December 18, 2017

State Stories

Associated Press - December 17, 2017

Lack of transparency clouds spending decisions after Harvey

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

This article appeared in the Austin American-Statesman

Austin American-Statesman - December 16, 2017

PolitiFact: College credit promise becomes a compromise

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

Austin American-Statesman - December 16, 2017

Saenz: How housing costs are changing Central Texas’ demographics

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

Austin American-Statesman - December 15, 2017

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

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

Austin American-Statesman - December 15, 2017

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

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

Austin American-Statesman - December 16, 2017

Herman: A Texas town weirder than Austin?

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

Texas Tribune - December 15, 2017

Brand: Bail reform should not be derailed

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

San Antonio Express-News - December 17, 2017

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

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

San Antonio Express-News - December 17, 2017

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

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

San Antonio Express-News - December 17, 2017

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

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

Dallas Morning News - December 17, 2017

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

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

Dallas Morning News - December 16, 2017

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

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

Phys Org - December 11, 2017

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

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

KUT - December 11, 2017

Texas Landowners Take The Wind Out Of Their Sales

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

Texas Observer - December 14, 2017

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

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

Texas Observer - December 14, 2017

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

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

County Stories

Ft. Worth Star-Telegram - December 14, 2017

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

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

Dallas Morning News - December 14, 2017

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

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

City Stories

Austin American-Statesman - December 15, 2017

Even in progressive Austin, women still lag behind

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

D Magazine - December 17, 2017

Could Dallas’ Innovation Economy Compete With Silicon Valley?

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

Austin American-Statesman - December 15, 2017

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

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

San Antonio Express-News - December 17, 2017

Pasadena PD to carry narcotic antidote in fight against opioid epidemic

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

National Stories

Washington Post - December 17, 2017

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

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

Austin American-Statesman - December 16, 2017

Mark Hamill takes a lightsaber to Ted Cruz on Twitter

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

Washington Post - December 16, 2017

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

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

New York Times - December 16, 2017

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

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

Politico - December 16, 2017

GOP lawmaker: Top FBI officials will be subpoenaed

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

Washington Post - December 17, 2017

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

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

Wall St. Journal - December 17, 2017

GOP Tax Bill Would Set Up Years of Challenges

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

Politico - December 17, 2017

Paranoia grips Capitol Hill as harassment scandal spreads

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

Politico - December 17, 2017

The secret backstory of how Obama let Hezbollah off the hook

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

Politico - December 16, 2017

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

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

Houston Chronicle - December 15, 2017

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

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

Austin American-Statesman - December 15, 2017

Navarrette: Dreamers: Don’t let Democrats fool you

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

Dallas Morning News - December 16, 2017

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

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

Dallas Morning News - December 15, 2017

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

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

Dallas Morning News - December 15, 2017

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

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

December 17, 2017

Lead Stories

New York Times - December 16, 2017

Homeowners Have Had It Good. Too Good, Says the Tax Bill.

For decades, the tax code has been filled with rewards for homeownership. Tax breaks encourage people to get into first homes and to trade up as they get older, building a national mind-set that you’re never quite middle class until you’ve qualified for a mortgage. It amounts to a vast social engineering project that assumes society is better off with owners instead of renters. But the tax bill making its way toward final passage is upending that premise.

Politico - December 15, 2017

Why Democrats failed to tank tax reform

The tax fight has all the ingredients that helped Democrats kill Obamacare repeal: party unity on Capitol Hill, energized liberal activists and legislation that polls in the toilet. But this time it doesn’t appear to be enough. Democrats haven’t given up hope of stopping the Republican tax plan on the 1-yard line — relentlessly flogging the substance and process of the bill — but the reasons for their likely failure are becoming clear. While stripping people of health insurance strikes at a visceral human need, a debate over taxes tends to bog voters down in wonky details.

Texas Tribune - December 15, 2017

State Sens. West and Burton call for “due process” in colleagues’ harassment allegations

Two Dallas lawmakers — state Sens. Royce West, D-Dallas, and Konni Burton, R-Colleyville — joined The Texas Tribune Friday morning to discuss their Dallas-area districts. Though both senators are up for re-election next year, neither has an immediate worry in the March primary. West, who has served in the Senate since 1993, has neither a primary nor a general election challenger; his only opponent, he joked, is “apathy.” And Burton won’t face a challenger until the November general election.

Austin American-Statesman - December 15, 2017

Texas cancels no-bid contract for special education analysis

The Texas Education Agency has canceled its contract with a technology company charged with analyzing special education programs. The TEA had contracted with SPEDx, a Georgia-based company, to look for trends and patterns in special education records. But the $4.4 million project incurred the ire of advocacy groups and parents, who said they worried about privacy and the fact that it was a no-bid contract. “Significant concerns have been raised regarding our agency’s processes and the scope of the project,” TEA Commissioner Mike Morath said in a statement Friday evening.

State Stories

Austin American-Statesman - December 15, 2017

Texas GOP files suit to remove Blake Farenthold from ballot

The Republican Party of Texas is suing the Texas secretary of state over an election filing deadline that prevents it from removing embattled U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold from the ballot. The move is in response to Farenthold’s announcement that he won’t seek re-election in the spring. Farenthold, whose district includes parts of Bastrop and Caldwell counties, made the decision after a House committee launched an investigation into sexual harassment claims made by a former aide against him. Allegations of lewd comments to another former aide have also emerged.

Austin American-Statesman - December 15, 2017

UT System Chancellor Bill McRaven to step down, citing health concerns

Bill McRaven, chancellor of the University of Texas System, is planning to step down at the end of the academic year in May because of health issues he has been facing, he told the UT System Board of Regents on Friday afternoon. McRaven’s decision was not completely unexpected, given that he was briefly hospitalized in November for what he described at the time as “a perfect storm of bad health” that included severe anemia, likely a result of a chronic lymphocytic leukemia, a type of cancer he was diagnosed with in 2010 while fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Austin American-Statesman - December 15, 2017

Texas CHIP money good through February; Cornyn promises long-term fix

The Children’s Health Insurance Program in Texas will be funded one month longer than expected, according to a recalculation by the federal government. The program, which insures more than 400,000 low-income children and pregnant women in the state, will be funded through February. Originally, the Texas Health and Human Services had reported that funding was good only through January after Congress failed to renew spending for the program after it expired Sept. 30.

Austin American-Statesman - December 15, 2017

TEA cancels controversial project

The Texas Education Agency has cancelled its contract with a technology company charged with analyzing special education records. TEA had contracted with SPEDx, a Georgia-based company that was to look for trends and patterns in special education records. But the $4.4 million project incurred the ire of advocacy groups and parents, who said they worried about privacy and the fact that it was a no-bid contract.

Austin American-Statesman - December 17, 2017

PolitiFact: Promise to change immigrant tuition law goes broken

Posted: 12:00 a.m. Sunday, December 17, 2017 Greg Abbott ran for Texas governor signaling he’d go along with disconnecting a political tripwire for Republicans that benefits college students from Texas living in the United States without legal permission. We decided to put Abbott’s statements about in-state tuition for such Texans to the PolitiFact Texas Abbott-O-Meter, which tracks action on his campaign vows. ... With no action of the sort that Abbott discussed during his campaign for governor, we rate this as a Promise Broken.

Austin American-Statesman - December 15, 2017

Carrillo: For the sake of Dreamers, don’t fall for the ‘Cornyn con’

Over the next two weeks, immigrant youth from across the country will double down on their efforts to call on Congress to pass the DREAM Act before the end of the year. In Texas, young immigrants have been marching and making calls, demanding that our state’s delegation do the right thing and support the more than 120,000 so-called Dreamers who claim the Lone Star State as their home. The fight for the DREAM Act began in 2001, when the legislation was first introduced. That same year, Texas became the first state to allow undocumented youth to pay in-state tuition at state colleges and to be eligible to receive state aid. This bill was signed into law by then-Gov. Rick Perry, a Republican.

Texas Tribune - December 15, 2017

A Texas House candidate mocked a sheriff on social media. Did he violate the law?

Bo French, a Fort Worth businessman and Texas House hopeful, argues that “Thief Bill Waybourn,” a Facebook page he launched in March 2016 to criticize former Dalworthington Gardens Police Chief Bill Waybourn, was a harmless joke. Three North Texas law enforcement groups have taken a different view. "It wasn’t merely a political prank, it potentially was a crime," the presidents of the Tarrant County Law Enforcement Association, Arlington Police Association and Dallas Police Association wrote in a joint statement Friday. "We are also calling on the Texas Rangers to investigate this scandalous crime."

San Antonio Express-News - December 16, 2017

How do you get noticed in a field of 10 candidates?

How do you get noticed in a field of 10 mostly unknown candidates for governor with just two months before voting begins? That’s a question the record-sized Democratic Party field was asking last week as the longshot race to unseat Republican Gov. Greg Abbott officially launched. The Democrats may have little name recognition and campaign cash, but they have big aspirations to turn the Texas Governor’s Mansion blue next year for the first time since 1995.

San Antonio Express-News - December 16, 2017

Campaign ad accuses Sid Miller of waging war on BBQ

The race for the next state agriculture commissioner is heating up with some barbecue restaurant owners roasting current Commissioner Sid Miller for going after their meat scales with regulations. New campaign ads funded by Republican primary challenger Trey Blocker feature three BBQ restaurant owners complaining about Miller's use of a decades-old law requiring they weigh meat on expensive certified scales in a location where customers can see the measurement.

Houston Chronicle - December 16, 2017

Harvey expenses continue to rise for Texas prison system

The cost of Hurricane Harvey's wrath to the Texas prison system has crossed the $8 million mark, with damage more widespread than initially reported. Five units evacuated, at least 25 more lost power and some suffered roof damage, including the facility in Rosharon, where the Ramsey Unit alone needed more than $600,000 in repairs. The rising waters of the Brazos River forced the relocation of nearly 7,000 prisoners and parolees, requiring the Texas Department of Criminal Justice to shell out close to $2.7 million in overtime pay to move prisoners.

Houston Chronicle - December 16, 2017

Grieder: Could Texas turn blue in 2018? Stranger things have happened

The other day, while walking my dog, I had an awkward realization: I think Texas will turn blue in 2018. That's not a prediction, exactly; the primaries will be held in March, so as it stands, we don't even know who all the Democratic candidates for statewide office will be. MOST POPULAR Houston-Dallas bullet train clears hurdle with environmental... Houston woman who made anti-Nazi coat has her store's Facebook... Officials patched and prayed while pressure built on... Chris Paul helps Rockets dominate Spurs for 12th straight win Bitcoins offer virtual wealth but very real risk UT System Chancellor Bill McRaven to step down in 2018 Where football fits at Rice between expectations, academics... Furthermore, I could easily be wrong, and there's plenty of reason to think I will be. We all know the drill: Texas is a red state.

Dallas Morning News - December 15, 2017

DMN: Thank you, Gov. Abbott, for investigating state’s youth lockups

After reporting by The Dallas Morning News revealed that the Texas Juvenile Justice Department is failing the youth assigned to its care, Gov. Greg Abbott is wisely responding to the chilling accounts of sexual misconduct, violence and drug use in the state's lockups. On Wednesday he called on the Texas Rangers to investigate and determine how to protect the safety all involved, both staff and youthful offenders. We'll hold the department's new boss, Camille Cain, to her agency's promise to "provide support in every way" for an investigation that seeks to correct what TJJD ombudsman Debbie Unruth characterizes as a bad and dangerous culture.

Dallas Morning News - December 15, 2017

Feds pick preferred route for Dallas-to-Houston bullet train

The Dallas-to-Houston bullet train rolled a few inches closer to the starting line Friday with the release of a long-awaited federal study that narrows down several possible routes to a single path through powerline easements. The Draft Environmental Impact Statement, released by the U.S. Department of Transportation, doesn't necessarily endorse the so-called Utility Corridor. The feds still have 60 days to hear from the public before a final decision is made at a date undetermined. Ten public hearings will be scheduled in the next two months in the 10 counties affected by the 240-mile, $15 billion project privately funded by Texas Central Partners.

Dallas Morning News - December 15, 2017

Schnurman: Mark Cuban gives Texas lawmakers a bathroom bill business take: ‘What the hell are you guys doing?’

What drives the Texas economy and how can we keep it going? That’s the focus of a select committee in the Texas House, which has heard from over 40 executives, entrepreneurs and others. They cited the importance of education, immigration, tax policy and corporate incentives, but the bathroom bill was the headliner again. Mark Cuban, the billionaire investor and Shark Tank star, was asked about the reaction he heard from investors and company leaders after the bathroom bill dominated the Texas Legislature this year.

Dallas Morning News - December 16, 2017

No bah humbug? Texas won't mail notices canceling poor kids' health coverage before Christmas

Federal officials have given a health insurance program for low-income Texas children a short-term funding boost to extend the kids’ coverage through February, the Texas Health and Human Services commission said Friday. The Children’s Health Insurance Program will receive nearly $136 million from the federal Centers of Medicare and Medicaid Services, executive commissioner Charles Smith said in a letter to Gov. Greg Abbott. The infusion of federal money would allow the state commission, which runs CHIP, to delay sending cancellation letters to parents and guardians of about 400,000 children until after Christmas, commission spokeswoman Carrie Williams said.

Dallas Morning News - December 15, 2017

Ragland: Why ex-TV standouts Brett Shipp and Mike Snyder are crossing over to The Dark Side

There is an understandable fascination when those of us who cover the news jump in and become a part of it. This isn't a new phenomenon, mind you, journalists trading their celebrity and curiosity into new careers as flacks or college professors. But it takes a little courage and a bigger ego to thrust oneself into the arena of politics — especially in this bitter age of partisan polemics and "fake news" allegations leveled from on high.

Dallas Morning News - December 15, 2017

Two more undocumented teens denied access to abortion, ACLU says

President Donald Trump's administration is blocking two pregnant teens in the country illegally and being held in federal custody from obtaining abortions, the American Civil Liberties Union said Friday, a repeat of the situation that led to a high-profile court fight earlier this year. Both girls arrived in the country as unaccompanied minors and are being held in federal shelters, the ACLU said, though it didn't say where. The ACLU earlier this year represented a pregnant teen in the same circumstances in Texas, helping her obtain an abortion following a lawsuit.

Midland Reporter-Telegram - December 11, 2017

24-year-old to vie for Craddick’s District 82 seat

A 24-year-old veteran of Democratic politics is taking the very large step to challenge former House Speaker Tom Craddick for the District 82 seat in the state House of Representatives. Inspired by a wave of Democratic challengers across the region and across the state, Spencer Bounds of Midland told the Reporter-Telegram on Monday he is ready to run for the Democratic Party nomination and, if successful, take on the daunting task of facing the longest-serving representative in state House history.

County Stories

Dallas Morning News - December 13, 2017

Dallas is still on the list of overheated home markets

Continued home price gains in North Texas are keeping the area on a list of the nation's problem housing markets. The Dallas area was one of just a handful of U.S. metro markets that got negative ratings in a third-quarter housing study by Nationwide Mutual Insurance. The big insurer has red-flagged the Dallas area for more than a year because of rapid increases in housing costs — even though the rate of local home price gains is slowing.

Ft. Worth Star-Telegram - December 16, 2017

Kennedy: Fake Facebook profile behind newest Tea Party tangle in Tarrant County politics

Tarrant County Republican politics has just become very complicated. Law officers say one local Tea Party hopeful secretly used Facebook to smear another, and now it’s a public mess two months before voting begins in the all-important party primaries. A county constable says deputies’ 2016 investigation into an accusatory fake online profile of now-Sheriff Bill Waybourn led to an unexpected suspect: defeated Texas House candidate Bo French. “I was very surprised,” said Constable David Woodruff, an Arlington Republican: “I sure wasn’t expecting that.”

Houston Chronicle - December 15, 2017

Are you a Harvey 'floodie'? 'Victim'? 'Survivor'? The name matters.

Try to sum up what you've experienced during and after Hurricane Harvey in just one word. No matter the word you choose, it probably captures little of the trauma, damage, physical pain, depression, exhaustion, determination and resiliency you've felt in the last few months. But labels matter. Consider this post on the semi-private Facebook "Houston Flood 2015 & Beyond: Support & Resource Group." (Answer three simple questions to get into the group — some of the discussions are fascinating and enlightening.) "Am I the only one offended by the term 'floodies'?" asked group member Nancy Ehrlich.

City Stories

Houston Chronicle - December 16, 2017

Local law enforcement authorities support DACA in federal court

Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo, Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez and other law enforcement officers filed a brief in federal court Friday in support of a lawsuit that aims to keep Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals intact despite President Donald Trump's intent to dismantle the program that protects young immigrants. Law enforcement agencies argue in the brief that some undocumented immigrants fear interacting with police and by keeping the DACA program it will help police "better fight crime" and "serve all those whom they are charged with protecting."

Austin American-Statesman - December 15, 2017

Smoking pot while owning guns kept Austin man in jail for eight months

When prosecutors could not prove allegations that an Austin man planned to use his stockpile of guns for an attack on the city’s police in April, they pivoted to an obscure federal charge that kept the defendant behind bars because of two habits he has. Steven Boehle shoots guns. He also smokes pot. The combination of the two is prohibited, according to a federal statute from 1993 that says it’s illegal for users of a controlled substance to own a firearm. The frequency with which a person must use a drug to be in violation is not clearly defined, and it has been the subject of litigation in the rare times the government has invoked the charge.

Austin American-Statesman - December 15, 2017

East Austin plaque unveiled to remember lynching victims

The details of the Travis County lynching in 1894, based on news accounts from the time, are discouragingly sparse. Even the victims’ names are lost to history. An African-American woman working as a nurse for a white family was jailed after one of the children in her care died. Two African-American men, for reasons no longer known, were arrested as well. A white mob formed on Aug. 14, 1894, and abducted the woman and the two men from a jail about 30 miles from Austin, taking them a field. There, they were tied to stakes and riddled with bullets.

Ft. Worth Star-Telegram - December 15, 2017

231,319 red-light tickets were issued in Fort Worth last year. Guess how many were paid?

Texas drivers who blow through red lights — or turn right too quickly at them — have paid more than $144 million to the state over the past decade. And that’s just half the money. The other half goes to cities where the violation occurred. Fort Worth is one of those cities, and it now has a target on its back.

National Stories

New York Times - December 16, 2017

What’s in the Tax Bill, and How It Will Affect You

Republican lawmakers released the details of their tax code rewrite on Friday, which reconciles differences between the House and Senate bills. Several of the most anticipated changes — such as a significant increase in the standard deduction and the curtailing of state and local income tax breaks — made the final cut. Some of the most controversial proposals, like eliminating the medical deduction, were wiped away. Many of these provisions are temporary, however, and are set to expire after seven years. They all take effect in 2018, unless noted otherwise.

New York Times - December 16, 2017

NYT: The Tax Bill That Inequality Created

As things stand now, the top 1 percent of the population by wealth — the group that would primarily benefit from the tax bill — controls nearly 40 percent of the country’s wealth. The bottom 90 percent has just 27 percent, according to the economists Thomas Piketty, Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman. Just three decades ago these numbers were almost exactly the reverse: The bottom 90 percent owned nearly 40 percent of all wealth. To find a time when such a tiny minority was so dominant, you have to go back to the Great Depression. As kingmakers, rich families have supported candidates who share their hostility to progressive taxation, welfare programs and government regulation of any kind. These big-money donors have pushed the Republican Party in particular further to the right by threatening well-funded primary challenges against anybody who doesn’t toe the line on tax cuts for the rich and other pro-aristocracy policies.

