June 28, 2017

Lead Stories

Houston Chronicle - June 27, 2017

Lawmaker wants sex assault reporting requirements added to special session

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

Politico - June 27, 2017

Senate GOP seethes at Trump impulsiveness

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

Bloomberg - June 26, 2017

Why Americans Feel So Good About a Mediocre Economy

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

San Antonio Express News - June 27, 2017

Organizations across globe pummeled by another cyberattack

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

Kaiser Health News - June 26, 2017

Texas Hospitals Fear Losing $6.2B Medicaid Deal

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

State Stories

Austin American-Statesman - June 27, 2017

UT faces new lawsuit over role of race in admissions policy

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

Austin American-Statesman - June 27, 2017

Herman: Energy Secretary Rick Perry energetic in White House spotlight

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

Texas Tribune - June 27, 2017

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

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

Texas Tribune - June 27, 2017

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

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

Houston Chronicle - June 27, 2017

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

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

Houston Chronicle - June 27, 2017

Retired teachers feel pinch of health plan changes

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

Dallas Morning News - June 27, 2017

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

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

Dallas Morning News - June 27, 2017

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

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

Dallas Morning News - June 27, 2017

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

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

KAMR - June 24, 2017

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

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

Abilene Reporter-News - June 24, 2017

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

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

Houston Press - June 23, 2017

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

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

County Stories

Ft. Worth Star-Telegram - June 23, 2017

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

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

Houston Chronicle - June 27, 2017

Astrodome project takes another step forward

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

Houston Chronicle - June 27, 2017

Memorial Hermann lays off 350 more employees

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

Austin American-Statesman - June 27, 2017

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

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

City Stories

Houston Chronicle - June 27, 2017

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

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

Austin American-Statesman - June 27, 2017

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

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

National Stories

Dallas Morning News - June 27, 2017

Wall prototypes to be constructed this summer, border patrol says

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

Dallas Morning News - June 27, 2017

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

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

Dallas Morning News - June 27, 2017

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

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

Austin American-Statesman - June 27, 2017

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

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

The Hill - June 26, 2017

Agencies scramble to put travel ban in place

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

Associated Press - June 27, 2017

Supreme Court playground ruling feeds school voucher debate

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

Politico - June 27, 2017

Inside the GOP’s surprise health care flop

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

Texas Tribune - June 27, 2017

Senate Republicans halt health care overhaul as Cruz maintains opposition

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

Washington Post - June 27, 2017

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

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

Washington Post - June 27, 2017

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

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

Grabien - June 27, 2017

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

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

Kaiser Health News - June 26, 2017

Patients With Mental Disorders Get Half Of All Opioid Prescriptions

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

June 27, 2017

Lead Stories

Washington Post - June 26, 2017

CBO: Senate GOP health-care bill would leave 22 million more people uninsured by 2026

Senate Republicans’ bill to erase major parts of the Affordable Care Act would cause an estimated 22 million more Americans to be uninsured by the end of the coming decade — only about a million fewer than similar legislation recently passed by the House, according to the Congressional Budget Office. The forecast issued Monday by Congress’s nonpartisan budget scorekeepers also estimates that the Senate measure, drafted in secret mainly by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and aides, would reduce federal spending by $321 billion by 2026 — compared with $119 billion for the House’s version. The CBO estimates that two-thirds of the drop in health coverage a decade from now would fall on low-income people who rely on Medicaid. And among the millions now buying private health plans through ACA marketplaces, the biggest losers would roughly parallel the ones under the House’s legislation: The sharpest spike in insurance premiums would fall on middle-aged and somewhat older Americans.

The Hill - June 27, 2017

GOP ObamaCare fight faces do-or-die procedural vote

Time is ticking away on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s hopes of passing ObamaCare repeal legislation before the July 4 recess. A CBO score that found the legislation would leave 22 million more people without insurance in the next decade has raised the stakes on a procedural vote that could come as soon as Tuesday. At least four Republicans say they may vote against their party on the motion to proceed, underscoring the opposition to McConnell’s bill. The defectors include centrist Sen. Susan Collins (Maine), who panned the bill on Twitter Monday evening; fellow moderate Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.); and two conservatives, Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Ron Johnson (R-Wis.). McConnell can only afford two defections.

Politico - June 26, 2017

Senate Obamacare repeal on brink of defeat

Senate Republicans’ Obamacare repeal effort is on track to blow up before it even gets started. The GOP is well short of the votes needed to bring its bill to the floor, and party leaders and President Donald Trump are kicking into overdrive to save their imperiled health care overhaul. At least four Republican senators, Susan Collins of Maine, Rand Paul of Kentucky, Dean Heller of Nevada and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, have signaled they could oppose a key procedural vote that will occur either Tuesday afternoon or Wednesday. A number of other senators, like Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia and Marco Rubio of Florida, are undecided.

Dallas Morning News - June 27, 2017

Why are Dallas builders pushing Trump for immigration reform? Your home price depends on it

For years, North Texas’ builders have lamented a dire construction labor shortage, blaming it for project delays and adding to already surging home prices. Industry leaders have tried lots of fixes. They’ve worked to convince more school kids that they can make a good living by learning a construction trade instead of heading to a four-year university. Wages have gone up too, by a lot. None of that seems likely to pay off any time soon, though, which leaves people like Phil Crone in the unenviable position of asking the Trump administration to tackle immigration reform.

Houston Chronicle - June 26, 2017

Texas Railroad Commission's funding nearly doubled

The Railroad Commission of Texas received a substantial increase in funding from the Legislature that will boost the oil and gas regulator's well-plugging, pipeline and well inspection programs. The agency has been chronically underfunded in recent years as the oil bust reduced the fees it collects and increased the number of abandoned well sites it has had to clean up. Operating at a deficit over the past year, the agency's cut its budget by $1.3 million a month, froze hiring, cut back plans to update its aging technology and focused on funding its two core functions: permitting wells and inspecting them.

Houston Chronicle - June 27, 2017

Texas hospitals could lose billions of dollars under GOP health plan

Texas hospitals stand to lose billions under the Republican-backed health plan, as federal Medicaid dollars shrink, leading to a rise in uncompensated care, according to a new analysis by the Commonwealth Fund, a national health policy foundation. The study looked only at the U.S. House plan passed last month. It has not yet examined the impact of the U.S. Senate's version unveiled late last week, which experts have predicted will bring even deeper cuts to Medicaid. In Texas, uncompensated costs in the state's 304 acute care hospitals could increase by 7 percent, rising to $38.4 billion over the next decade, the study found.

FiveThirtyEight - June 26, 2017

Neil Gorsuch Is Paying Off For Trump So Far

Neil Gorsuch’s first term on the Supreme Court adjourned for its summer recess on Monday. And although the rumors of Justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement did not come to pass, the court did make big news. It agreed to hear a case involving President Trump’s travel ban, while unanimously allowing the ban to take partial effect in the meantime. It also issued a ruling in a religious liberty case, agreed to hear another on the rights of businesses to deny services to same-sex couples, and declined to hear a case on carrying guns in public. Beyond the cases themselves, the decisions shed further light on Gorsuch, the court’s newest justice, whom Trump nominated in January and who took the bench in April. Gorsuch wanted the court to go even further in allowing all of the travel ban to go into effect.

Austin American-Statesman - June 26, 2017

Arkansas ruling could affect Texas gay marriage benefits case

Arkansas cannot exclude the names of same-sex spouses from their children’s birth certificates, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Monday in a case that gay marriage advocates said should be a wake-up call for the Texas Supreme Court. Texas’ highest civil court is preparing to rule on a challenge by opponents of gay marriage who want to stop government-paid benefits to same-sex spouses, arguing that the right to marriage does not confer a right to insurance coverage. But as the U.S. Supreme Court reinforced in the Arkansas case Monday, marriage rights extend well beyond the ability to say, “I do.” If the all-Republican Texas court fails to take heed, any decision allowing same-sex marriages to be treated less than equally would be swiftly and successfully challenged, lawyers who support gay marriage predicted Monday.

Houston Chronicle - June 26, 2017

California travel ban complicates travel to Houston for higher education conferences

A higher education group is considering backing out of a Houston conference in the wake of California’s travel ban to Texas, announced last week. Professors from California public universities couldn’t receive financial support from their universities for the Association of the Study of Higher Education November conference in Houston, when academics will discuss topics including teaching and learning and diversity, among other topics. California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said on Thursday that California would no longer sponsor travel to Texas because of House Bill 3859, which would let child welfare service providers reject prospective foster and adoptive parents for religious reasons.

Washington Post - June 26, 2017

Poll shows U.S. tumbling in world’s regard under Trump

President Trump has alarmed citizens of the nation’s closest allies and others worldwide, diminishing the standing of the United States in their eyes, according to a wide-ranging international study released Monday. But in the survey of 37 countries, Russia is a bright spot for Trump. As beleaguered as the president is at home, a majority of Russians say they have confidence in him. And Russians’ attitudes toward the United States have improved since Trump took office. Elsewhere, though, and with remarkable speed, Trump’s presidency has taken a toll on the United States’ image abroad.

State Stories

Houston Chronicle - June 26, 2017

Judge does not know when he will rule on request to block sanctuary cities law

After a full day of arguments on Monday, a federal judge in San Antonio is now considering whether to block a newly passed state law barring so-called sanctuary cities. The measure, known as Senate Bill 4, drew fierce opposition Monday as hundreds of protesters assembled outside San Antonio's federal courthouse condemning the law, the legislators who passed it and Gov. Greg Abbott for signing it - all within a few yards from where U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia was hearing arguments on whether to issue a pre-trial injunction in the lawsuit targeting SB 4. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, through communications director Marc Rylander, issued a statement after the hearing saying SB 4 is lawful and necessary. It stated in part: "This is lawful and the state feels confident that our arguments ultimately will prevail."

Houston Chronicle - June 27, 2017

Texas among six states backing Harris County's bail battle at Fifth Circuit

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and the top lawyers in five other states are backing Harris County in its protracted battle over cash bail for poor defendants. Paxton and the lead attorneys in Arizona, Hawaii, Kansas, Louisiana and Nebraska filed a joint brief late Monday supporting Harris County's appeal of a federal court order eliminating cash bail for indigent misdemeanor defendants. The states call the bail order currently in effect a threat to public safety. The federal ruling stems from a civil rights case brought by Maranda ODonnell, a 22-year-old mother who spent days at the county lockup for driving with a suspended license because she could not afford the $2,500 bail.

Houston Chronicle - June 26, 2017

Texas, Louisiana among the deadliest states to work in, data shows

Texas and Louisiana are among some of the deadliest states to work in, according to job site Zippia. Using nearly 20,000 injury reports filed with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Zippia ranked the riskiest states to work in, as well as each state's most dangerous industry. Overall, Texas ranked fifth on the list with its most dangerous industry being oil and gas support.

Dallas Morning News - June 26, 2017

No end in sight for North Texas' homebuilding labor shortage

Ask a homebuilder to name the industry's biggest concerns, and the lack of labor is near the top of their list. Unfortunately for the housing industry, the shortage of workers is not something that's easy to fix. Studies suggest it may be impossible to lure enough young Americans into the construction trades to meet ongoing demand. And tougher immigration policies mean there will be fewer foreign workers on construction job sites. In North Texas, the labor pinch is even worse. Dallas-Fort Worth leads the country in residential building, with more than 50,000 apartments and about 30,000 single-family homes under construction.

Dallas Morning News - June 26, 2017

McClure: Texas lawmakers took partial steps to shore up CPS

At the beginning of the 85th Texas Legislature, Governor Greg Abbott and Senate Finance Chair Jane Nelson declared "Let's Get It Right!" That slogan reflected both optimism for the legislative session and acknowledgement that previous Child Protective Services reforms fell short. Faced with a perfect storm of an imploding CPS workforce, a federal court decision ruling our foster care system unconstitutional and headline-grabbing fatalities, elected officials declared this was the session to decisively tackle child maltreatment.

Dallas Morning News - June 26, 2017

DMN: Texas must do better at protecting kids with jailed parents

It was hard to read the tragic tale of the Kylia Booker and her four sisters. Their mother was locked up multiple times over the years, and these innocent youngsters paid the price for her mistakes, left alone to fend for themselves. Dallas Morning News reporter Cary Aspinwall's disturbing investigation revealed there are at least dozens of children like the Booker siblings in North Texas, overlooked because no one in the criminal justice system is responsible for the safety of children whose parents go to jail. At one point, Kylia found herself in charge of a household and caring for her two younger sisters, at age 12. We don't even know the how many children are in such dire straits because no agency tracks or monitors the children of people who are arrested, not even solo caretakers.

Dallas Morning News - June 26, 2017

Baylor plans to release information on all reported sexual assaults since 2003

Baylor University plans to release information on every sexual assault reported to the school since 2003 "to the extent the records are available and still exist," according to a brief filed Friday by the university's attorneys. A judge has yet to rule on the school's proposal. The information released by Baylor will include: the date of the alleged assault; the date the alleged assault was reported to a Baylor employee; the location of the alleged assault; whether the victim was a Baylor student; the genders of the victim and the alleged assailant;

Dallas Morning News - June 26, 2017

Dallas-based Susan G. Komen foundation losing Arizona presence

The Arizona branch of the Dallas-based Susan G. Komen foundation will close next month. The decision was based on financial challenges, downward fundraising trends and dwindling event participation, the Arizona Board of Directors announced in a statement on its website last week. Operations will cease July 31 at the end of the affiliate's agreement with its parent organization. "It is with a heavy heart but an uplifting feeling of accomplishment thanks to your commitment that the directors of the Susan G. Komen Arizona Affiliate bids you farewell and extends a sincere thank you," the statement said.

Dallas Morning News - June 26, 2017

Court hears arguments on whether to block 'sanctuary cities' ban

San Antonio -- In a packed courtroom with hundreds of people protesting outside, a phalanx of lawyers argued for the first time Monday over Texas' newly passed sanctuary cities ban and whether a federal district court should temporarily block it. The plaintiffs in the case — civil rights organizations and Latino and immigrants rights groups, along with some counties and the state's major cities — say the law violates the Constitution and should be halted before causing them irreparable harm. They argue that the law, passed as Senate Bill 4 by the Texas Legislature, forces local jurisdictions to enforce federal immigration orders, compromises their ability to avoid being sued for violating the Fourth Amendment and restricts the free speech of elected officials by threatening them with punishment for speaking out against the law.

Texas Tribune - June 26, 2017

What the latest U.S. Supreme Court rulings mean for Texas

With its current term ending this week, the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday delivered a handful of rulings on high-profile cases, including President Donald Trump's executive order barring entry into the U.S. from several predominantly Muslim countries. The justices will return to a full plate in October. Meanwhile, here are the highlights from today's rulings, and what they mean for Texas. Parts of Trump's travel ban are back. The Supreme Court ruled that provisions of Trump's travel ban on six mostly Muslim countries can take effect, and agreed to hear full oral arguments on the case in the fall. Under the ruling, people from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen will be barred from entering the U.S. — but only if they lack formal and documented ties to America.

