands now as one of the few major foreign policy positions that he has not discarded or revised since taking office.

Politico - April 19, 2017

Democrats begin to wonder: When do we win?

As it became clear late Tuesday evening that Jon Ossoff would fall just short of the 50-percent mark in the first round of voting in a suburban Atlanta special election, Democrats back in Washington started leafing through their calendars and asking: When does the winning start? Ossoff’s moral victory — capturing 48 percent of the vote in a conservative-oriented district — was welcome, but after two successive close-but-no-cigar finishes in House special elections in Georgia and Kansas, a new worry is beginning to set in. For all the anger, energy, and money swirling at the grassroots level, Democrats didn’t manage to pick off the first two Republican-held congressional seats they contended for in the Trump era, and the prospects aren’t markedly better in the next few House races coming up: the Montana race at the end of May, and the South Carolina contest on June 20.

Politico - April 19, 2017

Trump issues bold new promises on health care, tax, infrastructure

President Donald Trump on Tuesday promised big wins in the next stretch of his administration, glossing past the reality that the political newcomer will celebrate his first 100 days without a major legislative victory. In a speech that could be seen as a messaging test for that milestone, Trump hailed the opening days of his administration as a wild success and pledged to quickly deliver on health care, tax reform and infrastructure. “No administration has accomplished more in the first 90 days,” Trump declared in Kenosha, Wisconsin, where he toured tool manufacturer Snap-on before delivering his remarks. “That includes on military, on the border, on trade, on regulation, on law enforcement — we love our law enforcement — and on government reform.”

Washington Post - April 18, 2017

As Trump Drifts Away From Populism, His Supporters Grow Watchful

President Trump visited the Tennessee estate of Andrew Jackson last month to symbolically claim the mantle of the first genuinely populist president since the 1830s. Just like Jackson, Mr. Trump defeated a political dynasty to take power and was now determined to challenge what the new president called “the arrogant elite.” But last week suggested the limits of the comparison. Where Jackson made it his mission to destroy the Second Bank of the United States, which he viewed as a construct of the nation’s wealthy to wield power over the people, Mr. Trump saved the Export-Import Bank and signaled that he may preserve the leadership of the Federal Reserve, two modern-day tools of federal power in the economy.

Houston Chronicle - April 19, 2017

Democrats didn't win outright in Georgia. But here's why they're still celebrating.

Democrat Jon Ossoff didn't win a special election for a Georgia congressional seat on Tuesday night. But he'll live to fight another day - specifically to a June runoff against former GOP secretary of state Karen Handel. It's not the Cloud Nine scenario some Democrats had hoped for in this uber-hyped special election. But that a Democrat made it this far in Republican territory - he was the top vote-getter out of 18 mostly GOP candidates - is an impressive political feat. And as much as we can extrapolate from one single Atlanta suburb, Ossoff's near-win portends Democratic strength going into the 2018 congressional midterms. If the stars align for them even close to how they did in this district, Democrats could take back the House of Representatives. They'll need the help of traditional Republicans and a liberal base not thrilled with President Donald Trump, but those were both factors present in this Georgia congressional race.