Dallas Morning News - December 15, 2017

6 changes to the GOP's tax plan before the final overhaul push

The city of Arlington has been spared a multimillion-dollar hit that an earlier version of the GOP’s far-reaching tax overhaul would've put on its voter-approved financing for the Texas Rangers' new stadium. Republican negotiators revealed Friday that they had removed from the legislation a House provision that would've prevented local governments from using tax-exempt municipal bonds to pay for the construction or renovation of professional sports stadiums.

Associated Press - December 16, 2017

Special counsel obtains thousands of Trump transition emails

Special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian contacts with President Donald Trump's campaign has gained access to thousands of emails sent and received by Trump officials before the start of his administration, according to several people familiar with Trump's transition organization. But the investigators did not directly request the records from Trump's still-existing transition group, Trump for America, and instead obtained them from the General Services Administration, a separate federal agency that stored the material, according to those familiar with the Trump transition organization.

This article appeared in the San Antonio Express-News

Politico - December 16, 2017

Trump transition lawyer accuses Mueller of unlawfully obtaining emails

A lawyer for President Donald Trump’s transition team is accusing special counsel Robert Mueller of unlawfully obtaining tens of thousands of private emails during its investigation into Russian meddling in last year’s presidential election. Kory Langhofer, an Arizona-based attorney representing Trump for America, spelled out the complaint in a seven-page letter sent Saturday to the main House and Senate oversight committees where he raises potential violations of attorney-client privilege and the Fourth Amendment, which protects against unlawful search and seizure.

Dallas Morning News - December 13, 2017

Caruso: Steve Bannon is cancer to the Republican Party

The last time Alabama elected a Democrat before Doug Jones was Richard Shelby in 1986. Less than a decade later he switched to the Republican Party after the GOP captured control of Congress for the first time in 40 years. Doug Jones' defeat of Roy Moore in Alabama doesn't mean much for the national GOP in the 2018 elections. It was not a bellwether election. That said, Republicans have to offer better candidates, or they'll continue to lose elections they should win.

USA Today - December 14, 2017

Major Democratic donors launch a center to help donors get smart about political spending

Two major Democratic donors, the husband-and-wife team of Steve Phillips and Susan Sandler, this week will unveil a new data and political analysis clearinghouse to help other wealthy Democrats figure out how to get the most bang for the millions of dollars they will plow into next year’s midterm elections. The Sandler Phillips Center is akin to a “financial advisory" firm for politics, Phillips said, that will dig into voting patterns and demographic data and vet on-the-ground activists to help guide investments of liberal political money to federal and state races where it can make a difference.

Politico - December 16, 2017

Female House candidate withdraws over sexual harassment claim

Democrat Andrea Ramsey has dropped out of the race to take on GOP Rep. Kevin Yoder in Kansas after The Kansas City Star began questioning Ramsey about accusations made against her in a 2005 sexual harassment lawsuit. Ramsey was accused of making sexual advances towards a former employee of LabOne, a company where she worked in human resources. The complaint filed against LabOne claimed that Ramsey made “unwelcome sexual advances as well as unwelcome, unwanted and offensive sexual comments and innuendos during his employment” and that Ramsey moved the employee’s desk, criticized him and eventually fired him after he declined the advances.

Politico - December 16, 2017

Progressives hunt down one of the last conservative Democrats

CHICAGO — Powerful interests are lined up against him. Outside spending groups are forming to advocate for his defeat. National political figures have endorsed his opponent. And that’s just within Democratic Congressman Dan Lipinski’s own party. Lipinski, one of the few remaining conservative Democrats in Congress, is under siege from the left, battling for his political life against progressives who are teaming up to replace him with a candidate far more in line with liberal orthodoxy.

Dallas Morning News - December 16, 2017

May: How Putin's proxies helped funnel millions into GOP campaigns

As Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team probes deeper into potential collusion between Trump officials and representatives of the Russian government, investigators are taking a closer look at political contributions made by U.S. citizens with close ties to Russia. Buried in the campaign finance reports available to the public are some troubling connections between a group of wealthy donors with ties to Russia and their political contributions to President Donald Trump and a number of top Republican leaders. And thanks to changes in campaign finance laws, the political contributions are legal. We have allowed our campaign finance laws to become a strategic threat to our country.

Houston Chronicle - December 15, 2017

Pentagon already takes climate change seriously, but GAO wants more action

Within the Trump administration, the Pentagon is arguably and, perhaps to some, surprisingly one of the most progressive departments when it comes to contemplating the effects of a changing climate. Well before President Donald Trump, who has called climate change a Chinese hoax, took office, military leaders talked about global warming as a "threat multiplier" worsening drought, famine and other factors leading to war. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told Congress he believes "a changing climate - such as increased maritime access to the Arctic, rising sea levels, desertification, among others - impact our security situation."

Washington Post - December 16, 2017

How the oldest Senate ever is taking a toll on the business of Washington

In November, Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, who is 83, was at the helm when the Senate’s massive tax bill came through the Finance Committee. But Hatch also deputized four younger Republicans on the panel to serve as de facto co-chairmen over various parts of the legislation. This week, with a compromise bill marching toward final passage in both chambers, the House has to vote first — because a pair of senators, Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.), are recuperating from, respectively, non-melanoma skin surgery and the side effects of cancer treatments.

Politico - December 16, 2017

The Pentagon’s Secret Search for UFOs

The Pentagon, at the direction of Congress, a decade ago quietly set up a multi-million dollar program to investigate what are popularly known as unidentified flying objects—UFOs. The “unidentified aerial phenomena” claimed to have been seen by pilots and other military personnel appeared vastly more advanced than those in American or foreign arsenals. In some cases they maneuvered so unusually and so fast that they seemed to defy the laws of physics, according to multiple sources directly involved in or briefed on the effort and a review of unclassified Defense Department and congressional documents.

Houston Chronicle - December 16, 2017

Religious broadcasters take aim at tech giants for 'stifling' Christians

National Religious Broadcasters, a group of Christian media outlets, has unveiled a new initiative to counter what it sees as the suppression of Christian and conservative views online. The internet freedom initiative aims to call attention to Google, Facebook, Apple and other tech companies' "stifling" of free speech, NRB President & CEO Jerry A. Johnson said at a recent news conference and panel discussion on the topic. "It is unacceptable for these titans to discriminate against users just because their viewpoints are not congruent with ideas popular in Silicon Valley," Johnson said.

December 15, 2017

Lead Stories

Politico - December 14, 2017

Paul Ryan Sees His Wild Washington Journey Coming to An End

Despite several landmark legislative wins this year, and a better-than-expected relationship with President Donald Trump, Ryan has made it known to some of his closest confidants that this will be his final term as speaker. He consults a small crew of family, friends and staff for career advice, and is always cautious not to telegraph his political maneuvers. But the expectation of his impending departure has escaped the hushed confines of Ryan’s inner circle and permeated the upper-most echelons of the GOP. In recent interviews with three dozen people who know the speaker—fellow lawmakers, congressional and administration aides, conservative intellectuals and Republican lobbyists—not a single person believed Ryan will stay in Congress past 2018.

Dallas Morning News - December 14, 2017

Top aide to Texas AG Ken Paxton resigns after calling women of #MeToo movement 'pathetic'

A top lawyer in the Office of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton resigned Thursday after reports he wrote a Facebook post that called women's sexual misconduct allegations "pathetic." The Dallas Morning News reported Thursday morning Associate Deputy Attorney General Andrew D. Leonie posted on Facebook this week: "Aren't you also tired of all the pathetic 'me too' victim claims? If every woman is a 'victim', so is every man. If everyone is a victim, no one is. Victim means nothing anymore."

CNN - December 14, 2017

House Democrat tells female colleagues the way they dress is 'an invitation' for harassment

At a closed-door meeting of House Democrats to discuss reforming how Congress handles sexual harassment allegations, one senior congresswoman stunned lawmakers when she suggested female lawmakers were inviting unwanted advances because of the way they dressed. Ohio Democratic Rep. Marcy Kaptur stood up and told her colleagues Wednesday that "too many members dress inappropriately" and it's "an invitation" to be harassed, according to three Democratic sources familiar with the discussion.

Texas Tribune - December 14, 2017

Texas lawmaker questions education group's tactics for getting out the vote

A state lawmaker is questioning whether an educator group is encouraging improper use of public funds to get out the vote, while education advocates say the pushback is part of a backlash against public education. In a letter sent Tuesday to the Texas attorney general, state Sen. Paul Bettencourt asked for an official, nonbinding opinion on whether school districts can provide transportation for employees or students to polling places without violating state law. He's also seeking an opinion on what the legal constraints are around districts spending public funds to influence voters. State law prevents the use of public funds to advocate for a particular candidate or outcome in an election.

E-Paris Extra - December 12, 2017

Former state representative of Lamar County dies at 82

Lyndon Pete Patterson, former state representative for Lamar County, passed away this weekend at Honey Grove Nursing Center. A Lamar County native, Patterson began his political career in 1972 when he was elected as a Lamar County commissioner. Four years later, Patterson was sworn in as state representative for Lamar, Delta, Fannin, Hopkins and Rains counties where he served from 1976-1999.

State Stories

Dallas Morning News - December 14, 2017

Texas Senate starts process of reviewing, revising 22-year-old sexual harassment policy

There has only been one official sexual harassment complaint in the Texas Senate since 2001, the secretary of the Senate said Thursday. The Senate Administration Committee debated possible ways to revise current sexual harassment policy Thursday. The meeting comes a week after online publication The Daily Beast reported on multiple alleged instances of sexual misconduct by Sens. Borris Miles of Houston and Carlos Uresti of San Antonio, both Democrats.

Dallas Morning News - December 14, 2017

James Ho becomes second Texas conservative confirmed to U.S. appeals court in 2 days

The Senate on Thursday confirmed former Texas Solicitor General James Ho to a powerful federal appeals court overseeing Lone Star State cases. The Senate’s 53-43 vote makes Ho, a Taiwanese immigrant, the first Asian-American to serve on the New Orleans-based 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. Three Senate Democrats voted with Republicans to confirm the conservative Texan to the court: Sens. Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Claire McCaskill of Missouri.

Dallas Morning News - December 14, 2017

DMN: Officials urging mercy for death row inmate convicted under ‘law of parties’ now include prosecutor

There is no dispute over whether Jeffery Lee Wood ever killed anyone. He did not. He didn't pull a trigger, didn't wield a knife, didn't take any direct action that caused another person's death. But twice now, Wood, 44, has come within only a few days of being executed by the state of Texas. He was convicted under Texas' felony murder statute, informally called the "law of parties," after he waited outside in a truck while an accomplice robbed a Kerrville convenience store in 1996 — and ended up killing a clerk named Kriss Keeran.

Dallas Morning News - December 13, 2017

DMN: Railroad Commission still a nonbeliever on ties between North Texas earthquakes, injection disposal wells

North Texas' seismic tremors aren't predictable, unlike the Texas Railroad Commission's response to earthquake swarms. A study published recently in the journal Science Advances concludes that high-pressure wastewater injection disposal wells used to bury fluids from hydraulic fracturing activities revived dormant faults near Dallas. Like clockwork, the Railroad Commission insists again that this isn't a conclusive link between earthquake swarms and oil and gas activity.

Dallas Morning News - December 14, 2017

Haven't purchased a health plan yet? Here's what Texans need to know by Friday

The deadline to shop for a health insurance plan on the federal marketplace is here, and so far more than 579,000 Texans have purchased insurance on healthcare.gov. While that’s nearly 30 percent higher than the sign-up rate this time last year, one reason the pace might be accelerated is because the period to enroll in 2018 plans is 45 days shorter this year. Most Texans have until Friday to shop on the federal marketplaces established by the Affordable Care Act.

Austin American-Statesman - December 14, 2017

Senate panel begins discussion about sexual harassment policy

The Texas Senate could meet in the coming months to establish a new sexual harassment policy. Amid reports of sexual misconduct by staffers and lawmakers at the Capitol, members of the Senate Administration Committee met Thursday to discuss possible changes to the policy. Committee Chairwoman Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham, said she plans to make recommendations to Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Secretary of the Senate Patsy Spaw.

Austin American-Statesman - December 14, 2017

Students in 47 counties will get STAAR reprieve because of Harvey

Public school students in 47 counties affected by Hurricane Harvey won’t be held back a grade if they fail state standardized tests this school year. Typically, students in the fifth and eighth grades must pass the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness to move on to the next grade. Mike Morath, head of the Texas Education Agency, told school districts on Thursday that students in school districts in the counties in the presidential disaster declaration will be waived of that requirement. The counties include Bastrop, Caldwell, Comal, Lee, and Fayette.

Austin American-Statesman - December 14, 2017

Herman: Why Blake Farenthold should step down now

A bit late, U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Corpus Christi, told us Thursday he didn’t know how to run a congressional office when he won the job in 2010. It’s kind of too bad he didn’t tell us that back then or during his latter three successful races for the office. The overdue admission came as he announced he’s changed his mind and will not seek a fifth term. Good call, Farenthold. Not a close call, but a good call nonetheless, particularly because he also told us he’s still working toward the proper running of a congressional office.

Austin American-Statesman - December 14, 2017

I-35 toll lanes in Austin cut from long-range transportation plan

State transportation officials, reacting to anti-toll pressure from Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, voted Thursday to remove all new tollway projects from a key 10-year construction plan — including what would have been the addition of two toll lanes to each side of Interstate 35 through Central Texas. That 5-0 vote came despite the pleas of nearly a dozen Central Texas political, civic and business leaders — including Austin Mayor Steve Adler, state Sen. Kirk Watson, Travis County Commissioner Gerald Daugherty and Capital Metro board Chairman Wade Cooper — to keep the I-35 express lanes in the plan.

Austin American-Statesman - December 14, 2017

Watch: Drunken state Rep. Victoria Neave tells cops 'I love you' repeatedly after crashing BMW into tree

After crashing her car in June, state Rep. Victoria Neave refused to answer Dallas police officers' questions, telling them over and over that she loved them and would fight for them, video released Thursday shows. Police said the "uncooperative" lawmaker's blood-alcohol level was nearly twice the legal limit during the arrest last summer near Lakewood Country Club. Neave, a Democrat who represents parts of Dallas, Mesquite and Garland, was found guilty of DWI in October.

Texas Tribune - December 14, 2017

Texas leads the nation in executions, but its death row population is dropping

The number of inmates on Texas’ death row dropped again this year, continuing a decades-long trend. The decline is caused largely by fewer new death sentences and more reduced punishments in recent years, according to end-of-year reports released Thursday by groups critical of the death penalty in Texas and across the country. But Texas still held more executions than any other state.

Texas Tribune - December 14, 2017

Baylor still faces five sexual assault investigations. Here’s where they stand.

Linda Livingstone, Baylor University’s first female president, joined The Texas Tribune on Thursday morning to discuss her six months at the helm of a university criticized over the handling of its sexual assault scandal. The university has been accused of mishandling dozens of sexual assault allegations since 2011. Livingstone’s job is not easy. Though Baylor recently learned that its accreditation is safe, it’s still facing five investigations, including two from the federal government, and it’s embroiled in several active lawsuits — even after settling numerous other cases.

Texas Tribune - December 15, 2017

Global warming boosted Hurricane Harvey's rainfall by at least 15 percent, studies find

NEW ORLEANS — There’s a theme lurking under the giant science meeting here along the Mississippi River: Extreme weather really is getting more extreme because of climate change. The human influence on hurricanes and wildfires is increasingly obvious. For years this has been a subject clouded in uncertainties. But now scientists say they have hard numbers. Wednesday morning two independent research teams, one based in the Netherlands and the other in California, reported that the deluge from Hurricane Harvey was significantly heavier than it would have been before the era of human-caused global warming.

Texas Tribune - December 15, 2017

The border fence looms over these Texans. Should the government pay them?

BROWNSVILLE — One day several years ago, a crew of federal contractors turned up behind Melissa Solis’ family home, a modest house with white siding surrounded by fruit trees and farmland a few hundred yards from the Rio Grande. The workers cleared brush. They dug a deep trench. A pile driver sank steel deep into the ground. The work was disruptive, the noise a constant distraction for Solis and her parents. Snakes and cockroaches streamed inside to flee the construction. The foundation shifted, knocking doors askew.

Texas Tribune - December 14, 2017

Hey, Texplainer: U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold is retiring. Will his name still be on the ballot next year?

Hey, Texplainer: U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold is retiring. However, his name will almost certainly stay on the 2018 Republican primary ballot, according to state officials. What happens now? Just days after the filing deadline for next year’s primaries, U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Corpus Christi, announced his plans to step down from his seat after his term concludes. Farenthold’s decision comes two days too late to remove his name from next year’s Republican primary ballot, according to state officials.

Texas Tribune - December 15, 2017

Ramsey: What recent election results in Texas state Senate districts tell us about 2018

Half of the state senators in Texas don’t have to run for re-election until 2020, and at least one of them should consider himself very, very lucky. State Sen. Carlos Uresti, D-San Antonio, represents one of the most politically competitive districts in the state. Hillary Clinton beat Donald Trump by almost 12 percentage points in Uresti’s SD-19. In the 2014 governor’s race, Republican Greg Abbott finished just a whisker ahead of Democrat Wendy Davis — 0.1 percentage points.

Texas Tribune - December 14, 2017

The Taking: How the federal government abused its power to seize property for a border fence

BROWNSVILLE — The land agents started working the border between Texas and Mexico in the spring of 2007. Sometimes they were representatives from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Other times they were officers from the U.S. Border Patrol, uniformed in green, guns tucked into side holsters. They visited tumbledown mobile homes and suburban houses with golf course views. They surveyed farms fecund with sugar cane, cotton and sorghum growing by the mud-brown Rio Grande. They delivered their blunt news to ranchers and farmers, sheet metal workers and university professors, auto mechanics and wealthy developers.

San Antonio Express-News - December 12, 2017

Climate change to affect city and state credit ratings

Cities and states, take note. Climate inaction could lower your credit rating. A recent report from Moody’s explains how the rating agency will assess climate change risk for states and cities. Risk indicators include economic activity along the coast, potential for hurricane and other extreme-weather damage, and the number of homes in a floodplain. Moody’s didn’t identify cities in its report, but Texas is one of the states deemed most vulnerable to climate change. Not surprising since Texas has tremendous economic activity along the Gulf Coast and is prone to all sorts of extreme weather across the state.

San Antonio Current - December 11, 2017

Opponents Say Texas Law Forcing Women to Bury Abortion Remains is Political, Violates Non-Christian Beliefs

Since the Texas Legislature passed a multifaceted anti-abortion bill in June, most of the focus has been on a lawsuit against one piece of the sweeping law that blocks the safest second-trimester abortion procedure. But there's another contested part to the SB 8 bill, aiming to go into effect in February, that's returned to the spotlight — the piece that forces clinics to cremate and bury the remains of an abortion or miscarriage, regardless of the woman's wishes or religion. In some cases, this means cremating and burying fetal tissue around the size of a quarter.

San Antonio Express-News - December 14, 2017

Garcia: Castro learns to use Twitter as a political weapon

Julián Castro chooses his words carefully. The former San Antonio mayor and secretary of Housing and Urban Development has long been a master practitioner of the nuanced retort, the measured soundbite, the even-handed observation. Some of it has to do with the fact that Castro spent five years in a nonpartisan municipal position requiring him to keep the peace between 10 competing egos and agendas that shared the dais with him. Some of it has to do with the constraints of serving for three years in a Cabinet position and recognizing that everything you say reflects on the president you serve.