Texas Tribune - June 27, 2017

Why a Colorado case over "religious refusals" could matter to Texas

When the U.S. Supreme Court rules next year on a religious refusal case that started in 2012 at a bakery in Lakewood, Colorado, its decision could have reverberations in Texas. The court announced Monday that it will take up Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, agreeing to weigh in on whether a baker can legally refuse to make a wedding cake for a gay couple because of his religious objections to their union. At the heart of the case is the question of religious refusal, an issue that also dominated the Texas Legislature’s most recent session — most notably with House Bill 3859, a new law that allows welfare providers citing “sincerely held religious beliefs” to deny adoptions and other services to LGBT people.

Texas Tribune - June 27, 2017

New Texas GOP chair starts tenure with big platform push

Back in March, James Dickey, then the chairman of the Travis County Republican Party, showed up at the state Capitol to testify in support of House Bill 1911 — a proposal known as constitutional carry, or the ability to carry firearms without a license. It was a top legislative priority for the state GOP, and Dickey brought a message tailored for the Republicans on the House panel considering it: Don't forget the platform. "The plank which said we should have constitutional carry scored a 95 percent approval rate, outscoring over 80 percent of the other planks in the option," Dickey said, referring to the party platform — a 26-page document outlining the party's positions that is approved by delegates to its biennial conventions. Constitutional carry, Dickey added, "is something very clearly wanted by the most active members of the Republican Party in Texas."

Texas Tribune - June 26, 2017

Attorneys spar over Texas immigration law in federal court

Opponents of Texas’ state-based immigration law told a federal judge Monday that allowing the controversial measure to stand would pave the way for a nationwide police state where local officers could subvert the established immigration-enforcement powers of the federal government. But the state’s attorneys argued in tandem with their colleagues from the U.S. Department of Justice that the issue was settled in 2012 when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of a state-based immigration-enforcement provision passed in Arizona. The day marked the first skirmish in what could be a lengthy battle over Texas' law, Senate Bill 4, which has been billed as the toughest state-based immigration bill in the country.

Texas Tribune - June 27, 2017

Hey, Texplainer: Do I still have to get my car inspected every year?

A bill that would stop requiring Texans to take their cars for inspections every year died during the 85th Texas Legislature — but might come back during next month’s special session. Senate Bill 5188 was approved by the Texas Senate in May but never made it to the House floor. Now, the bill's author, Sen. Don Huffines, R-Dallas, says he wants to file a similar version of the legislation during the special session and is asking Gov. Greg Abbott to add vehicle inspections to the list of topics lawmakers will consider when they return July 18.

San Antonio Express News - June 26, 2017

Advocates and foes mark the anniversary of landmark abortion ruling

On this day one year ago, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down two major provisions of a 2013 abortion law that — in the three years it was in effect — closed more than half of Texas’ approximately 40 abortion clinics, leaving wide swaths of the state without a single provider, especially South Texas and the western Panhandle region. The state had argued before the highest court that two requirements in House Bill 2 — that abortion clinics must offer the level of care found in outpatient ambulatory surgical centers and that doctors must have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals — were necessary to protect the health and safety of women. In a 5-to-3 decision, the justices disagreed, and in fact found the regulations hindered women in their constitutional right to obtain an abortion.

San Antonio Express News - June 26, 2017

Texas bottles up funds Congress approved for border cities

Texas border cities are still awaiting nearly $1 million in federal reimbursements for providing humanitarian aid during a 2014 crisis sparked by a wave of immigrants seeking to cross into the United States. Gov. Greg Abbott’s office is responsible for distributing the funds to the cities., but contends the requests from the cities are ineligible for reimbursement under federal regulations. The reimbursement would cover out-of-pocket expenses that were incurred by several municipalities in the Rio Grande Valley when tens of thousands of immigrants from Central America crossed the border and turned themselves in to authorities, overwhelming local border patrols.

San Antonio Express News - June 26, 2017

Chasnoff: Raw anger on display at protest

Jesse Gutierrez drove about 250 miles from Abilene to San Antonio on Monday because he was angry. In the brutal heat outside the John H. Wood Federal Courthouse, where opponents of Senate Bill 4 were arguing before a federal judge, Gutierrez was so angry that he swept a wide-brimmed hat from his head and threw it to the ground. “Have you read the law? I’ve read it,” he said, stressing that it allows police to ask about the immigration status of people they detain. “That is racism. That is not about illegal immigrants. … This is America. The Nazis did that.”

San Antonio Express News - June 26, 2017

Texas congressmen: thumbs up and down on health bill

Senators and congressmen from Texas reacted Monday to the latest developments in the Republicans’ proposed health care bill as it heads to a possible vote in the Senate by the end of the week. U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas: “Our plan will help address Obamacare’s ballooning costs for consumers by lowering premiums over time and cutting taxes, and today’s estimate confirms that. I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues this week as we get closer to finally replacing this failed law with better care at a cost that Texans will be able to afford.” U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas: “The CBO report underscores why the bill needs to do more to lower premiums. In particular, we need to do more to enact common-sense reforms that will expand competition, expand options for consumers, and make health insurance more affordable.”

San Antonio Express News - June 25, 2017

SAEN: Texas puts an end to debtors jail

Last year, more than half a million people spent time in a Texas jail to pay off traffic tickets and fines for low-level misdemeanors. Starting Sept. 1, judges will have to consider a defendant’s economic means, and allow for alternatives to incarceration for Class C misdemeanors before locking them up in lieu of payment. While the U.S. Supreme Court outlawed debtor’s prisons more than 40 years ago — making it unlawful to jail people for their inability to pay a court fine — many states allow it.

Ft. Worth Star-Telegram - June 25, 2017

FWST: Senate Bill 4 is wrong, but should cities sue?

Some cities obey federal legal requirements but make local decisions on investigations, holding detainees or other requests involving immigration. That does not make them “sanctuary cities.” Yet it’s also clear that the Legislature has considerable say-so over home-rule cities and counties. The new law might not meet legal muster, but it’s also not unreasonable for the Legislature to pass rules. Fort Worth, Arlington and Tarrant County need not join the lawsuit for now, but should watch it closely as it develops in the courts.

Huffington Post - June 22, 2017

Here’s What It’s Like To Lobby For Refugee Lives

On a hot D.C. summer day on Tuesday, seven refugees from Texas made their way to the office of their home state senator, Ted Cruz, to do what one does in the nation’s capital: lobby. They gathered near a stairwell in the Russell Senate Office Building to run through their talking points. Two of them would share their personal stories of coming to the U.S. Another two would ask the senator, through the staffer they were meeting, to support admitting at least 75,000 refugees next year and to help fund aid for them in the U.S. and abroad. They waited calmly at his office as visitors came and went. After a few minutes, a legislative assistant ushered them into the marble-floored hallway outside, explaining that a meeting room was occupied. They talked for about 25 minutes just outside the office door. The staffer didn’t take notes.

Tyler Morning Telegraph - June 23, 2017

Tyler Morning Telegraph: Texas economy is on the upswing, and lawmakers must support that with good legislation

Texas has turned a corner, economists say. That’s good news, but it’s no excuse for Texas lawmakers, who head into a special session next month, to be any less diligent on passing pro-business legislation and enacting regulatory reform. The state’s economic health was diagnosed last week in a Standard & Poor’s credit rating. “Texas’ $217 billion budget for the next two years is neutral, meaning it won’t have a positive or negative effect on the state’s overall credit rating, according to S&P Global Inc., which also projected Texas employment will continue to grow at about 2 percent annually, outpacing the national average,” the Austin Business Journal reported last week.

Longview News Journal - June 24, 2017

Cruz to Panola GOP: Let's repeal ACA as promised

The process to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act with a Republican-sponsored health care bill has been bumpy, but Sen. Ted Cruz told a crowd of East Texas supporters on Saturday night that he believed it could be done. First, though, he said his Republican colleagues have to draft a bill that ensures the average American family won't see their health care premiums continue to increase. "I can tell you right now I'm spending night and day doing little else but trying to bring Republicans together to say let's get this done, but let's also do it right," he said. "Let's do it in a way that actually delivers on the promises we made."

Austin Chronicle - June 23, 2017

Tuma: Fallout From the Lege's War on Reproductive Rights

When the Legislature called sine die in late May, Texas' reproductive health providers – still grappling with the effects of years of decimated family planning access – had only a few days to gauge the damage inflicted by the 85th regular session before Gov. Greg Abbott called a special session rife with the anti-abortion restrictions that didn't muster enough support to pass the first go-round. His call includes the revival of stalled bills to bar abortion coverage in private insurance (with no exception for rape or incest) and to prohibit city and state government from contracting with abortion clinics and affiliates, a shot directly at Austin's Downtown Planned Parent­hood clinic, leased by the city for a nominal fee. Abbott's anti-choice wish list makes it seem as though the Legislature hadn't devised enough ways to restrict abortion access this session – but that's far from the case.

Associated Press - June 25, 2017

Analysis: Texas gave House GOP biggest gerrymandering bump

Voting districts drawn by Texas’ Republican-controlled Legislature helped the party win nearly four more U.S. House seats than it otherwise would have in the last election, which was more than any other state, an Associated Press analysis of the results of federal and state legislative races found. Gerrymandering, in which the party in power alters the electoral maps to favor itself, helps explain why the GOP continues to be so dominant in Texas despite the rapid growth of the state’s Hispanic population, which tends to back Democrats. The findings also underscore years of federal court rulings that have found Texas’ electoral maps to be unconstitutional and discriminatory. The AP scrutinized all 435 U.S. House races in November using an “efficiency gap” statistical method designed to calculate partisan advantage. It found that the GOP may have won as many as 22 additional congressional seats than expected based on the average vote share in congressional districts across the country.

Associated Press - June 26, 2017

Mexico to file affidavit expressing concern over Texas law

The Mexican government said Monday it has filed a form of affidavit expressing its concern over Texas' "sanctuary cities" law, which is supported by the Trump administration. Mexico's affidavit is meant to help legal efforts by some police chiefs and immigrant-rights groups in Texas to stop the law from taking effect in September. A federal judge in San Antonio is reviewing the constitutionality of the law, which allows police officers to question people about their immigration status during routine stops.

This article appeared in the San Antonio Express News

Waco Tribune - June 20, 2017

Waco Tribune: New, readable, individualized STAAR report card boon to parents

Pronounce us not only impressed but even astounded at the new State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness Report Card that parents of school students receive this month. While some of the infighting over education in the Texas Legislature this past spring must surely discourage parents, Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath and the Texas Education Agency staff have produced a document that not only better communicates to time-pressed parents how their children did on STAAR testing but how parents can help them strategically improve. And if the TEA report card doesn’t give them enough information, they can log on to a state education website to learn more about their children’s strengths and vulnerabilities in testing.

County Stories

Dallas Morning News - June 26, 2017

Timing is key for $500 million bond election for new highways in fast-growing Collin County

Collin County commissioners are committed to spending more than half a billion dollars on new freeways in the coming years. But pinpointing the timing of that expense is the looming question. With a recommendation from the county planning board, the commission was poised on Monday to consider calling a bond election for November. But discussions revealed a split on how to proceed. Commissioners Duncan Webb and Susan Fletcher wanted an election this fall so money would be available sooner to improve mobility. But the remaining three commissioners wanted more specifics in the plan to ensure buy-in from taxpayers.

City Stories

San Antonio Express News - June 26, 2017

Former Crystal City officials found guilty of corruption

DEO RIO — In his closing argument to the jury in the public corruption case against two former Crystal City officials, a federal prosecutor turned the words of defendant James Jonas against him. “He said, ‘Welcome to South Texas,’” Assistant U.S. Attorney Jay Hulings reminded jurors Friday, saying it was a lawless attitude that pervaded the case. “They meant, that’s the way things are and always have been,” Hulings said in a later interview. “Nothing has ever been investigated or prosecuted. We’ll get away with it.” But, Hulings went on to tell the jury, “The last time I checked, South Texas is still in the United States of America. And we’re a country built on the rule of law.”

Houston Chronicle - June 26, 2017

Houston reacts to Supreme Court decision on Trump's travel ban

Here are Houston voices in reaction: Mustafaa Carroll, executive director of the Houston branch of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said Monday's ruling "hasn't changed anything. We're still not happy about the ban itself. So different phases of it don't make us happy unless they just cancel it altogether." "We don't like it, and there never should have been a travel ban," Carroll said. "It does nothing to make us safer." "This is a significant decision that I didn't expect and most people didn't expect," said Josh Blackman, a constitutional law professor at South Texas College of Law-Houston. "This is a pretty big victory for the Trump Administration."

Waco Tribune - June 24, 2017

No courthouse weddings in Waco for same-sex couples, 2 years after Supreme Court ruling

Two years after the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry, they still can’t get a courthouse wedding in Waco. Only one Waco-based justice of the peace has been doing any civil weddings since the high court decided Obergefell vs. Hodges on July 26, 2015, and she said she will only do a wedding between a man and a woman. Precinct 1 Place 1 Justice of the Peace Dianne Hensley said she initially chose not to do weddings at all after the Supreme Court decision, as did some other JPs in the county, including her colleague, Precinct 1 Place 2 Judge Pete Peterson.

Austin American-Statesman - June 26, 2017

Pastor arrested in SB 4 protest says he couldn’t stand on the sidelines

Sharing a wooden bench at the Blackwell-Thurman Criminal Justice Center with criminal defendants in ball caps, shorts and ankle monitors was another defendant in a clerical collar. The Rev. Jim Rigby, pastor of St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church of Austin, normally spends Monday mornings in planning meetings at the church, where he has worked for more than 30 years. This week he was summoned to the downtown criminal courthouse, where he was formally booked on a Class B misdemeanor charge of criminal trespassing from his May 1 arrest in the lobby of a state office building while protesting legislation that bans so-called sanctuary cities.

Austin American-Statesman - June 26, 2017

SB 4 court hearing brings hundreds of protesters to San Antonio

As lawyers argued for and against a state ban on “sanctuary cities” inside a federal courtroom in San Antonio on Monday, about 600 immigrant rights advocates rallied nearby in protest of the law. The protesters are concerned that the law will lead to increased racial profiling and to families being torn apart as a result of deportation. It also will allow law enforcement officers to ask people about their immigration status during an arrest or a lawful detention, such as a routine traffic stop.

San Antonio Express News - June 26, 2017

Wolff and Saldaña will steer MPO

Bexar County commissioner Kevin Wolff was unanimously elected Monday to become the new chairman of the Alamo Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO), but a more contentious 10-8 vote installed San Antonio city councilman Rey Saldaña as vice-chair over opposition from rural counties. Mayor Ron Nirenberg, who is also an MPO board member, nominated Saldaña, a frequent council ally on issues such as transparency in the police union contract, mass transit and city council ethics reform. Saldaña narrowly beat out Guadalupe County Judge Kyle Kutscher, who praised the board on its open discussion of the vote but suggested it also exposed some of the urban vs. rural philosophical divide on the board.