Houston Chronicle - December 13, 2017

Jackson: Can Texas lead nation away from the war on drugs?

Our country is at a crossroads when it comes to the war on drugs. After decades fighting this losing battle, we find ourselves again in the midst of a drug epidemic - this time it's opioids. Our state has often been seen as a leader in criminal justice reform, recognizing that harsh sentences exacerbate racial disparities while doing nothing to reduce drug use. Can Texas lead again as our nation confronts an overdose rate that claimed 64,000 lives in 2016? To do so, Texas must build on its criminal justice reforms and embrace evidence-based drug diversion programs, and stop drug users from going to prison in the first place.

Houston Chronicle - December 11, 2017

Progressives plea to supporters in Texas: 'Run for something'

With the filing deadline to run for office in 2018 just hours away, Democratic leaning groups have a blunt message for their supporters. "Run for something," declares the headline on Progress Texas's website. Progress Texas, a non-profit group that says it advocates for progressive ideals and policies, pushed out a list of uncontested races for the Texas Legislature in which Republicans currently hold the seats.

Houston Chronicle - December 14, 2017

Democratic pollster suggests tight race for AG

The 2018 election for the job of the state's top lawyer could be a tight race if voters go to the polls knowing about Attorney General Ken Paxton's criminal indictment, according to a Democratic pollster. GBA Strategies, a Democratic polling operation based in Washington D.C., surveyed 500 likely Texas voters and found Paxton, the Republican incumbent, enjoyed a 7 percentage point lead over Austin attorney Justin Nelson, a Democratic newcomer, the firm reported in a memo Wednesday released by the Nelson campaign.

Houston Chronicle - December 14, 2017

Texas prison teacher says inmate raped her at understaffed unit

A Texas prison teacher tearfully called on Gov. Greg Abbott to charge the inmate she says raped her at an understaffed lock-up north of Huntsville. Nicole Truelove plans to file a lawsuit against the state over the Nov. 13 sex assault inside a Ferguson Unit classroom with no working cameras and no guards in sight, she said at a Thursday press conference in Houston.

Ft. Worth Star-Telegram - December 13, 2017

How two North Texans built one of the biggest, baddest cannabis brands in the world

One North Texan was a prototypical party boy who’s now singing the gospel of pot to lawmakers, the press and — most importantly — to prospective clients. The other brings a critical component to a multimillion-dollar operation: the science of cannabis oil extraction. These two make up half of the C-suites at Denver-based Organa Brands, which went through 10 tons of marijuana on its way to $118 million in revenue last year, selling 68 products ranging from vaporizer pens to edible gummies to cannabis-infused energy drinks, all based on the liquid gold.

NM Political Report - December 13, 2017

Rio Woes: Texas’ lawsuit against NM over the waters of the Rio Grande heads to the U.S. Supreme Court

From Colorado to Mexico, communities siphon and spread water from the Rio Grande. For about a century, every drop of that water has been divvied up among cities and farmers. It’s not unusual to stand alongside an irrigation ditch in New Mexico and hear someone complain that too much water is flowing to Texas. But, in fact, Texas stands on solid ground in its lawsuit against New Mexico over the Rio Grande, oral arguments for which are scheduled for January in the U.S. Supreme Court. If New Mexico loses, southern farmers will take a hit—and so will the state budget. New Mexico could owe billions of dollars in damages (even “just” a $1 billion dollar fine would mean almost 20 percent the entire state budget), and southern farmers could be forced to curtail groundwater pumping. Already, in just four years, New Mexico has spent about $15 million on the case.

Texas Observer - December 14, 2017

No Texas Senator Has Called for the Resignation of Two Colleagues Accused of Sexual Misconduct

This week, the Observer reached out to all 31 state senators as well as Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, who didn’t respond, about the allegations. Of the 15 senators who responded, including Miles and Uresti, all broadly denounced sexual harassment, variously noting that it is “unacceptable,” “a serious and sensitive issue” and “will not be tolerated in the Texas Senate.” However, none called on Miles or Uresti to resign. Seven senators — four Democrats and three Republicans — said the allegations needed to be investigated or reviewed by the Senate.

Brownwood News - December 12, 2017

Rep. Mike Lang to face primary challenge from the Granbury superintendent

State Representative Mike Lang will face a primary challenge from the superintendent of Granbury ISD. Dr. Jim Largent announced his candidacy for House District 60 on his Facebook page and campaign website Monday. Largent has served as Granbury ISD Superintendent since 2012, previously serving as Rusk ISD superintendent in East Texas. ... Largent has gained attention as Granbury ISD superintendent, writing essays criticizing the politicization of school transgender bathroom policies and the state’s A-F accountability ratings system for public schools.

The Hill - December 12, 2017

Julian Castro to Cruz after Ala. Senate election: 'Be afraid'

Julian Castro, secretary of Housing and Urban Development under former President Obama, issued a warning to Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) after Democratic candidate Doug Jones won the Alabama Senate race Tuesday. “Be afraid, @tedcruz . Be very afraid,” Castro tweeted. Jones’s stunning victory over Republican opponent Roy Moore comes after a closely watched campaign to fill the seat vacated by Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Jacksonville Progress - December 12, 2017

Clardy responds to local party’s censure vote

A recent move by Cherokee County Republican Party officials to censure District 11 Rep. Travis Clardy “was neither justified nor relevant to my service as the State Representative of House District 11,” he said. “My record shows that I have worked diligently and sincerely to represent the principles of the Republican Party and the people of Cherokee, Nacogdoches and Rusk counties,” he said. By a 7 to 3 vote, the CCRP executive committee - comprised of county precinct chairs - passed a resolution on Nov. 30 to censure Clardy, who was elected to office in 2012.

County Stories

Houston Chronicle - December 14, 2017

Harvey overwhelmed some levee systems. Future storms could do worse.

Sailaja Koti paid little attention to the levee near her home in the master-planned community of Riverstone in Fort Bend County. She had moved there for the schools. She trusted her family would be safe. But after a heavy storm swept through the region on Memorial Day 2015 and the Brazos River began to rise, Koti became worried. Other residents spent the holiday relaxing. Koti found a spot where she could look over the levee. Where normally there was a half-mile stretch of grass, she saw only river water and treetops. She immediately grasped a truth that Hurricane Harvey would reinforce: In an extreme storm, levees were all that stood between Riverstone and destruction. "If they're not working," Koti said, "we are dead."

Dallas Morning News - December 14, 2017

State scraps plans to partially toll I-635 East, leaving expansion in limbo

The Texas Transportation Commission on Thursday unanimously voted to eliminate a $1.8 billion rebuild and expansion of Interstate 635 East from the state's 2018 plan. By taking I-635 East — the No. 1 project on regional planners' list — and Austin's Interstate 35 project off the table, the state commission accomplished its task of scrubbing all tolled projects from its Unified Transportation Program.

Houston Chronicle - December 12, 2017

UH launches oral history project to chronicle human impact of Hurricane Harvey

From residents to first-responders, thousands of Houstonians lost their homes and struggled to find shelter and resources after Hurricane Harvey made landfall in late August and triggered catastrophic flooding. The University of Houston's Center for Public History plans to document their stories. In one of the center's largest oral history projects to date, "Resilient Houston: Documenting Hurricane Harvey," faculty, staff and students will conduct an estimated 300 interviews over the next three years to chronicle the human impact of the hurricane and record-breaking flood event.

Houston Chronicle - December 13, 2017

Houston suburbs feel varied effects from annexation law change

CONROE - Troy Schroeder says the Pine Lake community is a bad fit for a city that wants to stretch its boundaries. Many homes rest on cinder blocks, some septic systems wouldn't meet current codes, and folks like to burn their brush and fire their guns. This is the country, after all. "There's just a whole lot of rules and regulations that go along with being in a city that this place wasn't built for," said Schroeder, who has lived for 20 years in the rustic settlement of modest homes curled around a small lake located about 12 miles west of downtown Conroe.

City Stories

Houston Chronicle - December 14, 2017

Galveston council approves hiring of Dallas' police official as new chief

The Galveston City Council has unanimously approved the selection of Vernon Hale, a deputy chief of police with the Dallas Police Department, as the island city's next police chief. Hale, 47, who has served in the Dallas Police Department since 1992, will start his new job on Jan. 2. He will succeed Police Chief Rick Boyle, who announced his retirement in February.

Associated Press - December 14, 2017

Zillow: Houstonians are doubling up as rent costs rise

About a third of adults are living with a roommate or parent in Houston, mirroring the trend for the U.S. as housing costs have shot up, a new Zillow report showed. "As rents have outpaced incomes, living alone is no longer an option for many working-aged adults," Zillow senior economist Aaron Terrazas said in an announcement.

National Stories

Washington Post - December 14, 2017

After Trump and Moore, some evangelicals are finding their own label too toxic to use

PASADENA, Calif. — They all decided they wanted to become preachers and enrolled in seminary to learn how to spread the Gospel. They chose one of the most prominent evangelical seminaries in the country. Yet here they were, these four young preachers-in-training from the Midwest, the South and the Northwest, hanging around after listening to sermons in class. They were debating whether they wanted to be the one thing Fuller Theological Seminary is known for: evangelicals. “It’s still a painful identity for me, coming from this election,” said Paul Johnson, one of the students at Fuller.

Politico - December 14, 2017

How Republicans are experiencing 2010 in reverse

A first-term president and unpopular congressional leaders are pushing a controversial legislative agenda that sparks a nationwide movement from the infuriated opposition. Retirements are suddenly putting the majority’s safe seats in play. Party leaders jam major legislation through Congress on a partisan vote, and are in such a hurry to pass it they’re rewriting it by hand hours before a vote. They lose control of their message and can't find an easy way to get back on track. Then comes a stunning upset in a Senate special election for a seat the majority party had controlled for decades.

Vox - December 14, 2017

Klein: Republicans are paying a price for their extremism

It’s an article of faith among many Democrats that Republicans have somehow escaped the electoral consequences for the increasing extremism of their party. Doug Jones’s narrow victory over Roy Moore on Tuesday night looked, to many liberals, like a rare exception. But as political scientist Matt Glassman points out, it’s far from alone. Starting around the 2010 Tea Party surge, Republican voters have repeatedly chosen the most extreme candidates during primaries, and have paid a real electoral price, particularly in the Senate.

Dallas Morning News - December 13, 2017

Lindenberger: Here's how Doug Jones' win can push the Senate to the middle, where it belongs

Doug Jones' election to the Senate means that if Mitch McConnell and John Cornyn lose even a single Republican vote on any issue before the chamber, they'll need to go running for help from the vice president. Lose two members, and welcome to the Republican Nightmare on Main Street. That prospect has Democrats flexing their muscles and resisters everywhere walking tall. But let me suggest another path forward, one that could steer the Senate, and with it the nation, away from the death-eater partisanship that everyone says they hate and everyone admits has taken over the Capitol.

Dallas Morning News - December 13, 2017

DMN: Alabamans vote their conscience, and the winner is the Republican Party

The Republican Party narrowly escaped disaster Tuesday, when Alabama voters — led by Republicans with courage and common sense — put Roy Moore's odious campaign for the Senate out of its misery, and out of ours. We're deeply grateful, both for the party's sake and for the country's. Democrat Doug Jones is not the candidate most conservatives had wanted to represent deep-red Alabama in the Senate. We'd have happily welcomed a second conservative Republican to that state's delegation.

San Antonio Express-News - December 14, 2017

A DACA fix this year looks unlikely

Democrats in Congress are growing increasingly pessimistic that an agreement to protect young undocumented immigrants from deportation can be reached this year. Laredo Democrat Henry Cuellar says it might take a miracle to get a deal done before lawmakers go home for the holidays. But immigration advocates hold out hope an agreement can be achieved in the Senate, which yet could force action in the House before likely adjournment next week. Bipartisan negotiations among senators were under way Thursday.

Associated Press - December 14, 2017

White House aims to sway opinion on immigration overhaul

The White House is embarking on a major campaign to turn public opinion against the nation's largely family-based immigration system ahead of an all-out push next year to move toward a more merit-based structure. The administration was laying the groundwork for such a drive even before an Islamic State-inspired extremist who was born in Bangladesh tried to blow himself up in Midtown Manhattan on Monday. It is assembling data to bolster the argument that the current legal immigration system is not only ill-conceived, but dangerous and damaging to U.S. workers.

This article appeared in the Houston Chronicle

Washington Post - December 14, 2017

Possible defection by Sen. Rubio puts tax overhaul bill closer to the brink of defeat

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) threatened Thursday to vote against Republicans’ $1.5 trillion tax overhaul unless it further expands a child tax credit to millions of working families, leaving GOP leaders searching for answers on a final deal that had appeared to be on the verge of sailing through the House and Senate. Rubio, along with Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), wants Republican leaders to include the expansion as they reconcile separate tax measures passed by the House and Senate, working to craft a final compromise bill that could pass both chambers and be sent President Trump for his signature.

Washington Post - December 14, 2017

GOP considers letting tax cuts for families expire sooner

Congressional Republicans are looking at shortening the duration of tax cuts that their plan would give to families and individuals, a leading lawmaker said Thursday. That change would free up more revenue for additional changes to their tax overhaul, but it could also heighten complaints that the bill prioritizes cuts for corporations over households. Under a tax overhaul bill passed by the Senate earlier this month, tax cuts for all American households would expire at the end of 2025. But Republicans are now considering having those tax cuts expire in 2024.

Washington Post - December 14, 2017

Trump allies say Tillerson has ‘not learned his lesson’ and cannot continue in job for long

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson seemed focused this week on rebooting his image as a beleaguered Cabinet member on the outs with his boss and his own employees — holding a rare town hall with employees, promising foreign trips into 2018 and saying he is “learning” to enjoy his job. But then he went off script by offering another invitation for diplomatic talks with nuclear-armed North Korea, putting him at odds once again with President Trump and senior White House officials, who are increasingly exasperated with the secretary of state and say he cannot remain in his job for the long term.

Daily Nation (Kenya) - December 14, 2017

US media firm targeted Raila Odinga with attack ads, report says

A Texas-based political media company that has worked for Donald Trump generated online attack campaigns against Raila Odinga in the run-up to the August presidential vote, a new report finds. Harris Media, described in the report as “a far-right American digital media company,” is linked to two anonymous sites: TheReal Raila and Uhuru for Us, states the report issued by London-based Privacy International, which says it is committed to fighting for privacy rights worldwide.

San Antonio Express-News - December 13, 2017

Here's how your tax bracket could change next year

The federal tax code will see its first major changes in decades if President Donald Trump gets his Christmas wish. Republicans in the U.S. Senate passed their version of a new tax plan early Saturday morning after a flurry of last-minute horse trading. They'll now work to bridge gaps between the bill House Republicans passed a few weeks ago. With multiple tax rewrites floating around, you may have a hard time figuring out what all this will mean to you come next spring. The current federal tax system isn't exactly simple, either.

Dallas Morning News - December 13, 2017

Allen: Omarosa is leaving the White House, bye girl bye

Anyone gonna miss Omarosa Manigault Newman's presence at the White House? According to the official word, the former Apprentice and Celebrity Apprentice contestant, resigned her position as an aide for President Trump on Wednesday. But American Urban Radio reporter April Ryan said on CNN that White House Chief of Staff Gen. John Kelly had had it with Newman's antics and that she was "physically dragged and escorted off the campus" in an ugly showdown.

Wall St. Journal - December 14, 2017

Mueller Sought Emails of Trump Campaign Data Firm

Special Counsel Robert Mueller has requested that Cambridge Analytica, a data firm that worked for President Donald Trump’s campaign, turn over documents as part of its investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election, according to people familiar with the matter. Mr. Mueller asked the firm in the fall to turn over the emails of any Cambridge Analytica employees who worked on the Trump campaign, in a sign that the special counsel is probing the Trump campaign’s data operation.

Dallas Morning News - December 14, 2017

FCC votes on party lines, 3-2, undoing Obama-era 'net neutrality' rules

The Federal Communications Commission repealed the Obama-era "net neutrality" rules Thursday, giving internet service providers like Verizon, Comcast and AT&T a free hand to slow or block websites and apps as they see fit or charge more for faster speeds. In a straight party-line vote of 3-2, the Republican-controlled FCC junked the longtime principle that said all web traffic must be treated equally. The move represents a radical departure from more than a decade of federal oversight.

December 14, 2017

Lead Stories

Politico - December 13, 2017

Republican civil war erupts anew

Democrat Doug Jones’ victory in Alabama — far from settling the score between the McConnell and Bannon wings of the Republican Party — instead touched off another round of internecine GOP infighting over who’s to blame for the party's loss in one of the most conservative states in the country. From the outset, the race served as a proxy war between the tight-lipped Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a paragon of the party establishment, and Steve Bannon, the former White House chief strategist who has dedicated himself to disrupting everything McConnell represents.

Dallas Morning News - December 13, 2017

Is 'team player' Ted Cruz here to stay? GOP's tax push gives latest proof of softer style

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz is not getting the flat tax he’s long desired. Or perhaps even a reduction in the number of tax brackets. Or the elimination, it appears, of the estate tax and some other parts of the code the Republican loathes. Or the fulfillment of his stated goal of “cutting taxes for every taxpayer in America.” And yet, when a lone GOP senator last month threatened to scuttle the party’s $1.5 trillion tax plan, it wasn’t the Texan once famous for helping shut down the government over ideological purity.

Houston Chronicle - December 13, 2017

Texans played big role in financing both sides of Alabama Senate race

No state played a bigger financial role in trying to elect Roy Moore to the U.S. Senate outside of Alabama than Texas. Individual campaign donors from Texas combined to give the failed Republican nominee nearly as much money as contributors in California, New York and Florida combined. ... Some Texas Republicans had been backing Moore for months. Among the biggest Texas donors to Moore: Lee Roy Mitchell, founder of the Cinemark USA movie theater chain from Dallas. Physician and conservative activist Lawrence Gelman from McAllen. Same-sex marriage opponent and conservative activist Steven Hotze and his wife Janie Hotze from the Houston area.

Austin American-Statesman - December 13, 2017

One Texan confirmed to federal judicial post, but another booted

It was a split decision Wednesday for federal judge nominees from Texas. The U.S. Senate confirmed Texas Supreme Court Justice Don Willett to be a judge on the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, but the White House pulled back from supporting Jeff Mateer, a top official in the Texas attorney general’s office who had called transgender children evidence of “Satan’s plan,” for a Plano-based federal judge position.

State Stories

Texas Tribune - December 13, 2017

Texas campaign season opens with conflict-of-interest questions

The 2018 election season is officially underway in Texas — and questions are already cropping up about potential conflicts of interest between campaigns and party officials. One simmering issue blew into public view Wednesday, when Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller called for the resignation of Matthew Mackowiak as chairman of the Travis County Republican Party. Mackowiak, a GOP strategist who became the party chairman earlier this year, is working for Miller's primary challenger, Trey Blocker.

Texas Tribune - December 13, 2017

U.S. Rep. Williams endorses Farenthold challenger as sexual harassment scandal grows

In the first overt sign that U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Corpus Christi, is losing support among his Republican colleagues in the Texas delegation, the embattled congressman's most prominent primary challenger announced the endorsement of U.S. Rep. Roger Williams, R-Austin, late Wednesday. A news release from the campaign of former Texas Water Development Board Chairman Bech Bruun announced Williams' support.