Victoria Advocate - June 26, 2017

Victoria's housing market among nation's worst

Victoria has one of the worst housing markets in the U.S., according to a national study. Insurance company Nationwide's health of housing market report puts Victoria at the very bottom of 400 metropolitan areas for its metropolitan statistical area rating, which is based on employment, demographics, mortgage market and house prices. "We had an oil and gas boom here . We rode that for a pretty good while, and now obviously the price of oil has dropped and a lot of jobs lost in that industry, and it's certainly affecting the housing market," said Lee Swearingen, Coldwell Banker The Ron Brown Company president.

San Antonio Express News - June 25, 2017

Ayala: San Antonio millennials join groups opposing SB4

Opponents of SB4 will amass near the federal courthouse today to show their support for plaintiffs suing Texas for establishing a restrictive, anti-immigrant, anti-Latino and anti-public safety law that, without intervention, will take effect Sept. 1. Inside the courthouse, U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia will hear lawyers for several organizations fighting SB4, including the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the League of United Latin American Citizens and the American Civil Liberties Union. Standing with them outside will be groups such as the Texas Organizing Project, Texas Civil Rights Project, Mi Familia Vota, RAICES, Unite Here San Antonio, the Worker’s Defense Project and a lesser-known group with some of youngest activists.

National Stories

Houston Chronicle - June 24, 2017

Wilkinson: Why the GOP will eventually pass Trump's health bill

Despite the periodic dramas of reactionary versus conservative factions, Republicans are united around a couple of key goals. Both versions of the Republican health-care legislation accomplish those goals, albeit in slightly different ways along slightly different timelines. That's why, all the wailing aside, Congress probably will put a bill on President Donald Trump's desk that grievously damages Obamacare, if not precisely repealing it. Both Senate and House versions will transfer hundreds of millions of dollars from poor and middle-class people, in the form of health care, to rich people in the form of tax cuts. The wealthiest Americans, who have a disproportionate role in managing the economy, have famously awarded themselves a gargantuan share of its gains in recent decades. But Republicans continue to insist that gargantuan is less than sufficient.

The Hill - June 23, 2017

Frustrated Dems say Obama botched Russia response

The Obama administration is under fresh scrutiny for its response to Russian meddling in the election after new details emerged this week about how the White House weighed its actions against the 2016 political environment. Then-President Obama was too cautious in the months leading up to the election, frustrated Democratic lawmakers and strategists say. “It was inadequate. I think they could have done a better job informing the American people of the extent of the attack,” said Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.), a member of the House Intelligence Committee who co-chairs the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee. And even after the election was over, they say, the penalties Obama levied were too mild to appropriately punish what by all accounts was an unprecedented attack on a U.S. election.

Houston Chronicle - June 26, 2017

For grieving parents, Trump is 'speaking for the dead' on immigration

The families could reel off all the times they had called the media and written to Washington, but after all that trying, they had never heard anyone who mattered say anything like it: Most Mexican immigrants, Donald Trump declared in his first campaign speech, were "rapists" who were "bringing drugs, bringing crime" across the border. Now he had come to meet them, the families of people killed by unauthorized immigrants, and they wanted to tell him he was right. One son had been struck by a truck, another shot just around the corner from home. Different causes of death, but the driver, the gunman, all the perpetrators were the same, the parents said: people who never should have been in the country in the first place.

New York Times - June 26, 2017

Where Trump Zigs, Tillerson Zags, Putting Him at Odds With White House

When Rex W. Tillerson, the former chief executive of Exxon Mobil, arrived in Washington five months ago to become the secretary of state, his boosters said he brought two valuable assets to a job that had usually gone to someone steeped in government and diplomacy: a long history managing a global company, and deep relationships from the Middle East to Russia that enabled him to close deals. But his first opportunity to use that experience — as a behind-the-scenes mediator in the dispute between Qatar and Saudi Arabia — has put Mr. Tillerson in exactly the place a secretary of state does not want to be: in public disagreement with the president who appointed him. Mr. Tillerson tried to position himself as an intermediary and sought for all sides to put their demands on the table. But President Trump openly sided with the Saudis, first on Twitter, then again at a news conference.

New York Times - June 26, 2017

Temkin: Historians Shouldn’t Be Pundits

Donald Trump might be disastrous for most Americans and a danger to the world, but he has been a boon to historians. The more grotesque his presidency appears, the more historians are called on to make sense of it, often in 30-second blasts on cable news or in quick-take quotes in a news article. As a historian, I’m glad to see my profession getting some much deserved publicity. But I also worry about the rapid-fire, superficial way history is being presented, as if it’s mostly a matter of drawing historical analogies. The result is that readers and viewers get history lessons that are often misleading when it comes to Mr. Trump, and shed little light on our current travails. This is partly because this is not what historians should be doing. We teach our students to be wary of analogies, which are popular with politicians and policy makers (who choose them to serve their agendas) but often distort both the past and the present.

Politico - June 25, 2017

California activist Tom Steyer adds health care to his brand

California billionaire activist Tom Steyer made his name as an environmental activist, worked with Democratic groups to register a million new voters and redefined green politics with high-profile campaigns on climate change and clean energy. Now as he weighs a run for public office, he's adding health care — specifically drug prices — to his brand. “Health is becoming the lens for seeing a lot of policy issues, including addiction, including climate,” Steyer told POLITICO in an interview in the San Francisco offices of his environmental policy advocacy group, NextGen Climate.

Denver Post - June 25, 2017

The Koch brothers plot a conservative resistance movement in Colorado Springs strategy session

The conservative resistance movement on Sunday celebrated its victories and plotted strategy for the 2018 election at a luxury resort in Colorado nestled between a placid lake with two snuggling swans and the picturesque mountains near Pikes Peak. The political network backed by the Koch brothers gathered more than 400 of its wealthiest donors at The Broadmoor for a three-day retreat that emphasized its work in states across the nation. Led by the organization’s political arm, Americans for Prosperity, the Kochs declared the state legislative sessions in 2017 as the network’s most successful ever. In Colorado, conservatives highlighted victories in equalizing state spending on charter schools and defeating a major tax hike to improve the state’s crumbling roads.

Washington Post - June 26, 2017

Democrats field a glut of House candidates in 2018 but remain divided on how to win

The largest number of Democratic congressional candidates in decades is putting into play dozens of House districts across the country, raising the possibility of a bitterly contested midterm election cycle next year as the party and its activists try to take advantage of President Trump’s unpopularity to win a majority in the House. Yet these candidates and their supporters are also waging a battle among themselves about what the Democratic Party should stand for. After a string of defeats in special elections this year, activists across the country are pitted against Washington-based leaders and strategists about what the message and the tactical plan should be to win the 24 seats needed to take control of the House.

Washington Post - June 27, 2017

Detroit judge halts deportations of more than 1,400 Iraqi nationals nationwide

A Detroit federal judge has temporarily halted the deportations of scores of Iraqi nationals nationwide who advocates say could face death, persecution and torture upon returning to their native country. On Monday night, U.S. District Judge Mark Goldsmith issued a stay of removal for about 1,444 Iraqi nationals recently rounded up across the country, including about 85 who are in detention and were expected to be removed on a plane to Baghdad as early as Tuesday. The individuals will now have two more weeks to challenge their deportations. The order comes days after Goldsmith halted the deportations of at least 114 Iraqis — most of them Chaldean Christians — in the Detroit area.

Washington Post - June 27, 2017

The Daily 202: Thwarted in Washington, the Koch network racks up conservative victories in the states

The wealthy donors who finance the Koch network are frustrated that national Republicans are not doing more to capitalize on having unified control of the federal government. But at their summer seminar here in the Rocky Mountains, which wrapped up last night, many were ecstatic—even giddy—about significant conservative gains that have been made this year in state capitals across the country. Republicans now control the governorship and legislature in 25 states, compared to only six states for Democrats. Last November, the GOP seized all the levers of lawmaking in four new states – Iowa, Kentucky, Missouri and New Hampshire – making it much easier to pass far-reaching legislation.

New York Times - June 27, 2017

Senate Health Bill Gets a Wary Reception, From Coast to Coast

The health care bill unveiled Thursday by Senate Republicans has been out in the open for less than a week, and there are many obstacles to clear before it can become law: an uncertain Senate vote, a return to the House for final approval, a presidential signature. But in newspapers and on radios and TV stations from Anchorage to Miami, the effects of the bill are already being contemplated. These could vary considerably from region to region, state to state, even family to family. Thirty-one states expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, though the designs of these programs are not the same, and the states that did not choose to expand would still be significantly affected. Clinics in Pennsylvania desperately need funding to battle the opioid epidemic; rural hospitals in Maine rely on Medicaid for survival; Nebraskans struggle to cover rising premiums; and Floridians fear the loss of money to fight the Zika virus.

New York Times - June 26, 2017

Unauthorized Immigrants Steer Clear of Medical Care

Across the country, from Venice, Calif., to Brooklyn, clinics that serve an immigrant population report a downturn in appointments since the administration’s crackdown. In a recent national poll of providers by Migrant Clinicians Network, which is based in Austin, Tex., two-thirds of respondents said they had seen a reluctance among patients to seek health care. Some parents have been withdrawing children from federal nutrition programs to avoid scrutiny. In Baltimore, health care workers who have for years visited Latino neighborhoods to test people for sexually transmitted infections now wait in vans outside 7-Elevens and Home Depots. “It’s been like a ghost town,” said Dr. Kathleen R. Page, co-director of Centro SOL, a health center for Latinos at Johns Hopkins.

Associated Press - June 27, 2017

Consumer confidence rises in June

U.S. consumers became more confident in June —with more Americans pleased by current conditions but slightly less hopeful about what the next six months hold. The Conference Board, a business research group, said Tuesday that its consumer confidence index rose to 118.9 this month from 117.6 in May. The gains suggest that many Americans expect the economy to keep expanding, although the pace of growth is unlikely to accelerate much. More consumers described current business conditions as "good" and jobs as "plentiful." The upbeat results may reflect the robust 4.3 percent unemployment rate. But fewer of them expect business conditions to improve over the next six months relative to the survey results in May.

This article appeared in the Houston Chronicle

Associated Press - June 25, 2017

Koch chief says health care bill insufficiently conservative

Chief lieutenants in the Koch brothers’ political network lashed out at the Senate Republican health care bill on Saturday as not conservative enough, becoming a powerful outside critic as GOP leaders try to rally support for their plan among rank-and-file Republicans. Tim Phillips, who leads Americans For Prosperity, the Koch network’s political arm, called the Senate’s plans for Medicaid “a slight nip and tuck” of President Barack Obama’s health care law, a modest change he described as “immoral.” “This Senate bill needs to get better,” Phillips said. “It has to get better.”

Dallas Morning News - June 27, 2017

Badger: Senate bill would free millions of Americans from buying health insurance they don't want

Supporters of Obamacare proclaim that the law has reduced the number of people who lack coverage. They're right. Government surveys show that the number of non-elderly uninsured people fell from 44.3 million in December 2013 (the month before the Affordable Care Act took full effect) to 28.2 million at the end of last year. That's 16 million fewer uninsured people over a period of only three years, a genuine public-policy achievement. But here's the catch: If CBO is to be believed, 15 million people didn't want health coverage in the first place. They enrolled only to keep the IRS off their backs. In its analysis of the Senate bill, CBO predicts that repealing the tax on the uninsured would next year induce 7 million people to cancel their individual insurance policies, 4 million to drop their job-based coverage, and 4 million others to abandon Medicaid, even though the government provides it free of charge in most cases.

Politico - June 26, 2017

Three CNN staffers resign over retracted Scaramucci-Russia story

Three CNN staffers have resigned following the publication and subsequent retraction of a story linking a Trump transition team member to the Russia-related investigations. The piece, published late last week, cited an anonymous source saying the Senate Intelligence Committee was looking into the chief executive of a $10-billion Russian investment fund who met with financier Anthony Scaramucci before the inauguration. The reporter, Pulitzer Prize-nominee Thomas Frank, assistant managing editor Eric Lichtblau (who recently joined from The New York Times) and Lex Haris, the executive editor in charge of investigations, are all out.

Washington Post - June 26, 2017

House Ethics Committee is reviewing allegations against 3 Democrats

The House Ethics Committee said Monday it is reviewing charges lodged against two high-profile Democratic lawmakers and a senior Democratic aide. The lawmakers facing an ethics review are Rep. John Conyers Jr. (Mich), the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee and the longest-serving sitting House member, and Rep. Ben Ray Luján (N.M.), chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. The staffer is Michael E. Collins, chief of staff to Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.). Statements released Monday by the Ethics Committee did not detail the allegations against the three men, which were forwarded to the committee by the independent Office of Congressional Ethics based on a “substantial reason to believe” a violation has occurred.

New York Times - June 26, 2017

Gay Couples Entitled to Equal Treatment on Birth Certificates, Justices Rule

The Supreme Court on Monday reaffirmed its 2015 decision recognizing a constitutional right to same-sex marriage, ruling that states may not treat married same-sex couples differently from others in issuing birth certificates. The decision was unsigned. Justice Neil M. Gorsuch, joined by Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr., dissented. The case concerns an Arkansas law about birth certificates that treats married opposite-sex couples differently from same-sex ones. A husband of a married woman is automatically listed as the father even if he is not the genetic parent. Same-sex spouses are not.

Dallas Morning News - June 26, 2017

Supreme Court punts cross-border shooting case back to lower court

The Supreme Court avoided ruling Monday on whether the family of a Mexican teenager who was killed by a U.S. Border Patrol agent has the right to sue the Border Patrol, sending the case back to a lower court with instructions for further proceedings. The case began almost seven years ago, when the agent shot and killed Sergio Hernández, a 15-year-old who had been playing with his friends in a concrete culvert winding along the El Paso-Juárez border. The agent, Jesus Mesa Jr., was standing in El Paso when he fired the gun. Hernández was standing in Juárez when he died.

Dallas Morning News - June 26, 2017

Perry, nodding at NAFTA, says U.S. ties to Mexico, Canada have never 'been more important'

Energy Secretary Rick Perry on Monday stressed the need to "develop a North American energy strategy," saying that the U.S. relationship with Mexico and Canada has never "been more important." That collaborative tone stands out as the White House works to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement, which President Donald Trump has called the "worst trade deal ever." Perry told reporters that Trump was "wise" to rework the deal, citing the evolving landscape of the energy sector as a good example. The former Texas governor, who has deep ties to industry, noted that "there may be some things that over 25 years may be a bit antiquated."

AOL - June 25, 2017

Retail displacement remakes job force, looms as political issue

Amazon has gotten ambitious, and brick and mortar retailers have gotten nervous. The online retailer's purchase of Whole Foods and its announced Prime Wardrobe shipping service caused noticeable dips in the stock prices of many grocery and department stores. But what could be a new world of online convenience for consumers looks much more troubling to retail workers — the people who greet and serve customers at all those stores in shopping plazas and malls. The numbers suggest a great retail job displacement has begun and it has real economic and political impacts. The shift can be seen in headlines from this year. In January, Macy's announced it was shuttering 100 stores. In March, J.C. Penney said it would close 138 locations. F

Yahoo! News - June 6, 2017

Here’s why the black unemployment rate hit a 16 ½-year low

The May jobs report confirms the labor market is strengthening, with the US unemployment rate hitting a 16-year low. Though wage gains were meager, the employment picture overall is looking healthy. But how about when you break down the 4.3% unemployment rate by race? Two groups fall below the overall level — with the white unemployment rate at 3.7% and the Asian unemployment rate at 3.5%. Meanwhile, the Hispanic unemployment rate is 5.2% and the black unemployment rate is 7.5% — its lowest level since December 2000. The obvious reason for its decline is the overall strengthening of the labor market, said Heidi Shierholz, senior economist and director of policy at The Economic Policy Institute.

Washington Free Beacon - June 26, 2017

Anti-Trump Leak Campaign Damaging U.S. and Allied Operations

A new wave of leaks targeting the Trump administration has actively endangered ongoing intelligence and military operations being conducted by the United States and its allies, sparking anger and concern inside and outside the White House, according to multiple conversations with senior U.S. officials intimately familiar with the situation. The classified leaks, which are being handed to sympathetic journalists by former Obama administration officials who left the government and by holdovers still serving in the Trump administration, have damaged a number of ongoing operations, ranging from American efforts to prevent Russian infiltration of the United States to Israeli efforts against ISIS, sources said. ... The leaks have been traced to a number of former Obama administration officials, including Ben Rhodes—the former National Security Council official responsible for creating an in-house ‘echo chamber' meant to mislead reporters and the public about the landmark nuclear deal with Iran—and Colin Kahl, former Vice President Joe Biden's national security adviser.

The Hill - June 26, 2017

Senate adds penalty for going uninsured to healthcare bill

Senate Republicans on Monday released a revised version of their healthcare reform bill that adds a provision requiring consumers with a break in coverage to wait six months before buying insurance. The Senate bill would make those who had a lapse in coverage for 63 days or more wait six months before obtaining insurance. Read the bill here. The continuous coverage provision was noticeably omitted from the Senate’s draft, but aides said they were working behind the scenes to add it. The provision addresses concerns that people would only sign up for health coverage when they’re sick if insurers can't deny coverage for pre-existing conditions.

The Hill - June 26, 2017

American Medical Association: ObamaCare repeal violates ‘do no harm’ rule

One of the nation’s largest healthcare lobbying groups Monday announced its opposition to the Senate's ObamaCare repeal plan, warning that it could hurt the "most vulnerable citizens." The American Medical Association (AMA) wrote a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) warning against cuts to Medicaid and changes to ObamaCare's subsidies and regulations. “Medicine has long operated under the precept of Primum non nocere, or ‘first, do no harm.’ The draft legislation violates that standard on many levels,” AMA Executive Vice President and CEO James Madara wrote in the letter

The Hill - June 26, 2017

GOP’s message on ObamaCare is us versus them

Do you want to be known as the Republican who killed the repeal of ObamaCare? That’s the question every GOP senator will weigh over the next week, and it’s an integral part of the Republican leadership’s strategy to get the prized legislation a step closer to President Trump. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is expected to force a vote this week, despite complaints from conservatives that his draft bill doesn’t really repeal ObamaCare — and deep reservations from centrist Republicans that it goes too far. Trump badly needs a legislative win and will be pressing hard for Republican senators to toe the line. So will McConnell, as the vote could be a legacy-defining moment for the longtime GOP leader.

June 26, 2017

Lead Stories

San Antonio Express News - June 23, 2017

SAEN: Vetoes of Larson’s bills don’t pass the sniff test

San Antonio Rep. Lyle Larson has offered an awfully good explanation why Gov. Greg Abbott vetoed his water legislation this session. He said it was payback for Larson’s ethics legislation that would limit pay-to-play politics. The governor? Neither he nor his office has said much of anything. But his vetoes of good legislation speak for themselves. Abbott nixed five of six Larson bills, and notably six other Larson measures died in the Texas Senate. Among the casualties, a bill for brackish water development; another bill on using a state fund for desalination and aquifer storage facilities; and others extending ground water permits and promoting conservation easements. Abbott also vetoed a bill from Charles Perry, R-Lubbock, which had the misfortune of featuring a Larson provision to further study aquifer storage and recovery.

Washington Post - June 26, 2017

Supreme Court allows limited version of Trump’s travel ban to take effect, will consider case in fall

The Supreme Court agreed on Monday to allow a limited version of President Trump’s ban on travelers from six mostly Muslim countries to take effect, and will consider in the fall the president’s broad powers in immigration matters in a case that raised fundamental issues of national security and religious discrimination. The court made an important exception: it said the ban “may not be enforced against foreign nationals who have a credible claim of a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States.” The court also said in the ruling that it would consider whether the case will be moot by the time it hears it; the ban is supposed to be a temporary one while the government reviews its vetting procedures.

Texas Tribune - June 25, 2017

House education leaders won't budge on school finance, private school choice

The top House education leader said Sunday that "private school choice" is still dead in the lower chamber. "We only voted six times against it in the House," House Public Education Committee Chairman Dan Huberty said. "There's nothing more offensive as a parent of a special-needs child than to tell me what I think I need. I'm prepared to have that discussion again. I don't think [the Senate is] going to like it — because now I'm pissed off." Huberty, R-Houston, told a crowd of school administrators at a panel at the University of Texas at Austin that he plans to restart the conversation on school finance in the July-August special session after the Senate and House hit a stalemate on the issue late during the regular session.

Politico - June 26, 2017

CBO score sure to add to McConnell’s headaches

The CBO is poised to tell Senate Republicans this week that their health plan will leave millions more uninsured than Obamacare — with the losses estimated from 15 million to 22 million over a decade, according to a half dozen budget analysts polled by POLITICO. "What I can say with confidence is that the Senate bill will lead to very large coverage losses," predicted Matt Fiedler of the Brookings Institution, which had previewed the CBO score of the House bill in March but declined to do so for the Senate. "The only question is how large." And that could complicate GOP leaders' attempts to corral wavering moderates as they race to lock down votes ahead of a possible vote by week’s end to give President Donald Trump his first legislative victory.

Austin American-Statesman - June 24, 2017

AAS: Legislature should end illusion and provide real tax cuts

To successfully pull off their stunts and tricks before audiences, great magicians employ the art of misdirection. The same is true for some politicians, such as Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who has crafted a clever misdirection in the form of Senate Bill 2. Patrick, a Houston Republican, claims the measure “would bring about the largest property tax reform in history,” and in so doing deliver massive tax cuts to homeowners. But like all magic, it is an illusion that is quickly exposed by reality: Significant tax cuts for homeowners cannot be achieved without dealing with the largest, fiercest, most expensive and burdening tax on homeowners’ backs – the local school district property tax. That is no illusion.

Texas Tribune - June 26, 2017

Ramsey: Talk of taking on Straus simmering, but nowhere near a full boil

A real race for speaker of the Texas House starts as a rumor — the same sort of talk that marks a false start. And like a lot of things in the Legislature, it’s hard to know just what’s going on until it’s over. This part is true, though: Legislators and lobbyists and the other bugs in the corners of the Texas Capitol are whispering about who might succeed five-term Speaker Joe Straus, and when it might happen. Don’t be surprised by the timing. Nobody has served more than five terms. Straus says he will run again, but he would be saying that — with a special session ahead — whether he will be running in January 2019 or not. Nobody wants to be a lame duck.

Dallas Morning News - June 26, 2017

How Texas' sanctuary cities ban compares to Arizona's 'show me your papers' law

Before Texas’ sanctuary cities ban even made it to Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk, it had a not-so-flattering nickname: the “show me your papers” law, a reference to a similar Arizona measure that sparked national debate and a U.S. Supreme Court ruling. The ban’s opponents used the moniker in hopes of conjuring flashbacks to the business boycotts, negative publicity and court decisions striking down major provisions of Arizona’s 2010 law. Proponents of the law, including Abbott, rejected the comparison and called it fear-mongering. As Texas begins what is likely to be a years-long legal saga over the sanctuary cities ban, Arizona is still recovering from its six-year court battle. Both opponents and supporters of Texas’ law say there are important differences between it and the 2010 law.

Houston Chronicle - June 24, 2017

Tomlinson: Trump trouncing Houston's global opportunities

President Donald Trump's foreign policy is endangering Houston's economy. As the nation's leading exporting city, our region is particularly vulnerable to blowback from Trump's clumsy and boorish behavior on the world stage. Whether it's Mexico looking for new international suppliers or the leaders of Canada, Germany and France declaring Trump an unreliable ally, our president is alienating the customers for most of our goods. Trump's International Trade Commission picked a fight with Canada last week by voting to continue an investigation into whether aircraft maker Bombardier's trade practices are hurting Boeing's sales. Trump has also proposed banning imports of Canadian softwood and questioned the national security implications of importing Canadian steel and aluminum.

State Stories

Austin American-Statesman - June 25, 2017

Henson, Blank: Local government is a food foil for Texas GOP leadership

Austin seems to have a time-honored role as a target for the ire of state legislators, but the capital city was hardly alone in a legislative session that saw the clearest and most persistent articulation yet of a sustained attack on the autonomy of local governments. Several Texas cities have been involved in a large number of these skirmishes: sanctuary cities, plastic bag bans, transgender bathroom policies and ridesharing ordinances, to name a few. But the increasing efforts to use state government to pre-empt the power of local governments emerges from a confluence of state and national politics that is much bigger than Austin, even though the Legislature has a history of treating Austin as a liberal burr under an ever more conservative saddle. In the middle of the legislative session, the most popular and well-known Republican leader in the state, Gov. Greg Abbott, clearly articulated the approach percolating in the conservative corners of the GOP for several years and also underlying multiple pieces of legislation: “As opposed to the state having to take multiple rifle-shot approaches at overriding local regulations,” he told attendees at the Texas Conservative Coalition Research Institute in March according to The Texas Tribune, “I think a broad-based law by the state of Texas that says across the board, the state is going to pre-empt local regulations, is a superior approach.”

Ft. Worth Star-Telegram - June 20, 2017

FWST: Tree laws not worth time in special session

If Gov. Greg Abbott has his way, trees — more specifically, what landowners are allowed to do with them — will be part of the special legislative session that begins July 18 in Austin. Among the 20 items the governor has asked lawmakers to tackle is “preventing cities from regulating what property owners do with trees on private land.” Before becoming governor, Abbott decried an Austin tree ordinance that required him to replant trees on his property after the installation of a pool damaged the root system of a protected “heritage” pecan.

Ft. Worth Star-Telegram - June 20, 2017

Moriates: Texas Legislature expanded help for medical surprise bills. It must do more.

Is there anything more symbolic of our troubled health care system than a patient receiving a “surprise bill” in the mail after receiving emergency care? The most egregious form of surprise medical bills, also known as balance bills, happen when an out-of-network provider bills a patient despite having delivered care at an in-network facility. Often this occurs when a patient goes to an emergency department or hospital covered by insurance, but then is unwittingly seen by a physician who is not contracted with that insurance group. As writer and physician Elizabeth Rosenthal recently wrote, “Imagine if you paid for an airplane ticket and then got separate and inscrutable bills from the airline, the pilot, the co-pilot and the flight attendants.”

Austin American-Statesman - June 23, 2017

Taylor: West Texas figures out why Abbott hates on public schools

My hero this week is Graydon Hicks, Fort Davis superintendent of schools. A West Texas publication published his open letter to Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick raking them over the coals for “the lack of positive legislative action for public schools in Texas” at the most recent session, which adjourned at the end of May without passing a school finance bill. Hicks is a West Point graduate and an experienced school administrator. He is no-nonsense guy who does not mince words. After detailing the effect of shrinking state financial support for public schools on Fort Davis schools over the past 10 years — combined with an increasing number of unfunded mandates and requirements — Hicks wrote, “How much more do you want to harm our children?

Austin American-Statesman - June 25, 2017

Webb Report: Texas has more LGBT pride (via hashtags) than 47 states

Say it loud and say it proud, Texas. According to a new list, you’ve got LGBT pride to spare, at least on social media. It’s Pride month for a few more days, and Internet service provider resource High Speed Internet recently ranked the states according to how often they used Pride-related hashtags on their photos of marches, parades and festivals. Texas landed at No. 3, behind only New York at No. 2 and California at No. 1. (Please, contain your shock that two coastal, urban population giants beat the Lone Star State in an LGBT pride contest.)

Austin American-Statesman - June 25, 2017

Moriates, Valencia: Legislature must do more about surprise medical bills

Is there anything more emblematic of our troubled health care system than a patient receiving a “surprise bill” in the mail after receiving emergency care? The most egregious form of surprise medical bills, also known as balance bills, happen when an out-of-network provider bills a patient despite having delivered care at an in-network facility. Often this occurs when a patient goes to an emergency department or hospital covered by insurance, but then is unwittingly seen by a physician who is not contracted with that insurance group. As writer and physician Elizabeth Rosenthal recently wrote, “Imagine if you paid for an airplane ticket and then got separate and inscrutable bills from the airline, the pilot, the co-pilot and the flight attendants.” Even worse than that, the co-pilot could then tell you he is out-of-network and is going to bill you the full amount.

Austin American-Statesman - June 24, 2017

Steinhaus: The Ike Dike is Not the Solution

This spring, I worked with community volunteers to locate and protect the nests of Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles. I got down on my hands and knees, dug out nests and held rare turtle eggs in my hands. This species of sea turtle almost vanished forever. Due to their incidental capture in fishing gear, a commercial trade, and theft of eggs on nesting beaches, their population plummeted. We were so close to losing them — but through a binational effort this species was saved. ... One thing our endangered Texas sea turtles do not need is a giant coastal wall interfering with their nesting.

Austin American-Statesman - June 25, 2017

PolitiFact: Paxton uses old line about Obama that’s no longer true

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, pleased at the revocation of a federal effort to shield some older immigrants from deportation, says that then-President Barack Obama repeatedly acknowledged that his administration’s 2014 immigration order wasn’t legal. ... Paxton said: “I applaud President (Donald) Trump for acknowledging what President Obama himself acknowledged over 20 times — the Obama Administration’s DAPA immigration edict was a violation of law and the separation of powers.” ... Paxton specified that Obama was speaking about his DAPA policy; in fact, Obama’s statements were made long before DAPA was announced and were not about a specific policy initiative. Contrary to Paxton’s statement, Obama has always maintained the DAPA policy was legal. We find that Paxton’s statement has an element of truth but ignores the critical fact that Obama has stood by his DAPA policy since it was issued. We rate this claim Mostly False.

Texas Tribune - June 21, 2017

Godsey: Special session will be more bad news for teachers and public schools

There’s a truism in Texas politics: Little good happens in Austin after May. That’s why our founders assigned the Texas Legislature only one task – to pass a state budget – and limited their ability to meet to just 140 days every other year. As a failsafe in the event of catastrophe, the founders entrusted the governor with the power to call legislators back under “extraordinary occasions.” Examples noted in the Texas Constitution are the presence of a public enemy or a need to appoint presidential electors. Nowhere does it mention attacking teachers, schools, or political enemies merely to score points heading into the next election cycle.

Texas Tribune - June 26, 2017

We asked Texans who should regulate Uber and Lyft. Here’s what they said.