Texas Tribune - December 13, 2017

Straus says "decency trumped tribalism" in Roy Moore defeat

House Speaker Joe Straus on Wednesday praised Alabamians for voting against Roy Moore, a U.S. Senate candidate accused of inappropriate sexual relationships with numerous underage women — and tied the implications of that vote on Tuesday to next year’s Texas elections. "Last night in Alabama, something very important happened: Decency trumped tribalism," Straus said before calling on Texas voters to make similar decisions in 2018 races. "If more mainstream voters participate in primaries, there will be fewer Roy Moores in position to hold important offices."

Houston Chronicle - December 13, 2017

Roy Moore today, Ted Cruz next?

It didn't take long for the Democrat who wants to unseat U.S. Ted Cruz to seize on Alabama's Senate results. Minutes after Democrat Doug Jones was declared the winner Tuesday night in Alabama, El Paso Democrat Beto O'Rourke had a fundraising email out to his supporters explaining why Cruz, the freshman Republican from Houston, is going to be the next to lose a once-safe Senate seat.

Houston Chronicle - December 13, 2017

Climate change made Harvey's 51 inches of rain 3 times more likely, scientists say

Global warming made Hurricane Harvey's 51 inches of rain three times more likely to occur when comparing today's climate to that of the 1880s, scientists say. And if climate change continues unchecked, these extreme rain events will continue to occur, according to a paper presented Wednesday at the annual American Geophysical Union in New Orleans. That's why policy makers "need to consider climate change in our design of infrastructure," said Antonia Sebastian, Rice University post doctoral researcher who is a coauthor on the paper.

Houston Chronicle - December 12, 2017

Study: Hurricane Harvey hit poorer communities hardest

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

Houston Chronicle - December 13, 2017

Harris County sues drug makers, doctors over opioid epidemic

Harris County jumped into the legal fight against the opioid crisis, joining dozens of cities and counties in filing suit against the giant pharmaceutical companies responsible for making the painkillers fueling the growing overdose epidemic. The sweeping 39-page legal claim filed in Harris County court Wednesday accuses 21 companies and a handful of individual doctors and one pharmacist of conspiracy, neglect and creating a public nuisance in a case that is already drawing comparisons to the multi-billion-dollar Big Tobacco litigation filed by state attorneys general in the 1990s.

Houston Chronicle - December 13, 2017

University of Houston to lead new hurricane research center

The University of Houston will lead a new Gulf Coast hurricane research institute to examine flood mitigation, hurricane modeling and public policy as part of a multi-state effort to respond to damages wrought this year by hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria. Seven universities in Texas, Florida and Louisiana — including Rice University — will contribute a combined $1.87 million to finance collaborative projects, with additional funding expected from external grants.

San Antonio Express-News - December 13, 2017

FirstNet gives Texas emergency workers ‘ruthless preemption’ on cellphone networks

Police, fire and other emergency workers in Texas can now get “ruthless preemption” on all calls, text messages and emails under a new communications plan to deliver a wireless broadband network to first responders. Ruthless preemption basically processes their messages and data before all others under the First Responder Network Authority plan, or FirstNet, a national public safety broadband network run by AT&T. Preemption shifts non-emergency traffic to another line when the line becomes crowded, allowing them to better coordinate during emergencies or large public events, according to the release.

San Antonio Express-News - December 13, 2017

Cantu told FBI her affair with Uresti began in 2010 with ‘sexy’ comment, lewd text

Indicted state Sen. Carlos Uresti began a sexual relationship with Denise Cantu of Harlingen — a key witness against him — as early as 2010, telling his then-client she looked “sexy,” sending her lewd text messages and later consummating the friendship at a hotel room in San Antonio, she told the FBI in interview records that reveal new details of their relationship. Calling Cantu a “demonstrated liar,” Uresti’s lawyers shared FBI records with the San Antonio Express-News after federal prosecutors filed a motion under seal last week to block some expert testimony from his upcoming criminal fraud trial. The FBI records summarize interviews she had with federal law enforcement officials throughout their investigation.

Dallas Morning News - December 13, 2017

Jeffers: Can Brett Shipp unseat Pete Sessions? First he needs to prove he knows the issues

Former television reporter Brett Shipp has reshaped the Democratic Primary in Congressional District 32 with an unorthodox campaign and strong name recognition that make him a serious contender, perhaps an instant front-runner. But if Shipp indeed wants to win the primary, and then upend Republican incumbent Pete Sessions, he'll have to back up the natural curiosity and increasing interest in his candidacy with an effective campaign — complete with fundraising, organization and a message that resonates with primary and general-election voters.

Dallas Morning News - December 13, 2017

Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin completed another flight test in West Texas

New Shepard flew its seventh time on Tuesday from Blue Origin's West Texas launch site. It was the first time the company's new Crew Capsule 2.0 was tested complete with a dummy on board. It features larger windows of 2.4 feet wide and 3.6 feet tall. Someday passengers will have wide open views of space. The mission also included a dozen commercial and education payloads that collected data on the flight. ... Space News on Tuesday first reported the company had filed a request with the FAA and said based on past experience it suggests Blue Origin is preparing to test its New Shepard suborbital vehicle.

Dallas Morning News - December 13, 2017

No judgeship for 'Satan's plan' Texan, as White House drops Jeff Mateer nomination

Jeff Mateer, a top lawyer for the state of Texas who has described transgender children as evidence of "Satan's plan," will not become a federal judge. Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said Wednesday that the nominations of Mateer and a controversial Alabama nominee, Brett Talley, were dead. A White House aide confirmed to The Dallas Morning News that "both Talley and Mateer will not be moving forward." One day earlier, Grassley became the first Republican senator to openly oppose the nominations. But the setback seemed isolated.

Dallas Morning News - December 13, 2017

Governor Abbott asks Texas Rangers to investigate violence, sexual abuse at juvenile lockups

Gov. Greg Abbott has asked the Texas Rangers to investigate the state's juvenile lockups after reports of widespread sexual abuse, drug use and violence raised serious questions about the safety of staff and youthful offenders. On Wednesday, Abbott sent letters to Department of Public Safety Director Steven McCraw and Camille Cain, the newly-named head of the Texas Juvenile Justice Department, asking them to address problems in the lockups. The request was made after The Dallas Morning News reported detailed accounts of sexual misconduct, violence and drug use in the facilities, including allegations that at least one guard was impregnated by a youthful offender.

Dallas Morning News - December 13, 2017

Which side has the best players in Texas House GOP Family Feud, 2018 edition?

Republican factions have been warring over the Texas House since 2010, and each side this week claimed to have gotten the jump on next year's resumption of the battle. Tea party-aligned critics of Speaker Joe Straus, who is retiring, and his more traditional, pro-business followers closely scrutinized the lists of candidates for the House's 150 seats after Monday night's filing deadline. Straus detractors said they're delighted his team fielded very few Republican challengers to try to oust members of the anti-Straus Texas Freedom Caucus.

Dallas Morning News - December 13, 2017

A plan hatched by a developer and a politician to grow southern Dallas raises eyebrows at City Hall

A prominent developer and a state senator have carved out a section of southern Dallas they hope to see controlled by a hand-selected board with significant governmental and financial power over about 300 acres. The deal struck between developer Mehrdad Moayedi and state Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas, has raised concern at Dallas City Hall, where some officials feel that the City Council was frozen out of its traditional oversight role. The council does have some say in the matter, though West has insisted the deal ought to be approved and has said he “will not be a happy camper if they can’t work this thing out.”

Dallas Morning News - December 13, 2017

Davis: Brett Shipp tells Mark Davis a wall is a wall and Trump should be impeached

Davis: Did you pick 32 because you think Pete's more beatable than some other incumbents? Shipp: I'm hearing the same things you are, that he is vulnerable, and that people are ready to say goodbye to him. A lot of Republicans have come out of the woodwork in the past few days to say they're going to support me, that it's time for change... My heart is so touched that so many lifelong Republicans are giving me money and saying they support me.

Dallas Morning News - December 13, 2017

Texas Rep. Blake Farenthold faces more claims of abusive behavior from former aide

A third former top aide has accused Texas Rep. Blake Farenthold of crude, abusive behavior, CNN reported Wednesday. One of the Corpus Christi congressman's former communications directors, Michael Rekola, described a work environment so hostile that he said he required counseling and medical treatment. He described "screaming fits of rage, slamming fists on desks and castigating aides," CNN reported. He has offered to provide the House Ethics Comittee with "examples of sexually inappropriate comments" and discuss Farenthold's "emotionally damaging" and "intimidating" behavior.

Austin American-Statesman - December 13, 2017

Obamacare enrollment brisk but deadline nears in shorter signup period

Enrollment for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act has been brisk as the deadline to sign up looms Friday, but final numbers are likely to fall short of last year regardless because the enrollment period is half as long. In Texas, enrollment on the federal health care exchange is up nearly 30 percent, to 579,688 people, compared to the same period last year, according to the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which released figures Wednesday for the first six weeks of open enrollment. About 4.68 million people have sign up nationally, an increase of about 17 percent.

Texas Monthly - December 9, 2017

Mr. Shipp Wants to Go to Washington

Brett Shipp, wrapped in a peacoat and surrounded by family, told the four cameras and the two dozen or so onlookers on Thursday that he was ready to act out. The longtime Channel 8 investigative journalist was standing on the porch of a home-turned-event-venue in Garland that dates back to 1895, the symbolic “center of the 32nd district,” according to him, where, he said, he has decided to drop the whole impartiality thing and fight back against what is happening in Washington, D.C. by running for congress.

National Review - December 8, 2017

Combining Cronyism and Political Correctness at the University of Texas

Yes folks, it’s true — even in conservative states, higher education has been largely captured by the forces of “progressivism.” Nearly all college and university presidents prattle away about their commitment to diversity, to saving the planet, to “enriching” the curriculum with all kinds of grievance courses, and so on. The University of Texas (UT) is no different, with leadership no different from what you’d expect in California or Massachusetts. It is also steeped in cronyism, with leaders cozying up to big donors. In today’s Martin Center article, UT grad and lawyer Mark Pulliam exposes some dirty laundry at the university. The case involves a Title IX accusation against a male student, his exoneration by an objective fact-finder, and the reversal of that decision by UT president Gregory Fenves. Why? The accusing female student’s father is a UT big-wig — that’s why.

KERA - December 6, 2017

Dallas' U.S. Patent And Trademark Office Has Become A Hub For North Texas Startups

What do a medicinal face mask, a vehicle parking system and a pet toy squirrel have in common? They were all created and recently patented by inventors in North Texas. Every year, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office receives hundreds of thousands of applications; so many, it’s hard to keep up. A growing backlog of applications is part of the reason the agency opened a satellite office — one of only a handful in the country — in Dallas two years ago. The office has done much more than chip away at a backlog of inventions. Some entrepreneurs took advantage of the resource, and benefited financially.

KXAN - December 6, 2017

What it takes to win a gubernatorial primary as a Democrat in Texas

Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez will officially announce she’s running for Texas governor when she makes her announcement at the Texas Democratic Party headquarters in Austin Wednesday. “From migrant farm worker in a humble family of eight children to U.S. Army captain, federal agent to sheriff, Valdez has dedicated her life to hard work, service, and defending Texans,” wrote the Texas Democratic Party in a press release.

County Stories

Houston Chronicle - December 13, 2017

What’s in Houston's worst flood zones? Development worth $13.5 billion

Two months after Hurricane Harvey, the city of Houston spent $10.7 million to get nearly 60 damaged houses out of the flood plain. A week later, developers went to City Hall, asking to build 900 new houses in it. Meritage Homes, one of the nation's largest homebuilders, proposed a 151-acre development at the former Pine Crest Golf Course in northwest Houston, 2 miles east of Addicks Reservoir. It's on Brickhouse Gully, where city and county officials had already bought out more than 30 homes to reduce flooding before Harvey. They are in the process of buying 15 more. Part of the Meritage plan was about to slip through City Council largely unnoticed before Cynthia Neely, a member of an anti-flooding group, raised an uproar.

Austin American-Statesman - December 13, 2017

Sid Miller calls for Travis GOP chairman to resign over campaign work

Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller wants Travis County Republican Party Chairman Matt Mackowiak to resign his post after joining the campaign of Miller’s primary opponent Trey Blocker as a communications consultant. “How in the world can the Travis County Republican Party guarantee an impartial election process, when the person in charge of the election is working for one of the candidates?” Miller said in a statement Wednesday. “I have been a Republican all my life and I have never seen such a blatant conflict of interest. I am calling on Matt Mackowiak to resign immediately as Travis County GOP chair or quit his campaign job. He cannot do both.” Mackowiak denied Miller’s charge of partiality in an emailed statement.

Austin American-Statesman - December 13, 2017

Toll officials hold off on U.S. 183 bidding in wake of toll storm

Local toll road authority officials, caught up in a statewide backlash against pay-to-drive projects, delayed an effort Wednesday to build toll lanes on U.S. 183 north of MoPac Boulevard (Loop 1). But the delay in the $380 million project to add two toll lanes to each side of U.S. 183 from MoPac to Texas 45 North, requested by Texas Department of Transportation officials under pressure from Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, could be short. “I hope we’re able to address this next month, or at least in the next 30 to 60 days,” said Ray Wilkerson, chairman of the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority board.

Dallas Morning News - December 13, 2017

DMN: Dallas County's bail system disproportionately penalizes women

Dallas County has long known that the way it handles bail is both unfair to the accused and a financial burden on taxpayers. Yet the problem persists. What will it take to get the county to fix this mess? Do we need to call in the Texas Legislature to get the job done? That could happen. A bill was introduced in Austin earlier this year to do just that.

Dallas Morning News - December 13, 2017

Ragland: The Anchorman returns: Mike Snyder hopes voters remember his TV persona — not the fake ones he created as a consultant

He was, for much of his career, the most familiar face and voice of NBC5 news in Dallas. Granted, his longtime co-anchor, Jane McGarry, may have something to say about that. Oh, well. Both have moved on, dropping their anchors elsewhere: McGarry, now co-host of Good Morning Texas on WFAA-TV (Channel 8), left the local NBC station in July 2012, about two months after she was arrested and pleaded no contest to DWI. Mike Snyder, whose pay and profile had been reduced amid a station overhaul, retired two years earlier, in the summer of 2010. But now, Snyder is taking a bold if unexpected step to return to the public's eye — as a politician.

City Stories

Dallas Morning News - December 13, 2017

Dallas police can now shame property owners who tolerate crime with a sign

The Dallas police chief has a new tool in her arsenal to force home and business owners to address crime on or near their properties: shame. On Wednesday, the Dallas City Council passed a "nuisance abatement" ordinance allowing Police Chief U. Renee Hall to identify properties that tolerate criminal activity and try to get the owners to address it. The new ordinance allows city officials to slap a sign on properties identified as sites of "habitual criminal activity."

National Stories

Politico - December 13, 2017

Aid for disaster-stricken states could be punted into January

Lawmakers from Texas and Florida are exceedingly anxious that hurricane recovery aid will be sidelined in next week’s government funding scramble amid internal disputes over who should get how much cash. Congress was widely expected to approve its next multibillion-dollar disaster request as part of the year-end spending bill. But with just days to go until the Dec. 22 deadline when government funding expires, lawmakers are still haggling over the fine points of the next round of disaster aid.

Texas Tribune - December 13, 2017

Two controversial federal judge nominees will not be confirmed, Senate Republican says

The Senate Judiciary Committee’s top Republican said Wednesday that two of President Trump’s nominees for open seats on the federal bench will not be confirmed, just a day after urging the White House to “reconsider” them. U.S. Sen. Charles E. Grassley, R-Iowa, said that based on his discussions with the White House, the nominations of Jeff Mateer and Brett Talley would not move forward through the confirmation process. The decision comes after reports that both nominees made public comments celebrating groups or policies that were discriminatory.

Dallas Morning News - December 13, 2017

Solis: Why don't Mexicans just apply for citizenship?

Mexicans are the largest group of immigrants living in the U.S. They've been under pressure since President Donald Trump called for construction of a wall between the U.S. and Mexico and said Mexico wasn't sending its "best people." So why don’t Mexicans and other immigrants just get in line for their green cards so they can later apply for citizenship? Well, it’s not that easy. Six reasons why: You need a green card. And they’re hard to get.

Washington Post - December 13, 2017

Alabama results remake 2018 election playbook for both parties

Alabama’s surprising election outcome upended the expectations in both parties for next year’s midterm campaigns, with Democrats emboldened by signs of a resurgent voter base and Republicans sensing new vulnerabilities. The victory Tuesday by Democrat Doug Jones to represent that heavily conservative state in the Senate was the latest example in a string of elections this year that Democratic leaders think represent a growing backlash against President Trump — and a potential building wave for 2018.

Washington Post - December 13, 2017

Democrats see road map for 2018 in huge turnout among black voters in Alabama

DeJuana Thompson spent Alabama’s election night at a party where “I Voted” stickers were the price of entry — one more bash for Woke Vote, an organization that had spent $400,000 to turn out young black voters. Thompson, a Birmingham native, had joined Woke Vote’s get-out-the-vote drive when it looked impossible for Democrat Doug Jones to win. On Tuesday, surrounded by cheering black voters, Thompson watched Jones pull it off. “I was without words,” Thompson said. “It was reminiscent of the night we elected Obama. People did not believe it could happen, and then, suddenly, it did.”

The Hill - December 13, 2017

Republicans relieved by Moore loss in Alabama

Republicans are breathing a sigh of relief after GOP Senate candidate Roy Moore’s defeat Tuesday in Alabama. Moore’s loss will cut Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.) already narrow two-seat majority down to just one next year. That razor-thin 51-49 margin will leave GOP leadership with no room for error on top GOP agenda items — potentially including another run at repealing ObamaCare — and could put more pressure on them to negotiate with Democrats on run-of-the-mill bills and to break filibusters.

Houston Chronicle - December 13, 2017

Diaz: What about the 16 women who have accused Trump? A letter to Paul Ryan

Dear Speaker Ryan, You sat down with Steve Inskeep from NPR in early December to discuss the tax bill and other things, and you came to the topic of sexual harassment. You said you have a 15-year old daughter. I have two daughters. You said, "I want my daughter to grow up in a country ... where she is empowered and respected, wherever she goes and wherever she works and whatever she does." And I agree that our girls should feel safe wherever they go! Anywhere but the White House.

USA Today - December 13, 2017

Will Trump's lows ever hit rock bottom?

With his latest tweet, clearly implying that a United States senator would trade sexual favors for campaign cash, President Trump has shown he is not fit for office. Rock bottom is no impediment for a president who can always find room for a new low. White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Tuesday dismissed the president's smear as a misunderstanding because he used similar language about men. Of course, words used about men and women are different. When candidate Trump said a journalist was bleeding from her "wherever," he didn't mean her nose.

Austin American-Statesman - December 12, 2017

Trump’s denial of Russian meddling is PolitiFact Lie of the Year

A mountain of evidence points to a single fact: Russia meddled in the U.S. presidential election of 2016. In both classified and public reports, U.S. intelligence agencies have said Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered actions to interfere with the election. Those actions included the cybertheft of private data, the placement of propaganda against particular candidates and an overall effort to undermine public faith in the U.S. democratic process.

Dallas Morning News - December 13, 2017

3 things to watch as GOP sprints to pass sweeping tax overhaul early next week

Republicans offered Wednesday what could amount to their closing arguments in favor of a $1.5 trillion tax revamp that's unlike anything Congress has produced in more than three decades. President Donald Trump, using the White House's bully pulpit, touted the prospect of "one of the biggest pieces of legislation ever signed." The GOP-heavy conference committee hosted its only public meeting on a plan that Texas Rep. Kevin Brady, the House's top tax writer, called "historic."

The Hill - December 13, 2017

Minnesota lieutenant governor to replace Franken, run for seat in 2018

Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton (D) on Wednesday named Lt. Gov. Tina Smith (D) to fill Sen. Al Franken’s (D) soon-to-be vacated Senate seat. Smith said she intends to run in November 2018 to complete the remaining two years of Franken’s term. “It is up to Minnesotans to decide who they want to complete Senator Franken’s term. I will run in that election, and I will do my best to earn Minnesotans support. And I believe the way to do that is to be the best senator I can be,” Smith said.

Washington Post - December 13, 2017

Kentucky lawmaker who was accused of molesting a teenage girl likely killed himself, coroner says

Kentucky lawmaker Dan Johnson was found dead Wednesday, an official said, days after allegations surfaced that he had molested a member of his church when she was 17. Bullitt County Coroner Dave Billings said the Republican state representative — and self-proclaimed “Pope” of his Louisville church — most likely killed himself. His body was found near a bridge on Greenwell Ford Road in Mount Washington, in a spot called the River Bottoms. He had a single gunshot wound to his head.

Houston Chronicle - December 13, 2017

Global oil field spending set to rise by $25 billion in 2018, led by U.S., survey says

Energy companies will boost capital spending in the U.S. oil patch next year, but their investments won't grow nearly as much as this year, a new report said Wednesday. The oil industry's capital expenditures – the lifeblood of the oil field service companies that employ thousands of people in Houston and across Texas – will increase by 15 percent in the United States next year, compared with an increase of 49 percent last year, according to a survey of more than 300 companies by investment bank Evercore ISI.

Wall St. Journal - December 13, 2017

Fed Raises Rates, Sticks to Forecast for 2018 Increases

The Federal Reserve showed continued optimism about the U.S. economy in voting Wednesday to raise short-term interest rates for the third time this year, and signaling it would stay on a similar path next year amid a leadership transition. Officials nudged their economic-growth estimates higher for the next few years on expectations that congressional Republicans will pass tax cuts. But the Fed policy makers’ new projections suggest the boost wouldn’t be so large that they would have to speed up the pace of rate increases to guard against too much inflation.

December 13, 2017

Lead Stories

Washington Post - December 12, 2017

Preliminary exit poll results: How different groups voted in Alabama

Fully 96 percent of African Americans supported Jones, similar to President Obama’s 95 percent support among this group in 2012. But Jones fared much better than Obama among white voters, garnering 30 percent of their votes, twice the 15 percent who voted for Obama. Jones made particularly large gains among white women and those with college degrees. Preliminary exit poll results showed Moore faring worse among white voters than Republicans in previous Alabama elections, but he maintained a lead among both white men and women and those with and without college degrees.

New York Times - December 13, 2017

Republicans, Closing In on Final Tax Bill, Aim for a Vote Next Week

Republican lawmakers, scrambling to reach agreement on a final tax bill that they hope to pass next week, are coalescing around a plan that would slightly raise the proposed corporate tax rate, lower the top rate on the richest Americans and scale back the existing mortgage interest deduction. In a frenzy of last-minute negotiations, Republicans drew closer to agreement on nudging the corporate tax rate to 21 percent, up from the 20 percent in the bills that passed the House and Senate but still lower than the current 35 percent corporate rate, according to a lawmaker and a person briefed on the discussions.

San Antonio Express-News - December 12, 2017

Straus censured by Bexar County GOP

House Speaker Joe Straus, R- San Antonio, was censured by his hometown Republican party late Monday, dealing a symbolic blow to the five-term speaker on his way out of office. Bexar County GOP precinct chairs voted 77 to 21 to rebuke Straus’ leadership, claiming he abused his power to block anti-abortion bills and obstruct Republican Gov. Greg Abbott’s agenda, among other things, according to members present.

Texas Tribune - December 13, 2017

This Texas lawmaker could finish his term from jail

There’s a chance state Rep. Ron Reynolds could be sentenced to serve a year in jail next year. If that happens, he wouldn't have to resign, according to state officials. The Houston-area Democrat recently lost his appeal to a 2016 conviction of five misdemeanor barratry charges for illegal solicitation of legal clients. Reynolds, a once-practicing personal injury lawyer, says his attorney is working to submit a petition to the Texas Criminal Court of Appeals to review the opinions issued by Texas’ 8th Court of Appeals, which upheld his conviction. It’s a last-ditch attempt to avoid serving his sentence of a year in jail.

KUHF - December 7, 2017

Texas Is Seen As Crucial For The Dream Act To Pass In Congress In December

The clock is ticking for almost 700,000 undocumented immigrants who are benefiting from the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, established by President Barack Obama in 2012, and immigration activists are convinced that politicians who represent Texas in Congress are crucial to give DACA recipients a legislative relief they are eagerly waiting for. Activists, supported by a nationwide campaign, want Congress to pass a bill before its December recess, which is scheduled to start on December 15th for the House of Representatives and on December 18th for the Senate. Pro-immigration reform organizations are demanding what they call a “clean DREAM Act” from Congress, meaning a bill that would provide a path to citizenship that would not be subject to lawmakers passing measures to strengthen border security or establish more enforcement measures.

State Stories

San Antonio Express-News - December 12, 2017

Uresti adds more names as potential witnesses for upcoming criminal trial

State Sen. Carlos Uresti has added some more notable politicians and lawyers to an already powerful list of potential witnesses who could be called to testify in his criminal fraud trial, set to start in about three weeks. Uresti updated the list this week to include U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo, and Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar, a Republican. Former state Land Commissioner Garry Mauro, one of the last Democrats to win election statewide in Texas — in 1994 — and Hillary Clinton’s point person in Texas for last year’s presidential election, also has been added to the list of witnesses who may be called.

San Antonio Express-News - December 12, 2017

Statewide input sought for Alamo plan

A St. Louis consulting firm will lead a statewide outreach and design phase for an Alamo master plan, gathering input to address “cares and concerns” about the future of the Spanish mission and Texas war of independence landmark. PGAV Destinations was chosen “from a pool of respondents who submitted proposals through the state’s procurement process,” the Texas General Land Office said in a release Tuesday. It will serve as a contractor under direction from the Land Office, Alamo staff and a master plan committee with representation from the Land Office, city of San Antonio and nonprofit Alamo Endowment.

Austin American-Statesman - December 12, 2017

In visit to Austin, federal officials note Texas’ help in immigration

Federal immigration authorities say they are satisfied with the way most Texas law enforcement agencies have cooperated to assist in the removal of people who are suspected of living in the country illegally. As for Austin, there’s work to be done, according to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen M. Nielsen. Nielsen, who was in the city on Tuesday to discuss the importance of collaboration among local and federal law enforcement, delivered a message with Austin’s leaders.

Austin American-Statesman - December 12, 2017

Abbott: Testing requirements should be dropped for Harvey-hit schools

Gov. Greg Abbott is putting pressure on the Texas Education Agency to give students in school districts affected by Hurricane Harvey a reprieve from state testing requirements. Students in the fifth and eighth grade must pass the math and reading State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness to move on to the next grade. In a letter on Monday, Abbott asked TEA Commissioner Mike Morath to waive the so-called Student Success Initiative requirements for students in Harvey-affected areas.

Austin American-Statesman - December 12, 2017

Herman: The 2018 Texas primary matchups worth watching

Now that we know the fields, let’s look for the fun. Monday was the filing deadline for the March primaries. Seems like we’ve got some potentially interesting/entertaining races. Hurray for us. Let’s see what’s going to be worth keeping an eye on. Atop the list is the possibility that the Democrats could lose their own gubernatorial primary. Let me explain. Ten candidates have filed in the Democratic gubernatorial primary. You’ve never heard of most of them.

Austin American-Statesman - December 12, 2017

Texts raise questions about Texas special education director’s firing

Newly released text messages are raising questions about why the Texas Education Agency fired its special education director after less than four months on the job. Laurie Kash was fired in late November, one week after a lawsuit accused her of trying to cover up the sexual abuse of a 6-year-old girl while working at a small school district in Oregon. The TEA said that Kash told them nothing about those allegations and that, if she had, they never would have hired her. But text messages released by Kash suggest that she did tell the agency at least something about the situation before she was hired.

Texas Tribune - December 11, 2017

Serafine: Texans will benefit when psychologists are pushed from their safe space

The little-noticed Texas State Board of Examiners of Psychologists has had quite a year. From an abortive legislative Sunset review to a lawsuit filed against it, the agency responsible for licensing psychologists has had an unusually large dose of controversy. More might be in store. The Sunset Commission in January put the Board on a collision course with the Texas Psychological Association. Like most professional associations, the TPA is chummy with its regulators. Professional associations — once limited to physicians and surgeons, engineers, the few "learned" professions — commonly have used their lobbying clout to induce legislators to create licensing boards with close ties to those they regulate.

Texas Tribune - December 13, 2017

Ramsey: What recent election results in Texas congressional districts tell us about 2018

In the three much-discussed Texas congressional districts where Hillary Clinton won in 2016 and where Republican incumbents are defending their seats, Gov. Greg Abbott won handily in 2014. The differences are important as the political world turns its attention to 2018: Donald Trump wasn’t on the ticket in 2014, and Texas Republicans do better in non-presidential election years. The 2016 results, combined with the flagging popularity of the nation’s top Republican, have buoyed Democratic hopes of some wins in the biggest red state in America.

Texas Tribune - December 13, 2017

Texas graduate students worry they'll lose big in the federal tax cut bill

After subtracting student fees and paying for insurance, doctoral student Tom Millay takes home about $15,000 per year from a Baylor University stipend. But soon he could be taxed as though he earns three times more. Millay, who is studying religion and works as graduate assistant at Baylor, is one of thousands of doctoral students in Texas and beyond watching nervously as Congressional Republicans iron out the details of their tax cut bill. In exchange for his teaching duties, Millay receives free tuition — a $30,000 savings — and an annual stipend of $20,000.

Houston Chronicle - December 9, 2017

Grieder: A welcome measure of justice after more than 50 years

Jurors in Hidalgo County this week returned an extraordinary verdict. A timely one, too, given our ongoing national discussions about abuse of power - although the case at hand is one that has haunted the Rio Grande Valley for more than half a century. On April 16, 1960, Irene Garza, a 25-year-old schoolteacher, drove to the Sacred Heart Church in McAllen. It was the Saturday evening before Easter, and she planned to go to confession.

Dallas Morning News - December 8, 2017

What does Texas need to do to get its students ready for the world?

State officials say they want engaged families, quality teachers and better access to opportunities for all students. But how does Texas get there? The State Board of Education has kicked off work to build Texas’ next long-range plan for public schools, which officials hope will be the blueprint that drives future policy decisions and even legislation. Texans who are gathering at a series of public forums on the plan agree, but they’re adamant that they want a plan with teeth, too, to make sure kids are ready for life after high school, whether that be in college or a career.

Dallas Morning News - December 11, 2017

A drone that can carry 1,000 pounds? Bell Helicopter examines the military and consumer possibilities

The drone that delivers a package to your doorstep may someday be built by Fort Worth-based Bell Helicopter. Bell, a division of global aerospace giant Textron, is moving aggressively into the autonomous vehicle business with an Automatic Pod Transport — APT, for short — that could be employed by the military or retailers such as Amazon. "We think the opportunity for a vehicle like this is now," said Scott Drennan, Bell's director of innovation.

Dallas Morning News - December 11, 2017

After uterine transplant leads to baby, Baylor flooded with calls about how to join study

Within a few hours of Baylor University Medical Center announcing two weeks ago that it had successfully delivered the first baby in the U.S. to a mother who had undergone a uterine transplant, inquiries began pouring in to the facility. In just one week, Baylor logged nearly 400 calls and emails from potential donors and recipients.

Dallas Morning News - December 12, 2017

DMN: If the FBI can't protect us from criminals, who can?

Will the nation have to suffer through another criminal tragedy before agencies get on the ball and start reporting information to the FBI in a timely manner? The latest snafu occurred right here in Texas when Gregory McQueen received approval to be a foster parent for abused and neglected children. While he initially appeared to be a good candidate, it turns out he had no business caring for children in the foster community.

Dallas Morning News - December 12, 2017

A Texas felon became a foster parent after an Army mistake

On paper, Gregory McQueen must have seemed like a great candidate to become a foster-care parent in Texas. A married man and Army veteran, McQueen had served as battalion representative on a task force to prevent sexual harassment at Fort Hood in central Texas. But some important information didn’t show up in a state background check before a foster-care agency hired McQueen and his wife last March to care for abused and neglected children.

Dallas Morning News - December 12, 2017

Detained immigrant says Texas guard sexually assaulted her

SAN ANTONIO — The FBI says it will investigate allegations from a woman held in a Central Texas immigrant detention center who says a guard sexually assaulted her. The bureau said Tuesday that it opened a civil rights investigation regarding the case of Laura Monterrosa, a detainee at the T. Don Hutto Residential Center. According to advocacy group Grassroots Leadership, Monterrosa said a guard repeatedly touched her breasts and legs without consent. The group says U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and facility operator CoreCivic didn't respond to her complaints.

Dallas Morning News - December 12, 2017

Which Texas private college presidents make more money than peers at Harvard and Yale?

According to an annual report on private university executive compensation by the Chronicle of Higher Education, 58 private college administrators — including five in Texas — earned more than $1 million in 2015. Using the most recent Internal Revenue Service forms available, the Chronicle calculated that average pay nationally for leaders who served a full year was almost $570,000, a 9 percent increase from 2014. In Texas, the largest and most prestigious schools paid top dollar. Top executives at the state's three largest private schools — Baylor, Southern Methodist and Texas Christian — all earned over $1 million in 2015: $1,362,956 for Baylor's Ken Starr, $1,088,246 for SMU's R. Gerald Turner and $1,578,750 for TCU's Victor Boschini Jr.

Dallas Morning News - December 12, 2017

DMN: Austin is determined to resist the feds — even if that puts kids at risk

It's troubling that Texas — to all appearances — still puts as much energy into fighting federal overseers of its beleaguered foster care system as it does into reform. That's how it looks to us as a 6-years-and-change lawsuit nears a climax, and U.S. District Judge Janis Graham Jack prepares to issue a final order outlining remedies. Jack is the Corpus Christi-based judge who recognized that what so many in the state long passed off as an inconvenient problem is actually a population of children enduring unfair and sometimes appalling treatment.

Texas Public Radio - December 7, 2017

Texas Legislature Taking Crash Course In Cybersecurity

The Texas Senate held its first select committee Wednesday to review processes and give lawmakers a crash course in cybersecurity. The committee was mandated by House Bill 8 that passed earlier this year. Texas is no stranger to cybersecurity problems. In 2011, the state comptroller's office left more than three million social security numbers exposed on the web for a year. The error would reportedly cost the state $1.8 million.

Rio Grande Guardian - December 10, 2017

Salinas says lack of power has cost RGV steel-related projects

The Rio Grande Valley has lost out on major steel-related projects over the years because it does not have enough electrical power, Gilberto Salinas told the Texas House Select Committee on Economic Competitiveness. Salinas, representing the Greater Brownsville Incentives Corporation, testified mostly about SpaceX, STARGATE, the importance of having a trained workforce, and offering incentive packages to lure companies to Texas. However, he was asked to speak about the Valley’s electricity capacity by state Rep. René Oliveira.

HuffPost - December 12, 2017

Ted Cruz Challenger Picks Up Key Environmental Endorsement

The county judge gave Democratic Rep. Beto O’Rourke a dire warning earlier this year when the three-term El Paso congressman leaned down to sip from a water fountain outside the Lasalle County courthouse, a roughly two-and-a-half-hour drive from San Antonio. Don’t drink the water. A gas drilling company contaminated the water table, the judge told him, and no one trusted the water to be safe. It’s a story of industrial pollution that’s become familiar to O’Rourke since he began barnstorming the state in March in a bid to unseat incumbent Republican Sen. Ted Cruz.

County Stories

San Antonio Express-News - December 12, 2017

Medina supporters aggressively seeking signatures

Loyalists of Bexar County Democratic Party Chairman Manuel Medina are aggressively soliciting signatures for him from the party’s county executive committee — even from those who are supporting Medina’s opponent in the March 6 primary. To appear on the primary ballot, both Medina and his challenger, Monica Ramirez Alcantara, must collect signatures from at least 10 percent of the CEC’s more than 300 precinct chairs, or 35 signatures.

Houston Chronicle - December 12, 2017

Port of Galveston names new director

The Port of Galveston is tapping an executive from the world's second-busiest cruise port as the island seeks to attract more vacationers and boost cargo operations. Rodger Rees, deputy executive director and chief financial officer at Port Canaveral in Florida, will take over as Galveston's port director in mid-January. His top priorities include increasing revenue and improving bond ratings needed to finance future projects.

Austin American-Statesman - December 12, 2017

Travis County joins other counties, cities suing over opioid crisis

Travis County will join dozens of other counties and cities throughout the country attempting to recover costs from the opioid epidemic by suing manufacturers, distributors and marketers of the prescription drugs. “This has been a long time coming,” Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt said Tuesday. “This puts a very big strain on our criminal justice system as well as putting a big strain on our health community.” Most of the specifics of the suit are still being worked out, officials said. Eckhardt said the county will work with attorneys to determine who will be named in the suit, what charges will be brought and when.

Austin American-Statesman - December 12, 2017

Trump aide takes over as top federal prosecutor in Austin region

A former member of President Donald Trump’s staff has been sworn in as the United States attorney for the Western District of Texas to prosecute federal crimes in the region that includes Austin. John F. Bash, who served as special assistant to Trump and associate White House counsel, took the oath Monday at the federal courthouse in San Antonio. A public swearing-in will take place in the future. In August, the American-Statesman, citing a source, reported Texas’ Sens. Ted Cruz and John Cornyn had advised Trump to appoint Bash, a Harvard Law School grad whose résumé includes working as a clerk for the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

City Stories

Dallas Morning News - December 12, 2017

Henlley: Timpa homicide shows how police unions protect and serve their own

Cops are only human, their apologists remind us often. Whenever there is evidence of an inexcusable homicide like Anthony Timpa's, their advocates quickly apprise the public of the debt owed to officers. They heroically risk their lives daily, we are told, in a turbulent, often hostile word. While true, such claims would similarly excuse doctors who maim or kill, because we owe our lives to that profession. Coming to the defense of three officers indicted with deadly conduct for Timpa's death, the Dallas Police Association continued this tradition, spuriously maintaining that the grand jury handed down "baseless" charges against these "decorated" officers.

Houston Chronicle - December 12, 2017

Former Houston councilman, civic activist Peter Brown dies at 81

Peter Brown, an eager and persistent advocate for a more walkable, more organized and more beautified Houston who advanced his urbanist ideas on City Council, as a mayoral candidate and through civic activism into his 80s, died Tuesday, his family said. The Houston-born architect and urban planner, who long had been undergoing cancer treatment, was 81.