During this year's regular legislative session, Texas lawmakers voted to override several local ordinances with new statewide measures — including relaxing regulations for ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft. Lawmakers sought to establish a statewide framework for regulating ride-hailing companies. The primary issue was whether such companies should have to perform fingerprint-based background checks, much like many cities require of taxi drivers. Here’s a look at the state-vs.-local fight over ride-hailing regulations, what the new state law means for drivers and customers, and how some Texans feel about the changes.

Texas Tribune - June 25, 2017

House education leaders won't budge on school finance, private school choice

The top House education leader said Sunday that "private school choice" is still dead in the lower chamber. "We only voted six times against it in the House," House Public Education Committee Chairman Dan Huberty said. "There's nothing more offensive as a parent of a special-needs child than to tell me what I think I need. I'm prepared to have that discussion again. I don't think [the Senate is] going to like it — because now I'm pissed off." Huberty, R-Houston, told a crowd of school administrators at a panel at the University of Texas at Austin that he plans to restart the conversation on school finance in the July-August special session after the Senate and House hit a stalemate on the issue late during the regular session.

Dallas Morning News - June 23, 2017

Gov. Greg Abbott doling out legislative assignments ahead of special session

Several lawmakers are making plans to help Texas understand why more women here are dying during and after pregnancy. Gov. Greg Abbott announced Friday that Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, and Reps. Cindy Burkett, Shawn Thierry and Armando Walle will file bills during the upcoming special session that would extend the life of a task force that studies pregnancy-related deaths in the state. The issue is one of 20 items that Abbott has said would be included on the agenda of a special legislative session that will begin July 18. He began this week announcing the names of lawmakers who will sponsor his priorities during the 30-day lawmaking session.

Dallas Morning News - June 26, 2017

Well-funded anti-Citizens United group backs O'Rourke in Senate challenge against Cruz

The 2018 Senate election in Texas remains more than 16 months away, but Rep. Beto O’Rourke picked up his first major organizational endorsement Monday in his longshot bid to challenge Sen. Ted Cruz. End Citizens United PAC, a progressive group focused on reducing the role of money in politics with three million members across the country, threw their support behind the El Paso Democrat, choosing O’Rourke as the first Senate challenger the group is endorsing in the 2018 cycle. “Our decision to endorse Beto was an easy one,” said Tiffany Muller, the PAC’s president and executive director, in a written statement.

Houston Chronicle - June 25, 2017

Advocates fight to end alternative lunches

While a state law that takes effect Sept. 1 may lead to help for students who can't pay their lunch bill, advocates say the fight in Texas to eliminate so-called lunch shaming is far from over. School districts across Houston and the state often provide meager meals such as a cold cheese sandwich or cereal to students without funds. Activists hope to see these alternatives eliminated in favor of hot meals. But district leaders say they have financial limitations. A law Gov. Greg Abbott signed last Thursday gives school boards explicit power to determine how long kids can eat regular meals without payment. As such, eliminating lunch shaming falls to the local level - but residents with willpower now also have a better chance of stopping it if they so choose.

Houston Chronicle - June 23, 2017

Holley: Local largesse, sense of community keep small Texas towns alive

I was in Albany a couple of weeks ago, the little northwest Texas town that comes close to Bryson's ideal, and my visit got me to thinking: What are the best small towns in Texas? What makes a good one? And how do they survive? It's easy to find a small Texas town hanging on like a withered peach an end-of-season picker missed. Take an exit off the interstate and you're sure to drive through a derelict little place with empty brick or native-stone buildings that evoke a proud and prosperous past. Maybe the faded little burg is lucky enough to be a county seat, but even so, the venerable buildings on the courthouse square - an imposing bank once upon a time, a hardware store, maybe even a hotel - are likely to be dusty shells collapsing in on themselves like cardboard boxes in a trash bin. Or, in their final funereal incarnation, they're drowsy shops offering cast-off items from local estate sales. The burr of locusts may be the only downtown sound.

Houston Chronicle - June 25, 2017

HC: Helping veterans -- Medical-based cannabis merits another hearing.

The Texas Legislature adjourned last month with neither the votes nor unity of purpose to reform the state's marijuana laws. And perhaps no group felt more let down than the thousands of Texas veterans who want a safer alternative to prescription medicine in the form of medical-based cannabis to treat post traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. Given their service to the country, they deserve another hearing to make their case, preferably before the next legislative session. Texas has the second-largest population of veterans in the country behind California, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, and thousands suffer from anxiety, depression and other service-related symptoms.

San Antonio Express News - June 24, 2017

SAEN: Political antics hurt public ed

The use of public education funding to advance a political agenda during the last legislative session was shameful. School financing will return for a special session on July 18 — the governor has requested that a committee be formed on the topic — but that does not alter the failure. Particularly disturbing was an opinion piece distributed to Texas media in the past few weeks by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick. The piece, “The truth about education spending,” was published in the Express-News on June 9. It claims “education bureaucrats” have been pushing misinformation insisting that the state cut funding for public schools. We’d like a pair of the rose glasses through which Patrick is viewing the state’s budget. To arrive at the same conclusion and implications as Patrick, fuzzy math and ignoring the facts are required.

San Antonio Express News - June 24, 2017

Beeson: Bad ideas make a legislative comeback

Following one of the ugliest and least productive regular legislative sessions in recent memory, Gov. Greg Abbott has called a special session of the Texas Legislature to address 20 items. I saw firsthand as lawmakers missed plenty of opportunities during the regular session to adopt solutions that would have improved the lives of Texans. But instead of focusing on the real challenges facing our state, they were busy crafting discriminatory responses to manufactured problems. Thanks to the sheer determination and smart strategies of some leaders, a few sensible policies did manage to get through. But overall, the session exploited divisions between Texans and their neighbors while failing to make investments where they count.

Corpus Christi Caller Times - June 24, 2017

CCCT: Corpus Christi should join lawsuit against sanctuary cities law

Gov. Greg Abbott, who declared SB 4 a priority, insists with a straight face that there won't be profiling. But the true nature of SB 4 played out on the House floor on the last day of the 85th Legislature when Rep. Matt Rinaldi, R-Irving, made a big show of phoning immigration officials to report SB 4 protesters who fit the profile. Rinaldi ended up in a scuffle with Hispanic lawmakers. We found out later, from a witness, that several other non-Hispanic legislators also called immigration authorities. These are the people who passed the law that they claim isn't discriminatory and doesn't encourage profiling. They profiled. The Rinaldi incident unmasked SB 4 for what it is. It is a practical application of the politics of hate, a pander to anti-immigrant sentiment and to racist fear of so-called bad hombres. Our City Council should take an official stand against it by joining these other leading Texas cities. It's a moral obligation.

San Antonio Express News - June 25, 2017

Tunstall, Gonzales: Rural Texas facing surmountable challenges

Rural areas have been in transition for years. Throughout most of the 20th century, small towns located away from growing metropolitan areas have generally lost population. In large measure, this has been due to the systematic mechanization of farming. Fewer people working on farms means fewer people living in or near the small towns that used to thrive. Recently, however, rural America has glimpsed the prospect for a turnaround. Based on our work in rural areas, we find that many people who grew up in a small town would like to return. However, the options may be limited. The future of rural America lies in the hands of young men and women who live in America’s small towns and want to be involved in creating the future.

San Antonio Express News - June 25, 2017

Advocates ‘disappointed’ in governor’s decision to cut women’s health advisory committee

As the state again seeks federal funding — this time, under a Republican president — for its women’s health program after the controversial decision to kick out abortion providers in 2013, the governor is disbanding an advisory committee aimed at helping low-income women get good care. Gov. Greg Abbott, saying the panel had “successfully fulfilled its mission,” vetoed legislation that would have kept it running for at least another two years. It will now expire in September. After learning her committee was not re-authorized, vice chairwoman Dr. Janet Realini said she was disappointed.

San Antonio Express News - June 25, 2017

Fikac: Schools can do more to feed hungry kids under new law

When Rep. Diego Bernal visited school campuses across his district, he heard a story that shook him to his core. The topic was hunger, and the story was this one: “I didn’t always know what to do with the hungry students who came to see me later in the day because we’re not allowed to give them cafeteria food after the lunch period. There was one young man who came to see me more than a few times a week, so with him, I took to us walking back and forth between the main campus and one of the portables in the back. There was a pecan tree there, so we’d walk back and forth and stop so he could pick and eat a few until he felt better.”

San Antonio Express News - June 25, 2017

Despite Georgia loss, Texas Democrats confident about next year

Texas Democrats in Congress remain confident about the 2018 elections despite a stinging loss in a Georgia congressional race last week that highlighted a string of deflating defeats. A remark by U.S. Rep. Filemon Vela, D-Brownsville, that only an “idiot” would believe Democrats can recapture the House under Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi was an isolated eruption in a delegation resolute about maintaining united opposition against Trump administration policies. “I think some of the comments are very harmful and only serve to encourage our opponents,” said U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-San Antonio.

San Antonio Express News - June 25, 2017

Online doctors enter a new era

The multimillion-dollar telemedicine industry is poised for a lucrative run across Texas now that some of the toughest restrictions in the nation finally have been lifted by the state. A new law signed by Gov. Greg Abbott, who has championed the issue, opens a huge market that potentially could connect millions of Texans to doctors who now can diagnose patients more easily by video chat. This is welcome news in a state where elbow room is measured in the hundreds of miles and doctor shortages are chronic. Texas dwells near the bottom nationally in per-capita access to a physician, and 35 counties — with a combined population of about 115,000 people — have no doctor at all.

San Antonio Express News - June 23, 2017

Dannenbaum, target of FBI probe, has controversial history along border

Bitter feelings still linger in Brownsville more than a decade after the city’s port paid millions of dollars for a bridge that was never built to Dannenbaum Engineering, the statewide engineering company whose offices the FBI raided in April. The Port of Brownsville paid Dannenbaum roughly $10 million between 1997 and 2004 to get permission from the Mexican government to build a rail bridge over the Rio Grande. The project was expected to bring a much-needed economic boost to Brownsville, one of the poorest cities in the United States. But the money seemed to disappear, according to public records and interviews with officials from the area. An investigation commissioned by the port determined that much of it was paid to Mexican companies connected to Louis Jones, a prolific political donor and director of Dannenbaum’s operations in South Texas — an assertion that the company denies.

Community Impact Newspapers - June 23, 2017

Funding can’t keep up with Houston area’s mental health needs

With more than 500,000 Texans suffering from serious and persistent mental illness and 1 in 5 Texans experiencing a mental health condition each year, behavioral health continues to be a problem with no long-term solution in sight. Although lawmakers locally and statewide are working to allocate more money toward mental health services, health care providers and Greater Houston area officials have said funding is still not enough to keep up with the growing population and provide services needed to keep individuals with behavioral health problems off the streets and out of jail.

McAllen Monitor - June 25, 2017

Naquin: Why Gov. Abbott is 'choosing pollution over people'

In 2015, Gov. Greg Abbott said President Barack Obama’s plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions were “unilateral executive overreach.” He’s leaned on this narrative a lot in his tenure as governor and Texas attorney general, but when you look at his record, he does the very thing he criticizes. Last week, Abbott announced a slew of line-item vetoes to cut funding for several environmental programs, which added to a growing track record of overreach into local government territory, dictating to cities and counties what he thinks are best for them. From cuts to funding for state environmental protection to cleaner automobile emissions programs to regulating illegal tire dumps, Abbott is making it clear that safeguarding our state’s environment is not a priority, but maintaining his government’s overreach is.

Forbes - June 23, 2017

Helman: What Oil Bust? Japanese Air-Conditioning Giant Builds Megafactory In Texas

Driving northwest out of Houston on Highway 290, it takes nearly an hour for the suburban sprawl to give way to cow pastures and corn fields. You think you’ve reached the countryside, but then you suddenly see it, off to your right — brand spanking new, one of the biggest buildings in the world. It’s a gleaming white box of 4.2 million square feet where Japanese air conditioning giant Daikin has invested $500 million on its most advanced factory. The scale of this place is almost comical, like Indiana Jones standing in the warehouse of government secrets. The roof covers 100 acres, supported by 2.3 miles of concrete tilt-wall panels. By comparison, Amazon recently built a 1 million square foot distribution center in Houston; the average Walmart store is 100,000 sf.

Amarillo Globe News - June 22, 2017

Texas Panhandle school districts plead with state for funding

Educators were excited to hear Gov. Greg Abbott announce he would call lawmakers back to Austin for a special legislative session to consider $1,000 teacher pay raises. But Donna Hale, superintendent at 200-student Miami ISD in rural Roberts County, is wondering where the money is going to come from. An unfunded mandate, she said, could throw a wrench into their already difficult budgeting process. “That’s the last thing we really need – the state saying you’ve got to do this when they’re not offering any support for us,” said Hale, who already doubles as the district’s librarian and said she was considering taking over as principal to cut payroll costs.

McAllen Monitor - June 25, 2017

Ramirez: Oversight of colonias needed in RGV and Texas

Developers have for years improperly platted scattered, remote subdivisions without water, sanitary waste disposal, paved streets or sidewalks, lights, adequate stormwater drainage or other services all along the border. It wasn’t until the 1980s and early 1990s, when national media attention began to highlight the number of people living in substandard conditions, that the state began to take action. At that time, there was a bipartisan consensus in Texas that it was the responsibility of state and local governments to provide the basic level of public services to these communities that developers had neglected. Because colonias are mostly isolated, unincorporated and very difficult to survey in the Census, it’s hard to obtain simple information, such as the number of residents, the physical conditions of the housing, the infrastructure or the prevalence of flooding. The ombudspersons were hired in several border regions to personally visit each colonia in their jurisdiction and track this information.

County Stories

Houston Chronicle - June 25, 2017

Fort Bend ISD's disparity grows

Students attending schools just 10 miles apart in Fort Bend ISD find themselves at either one of Texas' best elementary schools or one of its worst. Sugar Land's Commonwealth Elementary, for example, is in among the top 10 schools of the 4,000 Texas campuses ranked by the Houston-based nonprofit Children at Risk, while Missouri City's Briargate Elementary is in the bottom of 1 percent. The achievement gap between the haves and have-nots of Fort Bend - which correlates with the racial and socioeconomic makeup of the campuses - has plagued the school district for decades and seems to be widening in spite of efforts to bridge it. It's a problem some advocates say could be solved, in part, by empowering minority groups through better interventions and by converting to single-district school board members.

Houston Chronicle - June 25, 2017

As promised, Ellis making waves as county commissioner

When former state Sen. Rodney Ellis launched his campaign to succeed the late El Franco Lee as Precinct 1 commissioner last year, he said he would shake up Harris County government. He's kept his promise. Not even three months into his tenure, Ellis filed court papers siding against the county he now helps govern in a costly civil rights case, tearing apart a bail system he said keeps the poor behind bars ahead of their court hearings while the rich can walk free. A day later, at what typically is an all-but-perfunctory biweekly meeting of Harris County Commissioners Court, Ellis' colleagues returned fire.