Austin American-Statesman - December 12, 2017

Eckhardt, Shea draw no challengers as local 2018 races come into focus

Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt, Commissioner Brigid Shea and a handful of other county officials essentially clinched new terms this week after no one filed to run against them in the 2018 elections. District Clerk Velva Price, County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir and County Treasurer Dolores Ortega Carter also drew no challengers before the filing deadline passed Monday evening.

Dallas Morning News - December 12, 2017

Legal fight over Brian Loncar’s estate gets uglier, with County Judge Clay Jenkins at the center

A legal fight over the estate of deceased super-attorney Brian Loncar that pits County Judge Clay Jenkins against a longtime Loncar employee turned even nastier in state court Tuesday. Accusations and counter-accusations flew over a previously undisclosed fund valued at some $1 million. The fund, held by an Illinois-based corporation called KMA Capital, was apparently used to collect fees owed to Loncar's firm from other lawyers.

Dallas Morning News - December 11, 2017

Floyd: Granbury man died because he failed Arizona police sergeant's bizarre 'Simon Says' test

The more times I see Danny Shaver die, the sicker I get. I long for the police body-cam video showing the young Granbury man's 2016 shooting by police in Mesa, Ariz., to have a different ending. In this other ending, police would be wary, naturally: After all, they had been called to a suburban motel to investigate reports of a man wielding a gun in one of the guest room windows. It turned out to be a pellet rifle Shaver used in his pest-control business, which he was showing to an acquaintance. Shaver, a 26-year-old father of two young daughters, regularly traveled from Texas to Arizona on business.

National Stories

New York Times - December 13, 2017

Once a Long Shot, Democrat Doug Jones Wins Alabama Senate Race

Doug Jones, a Democratic former prosecutor who mounted a seemingly quixotic Senate campaign in the face of Republican dominance here, defeated his scandal-scarred opponent, Roy S. Moore, after a brutal campaign marked by accusations of sexual abuse and child molestation against the Republican, according to The Associated Press. The upset delivered an unimagined victory for Democrats and shaved Republicans’ unstable Senate majority to a single seat.

Washington Post - December 12, 2017

Democrats are jubilant — and newly confident about 2018 — as Alabama delivers win on Trump’s turf

The Democrats’ seismic victory Tuesday in the unlikely political battleground of Alabama brought jubilation — and a sudden a rush of confidence — to a party that has been struggling to gain its footing since Donald Trump won the presidency 13 months ago. Democrat Doug Jones’s triumph, the result of a vigorous turnout of the party’s traditional voters and of Republican splintering in a deeply conservative state, sent a thunder clap across the national political landscape that Democrats hope will signify an emerging comeback at the start of the 2018 midterm election campaign.

Politico - December 13, 2017

Trump congratulates Jones on ‘hard fought victory’

President Donald Trump tweeted a polite congratulations to Alabama Democrat Doug Jones on his special election victory Tuesday night. “Congratulations to Doug Jones on a hard fought victory,” the president tweeted soon after The Associated Press called the Alabama Senate race for Jones over Republican nominee Roy Moore, whom the president endorsed.

San Antonio Express-News - December 12, 2017

Trump authorizes a huge military expansion, including 4,100 new Air Force personnel

A massive military authorization bill signed into law by President Donald Trump on Tuesday provides a 2.4 percent military pay raise and enables additional spending and hiring, including 4,100 new Air Force personnel. If the Air Force expansion goes through in a separate military spending bill — which Congress has yet to approve — most of the new airmen would be expected to begin their service at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, home of Air Force basic training.

Bloomberg - December 12, 2017

GOP Eyes $750,000 Mortgage Cap

House and Senate Republicans are working this week on compromise tax-overhaul legislation in an effort to send it to President Donald Trump as soon as next week. Here are the latest developments, updated throughout the day: MacArthur: GOP Plans $750,000 Mortgage Limit (5:36 p.m.) House and Senate negotiators are planning to limit the deduction for mortgage interest to loans of $750,000 or less, according to Representative Tom MacArthur, a New Jersey Republican. MacArthur said the $750,000 limit would be positive for his district compared to the House bill.

Politico - December 12, 2017

Looming pension shortfalls to complicate next shutdown fight

The next potential sleeper cause of a government shutdown? Pensions. Congress barely averted a shutdown last year amid a fight over miners’ health care. Now the looming collapse of pension plans for the miners — as well as thousands of Teamster truck drivers and food service workers — is fueling another, even more expensive, round of brinkmanship. Key Democrats are vowing to fight for a fix as part of any forthcoming deal to fund the government.

Politico - December 12, 2017

In texts, FBI agents on Russia probe called Trump an 'idiot'

Two FBI agents assigned to the investigation into alleged collusion between President Donald Trump's campaign and Russia exchanged text messages referring to the future president as an "idiot," according to copies of messages turned over to Congress Tuesday night by the Justice Department. Special Counsel Robert Mueller removed one of the agents, Peter Strzok, from the Russia probe "immediately" after learning of the texts in late July, the department said in a letter to lawmakers. The other agent, Lisa Page, had already ended her assignment to Mueller's office.

San Antonio Express-News - December 12, 2017

Tillerson softens US stance on possible talks with NKorea

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Tuesday softened America's stance on possible talks with North Korea, calling it "unrealistic" to expect the nuclear-armed country to come to the table ready to give up a weapons of mass destruction program that it invested so much in developing. Tillerson said his boss, President Donald Trump, endorses this position. Tillerson's remarks came two weeks after North Korea conducted a test with a missile that could potentially carry a nuclear warhead to the U.S. Eastern Seaboard — a milestone in its decades-long drive to pose an atomic threat to its American adversary that Trump has vowed to prevent, using military force if necessary.

Wall St. Journal - December 12, 2017

Millions of People Post Comments on Federal Regulations. Many Are Fake.

A comment posted on the Federal Communications Commission’s public docket endorses a Trump-administration plan to repeal a “net neutrality” policy requiring internet providers to treat all web traffic the same. Calling the old Obama-era policy an “exploitation of the open Internet,” the comment was posted on June 2 by Donna Duthie of Lake Bluff, Ill. It’s a fake. Ms. Duthie died 12 years ago.

Politico - December 12, 2017

Justice Department won't disclose details on Mueller ethics waiver

The Justice Department is refusing to reveal details of the process that led up to former FBI Director Robert Mueller being granted an ethics waiver to serve as special counsel investigating the Trump campaign's alleged collusion with Russia during the 2016 presidential election. In response to a POLITICO Freedom of Information Act request, the agency released a one-sentence memo Friday confirming that Mueller was granted a conflict-of-interest waiver in order to assume the politically sensitive post.

Dallas Morning News - December 12, 2017

Support crumbling for 'Satan's plan' Texas nominee after Senate chairman urges Trump to drop Mateer

The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee called on the president Tuesday to drop the nomination of Jeff Mateer, a top lawyer for the state of Texas who has described transgender children as evidence of “Satan’s plan.” "I've advised the White House they ought to reconsider," Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, a Republican, told CNN on Tuesday. "I would advise the White House not to proceed." That makes Grassley the first Republican senator to push back against the nomination of Mateer, the first assistant to Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton. Grassley said he has also urged the White House to drop the nomination of Brett Talley, a controversial pick from Alabama.

Dallas Morning News - December 12, 2017

Hensarling: We must ensure CFPB adheres to our American tenets of checks and balances

There has been much news recently about who lawfully controls Washington's Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, an appointee of Barack Obama or an appointee of Donald Trump. The CFPB may provide great political theater, but it represents profoundly bad government. Instead of allowing this controversy to devolve into another fight between the right and left, this should instead be a debate between what's right and what's wrong. It's right to have a federal agency working to protect consumers and vigorously enforce the consumer protection laws as written by Congress. But it's wrong to have an unconstitutional agency making up its own laws, evading checks and balances, and often harming the very consumers it is supposed to protect.

December 12, 2017

Lead Stories

Politico - December 11, 2017

Secret super PAC backing Jones in Alabama exposed

A mystery super PAC backing Democrat Doug Jones in Alabama is controlled by a pair of groups closely aligned with the national Democratic Party, even as the candidate strives to dissociate himself from Washington interests. Highway 31, which dropped more than $4.1 million in support of Jones and against Roy Moore ahead of Tuesday's Senate special election, is a joint project of two of the largest national Democratic super PACs — Senate Majority PAC and Priorities USA Action — along with a group of Alabama Democrats, multiple senior officials familiar with the arrangement told POLITICO.

San Antonio Express-News - December 11, 2017

Primary filing deadline yields few surprises, sets GOP primary race focused on Alamo

On the last day for candidates to register for the March 6 party primaries, few last-minute candidates jumped into the fray Monday, leaving some high-profile statewide officeholders without any party challengers. In Bexar County, a few competitive races took shape as County Judge Nelson Wolff drew a last-minute rival, while the crowded field for departing House Speaker Joe Straus’ seat solidified. As of Monday night, no Republicans had filed to take on Attorney General Ken Paxton, whose first term has been clouded by securities fraud charges, or Comptroller Glenn Hegar. Similarly Christi Craddick, who chairs the Railroad Commission and recently got into a testy exchange over the departure of the agency’s leader, faces no GOP competitor, according to the state filing website.

Texas Tribune - December 12, 2017

Paul Pressler, former Texas judge and religious right leader, accused of sexually assaulting teen for years

A former Texas state judge and lawmaker has been accused of sexually abusing a young man for several decades starting when the boy was just 14, according to a lawsuit filed in October in Harris County. The lawsuit alleges that Paul Pressler, a former justice on the 14th Court of Appeals who served in the Texas state house from 1957–59, sexually assaulted Duane Rollins, his former bible study student, several times per month over a period of years. According to the filing, the abuse started in the late 1970s and continued less frequently after Rollins left Houston for college in 1983.

Associated Press - December 11, 2017

Some glitches seen in deadline week for 'Obamacare' sign-ups

Consumer advocates reported some glitches Monday in the final days for "Obamacare" sign-ups, although the Trump administration largely seemed to be keeping its promise of a smooth enrollment experience. In Illinois, some consumers who successfully completed an application for financial assistance through HealthCare.gov got a message saying they would likely be eligible to buy a health plan, "but none are available to you in your area." That information was incorrect because every county in the nation currently has at least one health insurer offering plans under the Affordable Care Act for next year.

This article appeared in the San Antonio Express News

State Stories

Dallas Morning News - December 11, 2017

Former Farenthold staffer says Texas congressman made lewd jokes about women with aides

A former spokeswoman for Corpus Christi Rep. Blake Farenthold used a podcast on Monday to back up another former aide’s accusations that he engaged in inappropriate sexual banter with staff. The first accuser, Lauren Greene — who also once served as Farenthold’s communications director— received an $84,000 settlement after suing Farenthold in 2014 for sexual harassment, gender discrimination and a hostile work environment. The four-term Republican has maintained his innocence and recently vowed to repay taxpayers.

Dallas Morning News - December 11, 2017

Jeffers: After GOP family fight, 2018 elections will show if Democrats can close gap

The 2018 elections will test whether Democrats can break the Republican stronghold on statewide offices and the Legislature. But first, Republicans are going through their biennial family fight, with numerous primary contests for Texas House and critical races for North Texas Senate seats. Filing for the party primaries closed at 6 p.m. Monday, but the full picture of some races may not be known immediately because it could take a day or two for the Texas secretary of state to update the list of official candidates.

Dallas Morning News - December 11, 2017

Texas families distraught about losing children's health care if Congress doesn't fund CHIP

Three-year-old Zachary Ogletree doesn’t speak. But after two years of therapy, he’s learned other ways to communicate with his family. “You know how babies learn how to talk by watching the parent? With Zachary, it takes a lot more than that because his brain is unable to do that,” said his mother, Tommie Ogletree of Lewisville. “We use a lot of sign language with him. We have these pictures with words on them as well as the picture. If he wants a snack, he’ll give me the snack card.”

Dallas Morning News - December 11, 2017

How the Army's flub let a felon become a foster parent in Texas

On paper, Gregory McQueen must have seemed like a great candidate to become a foster-care parent in Texas. A married man and Army veteran, McQueen had served as battalion representative on a task force to prevent sexual harassment at Fort Hood in central Texas. But some important information didn’t show up in a state background check before a foster-care agency hired McQueen and his wife last March to care for abused and neglected children

Dallas Morning News - December 11, 2017

Baylor Law grad with connections to ranching and Bush family to head EPA's Dallas office

Anne Idsal, a key deputy to Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush, was named Monday as the new Region 6 administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency. The Dallas-based office covers Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, and Oklahoma. The EPA has been among key federal agencies that President Donald Trump and his appointees are seeking to remake in such a way as to reduce their regulatory reach. In her job as chief clerk, Idsal oversees budgets and spending at the Texas General Land Office, which manages 13 million acres of public land and the oil and gas rights underneath.

Dallas Morning News - December 8, 2017

Hood: Joseph Hutcheson's death shows why Lupe Valdez isn't qualified to be governor

On drugs and out of his mind, Joseph Hutcheson raced around Dallas. It was Aug. 1, 2015, and Hutcheson knew he was taking a ride for his life. With every second, he felt worse and worse. Seeing the Lew Sterrett Justice Center, Hutcheson swerved to a stop. Seeing the glass doors, Hutcheson raced up the concrete hill. Busting the lobby doors open around 10:24 a.m., Hutcheson started to do whatever he could to get help. As time passed with no response, Hutcheson grew more desperate. When deputies started to approach, he started shouting out: "Don't be scared of me, I just need some help." ... Through brutalizing force, the Dallas County Sheriff's Department killed Joseph Hutcheson. Responsibility for this incident rests squarely on the shoulders of Sheriff Lupe Valdez. Now, she wants to be governor.

Austin American-Statesman - December 8, 2017

AAS: Cruz must do more to fix trust damaged from closure plans

We welcome Austin Independent School District Superintendent Paul Cruz’s efforts to assuage concerns and fears that several East Austin schools will be closed or consolidated by next August based on timelines the district established without input from the people most affected by the potential closures. “I realize the excitement and eagerness to work coupled with aggressive project timelines have created misunderstandings about the future of some of our schools and the process for parent and community engagement. I accept responsibility, and I apologize for the confusion,” Cruz said in a statement Thursday.

Austin American-Statesman - December 11, 2017

Gov. Abbott posthumously honors World War II, Korean War veteran

Gov. Greg Abbott on Monday posthumously honored a war hero who perished during the Korean War in 1950 by presenting his survivors with the Texas Legislative Medal of Honor. Master Sgt. Travis Watkins was Arkansas-born but Texas-raised. He enlisted in the Army in 1939 and was awarded the Bronze Star for his service during World War II. However, his last moments on the battlefield during the Korean conflict have cemented his legacy for the past seven decades.

Austin American-Statesman - December 11, 2017

The Texas primaries are 3 months away. Here are 5 races to watch.

1. Democratic race for governor: Lupe Valdez, the 13-year Dallas County sheriff, has the backing of the Democratic Party establishment. But she has little statewide name recognition and isn’t the high-profile candidate Democrats were seeking to challenge Republican Gov. Greg Abbott. Can Houston businessman Andrew White, a centrist and son of the late former Democratic Gov. Mark White, pull off the upset? 2. Jerry Patterson vs. George P. Bush: The former longtime Republican land commissioner (Patterson) is making an unusual run at his successor (Bush). Expect a $450 million project to revamp the area around the Alamo to play a central role.

Texas Tribune - December 11, 2017

Amid sexual harassment controversy, U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold faces tough re-election

In the face of a storm of controversy and a slew of challengers, U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold indicated Monday he's still running for re-election. This time around, it will likely be a lonely battle for the Corpus Christi Republican. "It's lonelier than it's been in past times, but he's not alone," said Farenthold's chief of staff, Bob Haueter, on Monday evening. Farenthold found himself at the center of the sexual harassment firestorm engulfing the U.S. Capitol on Dec. 1 when Politico reported that he had settled a sexual harassment lawsuit using $84,000 in taxpayer funds.

Texas Tribune - December 11, 2017

More Texans may be left without health insurance after end of open enrollment

Open enrollment for health care under former President Barack Obama's health care law ends Dec. 15, and while current Texas enrollment numbers are up from this time last year, new restrictions under the Trump administration may mean more uninsured Texans. Under the Affordable Care Act, individuals who are not insured through an employer can buy plans through the federal government during the open enrollment period. In 2016, that period ran from Nov. 1 to Jan. 31 — but this year, it's been cut in half to end Friday, Dec. 15. While several states opted to extend the enrollment period, Texas, which runs its services through the federal healthcare.gov webpage, did not.

Texas Tribune - December 11, 2017

Caton: The "other" wall Texas is building — around teen moms

Growing up in Texas, I cannot count on one hand the number of friends who became teenage mothers; if you include acquaintances, that count reaches 22. I watched these intelligent and bright girls in my life lose opportunities to attend college and, in some cases, fail to graduate high school. Many of them, now young women, still do not work as they stay home to cut child care costs. It wasn’t until I graduated college, moved out of my lower-class neighborhood and out of Texas that I learned this is far from the norm. Texas has an abnormally high rate of teen pregnancy — 34.6 per 1,000 births per year. Additionally, we have the highest rate of “repeat adolescent births;” 22 percent of teenage mothers have another child before they turn 18, according to the National Campaign to End Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. These girls are more likely to remain below the poverty line as adults, to rely on public assistance and to drop out of high school.

San Antonio Express-News - December 11, 2017

Texas Supreme Court to mull whether to hear San Antonio case

The Texas Supreme Court has asked the city and the San Antonio Professional Firefighters Association to file briefs on their ongoing legal dispute over the constitutionality of a portion of the collective-bargaining agreement that keeps most aspects of the contract in place for up to a decade after it initially expires. For years, the two sides have fought over the so-called “evergreen clause.”

San Antonio Express-News - December 11, 2017

Sen. Zaffirini details ‘scary’ accident in FB post

State Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, avoided major injury in an accident over the weekend, when her SUV was side-swiped by a 18-wheeler while she was en route back to Laredo, she said on Facebook. “SCARY STUFF!” she wrote of the accident in South Austin. “All travelers are OK, but my car will be in the shop for a couple of weeks.” Zaffirini said a driver from Melton Trucking Company crossed into her vehicle’s lane, trapping the SUV against a construction barrier. Her driver, George Terrazas, slowed down, “avoiding disaster,” but still both sides of the car were “damaged extensively” and the side mirror is gone, she wrote.

San Antonio Express-News - December 9, 2017

Garcia: Canseco leads crowded field in District 21 poll

Name recognition is always a major factor in politics. In U.S. District 21, it could be everything. This solid Republican district — which covers parts of San Antonio, the Hill Country and Austin — has been controlled for more than 30 years by San Antonio Congressman Lamar Smith, and Smith’s surprising November retirement announcement created an enticing opening, with very little time for campaigning.

Houston Chronicle - December 11, 2017

Morris: Reform the tax code to help small businesses in Texas

The swift passage of tax reform legislation in the U.S. Senate is welcome news for small businesses in Texas. My stepfather owns a small telecommunications firm in Houston, and one of the biggest challenges that he and other small business owners face is complying with an outdated and convoluted federal tax code. That is why it's so important Congress succeeds in passing tax reform this year. The tax reform bills passed by the House and Senate, although not perfect, would give us a simpler, less burdensome tax code that will boost job creation, wages and economic growth across the country. It would also provide much-needed relief to small businesses in Texas, which account for more than 99 percent of Texas firms and employ nearly half the state's workers.

Houston Chronicle - December 10, 2017

Conservative group quietly championing criminal justice reform

Conservatives are not usually considered champions of criminal justice reform. But since 2010, a right-leaning policy organization in Austin has quietly risen to prominence as advocates for wide-ranging changes including closing state prisons, reducing punishment for parole violations and clearing the way for community drug treatment, an approach still occasionally derided as "hug-a-thug" liberal ideas. It's called Right on Crime, and in a state known for its "tough on crime" agenda, the innovative ideas being proposed are shaping criminal justice reforms typically embraced by Democrats.

Houston Chronicle - December 11, 2017

Leebron: How the GOP tax plan could hurt private universities

Otto von Bismarck is famously quoted as saying (though he probably didn't), "Laws are like sausages. It's better not to see them being made." That's certainly the case with the tax bills passed by the U.S. House and the Senate and now set for conference. Sausages and laws do end up containing things that on their own might be fairly unappetizing, but that doesn't mean they should include things that are inedible or rotten. For higher education, there is virtually nothing good in this tax legislation, but that doesn't mean that everything that adversely affects us is wrong or an inappropriate part of a larger bill. But there are at least two distasteful provisions that our representatives and senators should remove before the sausage becomes law.

Houston Chronicle - December 11, 2017

Filing is over -- now the hard part begins for Texas political candidates

As the filing period closed Monday for who's in and who's not as candidates for next year's elections, incumbent Republicans picked up a long string of challengers, most of them Democrats. Incumbent Republican Gov. Greg Abbott has 10 Democrats vying for his job, a recent state record, plus one little-known Republican. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has one Republican and two Democrats who want his job. Now, the hard part begins -- raising money and boosting name recognition.

Texas Tribune - December 12, 2017

Ramsey: Why George P. Bush is jealous of Ken Paxton

Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller, who was probably second on most lists of the most politically vulnerable officeholders in Texas, will face a Republican primary opponent in 2018. Attorney General Ken Paxton, at the top of most lists — what with those security fraud indictments and a running legal fight with prosecutors — won’t. His challenges won’t come from his fellow Republicans, but from opponents in the November general election.

Ft. Worth Star-Telegram - December 8, 2017

O’Rourke to Democrats: Don’t shut down the government like Ted Cruz

Ted Cruz’s Democratic challenger isn't buying his party’s strategy for helping the 800,000 people living in the country under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. Democratic leaders want a solution for DACA recipients in the spending bill Congress will be writing over the next two weeks – and they’re threatening to withhold votes on that proposal to get it. Doing so could lead to a partial government shutdown, if the two parties can’t reach an agreement on how to protect DACA recipients from deportation when President Donald Trump plans to end the program this spring.

Texas Observer - December 11, 2017

‘Pressure, Dissuasion, Coercion’: Trump Officials Repeatedly Intervened to Stop Teen Refugees’ Abortions

In early March, a minor girl staying in a shelter for undocumented immigrants in Texas run by BCFS, a religiously affiliated nonprofit, convinced a judge to let her get an abortion. State law allows minors to obtain permission from a court without the consent of their parents, a step known as a judicial bypass. But little did the girl know that the Trump administration was in the process of putting in place a new policy prohibiting shelters under the authority of the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) from “facilitating” abortions without express permission from agency director Scott Lloyd.

KXAN - December 7, 2017

Report: Mental health patients in Texas often forced out-of-network

While a 2008 federal law was established to ensure health insurance issuers provide equal coverage of mental health or substance use disorder treatment as they would for physical care, a new report shows patients are still facing challenges in accessing services. The Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (MHPAEA) generally prevents group health plans and insurance companies that provide behavioral health benefits from imposing less favorable coverage limitations on those services when compared to medical or surgical treatment.

PolitiFact - December 8, 2017

Ryan Sitton errantly says 12 million people left without homes by Hurricane Harvey

A Texas official's guest editorial, shared on his campaign website, made us wonder about the whopping impact of Hurricane Harvey. Ryan Sitton, a Houston Republican on the Texas Railroad Commission, opened his Nov. 7, 2017, article in Drilling Contractor: "Earlier this year, Hurricane Harvey left more than 12 million people in Texas and Louisiana without homes. The devastation of this storm was more far-reaching than anyone imagined." ... This figure, attributed to a typo, is improbably high. We also didn’t spot an authoritative alternate count though it seems reasonable to say--based on requests for help through FEMA and a state expert’s review rooted in flood insurance claims--that more than a million Texas residents sustained home damage. It looks to us like the hurricane left far fewer Louisianans without homes. We rate Sitton's published claim False.

New Orleans Times-Picayune - December 8, 2017

Louisiana may sell water to drought-stricken Texas

Hit by drought after drought, Texas is so parched that it's asking its neighbors if they have any water to spare. Louisiana's response: maybe, but it'll cost you. This week, the state Water Resources Commission approved the formation of a group to study the idea of selling water to Texas and other states, possibly cashing in on another natural resource -- along with oil, gas and fisheries - that Louisiana has in abundance. "The state only has a handful of things to exploit that it hasn't already exploited, as far as revenue," said Mark Davis, a commission member and director of Tulane University's ByWater Institute. "And a lot of people covet our water."

Texas Observer - December 11, 2017

Big Spring vs. Big Oil

In 2010, an estimated 100 million gallons of water were used for fracking in Howard County alone. By 2015, that number had already increased tenfold to nearly 1 billion gallons, according to the Texas Water Development Board. This flurry of frack-related water pumping isn’t limited to Howard County. Last year, 30 billion gallons of water were used for fracking in the Permian Basin. Energy research firm IHS Markit predicts that number will rise to 100 billion gallons by 2020. That’s enough water to fill the Dallas Cowboys’ AT&T Stadium 128 times. The rush on groundwater is playing out in small towns all across the Permian Basin, where crude abounds but water is scarce.

County Stories

Houston Chronicle - December 11, 2017

HC: One key issue -- Let 2018 become the year voters demand action on flood control.

Here's a simple question each voter should ask: After 2017, what is the most important issue facing the Houston area? Anybody who was driven from home by rising floodwaters in August knows the answer. And most important, so should any politician who asks for your vote next year. The filing deadline for candidates running in the March primaries is 6 p.m. Monday. As the campaigning begins, Houston area voters need to send one very loud message to every candidate on the ballot: The 2018 Vote is a one-issue election. The issue is flooding.

Associated Press - December 10, 2017

Economist: Harvey's impact will guide development in Houston

A Houston business group said Friday that Hurricane Harvey's biggest long-term impact on the nation's fourth-largest city likely will be on where and how new homes and structures are built. The results of Harvey's flooding will likely guide how development goes forward in the city for the next decade, said Patrick Jankowski, the regional economist for the Greater Houston Partnership. "Every time we get a little bit better understanding, a little bit more technology as we understand development patterns, we'll still be making changes to this ... We'll have to," Jankowski said after presenting his group's annual Houston employment forecast during a luncheon.

This article appeared in the Brownsville Herald

Dallas Morning News - December 11, 2017

Reporter-turned-congressional-candidate Brett Shipp says 'I love John Wiley Price' in response to snub

Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price wasn't impressed with longtime television reporter Brett Shipp's entry into politics, saying his chances of winning the 32nd Congressional District seat now held by Pete Sessions were like an ice cube's chances in hell. On Sunday's edition of Lone Star Politics on KXAS-TV (Channel 5), Shipp responded with, well, love. "I love John Wiley Price," Shipp said when asked about the commissioner's comments. "He and I have been combatants. No, we have been adversaries for some time."

National Stories

Dallas Morning News - December 8, 2017

Hill: 4 facts that prove Trump is the most anti-American president ever

Donald J. Trump is the most anti-American president in United States history. Make America Great Again? Hogwash. Trump is on course for making America weak, small, disrespected and dangerous. Every day, whether it is reckless steps in foreign affairs, yapping about nuclear war, praising the violent acts of white supremacists and recent insults about hardworking professionals of the FBI and our intelligence agencies, Trump makes a fool of himself and the country.

Forbes - December 6, 2017

From Web Designer To Trump's Digital Confidant: Brad Parscale

Just 13 years ago, Brad Parscale was touting his web design skills at a Borders bookstore in San Antonio, Texas with only $500 in his pocket. For weeks, the 6-foot-8-inch tall marketer positioned himself in the aisle with the web design books, ready to hunt for his first customers. “Hey, I know how to do what’s in that,” he recalls saying as he approached dozens of people who were browsing the web design books. “Do you need somebody to help you make a website for your business?” It was the beginning of a journey that would lead all the way to a presidential ride with the Trumps.

Dallas Morning News - December 6, 2017

DMN: The FCC should keep net neutrality and preserve the core principles of the internet

The FCC's rush to rewrite the rules of the Internet by removing its own authority to insist that broadband service providers give equal access to all legal content is a mistake. The vote slated for Dec. 14 would undercut a core principle behind the way the Internet works. It would entrust much too much power over far-too-vital an asset to a handful of Internet service providers, mostly giant telecom firms like AT&T, Comcast and others. It would return government to the sidelines in the long-running clash between respect for free markets that helped businesses adapt to and thrive on the Internet and one of the Internet's founding principles: Providers who sell connections to the Internet can't favor one kind of content or service over another.

Dallas Morning News - December 10, 2017

Floyd: Is the media making mass shootings worse?

Nearly two decades ago, in what can seem like ancient history, I covered Columbine. I was hardly alone. The 1999 shootings by two students at a wealthy suburban Denver high school made news of a scale and duration that's hardly imaginable today. News agencies flooded the community, some staying for weeks. Reporters didn't just cover the tragedy itself; they shared the sense of shock and disbelief that numbed the nation. We experienced the same horror and incredulity.

Dallas Morning News - December 11, 2017

Williams: Congress must shore up criminal background check system

Like all Texans, I was stunned and heartbroken by the mass shooting in Sutherland Springs last month. As a father and a man of faith, the idea that real evil can visit my family as we pray in church was enough to put a pit in my stomach. But as the mayor of Arlington, I felt something else, too: a profound obligation to stop the next attack before it happens. I know that we can keep our families safe without changing our way of life. What happened in our state that Sunday was preventable. And we owe it to ourselves to get a lot more serious about enforcing the sensible gun laws that are already on the books. Fortunately, there are signs that Congress, led by one of Texas' own senators, is getting its act together.

Washington Post - December 11, 2017

Man in custody after ‘attempted terrorist attack’ in N.Y. subway was inspired by ISIS, officials say

A 27-year-old man detonated a crude pipe bomb strapped to his body inside a crowded Manhattan subway passage Monday morning, according to police — sending terrified commuters running for the exits and counterterrorism officials racing to unravel the second terrorist attack in the city in less than two months. Authorities identified the suspect as Akayed Ullah, an immigrant from Bangladesh who came to the United States in 2011. The attack — which left the suspect wounded but otherwise caused only minor injuries to three commuters — immediately rekindled public debates about terrorism, public safety and immigration.

Washington Post - December 11, 2017

Bump: A lot of Americans spent 2017 bailing on the Republican Party

For much of 2017, President Trump’s poll numbers have been pretty consistent. In its most recent weekly average, Gallup has Trump at 36 percent approval — within two points of where he has been since July. Trump is where he is because, although Democrats hate him and independents generally view him negatively, he continues to enjoy high approval ratings from Republicans. Eighty-two percent of those in his own party approve of Trump, as of last week. That’s pretty good, but not good enough to keep Trump’s overall approval from being historically low for a modern president. The problem for Trump may not just be that only Republicans like him, but that there are fewer Republicans than there were a year ago.

Washington Post - December 11, 2017

Obama campaigns for Doug Jones, but the Obama effect doesn’t always extend beyond Obama

Former president Barack Obama is finally joining the effort to get black voters to turn out in the Alabama Senate race. But given that his entry into the fray comes less than 24 hours before Election Day, some say it is the latest example of just how little effort has gone into black voter outreach in the race. “This one's serious,” Obama says in a robo-call going out Monday, according to CNN. “You can't sit it out.” “Doug Jones is a fighter for equality, for progress,” the former president added. “Doug will be our champion for justice. So get out and vote, Alabama.”

Wall St. Journal - December 11, 2017

Transgender Recruits Can Enlist in Military, Judge Says

A federal judge denied a renewed bid by the Trump administration to prevent transgender people from joining the U.S. military, ordering Monday that such recruits be allowed to join beginning Jan. 1. The military announced it would begin admitting transgender recruits in light of the latest order by U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, which upholds an earlier ruling. But hours later, the Justice Department on Monday night filed an emergency request with an appeals court asking to keep the ban for now, leaving the issue in limbo as the New Year approaches.

Austin American-Statesman - December 9, 2017

Inglis: Obamacare will die without the individual mandate

As Congress debates getting rid of the individual mandate to buy health insurance to better afford a tax overhaul, I’m reminded of one of the mandate’s leading advocates — Uwe Reinhardt, one of the greatest minds in health care economics. In 2009, as Congress was debating the Affordable Care Act, he was interviewed by Terry Gross on NPR’s Fresh Air. She asked him about the individual mandate to purchase health insurance, an essential ingredient of universal care.

Associated Press - December 11, 2017

#MeToo spotlight increasingly pointed at past Trump conduct

Donald Trump sailed past a raft of allegations of sexual misconduct in last year's presidential election. Now the national #MeToo spotlight is turning back to Trump and his past conduct. Several of his accusers are urging Congress to investigate his behavior, and a number of Democratic lawmakers are demanding his resignation. With each day seeming to bring new headlines that force men from positions of power, the movement to expose sexual harassment has forced an unwelcome conversation on the White House.

This article appeared in the San Antonio Express-News

New York Times - December 11, 2017

Tawdry Tales Depict a Texas Congressman’s Frat House on the Hill

When Lauren Greene, a former communications director for Representative Blake Farenthold, sued him claiming sexual harassment, among her complaints was that he “disclosed that a female lobbyist had propositioned him for ‘a threesome.’” Mr. Farenthold, in legal documents, said that Ms. Greene had it wrong. The woman wasn’t a lobbyist, he said. As allegations of sexual misconduct rock Capitol Hill — three lawmakers announced their resignations last week alone — Mr. Farenthold, Republican of Texas, stands out as the survivor.

December 11, 2017

Lead Stories

Wall St. Journal - December 10, 2017

The Taxman Cometh: Senate Bill’s Marginal Rates Could Top 100% for Some

Some high-income business owners could face marginal tax rates exceeding 100% under the Senate’s tax bill, far beyond the listed rates in the Republican plan. That means a business owner’s next $100 in earnings, under certain circumstances, would require paying more than $100 in additional federal and state taxes. As lawmakers rush to write the final tax bill over the next week, they already are looking at changes to prevent this from happening. Broadly, House and Senate Republicans are trying to reconcile their bills, looking for ways to pay for eliminating the most contentious proposals. The formal House-Senate conference committee will meet on Wednesday, and GOP lawmakers may unveil an agreement by week’s end.

Corpus Christi Caller-Times - December 8, 2017

Some in Congress call on Rep. Blake Farenthold to resign

The lawmaker who authored the measure requiring sexual harassment training for all members of Congress and their staffs is among elected leaders calling on U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold to resign amid reports that he settled a harassment lawsuit by a former aide with taxpayers’ money. "The congresswoman (believes) he should resign,” Jeff Marschner, deputy chief of staff to U.S. Rep. Barbara Comstock, R-Virginia, told the USA Today Network on Friday. “He should pay back the money to the taxpayers.”

Abilene Reporter-News - December 9, 2017

Moritz: George P. Bush draws formidable opponent in GOP primary

Jerry Patterson, a longtime Texas political figure with a reputation for bypassing the political niceties, confirmed he’s planning to run against the man who succeeded him as Texas land commissioner. But he telegraphed the move just a few months after leaving office in 2015. Patterson, a former state senator best known for authoring the state law allowing the carrying of concealed handguns, ran the General Land Office for three terms. That’s a dozen years.

Washington Post - December 10, 2017

Despite recent wins, Democrats remain divided about what they stand for

In recent weeks, Democrats have scored huge electoral wins in Virginia, cultivated public opposition to the Republican tax plan, purged two liberal stars accused of sexual misconduct and gotten closer to winning a Senate race in Alabama that should be out of reach in such a conservative state. But they still can’t agree on what the party stands for. From immigration to banking reform to taxes to sexual harassment, many in the party say it does not have a unified message to spread around the country. Those concerns flared up at a party meeting over the weekend in Washington.

State Stories

Dallas Morning News - December 10, 2017

Despite the buzz over buybacks, Texas police agencies put thousands of guns on the streets

Fort Worth police are so serious about taking guns off the streets that they're willing to buy unwanted weapons from their owners and destroy them. Dallas police, on the other hand, have no interest in buybacks, but they destroy their own weapons once they've outlived their usefulness. On Saturday, Fort Worth police set up a tent and table at a mobile command center outside a Catholic church on the city's north side to collect guns in exchange for $50 gift cards.

Dallas Morning News - December 10, 2017

Candidates nearly set for important election contests in North Texas

The Dallas-Fort Worth area next year will be the staging ground for the state's most important primary and general elections. From top to bottom, North Texas voters will have a strong say in the makeup of the executive branch and the Legislature. Most of the contests have already taken shape, but the deadline for candidates to file for office closes at the end of the day Monday, so there could be some 11th-hour moves. There have already been a number of surprise candidacies. On Friday, Republican Jerry Patterson filed for Texas land commissioner, an attempt to wrestle his old job from incumbent Republican George P. Bush.

Dallas Morning News - December 8, 2017

It took a Texan of the Year to persuade the Lege to spend money on CPS

We have all read or heard too many stories of children in Texas being abused by a violent or deranged adult. We've also read too many stories about the shocking overload of cases that are assigned to Child Protective Services caseworkers who, in turn, are paid a pittance to face down the ugliest, most heartbreaking side of life. There are various agencies in the state that work to improve conditions, but there is one non-profit led by one indefatigable woman who is leading real change in the way Texas treats its youngest victims and the people employed to help them.

Dallas Morning News - December 8, 2017

Lupe Valdez on her grass-roots campaign: Gov. Greg Abbott may have the money, but 'I have all the people'

Lupe Valdez said Friday that she would oust Texas Gov. Greg Abbott from office with a grass-roots movement that would counter the incumbent's campaign money and organization. "He may have all the money, but I have all the people," Valdez said during a recording of Lone Star Politics, a political television show produced by KXAS-TV (NBC5) and The Dallas Morning News. ... Before the show, Valdez expressed confidence that her underdog campaign would succeed. "I actually think I'm going to win," Valdez told The Dallas Morning News. "There are a lot of others who think so, too."

Austin American-Statesman - December 9, 2017

M.J. Hegar isn’t your father’s congressional candidate. Here’s why.

Mary Jennings Hegar is a somewhat unusual candidate for Congress. A former Air Force helicopter pilot who won a Distinguished Flying Cross with Valor and a Purple Heart for her bravery in Afghanistan, Hegar led a suit against the Pentagon over excluding women from combat — and won. Last month, Hegar, who lives in Round Rock, did something that was also a little out of the ordinary for a candidate for Congress. She got a tattoo. Another one. ... Hegar, 41, is running for Congress as a Democrat in the 31st Congressional District held by U.S. Rep. John Carter, R-Round Rock.