KUHF - June 23, 2017

Immigration Activist Says He Experienced An SB4 Like Incident In Houston

The State law the Texas Legislature passed this year about so-called sanctuary cities doesn’t go into effect until September 1st, but a Houston immigration activist says personnel from the Harris County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO) is already asking about immigration status. Víctor Ibarra is from Mexico and has lived in Houston for about 20 years. He is an advocate for comprehensive immigration reform through an organization called Community of Defense for All Immigrants. Ibarra says an incident he had on Tuesday, June 20th, illustrates what could happen because of SB4, as the law is commonly known due to the number it was assigned in the Texas Senate during the 85th Regular Session and which allows officers from local law enforcement agencies to inquire about immigration status.

City Stories

KUHF - June 25, 2017

Houston Is Sticking With The Paris Climate Deal, But How Much Can It Really Accomplish?

“We have to work within our jurisdiction, and unfortunately, air pollution doesn’t care about city limits,” says Lara Cottingham, who heads up the city’s sustainability efforts. Those include a plan to cut carbon emissions by 80% by 2050, and eventually to power all of the city’s buildings with renewable energy. “Showing other cities and showing other businesses that we can do this, and be successful and sustainable, is the biggest thing that we can do right now,” she says. Houston tries to inspire environmental friendliness in part because past efforts to force it have been shot down by the courts. Last year the Texas Supreme Court tossed out local air quality rules that the refining and petrochemical industry had sued over, saying the city over-stepped its authority.

Houston Chronicle - June 24, 2017

DePillis: Houston still limping out of the oil downturn

It was still before 11:30, but a steady stream of office workers in starched shirts lined up at Peli Peli Kitchen, a fast-casual South African restaurant in the heart of the Energy Corridor. The heavy lunch traffic was a relief for the owner, Thomas Nguyen, whose 8-year-old business barely survived a two-year oil downturn that torpedoed the corporate events of nearby energy companies, a major source of revenue for Peli Peli. All around him, Nguyen recalled, restaurants were closing. "That almost destroyed us," Nguyen said. "I don't think we're out of the woods yet, but it seems like it's getting a little better."

Houston Chronicle - June 20, 2017

HISD superintendent floats idea of adding LGBTQ issues to history curriculum

As questions about transgender and gay rights continue to roil the Texas Legislature while it prepares for a July special session, Houston ISD Superintendent Richard Carranza on Tuesday proposed adding LGBTQ studies to the district's existing U.S. history curriculum. Speaking at a community meeting hosted by the Houston Defender, a publication that focuses on the area's black community, Carranza said including LGBTQ - lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer - and ethnic studies in history curriculum will show students in the country's seventh-largest school district a broader picture of America's past.

National Stories

Washington Post - June 26, 2017

Supreme Court sides with religious institutions in a major church-state decision

The Supreme Court concluded its work for this session on Monday siding with religious institutions in a major church-state decision and with no indication that pivotal Justice Anthony M. Kennedy is retiring. The speculation about Kennedy, who has served on the court for nearly three decades and is almost always the deciding vote in divisive cases on the nation’s biggest controversies, dominated the end of a relatively quiet Supreme Court term. But the court’s announcement of final decisions came and went without any word from Kennedy, whose former clerks had speculated he was considering leaving. The rumors were closely watched at the White House, where a vacancy would give President Trump the chance to solidify a more conservative Supreme Court.

Politico - June 26, 2017

Supreme Court turns down case on right to carry guns

The Supreme Court declined to review a case about the right to carry firearms outside the home, but two justices publicly dissented from their colleagues' decision not to take up the issue. The high court said Monday it would not hear a National Rifle Association-supported legal challenge by California resident Edward Peruta, who challenged a state law limiting gun-carrying permits to those showing "good cause" and a San Diego County policy that says concern about personal safety is not sufficient to fulfill the requirement. Gun rights advocates say the limits violate the Constitutional right to bear arms.

Austin American-Statesman - June 26, 2017

Supreme Court takes on new clash of gay rights, religion

The Supreme Court is taking on a new clash between gay rights and religion in a case about a wedding cake for a same-sex couple in Colorado. The justices said Monday they will consider whether a baker who objects to same-sex marriage on religious grounds can refuse to make a wedding cake for a gay couple. The case asks the high court to balance the religious rights of the baker against the couple's right to equal treatment under the law. Similar disputes have popped up across the United States.

CNN - June 25, 2017

Anthony Kennedy retirement watch at a fever pitch

Justice Anthony Kennedy, the man who so often determines the outcome of the most controversial Supreme Court cases, is himself the center of brewing speculation. Will he stay or will he go? The rumors have swirled for months and the 80-year-old justice has done nothing either personally or though intermediaries to set the record straight on whether he will step down. Helping drive the speculation, dozens of Kennedy's former law clerks traveled to Washington this weekend to participate in a private clerk reunion that occurs regularly -- and many of them wondered if it will be their last chance to meet with him while he is still on the bench.

Washington Post - June 26, 2017

A ‘very credible’ new study on Seattle’s $15 minimum wage has bad news for liberals

When Seattle officials voted three years ago to incrementally boost the city's minimum wage up to $15 an hour, they'd hoped to improve the lives of low-income workers. Yet according to a major new study that could force economists to reassess past research on the issue, the hike has had the opposite effect. The city is gradually increasing the hourly minimum to $15 over several years. Already, though, some employers have not been able to afford the increased minimums. They've cut their payrolls, putting off new hiring, reducing hours or letting their workers go, the study found. The costs to low-wage workers in Seattle outweighed the benefits by a ratio of three to one, according to the study, conducted by a group of economists at the University of Washington who were commissioned by the city. The study, published as a working paper Monday by the National Bureau of Economic Research, has not yet been peer reviewed.

The Hill - June 24, 2017

Opioid crisis threatens GOP ObamaCare repeal

Fears that cuts to Medicaid could exacerbate a national opioid epidemic that took more American lives last year than the Vietnam War have emerged as a huge threat to the Senate GOP's ObamaCare repeal-and-replace bill. The legislation includes a $2 billion fund to help people with substance use disorders, but critics say that's not enough to make up for the deep cuts to Medicaid that would come if the bill becomes law. “It’s just unconscionable to me that anybody who is serious about dealing with this opioid addiction could be satisfied with the bill — even supporting $45 billion, let alone $2 billion,” Michael Botticelli, the director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy under President Obama, told The Hill.

Austin American-Statesman - June 23, 2017

Legalized pot has no effect on states’ traffic death rates, study finds

A study undertaken by Dell Seton Medical Center trauma experts found that the rates of motor vehicle deaths weren’t statistically different in states that have legalized marijuana compared with those that haven’t. Researchers looked at traffic data in two states that have legalized the recreational use of marijuana: Washington and Colorado. They compared the rates of fatal car crashes before and after the legalization of marijuana, and compared them to eight control states of similar population sizes and traffic characteristics. After three years with legalized pot, researchers concluded, the changes in traffic death rates in Washington and Colorado weren’t statistically different from the eight control states: Texas, Alabama, Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, South Carolina, Tennessee and Wisconsin.

Associated Press - June 21, 2017

Montana initiative would limit transgender use of bathrooms

A conservative group wants to let Montana voters decide whether transgender people must use public restrooms and locker rooms designated for their gender at birth — a move that could thrust the state into the national debate over transgender rights. The Montana Family Foundation launched its campaign to place the matter on next year's fall ballot after lawmakers declined to do so. If approved by voters, the measure would affect how public schools, universities and other government agencies accommodate transgender people. Facilities designated for use by one sex would have to exclude the opposite sex. The foundation called the effort a necessary step to protect "the privacy, safety and dignity" of Montana children and help guard against sexual predators.

This article appeared in the Houston Chronicle

Dallas Morning News - June 26, 2017

The Lyft Shuttle is a bus, but without all those pesky poor people

Here's a modern-day startup riddle: When is a bus not really a bus? The ride-hailing company Lyft rolled out its new shuttle service this month, allowing users in San Francisco and Chicago to "ride for a low fixed fare along convenient routes, with no surprise stops." Some were quick to identify this supposed innovation as a bus, and they seized the opportunity to mock tech-world myopia. "Coming soon, Lyft Open: It only has two wheels, no doors, and you power it with your feet," tweeted TV host Samantha Bee. A cascade of jokes followed about the various wheels that Lyft could reinvent next. Others, such as Slate's Will Oremus, insisted Lyft Shuttle is not a bus -- which is precisely what makes it dangerous. It's "a service that is likely to compete with city buses, for better or worse," he wrote, which means it poses a threat to public transit and the people who rely on it by siphoning off the most affluent riders.

Washington Post - June 25, 2017

Sanders responds to ongoing probe into wife’s 2010 bank loan

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who has retained counsel as the FBI investigates whether his wife Jane committed fraud to acquire a loan for a now-shuttered Vermont college, predicted Saturday night that the probe would be a political fizzle. “This was a story that just, amazingly enough, came out in the middle of my presidential campaign, initiated by Donald Trump’s campaign manager in Vermont,” Sanders said in an interview, between rallies in Pennsylvania and Ohio organized to defeat the Senate Republicans’ health-care bill. “That’s about it. I don’t think it’ll be a distraction.” Last week, longtime Sanders reporter Harry Jaffe reported that Bernie and Jane Sanders had retained attorneys Rich Cassidy and Larry Robbins to represent them in a long-running investigation into the collapse of Burlington College, which Jane Sanders led from 2004 to 2011.

The Hill - June 24, 2017

Pence meets with Koch brother in Colorado

Vice President Pence held an unannounced meeting with conservative political activist Charles Koch on Friday, the day before the Koch brothers network kicks off a donor meeting in Colorado Springs. Pence, in town to headline a banquet celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Christian conservative group Focus on the Family, sat down with the chairman and chief executive of Koch Industries, along with key members of the Koch team. ... James Davis, a spokesman for the Koch brothers' network, said Pence and Charles Koch discussed issues ranging from tax reform to a measure reforming the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, which President Trump signed Friday. The meeting lasted 50 minutes, Davis said.

Associated Press - June 24, 2017

Big cases, retirement rumors as Supreme Court nears finish

The Supreme Court enters its final week of work before a long summer hiatus with action expected on the Trump administration's travel ban and a decision due in a separation of church and state case that arises from a Missouri church playground. The biggest news of all, though, would be if Justice Anthony Kennedy were to use the court's last public session on Monday to announce his retirement. To be sure, Kennedy has given no public sign that he will retire this year and give President Donald Trump his second high court pick in the first months of his administration. Kennedy's departure would allow conservatives to take firm control of the court. But Kennedy turns 81 next month and has been on the court for nearly 30 years. Several of his former law clerks have said they think he is contemplating stepping down in the next year or so. Kennedy and his clerks were gathering over the weekend for a reunion that was pushed up a year and helped spark talk he might be leaving the court.

Philadelphia Inquirer - June 24, 2017

CNN deletes, retracts story linking Trump and Russia

On Thursday evening, CNN investigative reporter Thomas Frank published a potentially explosive report involving an investigation of a Russian investment fund with potential ties to several associates of President Donald Trump. But by Friday night, the story was removed from CNN’s website and all links were scrubbed from the network’s social media accounts. “That story did not meet CNN’s editorial standards and has been retracted,” CNN said in an editors note posted in place of the story. “Links to the story have been disabled.”

The Hill - June 23, 2017

Obama official: We 'choked' on Russia response: report

The Obama administration was slow and cautious in its response to the Kremlin's efforts to meddle in the 2016 presidential election, according to an explosive Washington Post report published Friday. The Obama White House anxiously considered for months how to punish Russia for a coordinated influence and hacking campaign intended to politically damage Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and elect Donald Trump. The slow response has led to second-guessing in the aftermath. “It is the hardest thing about my entire time in government to defend,” the Post quoted one Obama administration official as saying. “I feel like we sort of choked.”

Wall St. Journal - June 26, 2017

Anthem Says Senate Health Bill Will Bolster Individual Insurance Market

Anthem Inc. ANTM -1.06% said it believes that the Senate Republicans’ health bill will bolster the individual insurance market, an endorsement for the legislation as many other insurers have suggested it could undermine the marketplaces created by the Affordable Care Act. In a statement, Anthem said it believed the bill “will markedly improve the stability of the individual market and moderate premium increases,” because it allots billions to help stabilize the markets, eliminates a tax on health insurance plans and works on “aligning premium subsidies with premium costs.”

Washington Post - June 26, 2017

The Daily 202: Pragmatic Koch network treads carefully around Trump, plays inside game to advance agenda

The wealthy donors who finance the conservative Koch network have many reasons to celebrate five months into Donald Trump’s presidency. Justice Neil Gorsuch sits on the Supreme Court, and a slew of other pro-business judges have been nominated. Major regulations enacted under Barack Obama have been rescinded. Environmental rules have been scaled back. A bill signed into law Friday, which makes it easier for the Department of Veterans Affairs to fire employees, offers a blueprint for scaling back civil service protections. The administration has proposed massive spending cuts. But with Trump’s self-inflicted wounds and persistent GOP infighting in the capital, the financiers assembled at the Broadmoor resort on Cheyenne Mountain are also being forced to reckon with the possibility that golden opportunities to overhaul the tax code and repeal Obamacare are being squandered.

Houston Chronicle - June 24, 2017

Nix: What do Democrats stand for?

Democrats have hit rock bottom. We keep losing elections because voters aren't buying what we're selling. This isn't just a partisan concern. Our nation has had enough of "us vs. them." Having two strong political parties is what keeps our democracy working well. Making public policy should not be a one-sided deal, as it was for many key issues in the recent session of the Texas Legislature. Texas Democrats, of course, have been in the wilderness for decades, some still licking wounds from the 20-point loss in the Greg Abbott-Wendy Davis race for governor. But the rest of the country is waking up to this reality as more than 900 Democratic candidates have come up short in the past few election cycles. Republicans now run the show nationally and in 25 states, with Democrats dominating in only six.

Politico - June 24, 2017

Koch network ramps up political spending while trying to push Trump team

The leadership of the Koch brothers' network is brushing off its occasionally chilly attitude toward President Donald Trump, trying to nudge the administration in its direction as the group's annual summit began Saturday just after Charles Koch met with Vice President Mike Pence. The network of conservative donors announced Saturday it plans to spend between $300 million and $400 million on politics and policy during the 2018 cycle. “When we look at our budget for politics and policy, it’s our largest we’ve ever had,” said Tim Phillips, the president of Americans for Prosperity, the network's grassroots organizing arm with chapters in dozens of states.

Politico - June 25, 2017

Bartlett: ‘Trump Is What Happens When a Political Party Abandons Ideas’

Almost two years ago, I wrote an article for Politico endorsing Donald Trump for president. It was a tongue-in-cheek effort—I “supported” Trump only because I thought he would lose to Hillary Clinton, disastrously, and that his defeat would cleanse the Republican Party of the extremism and nuttiness that drove me out of it. I had hoped that post-2016, what remained of the moderate wing of the GOP would reassert itself as it did after the Goldwater debacle in 1964, and exorcise the crazies. Trump was a guaranteed loser, I thought. In the Virginia presidential primary, I even voted for him, hoping to hasten the party’s demise. In the weeks before the November election, I predicted a Clinton presidency would fix much of what ails our country. On November 8, I voted for Clinton and left the ballot booth reasonably sure she would win.