Austin American-Statesman - December 10, 2017

Smith: Why 2017 is the year obscenity in Texas and America

The year 2017 began on Oct. 7. The calendars may claim Jan. 1st as the first day of a new year. Here, near the end of this one, we know better. The year really began the day a video was released in which Donald Trump bragged that he was so famous he could abuse women at will. “When you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything…grab ‘em by the…,” Trump said. As any review of 2017 will note, the year is drawing to a close with shocking — if long-overdue — revelations of sexual harassment and abuse of women by men of power and wealth.

Austin American-Statesman - December 10, 2017

Quintero: This was the year Texas bucked restrictive local policies

Over the past 12 months, Texas’ public policy landscape has undergone some big changes, especially when it comes to local governance. Take the issue of local control, for example. For years, powerful special interest groups representing cities, counties, and school districts at the Capitol have advanced their interests by arguing that local control is sacrosanct. This view suggests that local governments know best and any legislation chipping away at their authority is wrong — and in some cases even “dangerous.”

Austin American-Statesman - December 9, 2017

PolitiFact: Abbott promise on postpartum depression goes unmet

Gov. Greg Abbott agreed with lawmakers this year on a move that could encourage more Texas mothers to get checked for postpartum depression. For a second time, though, Abbott’s 2013 campaign call to spend money qualifying low-income mothers for a year’s worth of mental health screenings and services after giving birth didn’t pass into law. Last year, we had marked this Abbott campaign promise Stalled on the Abbott-O-Meter, where we track progress on the governor’s major promises. ... Our ruling: The measures enacted so far are short of the governor’s promise. We rate this campaign vow a Promise Broken.

Texas Tribune - December 11, 2017

More Texans may be left without health insurance after end of open enrollment

Open enrollment for health care under former President Barack Obama's health care law ends Dec. 15, and while current Texas enrollment numbers are up from this time last year, new restrictions under the Trump administration may mean more uninsured Texans. Under the Affordable Care Act, individuals who are not insured through an employer can buy plans through the federal government during the open enrollment period. In 2016, that period ran from Nov. 1 to Jan. 31 — but this year, it's been cut in half to end Friday, Dec. 15.

Texas Tribune - December 8, 2017

Hey, Texplainer: Why does a state as big as Texas have a part-time Legislature?

Hey, Texplainer: Why does a state as big as Texas only have a part-time Legislature that makes $7,200 a year? The answer, like the question, hinges on Texas' size. Back in the 19th century, it was much harder for people to traverse the state — including lawmakers trying to make it to the Capitol for a legislative session, said Brett Derbes, the managing editor for the Handbook of Texas, a project outlining Texas’ history that was created and is sponsored by the Texas State Historical Organization. So they enshrined biennial meetings into the state Constitution.

San Antonio Express-News - December 10, 2017

Fikac: Budget-writers are making up for lost opportunity in demanding more Alamo openness

It was pretty dramatic when state senators from both parties lashed out at Land Commissioner George W. Bush over the way the Alamo is managed, saying they want more transparency in a system that relies strongly on nonprofit entities. It would have been more dramatic if they had done it before they allocated another $75 million to Bush’s ambitious project to “re-imagine” the Alamo. With the budget knife in their hands, Senate Finance Committee members might have more easily been able to force changes in the management structure.

San Antonio Express-News - December 10, 2017

Controversial agriculture commissioner draws two rivals

While Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller was picking a fight with a fellow Republican over banana Nutella crepes on Facebook last week, Kim Olson was driving from her farm to a radio interview just south of Fort Worth. MOST POPULAR Decades of a cover-up by the Catholic Church finally end in... State exploring bypass routes around Boerne Canseco leads crowded field in District 21 poll St. Mary’s student overcomes health battle to graduate On watch for smugglers, drug-runners in the vast Big Bend She went on the air to talk about food deserts, how food is a national security issue and why voters should elect her to take over the Texas Department of Agriculture, an agency that oversees school lunch programs, facilitates trade and market development for commodities like cattle and cotton and regulates fuel pumps and other issues.

Houston Chronicle - December 10, 2017

State laws ineffective in dealing with mug shot websites

Mike Anderson was an 18-year-old freshman at Texas State University when he was busted with less than a gram of weed. Police arrested him, took his mug shot, and he spent the night in jail. The legal consequences for being caught with such a small amount of marijuana - just enough for a joint or two - were minimal, but expensive. Prosecutors offered to drop the charges if he attended a drug program and did community service, and once he turned 21, he could get the record of his arrest expunged for about $500, wiping the history of his arrest from public view.

Houston Chronicle - December 10, 2017

Developing Storm Part 2: Build, flood, rebuild: flood insurance’s expensive cycle

The National Flood Insurance Program, designed to protect Americans from catastrophic floods, has failed in almost every way, encouraging people to buy and build in flood-prone areas while increasing the cost and magnitude of disasters. Congress' efforts to reform the program have failed just as thoroughly. Attempts to fix flood insurance have been derailed repeatedly by special inallisonterests, political expediency and powerful lobbies that have poured hundreds of millions of dollars into congressional campaigns, a three-month examination by the Houston Chronicle reveals.

Houston Chronicle - December 8, 2017

Austin attorney to file as Democrat for land commissioner

With their statewide slate filling up, Texas Democrats are poised to add a candidate for land commissioner, likely the first office-seeker to launch his campaign with proceeds from his Bitcoin investments. MOST POPULAR Homeowners in scenic Broadacres prohibit photos in popular... Build, flood, rebuild: flood insurance’s expensive cycle Nature ruled, man reacted. Hurricane Harvey was Houston’s... Astros face AL power shift once Yanks seal deal for Giancarlo... Twice discarded by Texans, Case Keenum now the toast of... Dozens camp out for shot at free medical, dental care in west... Finding compelling reasons to attend Texans-49ers game no easy... Miguel Suazo, an Austin-based energy-sector attorney who worked as an aide to former U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-New Mexico, said he will announce Friday that he is challenging Republican incumbent George P. Bush. Bush. Suazo, 36, is the managing partner of Suazo Legal Group, a practice with locations in Texas, New Mexico and Colorado.

Ft. Worth Star-Telegram - December 6, 2017

Wendy Davis talks about her movie, sexual harassment and another run for governor

It’s been more than two years since Wendy Davis lived in Fort Worth, but her office on Austin’s east side offers prominent reminders of the city where she rose from a struggling single mother to a defiant state senator who gained national stardom with a 13-hour Senate filibuster. Her diploma from TCU adorns one wall, not far from her Harvard law degree. A photograph behind her desk shows Davis in the Horned Frog-purple football helmet she sported on the Senate floor in 2009 as part of the light-hearted hazing ritual bestowed on freshman senators during the passage of their first bill.

Temple Daily Telegram - December 8, 2017

McLane named chairman of rail project

Temple businessman Drayton McLane Jr. was named chairman of the board for Texas Central, a group developing what may become the United States’ first high-speed train. The passenger line, the Texas Bullet Train, would connect the Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area to the Houston area. “I’m very excited about getting this rail built,” McLane said during an interview Friday afternoon. “I’m looking forward to working as chairman of the board.” McLane said the group tapped him to be the chairman because of his experience helming the boards of several organizations, including the McLane Co. and Baylor University, as well as his understanding of transportation issues.

Rowlett Lakeshore Times - December 9, 2017

Rowlett local files for Texas State Rep. seat

Rhetta Andrews Bowers officially filed to run for Texas State Representative, House District 113, on Nov. 29. “After much prayer, consideration, consulting with my family, and months of strategizing with my team, I am officially running for State Representative. I want to fight for hard-working Texans. I am ready to speak for the voiceless and put focus on their needs. I am not a politician; I am a servant of the people and have been serving in my community for more than a decade. I am dedicated and committed to providing the type of solution-based leadership needed to fight for best interest of our community.”

Rio Grande Guardian - December 9, 2017

Dominguez files to run for Texas House District 37

Cameron County Commissioner Alex Dominguez on Friday announced he is running for the Texas House of Representatives in District 37. The seat has been held since 1981 by state Rep. René Oliveira, D-Brownsville. District 37 includes Brownsville, South Padre Island, Port Isabel, Los Fresnos, and Rio Hondo. Dominguez, a Brownsville native, has been county commissioner for Precinct 2 since June 2014.

The Eagle - December 9, 2017

Grimes County Judge Ben Leman to run for Texas House seat

Grimes County Judge Ben Leman has announced his candidacy for the District 13 seat in the Texas House. The seat previously was held by Rep. Leighton Schubert, who announced Thursday he would not seek re-election. "I see this as an opportunity to continue to serve," Leman said in a press release. "When I was elected as County Judge, I laid out a platform that was simple, direct and to the point -- support local economic growth, fight for rural Texas, oppose illegal immigration and stand for traditional family values.

County Stories

San Antonio Express-News - December 10, 2017

How Abbott, Trump might influence Bexar County voters

By Election Day 2014, when Republicans swept the statewide ballot behind a populist, conservative wave, Greg Abbott had dispatched 90 paid field staffers throughout Texas, five of whom were sent to Bexar County. Abbott’s troops, backed by $47.5 million in campaign contributions, recruited an army of local volunteers while coordinating block walks and phone banking campaigns, employing a traditional grass-roots operation that, combined with a targeted push for the Hispanic vote, helped Abbott narrowly edge Democrat Wendy Davis in the San Antonio area.

Dallas Morning News - December 10, 2017

Craig Watkins won't run for his old job as Dallas County DA

Former Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins said Sunday he won't run for his old job. "Dallas has been great to me," Watkins told The Dallas Morning News on Sunday. "It's time to focus on my family." With Watkins opting against a comeback attempt, that leaves former state District Judges John Creuzot and Elizabeth Frizell as likely contenders for the Democratic Party nomination for district attorney. Creuzot has already filed his candidacy and Frizell is expected to do so by Monday's deadline.

KHOU - December 7, 2017

National Flood Insurance Program set to expire, threatening Houston-area home sales

The clock is ticking toward a deadline that would impact thousands looking to buy or sell homes across the Houston area. On Dec. 8, the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) was set to expire. Thursday, the Senate passed a two-week spending bill to avoid a government shutdown, allowing an extension on the NFIP. In the simplest terms, if the NFIP expires, virtually no homes in any floodplain could be bought or sold, if that deal involves a mortgage company.

City Stories

Austin American-Statesman - December 8, 2017

Wear: Dropping two lanes from the Drag not a black-and-white question

Austin recently released its 81-page corridor study of Guadalupe Street near the University of Texas recommending (as a 2016 draft had presaged) that two of the street’s four lanes be reserved for buses and that parking along the Drag be deep-sixed to make room for an added bike lane and wider sidewalks. The report also — in a surprise, because it didn’t seem to be within the report’s scope — advocated reducing West 24th Street from four to three lanes from Guadalupe to North Lamar Boulevard, replacing that lost lane with an eastbound bike lane.

Dallas Morning News - December 9, 2017

Anti-Trump messages flash on hacked traffic sign along Lemmon Avenue

Facebook filled up late Friday and early Saturday with videos of a hacked street sign along eastbound Lemmon Avenue near northbound North Central Expressway with less than kind words for President Donald Trump — or, to be more specific, "Turmp" — and his supporters. Most of the sign's content doesn't pass muster in a family newspaper — or a fourth-grade writing assignment. It begins, "I've got one thing to say ..." The next screen then flashes four words, three of which are expletives; one of which says, "TURMP." Two screens later, it says, "[Expletive] y'all for voting for that [expletive]."

National Stories

Washington Times - December 10, 2017

Trump may get tax cut bill with more generous credits for illegal immigrants

President Trump has been willing to accept almost anything to close the deal on his giant tax cut bill before Christmas, including staying mum about a measure that would allow illegal immigrants to pocket the more generous child tax credit included in the package. Illegal immigrants have been collecting the payoff from the “refundable” tax credit for years because of an IRS interpretation of how the rule was drafted. The Republican-controlled Congress this fall had a chance to correct that in the tax code overhaul that in the Senate version doubled the child tax credit to $2,000 and expanded eligibility.

Dallas Morning News - December 8, 2017

Goodman; New research shows that cutting the corporate tax rate will boost the economy

In recent years, Canada and Ireland have cut their corporate tax rates in half. Britain and Denmark have cut their rates by about one-third. In fact, every developed country has cut its corporate tax rate in recent years with one exception: the U.S. Other countries are responding to an inescapable fact about globalization: It is increasingly easy for capital to go where it is treated best. Even if companies don't leave, the tax law encourages them to park their capital offshore. American companies have an estimated $3 trillion in overseas cash. As long as companies keep their resources offshore, they can invest them in U.S. stocks, bonds and Treasury bills and avoid paying U.S. corporate taxes until the funds are repatriated.

The New Yorker - December 8, 2017

Cassidy: The Next Step in the Radical Trump-G.O.P. Agenda: Gut the Welfare State

Much of journalism is dedicated to the proposition that the truth is often hidden. Sometimes, though, it is right there before our noses. Despite the chaos, the insinuations, and the scandals surrounding Donald Trump, he and his Republican allies on Capitol Hill are making progress toward enacting the radical conservative agenda that the G.O.P. has been developing over the past two decades. In a radio interview on Wednesday, Paul Ryan, the Speaker of the House, talked about the budget-busting, reward-the-rich G.O.P. tax bill—he didn’t describe it that way, of course—and what will happen after Trump signs it into law, assuming the House-Senate conference can agree on a final text. “We’re going to have to get back next year at entitlement reform, which is how you tackle the debt and the deficit,” Ryan said. Programs like Medicare and Medicaid “are the big drivers of debt,” he went on, “so we spend more time on the health-care entitlements, because that’s really where the problem lies, fiscally speaking.”

Washington Post - December 8, 2017

Balz: In Alabama, no good outcomes for the Republican Party

Every competitive special election draws outsized attention, but few deserve it more than Tuesday’s Senate contest in Alabama. No matter the outcome, the results will reverberate loudly across the country — and nowhere more than inside the Republican Party. The contest between Republican Roy Moore and Democrat Doug Jones is a morality play with significant political consequences. It sweeps in everything that is current — President Trump’s standing, the fractured Republican Party, the Democrats’ hopes for 2018, and above all, the issue of whether, at a time of changing attitudes, political allegiance outweighs credible claims of sexual misconduct.

USA Today - December 8, 2017

Jobs: Southern employment growth passes West as fastest in U.S.

California has been the biggest loser in this reshuffling, with many businesses and residents bolting in recent years, often for Texas. Last year, Jamba, which franchises Jamba Juice outlets, moved its headquarters from Emeryville, Calif., to Frisco, Texas. This year, Toyota is relocating its North American headquarters, along with 3,000 employees, from Torrance, Calif., to Plano, Texas. And CKE Restaurants, which owns the Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr. chains, moved its corporate base from Carpinteria, Calif., to Franklin, Tenn. Jamba CEO David Pace said that north Texas offers "competitive operating costs, extensive access to skilled restaurant talent” and “an attractive cost-of-living for team members," among other things. He added that Frisco is a desirable place to work and live.

KTAL - December 10, 2017

Supreme Court temporarily freezes DACA document request

A divided Supreme Court agreed 5-4 on Friday to temporarily put on hold a lower court order requiring the government to turn over documents related to its decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. The program is an Obama-era policy that defers deportation for some undocumented youth who had been brought to the United States as children. The Supreme Court's order is a setback for challengers, including California and the regents of the University of California, who contend that the Trump administration violated federal law when it abruptly decided to rescind the program.

Clean Technica - December 3, 2017

US Supreme Court To Hear SolarCity Anti-Trust Case

Tesla is no shrinking violet when it comes to promoting its various businesses, and that means being proactive in pursuing legal remedies when necessary. It is suing the great state of Michigan, claiming its franchise dealer law prohibiting Tesla from marketing its cars directly to customers in the Wolverine State is prohibited by the US Constitution. While that legal action is wending its way through the courts, SolarCity, the rooftop solar division of Tesla, is also pursuing legal action against the Salt River Project, the utility company that supplies electricity to the Phoenix, Arizona area.

Washington Post - December 11, 2017

Microbes by the ton: Officials see weapons threat as North Korea gains biotech expertise

Five months before North Korea’s first nuclear test in 2006, U.S. intelligence officials sent a report to Congress warning that secret work also was underway on a biological weapon. The communist regime, which had long ago acquired the pathogens that cause smallpox and anthrax, had assembled teams of scientists but seemed to be lacking in certain technical skills, the report said. “Pyongyang’s resources presently include a rudimentary biotechnology infrastructure,” the report by the director of national intelligence explained. A decade later, the technical hurdles appear to be falling away.

Bloomberg - December 7, 2017

Jack Bogle Is Worried About U.S. Pensions

Jack Bogle isn’t optimistic about the state of U.S. pensions over the next decade. The founder of Vanguard Group thinks a conservative portfolio of bonds will only return about 3 percent a year over the next decade, and stocks won’t do much better, with a 4 percent annual gain over a similar period. This is “totally defeating” for pensions, which “are not going to be able to meet their 7.5 percent or 8 percent obligations,” Bogle said in a Bloomberg Radio interview that aired Thursday.

Dallas Morning News - December 8, 2017

Caruso: The specter of Bill Clinton loomed over the resignation of Al Franken

It seems odd to think a president would play a role in the forced ouster of a Democratic senator, despite having departed the Oval Office more than 16 years ago. But there is little doubt that Bill Clinton became part of the equation when Senate Democrats called on Al Franken, D-Minn., to resign after multiple women accused the senator of groping them. For whatever reason, six accusations made against Franken were not enough, but when his seventh accuser stepped forward, that was a bridge too far. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., was the first to call for Franken to resign. The number quickly increased to 30 Democratic senators, and by that point, everybody knew Franken would have to step down.

Politico - December 10, 2017

Tech's new D.C. partner: Charles Koch

The tech industry has found a surprising new ally in its effort to shape public policy in Washington: the 82-year-old libertarian billionaire Charles Koch. Two organizations founded by Koch, one an education-focused institute and the other a grant-making foundation, have spent the past year ramping up their efforts to shape public debate on tech policy topics like self-driving cars and the rights of online publishers. And despite their ideological distance on issues like the Paris climate accord, the Koch groups and left-leaning Silicon Valley are working together to advance the argument that innovation is most likely to flourish when legislators and regulators leave it alone.

Washington Post - December 10, 2017

Sullivan: How do you use an anonymous source? The mysteries of journalism everyone should know.

When Houston Chronicle reporters want to use information from an unnamed source in a news story, they have to jump through a few hoops first. A senior editor has to approve it, and know who the source is. A single unnamed source is rarely enough?to go ahead with a story — there must be two sources with the same firsthand knowledge. And one of a handful of top editors must sign off on its use before publication. “The one exception to the two-source rule is when we have a ‘golden source’ — for example, the police chief talking about an investigation,” said Nancy Barnes, the Chronicle’s executive editor.

Austin American-Statesman - December 2, 2017

Liebowicz: Shared autonomous vehicles could do more harm than good

The next revolution in transportation is expected to be shared autonomous vehicles, with personal cars yielding to driverless cars summoned on demand. Uber passengers in San Francisco, Pittsburgh and Phoenix can already hail driverless cars, and Bay Area Lyft riders will soon have the same opportunity. This transportation revolution may seem like a positive development, but without careful planning, it could end up doing more harm than good. It’s true that shared autonomous vehicles have the potential to make road travel faster, easier and cleaner. Yet, there are reasons to suspect they could actually lead to heavier traffic, dirtier air and more greenhouse gas emissions. Transportation accounts for 27 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, so the environmental stakes are high. Now is the time to ensure that these shared autonomous vehicles contribute to a sustainable transportation future.