Washington Post - June 24, 2017

Beyond opposing Trump, Democrats keep searching for a message

The loss in last week’s special congressional election in Georgia produced predictable hand-wringing and finger-pointing inside the Democratic Party. It also raised anew a question that has troubled the party through a period in which it has lost political ground. Simply put: Do Democrats have a message? Right now, the one discernible message is opposition to President Trump. That might be enough to get through next year’s midterm elections, though some savvy Democratic elected officials doubt it. What’s needed is a message that attracts voters beyond the blue-state base of the party. The defeat in Georgia came in a district that was always extremely challenging. Nonetheless, the loss touched off a hunt for scapegoats. Some Democrats, predictably, blamed the candidate, Jon Ossoff, as failing to capitalize on a flood of money and energy among party activists motivated to send a message of opposition to the president. He may have had flaws, but he and the Democrats turned out lots of voters. There just weren’t enough of them.

Houston Chronicle - June 24, 2017

Senate repeal bill would let many drop health coverage, and insurers don't like it

Insurers are fretting about the Senate Republican bill to replace the Affordable Care Act because it would repeal the individual mandate but - unlike the House bill - not provide an incentive for people to retain coverage. Abolishing the health care law's mandate with no penalty for coverage lapses would destabilize the individual insurance market by leading healthy people to drop their coverage, leaving insurance companies with sicker, more costly plan members in their enrollee risk pool. As a result, premiums would increase as much as 20 percent, according to government estimates, making coverage unaffordable. And people with medical problems could game the system by enrolling only when they get sick.

Dallas Morning News - June 22, 2017

DMN: GOP's secret fast-tracking of health care is irresponsible and hypocritical

After weeks of secrecy, GOP senators have finally unveiled a health care bill. Now we urge them to give the nation time to read and discuss the measure during extensive open hearings. This shouldn't be too much to ask. The restructuring of one-sixth of the U.S. economy deserves more than a fleeting look at a draft. Yet Senate Republicans say they want a vote before the July 4 recess. The only benefit of this break-neck timetable is political. GOP lawmakers can then tell constituents that they fulfilled a promise to repeal and replace Obamacare, and maybe the furor will die down over the holiday weekend.

Washington Post - June 25, 2017

Kushner firm’s $285 million Deutsche Bank loan came just before Election Day

One month before Election Day, Jared Kushner’s real estate company finalized a $285 million loan as part of a refinancing package for its property near Times Square in Manhattan. The loan came at a critical moment. Kushner was playing a key role in the presidential campaign of his father-in-law, Donald Trump. The lender, Deutsche Bank, was negotiating to settle a federal mortgage fraud case and charges from New York state regulators that it aided a possible Russian money-laundering scheme. The cases were settled in December and January. Now, Kushner’s association with Deutsche Bank is among a number of financial matters that could come under focus as his business activities are reviewed by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, who is examining Kushner as part of a broader investigation into possible Russian influence in the election.

Politico - June 25, 2017

Pro-Trump group's health care offensive warns GOP senators to get in line

A new campaign by top White House allies targeting the GOP’s most vulnerable senator over health care sends a loud message to those resistant to the Trump agenda: We’re coming after you. America First Policies, a White House-backed outside group led by the president’s top campaign advisers, has launched a $1 million attack against Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.), who on Friday announced that he opposed the Senate’s recently unveiled Obamacare repeal plan. That included a Twitter and digital ad campaign targeting the senator, including a video that accuses him of “standing with” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, a reviled figure in conservative circles. “Unacceptable,” the video says. “If you’re opposed to this bill, we’re opposed to you.”

Fox News - June 25, 2017

Hillary Is Just as Unpopular as She Was After the Election, New Poll Shows

It's been more than seven months since Election Day, but Americans' opinions of Hillary Clinton remain the same. A new Gallup poll finds just 41 percent of Americans have a favorable view of the former presidential candidate, with 57 percent expressing an unfavorable view. It's the same split that Gallup found in December 2016. Gallup said that historically, losing presidential candidates have gained popularity after the election.

June 25, 2017

Lead Stories

Texas Tribune - June 23, 2017

California's Texas travel ban creates confusion in college sports

The politicians running Texas and California continue to prove that they want nothing to do with each other. But athletes in the two states are inextricably linked. As a result, the latest salvo in the Texas v. California culture wars has created widespread confusion in the college sports world. That confusion stems from a decision this week by California Attorney General Xavier Becerra to ban state-funded employee travel to Texas. Becerra said that a new Texas law discriminates against LGBT people and that California law bans state-funded travel to states with discriminatory laws on the books. But while the move was applauded by liberals in California and mocked by conservatives in Texas, its future impact is unclear.

Houston Chronicle - June 24, 2017

U.S. Supreme Court could change the political map of Texas

The odd shapes tell the story. A huge Republican majority in the Houston-area 2nd congressional district represented by Ted Poe curls around the region from Lake Houston, northeast of the city, makes a meandering, snakelike loop out to the western suburbs, and ends south of downtown near Loop 610. Nearby, the 29th congressional district has a big Democratic majority and is represented by Gene Green. It resembles a partially-eaten doughnut, forming an undulating shape from north to east to south. Like virtually all 36 congressional districts in Texas - Republican Will Hurd's West Texas district being the only exception - neither Poe's nor Green's district is particularly competitive in general elections.

Politico - June 24, 2017

Republican governors could be secret weapon against health care bill

A handful of GOP governors opposed to their party’s proposals to overhaul Medicaid could potentially kill Mitch McConnell’s effort to repeal Obamacare. Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval, a Republican moderate who has hammered the repeal efforts for months, helped to deliver Sen. Dean Heller to the “no” column Friday. He stood next to Heller in the governor’s conference room in Las Vegas as the Nevada Republican announced he could not vote for the Senate repeal plan as written.

Associated Press - June 25, 2017

Weissert: Texas gave House GOP biggest gerrymandering bump

Voting districts drawn by Texas' Republican-controlled Legislature helped the party win nearly four more U.S. House seats than it otherwise would have in the last election, which was more than any other state, an Associated Press analysis of the results of federal and state legislative races found. Gerrymandering, in which the party in power alters the electoral maps to favor itself, helps explain why the GOP continues to be so dominant in Texas despite the rapid growth of the state's Hispanic population, which tends to back Democrats. The findings also underscore years of federal court rulings that have found Texas' electoral maps to be unconstitutional and discriminatory.

This article appeared in the San Antonio Express News

Associated Press - June 25, 2017

How gerrymandering helped the GOP in 2016

The 2016 presidential contest was awash with charges that the fix was in: Republican Donald Trump repeatedly claimed that the election was rigged against him, while Democrats have accused the Russians of stacking the odds in Trump’s favor. Less attention was paid to manipulation that occurred not during the presidential race, but before it — in the drawing of lines for hundreds of congressional and state legislative seats. The result, according to an Associated Press analysis: Republicans had a real advantage. The AP scrutinized the outcomes of all 435 U.S. House races and about 4,700 state House and Assembly seats up for election last year using a new statistical method of calculating partisan advantage.

This article appeared in the Austin American-Statesman

State Stories

San Antonio Express News - June 24, 2017

House Speaker Joe Straus not falling in line with Abbott, Patrick

As Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick drive an agenda that would chip away at local officials’ control of everything from bathroom regulations to property taxes, House Speaker Joe Straus is talking up the belief that the best government is locally driven. “It may not be popular right now, but we still believe something that one of my first mentors, Sen. John Tower, liked to say — that the best government is that which is closest to the people,” Straus said in a widely noticed speech to a Texas Association of School Boards conference. “In other words, we believe that you know what’s best for your students and for your taxpayers.” The contrast could foretell a rough ride for the special-session agenda laid out with much fanfare by Abbott, who like Patrick is attuned to the wishes of the GOP primary voters statewide who trend quite right.

San Antonio Express News - June 23, 2017

California travel ban to Texas over LGBT adoption bill could spell trouble for tourism industry

California state employees can no longer use taxpayer dollars to travel to Texas because of a new Texas law the Golden State says discriminates against LGBT people who want to adopt — creating a potential new headache for the state’s tourism and travel industry. The ban, announced by the California attorney general Thursday, doesn’t apply to California residents who still want to travel to the Lone Star State. But Texas tourism groups and business advocates have repeatedly warned state lawmakers that pursuing legislation perceived as discriminatory could make the state less attractive to businesses, conventions and sporting events, leading to a sizable economic fallout.

San Antonio Express News - June 24, 2017

Limited space, high security expected at SB 4 hearing in San Antonio

Space will be limited and security will be tight during Monday’s federal court hearing over Senate Bill 4, the state’s law banning so-called sanctuary cities, as a large protest is expected outside. The hearing on a preliminary injunction request is before U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia and will be held in the federal courthouse’s largest courtroom. No laptops or other electronics are allowed. Although cellphones may be permitted, no audio-recording or videotaping will be allowed, according to the U.S. Marshals Service.

San Antonio Express News - June 24, 2017

Alamo getting upgrades, changes

The San Antonio City Council made a historic decision this year when it approved a seven-year plan for Alamo Plaza, a busy urban space that once was the main courtyard of an early Spanish mission and fortified compound at the center of a famous 1836 battle for Texas independence. Under a nearly two-year-old agreement with the Texas General Land Office and nonprofit Alamo Endowment, which together manage the state-owned Alamo complex, the city has committed $38 million in capital or voter-approved funds for pedestrian and aesthetic enhancements in and around the city-owned plaza, to improve the visitor experience.

San Antonio Express News - June 23, 2017

Cruz files bill to require medical exams for balloon pilots

In the wake of the deadly hot-air balloon crash that killed 16 people near Lockhart last year, Sen. Ted Cruz filed a bill this week that would put balloon pilots on par with other types of pilots and require them to undergo medical exams. “This is a big win,” said Patricia Morgan, whose daughter and granddaughter from San Antonio were killed in the July 30 crash, which was the deadliest in U.S. history. “Now it’s got to be passed,” she said. “We’re going to have to fight all the lobbyists in the balloon industry.” The Balloon Federation of America and officials with the Federal Aviation Administration have argued that medical exams and drug tests for balloon pilots are costly and unnecessary, given the low number of balloon flights compared to other types of aircraft.

Houston Chronicle - June 23, 2017

Here's how national Democratic leader tried to cheer up union leaders

Even as he tried to strike an optimistic tone, the head of the Democratic National Committee acknowledged Friday to labor leaders in Houston that both the party and unions are facing a daunting task ahead of them. "It is undeniable that this is the most challenging stress test, perhaps ... in my lifetime and one of the most challenging stress tests in the history of our Democracy," said Tom Perez, the new chairman of the Democratic National Committee. The Texas Legislature and Gov. Greg Abbott are going after unions again in an upcoming special session, Democrats struck out badly in their efforts to pick up seats in Congress earlier this week, and U.S. Senate Republicans unveiled a health care plan yesterday that many see as a direct assault on former President Barack Obama's signature accomplishment.

Houston Chronicle - June 23, 2017

HC: State government should leave cities free to do what's best for the local communities.

We don't get many tumbleweeds blowing through the streets of Houston. So we wouldn't dare tell the good people of El Paso how they should deal with those thorny nuisances rolling into their backyards. Too bad our elected leaders in Austin don't have the same good sense when it comes to what some folks call "urban tumbleweeds." Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has his shorts in a twist because local governments have been trying to regulate or ban plastic grocery bags. That's an odd obsession for one of our state's elected leaders, a crusade our AG really should abandon. And it's yet another example of how our supposedly conservative state government is trying to force its will on city halls across Texas.

Dallas Morning News - June 24, 2017

Dallas Republican Pete Sessions says GOP plan doesn't resolve health care problem

Dallas Rep. Pete Sessions said the Republican health care plan being debated in the Senate would rid the marketplace of the Affordable Care Act, but leave open the question of coverage and costs. Sessions, the longtime Republican congressman from Dallas, in 2016 developed a plan of his own called "The World Greatest Healthcare Plan Act." "The daunting facts of the case is the Affordable Care Act is eroding so quickly around the country that my colleagues are looking at the money aspects, the aspects of the huge rules and regulations that are impeding not only buying better health care, but impeding our ability to effectively grow our economy," Sessions said Friday during a taping of Lone Star Politics on KXAS-TV.

Texas Tribune - June 22, 2017

Heyman: Missing a chance to address the role of racism in UT's history

There’s a new exhibit at the University of Texas’ Briscoe Center for American History: a statue of Confederate President Jefferson Davis that was removed from the campus’ main mall in 2015. It represents an enormous missed opportunity for the university to confront the role that racism and white supremacy played in UT-Austin’s history. UT-Austin President Greg Fenves moved the Davis statue to the Briscoe Center because, according to his August 2015 message, the statue was best “explained and understood through an educational exhibit.” Unfortunately, the Briscoe exhibit narrowly focuses on telling the story of the statue itself, chronicling debates over whether sculptor Pompeo Coppini used the correct proportions, and threats from his lawyer to sue the university over delayed payments.

Austin American-Statesman - June 25, 2017

Challengers of ‘sanctuary cities’ ban to get their day in federal court

Challengers of Senate Bill 4, the “sanctuary cities” ban, will have their first day in federal court Monday before a presiding judge who has recently ruled that federal immigration detention requests central to the controversial state law are unconstitutional. Monday’s hearing in San Antonio before U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia will be the first time a coalition of advocacy groups and many of Texas’ largest cities will square off against state Attorney General Ken Paxton’s office and the Trump administration in court. Beginning at 9:30 a.m., Garcia will hear arguments about the numerous preliminary injunctions filed to stop the law from taking effect Sept. 1.

Austin American-Statesman - June 24, 2017

Poll’s depiction of optimistic black millennials tempered by reality

A Texas marketing firm that conducted a national poll of millennials wanted to strip away the stereotypes that tend to be draped over an entire generation. The poll found — to the surprise of even the people who conducted it — that black millennials tend to be the most optimistic members of their generation, the most likely to think that with hard work they can achieve their dreams, the mostly fervent believers in the American dream itself. ... If anyone had a reason to think that, it would be Mica Burton and Donnie Simmons of Austin. Both are in their 20s, black, college-educated and so creative they make a living at it. They work at Rooster Teeth Studios, the internet darling that exudes millennial artistic sensibilities, producing comedic cartoons and other online programming in a suite of Austin offices where the walls are covered with vintage movie posters, the fridge is stocked with beer and a replica of Thor’s hammer sits in a corner. One problem: Burton and Simmons don’t believe the poll results. They don’t see the future in such optimistic terms, nor do they think most of their fellow black millennials see the world in such sunny terms.

Austin American-Statesman - June 24, 2017

PolitiFact: 52% of state spending goes to education -- Mostly True

After Dan Patrick cited a statistic to back his contention that Texas state government spends plenty on education, a reader asked us to check the Republican lieutenant governor’s accuracy. Patrick, in a June newspaper commentary, extolled the state budget signed into law by Gov. Greg Abbott, specifying: “Texas spends $60 billion on schools in our two-year budget, including both federal and state funds. Of that, $41 billion is state funding. That is on top of the estimated $28 billion to $30 billion annually paid by local property taxpayers. “When colleges and universities are added,” Patrick said, “education spending is the biggest item in the state budget — about 52 percent of all state dollars. ... That’s an accurate percentage. But it’s worth noting that education also accounts for the smallest share of budgeted state spending in at least 20 years, which is as far back as we checked. With that additional information, we rate the statement Mostly True.

Austin American-Statesman - June 25, 2017

Two Views, Mackowiak: Special session offers opportunity for conservative reforms

There’s a scene in the 1984 film, “Romancing the Stone,” when Kathleen Turner’s character, whose sister has been kidnapped and held for ransom until she delivers a treasure map, says to her hero, “That map is my sister’s life.” Jack T. Colton, played by Michael Douglas, replies, “Like hell it is. Whatever’s at the end of that map (“El Corazon”) is your sister’s life.” The map is the regular session. The special session is El Corazon. The 85th session of the Texas Legislature ended with tempers flaring, both houses blaming each other and the governor stuck in the middle.

Austin American-Statesman - June 25, 2017

Two Views, Smith: Abbott’s pick-up sticks play politics with a special session

With apologies to Joyce Kilmer, the American poet and hero killed in World War I, we might begin a look at the upcoming special session of the Texas Legislature by rudely rewriting a bit of Kilmer’s most famous poem: Laws are made by fools like thee But only God can make a tree. Only the governor can set agenda items for a special session — and Gov. Greg Abbott has used that power to demand the Legislature, in special summer session, cut down local ordinances that protect Texas’ heritage trees. The rest of Abbott’s special session agenda looks like a pile of children’s pick-up sticks thrown at the feet of lawmakers. There are 20 items — and just like in the game, legislators will try to pick up each one without disturbing an already uneasy legislative balance.

Austin American-Statesman - June 24, 2017

Deion Sanders partners with Koch brothers in anti-poverty campaign

Retired football star Deion Sanders is partnering with the conservative Koch brothers to help fight poverty in Texas. The unlikely partnership, announced Saturday, will raise $21 million over the next three years to fund anti-poverty programs in Dallas. Sanders joined Koch donors at a weekend conference in Colorado Springs, Colo., to help raise money for the new venture, called Prime 5. Sanders also defended the billionaire industrialist Charles Koch, often demonized by Democrats, as someone simply “trying to make the world a better place.”

Austin American-Statesman - June 24, 2017

Trump administration to defend ‘sanctuary cities’ ban in Texas lawsuit

Trump administration lawyers announced Friday that they will defend Texas’ Senate Bill 4, a state ban on “ sanctuary cities,” from myriad legal challenges when it heads to a federal courtroom next week. “The Department of Justice fully supports Texas’s effort and is participating in this lawsuit because of the strong federal interest in facilitating the state and local cooperation that is critical in enforcing our nation’s immigration laws,” U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in the announcement. The addition of Justice Department attorneys to the fray has set up what could be a blockbuster hearing in U.S. District Court in San Antonio. Justice Department attorneys will join attorneys representing Texas in defending suits brought by many of Texas’ largest cities, including Austin, as well as advocacy groups from across the nation that have challenged the law.

New York Times - June 24, 2017

To Make Sense of American Politics, Immigrants Find Clues From Lands They Left

Raji Alatassi watched a video clip of that recent cabinet meeting in Washington, in which the top officials in President Trump’s administration took turns heaping worshipful praise upon their leader. He felt he had seen it before. “I was like, ‘Oh my God,’” said Mr. Alatassi, 37, who was born and grew up in Syria and came to the United States nearly 20 years ago. “Just replace the English words with Arabic words, and you have a Syrian cabinet meeting. I left the Middle East for a reason.” Waves of immigrants from around the world have transformed Houston into one of America’s most diverse and most international cities. They fled countries with dysfunctional governments, oppressive rulers, shoestring democracies, ethnic warfare and mass violence, and have found themselves rubbing elbows and bumpers in a wealthy Texas city where potholes, traffic, mosquitoes and pension reform are some of the biggest concerns.

Victoria Advocate - June 24, 2017

Victoria Advocate: Bathroom bill doesn't reflect Republican values

Key conservative principles of the Republican Party include less government, more local control and pro-business policies. By these standards, the so-called bathroom bill fails miserably. It is legislation in search of a nonexistent problem, attempting to supercede local regulations and creating unnecessary problems for businesses. Truly, it reflects a nanny-state attitude unbecoming of Republicans. House Speaker Joe Strauss, R-San Antonio, tried during the legislative session to derail the bill, but Gov. Greg Abbott, unfortunately, has added it to the agenda of the special session scheduled to start July 18.

City Stories

Austin American-Statesman - June 23, 2017

New Austin charter school wins approval of state panel

The State Board of Education on Friday approved a charter school to open three new campuses over a five-year period in north and south Austin. The state panel hasn’t approved a suite of new charter schools, which are privately-run public schools, in Austin since 2014 even though existing charter schools have opened new campuses throughout the city since then. Officials with Valor Public Schools hope to open their first campus in the 2018-2019 school year with at least 500 students. They hope to open two more campuses by 2023-2024 school year that can enroll up to 4,200 students. The school’s focus will be on integrating classical learning with instruction in science, technology, engineering and math.

Dallas Morning News - June 23, 2017

$1.025 billion bond plan would dig Dallas out of some of its troubles

The city of Dallas is struggling under a growing heap of basic infrastructure that's in desperate shape. We're talking about more than $10 billion in needs resulting from years of let's-do-that-later. Finding the right shovels within city hall to dig out of this mess has been frustrating and difficult. But thank goodness, with time running out, the city council came together Wednesday on a $1.025 billion bond proposal. It's a big number, larger than the $800 million starting point but still well below the city's borrowing capacity of $1.2 billion. No one likes long-term debt. Still, the council is right to recognize that it is poor governance to continue to defer maintenance on its deferred maintenance.

Houston Chronicle - June 23, 2017

Revamped ballistics strategy targets Houston's serial shooters

Emmett Jolley pulled up to the intersection near his northeast Houston home one spring night 14 months ago when the gunfire began. A hail of bullets riddled his gray Nissan, striking him and a passenger sitting next to him. The gunman fled moments later, leaving police to pick through the crime scene and bag the shell casings he'd left behind. Miraculously, Jolley and his friend survived, victims of one of the thousands of gun crimes that plague Houston every year, and one that easily might have gone unsolved in years past. This time, however, investigators had a weapon of their own - the National Integrated Ballistics Information Network, a revamped ballistics testing program run by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Houston Chronicle - June 24, 2017

Mayor Sylvester Turner named to climate leadership post, trumpets Paris goals

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner has been named co-chair of the Climate Mayors, a group of 331 local leaders that this weekend is trumpeting its support for the goals of the Paris Agreement that President Donald Trump announced this month his administration would abandon. Gathered this weekend in Miami Beach, Florida as part of the annual U.S. Conference of Mayors, the group is seeking to rally additional cities to its cause and to reaffirm its members' commitment to reducing greenhouse gases. "As the Energy Capital of the world, it's our responsibility to find sustainable ways to power the future," Turner said. "By investing in green power, improving building efficiency, and revitalizing our green spaces, Houston is proof that large industrial cities can act on climate and maintain a robust, growing economy."

National Stories

CBS News - June 24, 2017

Bernie and Jane Sanders, under FBI investigation for bank fraud, hire lawyers

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and his wife, Jane Sanders have hired prominent defense attorneys amid an FBI investigation into a loan Jane Sanders obtained to expand Burlington College while she was its president, CBS News confirms. Politico Magazine first reported the Sanders had hired lawyers to defend them in the probe. Sanders' top adviser Jeff Weaver told CBS News the couple has sought legal protection over federal agents' allegations from a January 2016 complaint accusing then-President of Burlington College, Ms. Sanders, of distorting donor levels in a 2010 loan application for $10 million from People's United Bank to purchase 33 acres of land for the institution. According to Politico, prosecutors might also be looking into allegations that Sen. Sanders' office inappropriately urged the bank to approve the loan.

Associated Press - June 24, 2017

Some House Democrats mull over how to oust Pelosi as leader

A dozen or so House Democrats want Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi to go after a dispiriting loss in a House election in Georgia. They just don't know how to make it happen. "We can't keep losing races and keep the same leadership in place. You have a baseball team that keeps losing year after year. At some point, the coach has got to go, right?" said Rep. Kathleen Rice, D-N.Y., on Friday. The frustrated Democrats met in Rice's office a day earlier to discuss their options as they face long odds of knocking out the woman who has led the Democratic caucus for nearly 15 years from minority to majority and back, raised tens of millions of dollars and has had multiple legislative successes. Their action plan: Keep talking. Keep raising the concern that something needs to change within the ranks of the party's leadership. It's about all they can do.

The Hill - June 24, 2017

Dems push leaders to talk less about Russia

Frustrated Democrats hoping to elevate their election fortunes have a resounding message for party leaders: Stop talking so much about Russia. Democratic leaders have been beating the drum this year over the ongoing probes into the Trump administration’s potential ties to Moscow, taking every opportunity to highlight the saga and forcing floor votes designed to uncover any business dealings the president might have with Russian figures. But rank-and-file Democrats say the Russia-Trump narrative is simply a non-issue with district voters, who are much more worried about bread-and-butter economic concerns like jobs, wages and the cost of education and healthcare.

Forbes - June 24, 2017

Roy: The New Senate Republican Bill Will Transform American Health Care

In March, when House Republicans published their bill to replace Obamacare—the American Health Care Act—I described it in Forbes this way: “GOP’s Obamacare Replacement Will Make Coverage Unaffordable For Millions—Otherwise, It’s Great.” I meant it. There were great things about the House bill, in particular its far-reaching reforms of the Medicaid program. But Paul Ryan’s bill contained a fatal flaw. Its flat tax credits, which provided identical assistance to the poor and the wealthy, would price millions of near-elderly low-income workers out of the insurance market and trap millions more in poverty. Fortunately, buried in the House bill was a way out of the morass. Section 202 of the bill contains a transitional schedule of tax credits that was meant to serve as a bridge between the old Obamacare system, ending in 2017, and the new Paul Ryan system, beginning in 2020.

New York Times - June 24, 2017

Planned Parenthood Battle Could Sway Fortunes of G.O.P. Health Bill

As the Senate barrels toward a vote next week to sever all federal support for Planned Parenthood, the 100-year-old organization is mobilizing furiously to bring down the Republicans’ broader legislation to repeal the Affordable Care Act before it reaches President Trump’s desk. The fight over one provision — to cut off funding to Planned Parenthood for a single year — may be tangential to the wider war over the American health care system. But with the Senate so narrowly divided, Mr. Trump’s vow to repeal President Barack Obama’s signature domestic achievement could rest on the hot-button issue of abortion. Republicans can afford to lose only two votes when the final tally comes as soon as Thursday.

Los Angeles Times - June 23, 2017

Number of refugees admitted to U.S. drops by almost half

The number of refugees admitted to the United States was cut by nearly half in the first three months of the Trump administration compared with the final three months of the Obama presidency, reflecting the new president's skepticism toward immigration. Government statistics released Friday showed that more than 25,000 refugees were permitted to enter and reside in the United States at the end of the Obama administration. In the initial months under President Trump, the number fell to 13,000. The statistics were released by the Department of Homeland Security, based on information supplied by the State Department.

Daily Caller - June 24, 2017

Supreme Court Limits Rights Of Property Owners

The Supreme Court constrained the rights of property owners Friday, establishing a test that favors government officials in assessing the loss of property value caused by government regulations. Writing for a 5-3 court, Justice Anthony Kennedy explained that state and local officials can combine separate parcels of land in assessing whether local government has effectively seized private property through regulation, requiring compensation. Kennedy’s opinion was joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan. Chief Justice John Roberts filed a fiery dissent, joined by Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito. The case concerned a Wisconsin family called the Murrs, who argued that the government has unconstitutionally taken their land by refusing to allow them to sell it.

Washington Times - June 19, 2017

Study supports Trump: 5.7 million noncitizens may have cast illegal votes

A research group in New Jersey has taken a fresh look at postelection polling data and concluded that the number of noncitizens voting illegally in U.S. elections is likely far greater than previous estimates. As many as 5.7 million noncitizens may have voted in the 2008 election, which put Barack Obama in the White House. The research organization Just Facts, a widely cited, independent think tank led by self-described conservatives and libertarians, revealed its number-crunching in a report on national immigration. Just Facts President James D. Agresti and his team looked at data from an extensive Harvard/YouGov study that every two years questions a sample size of tens of thousands of voters. Some acknowledge they are noncitizens and are thus ineligible to vote.

Politico - June 22, 2017

Steyer to plow $7.5 million into voter mobilization efforts

Billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer said Thursday he will put more than $7.5 million into an effort to register and turn out young voters in eight states ahead of the midterm elections, while remaining mum about his own political ambitions. Through his NextGen Climate group, Steyer told POLITICO he will spend $7.5 million this year in Virginia, Pennsylvania, Florida, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Nevada and California, with an expectation that he will spend more money organizing young voters in those states in 2018.

New York Times - June 24, 2017

Douthat: From Worse to Bad on Health Care

THE Obamacare replacement that the House sent to the Senate might as well have had a note scrawled across its pages: Save us from ourselves. And the Senate bill, which just emerged from Mitch McConnell’s underground laboratories into the light of day, does indeed improve upon the House’s bill in several important ways. But is that enough to make the new version an electoral winner for Republicans? Probably not: At best one might say that it’s a political suicide attempt that’s somewhat less likely to succeed. Is it enough to make it sound public policy? Again, I think not: There are good ideas worked in, but still too much needless callousness.

Washington Post - June 24, 2017

Koch network withholding support of Senate health-care bill, pushing for changes

The Koch network is working with conservative allies behind the scenes to make changes to the Senate health-care bill that was unveiled this week, declining to endorse the measure as it stands. As hundreds of donors gathered Saturday for a three-day seminar organized by billionaire industrialist Charles Koch, leaders from the constellation of groups that support his agenda outlined concerns about the draft bill. “In all candor, we’ve been disappointed that movement is not more dramatic toward a full repeal or rollback (of the Affordable Care Act). But we’re not walking away,” said Tim Phillips, the president of Americans for Prosperity. “We still think this can get done, but the Senate bill needs to get better.”

Washington Post - June 25, 2017

Obama’s secret struggle to punish Russia for Putin’s election assault

Early last August, an envelope with extraordinary handling restrictions arrived at the White House. Sent by courier from the CIA, it carried “eyes only” instructions that its contents be shown to just four people: President Barack Obama and three senior aides. Inside was an intelligence bombshell, a report drawn from sourcing deep inside the Russian government that detailed Russian President Vladi­mir Putin’s direct involvement in a cyber campaign to disrupt and discredit the U.S. presidential race. But it went further. The intelligence captured Putin’s specific instructions on the operation’s audacious objectives — defeat or at least damage the Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, and help elect her opponent, Donald Trump.

Washington Post - June 25, 2017

Senate health-care bill faces serious resistance from GOP moderates

A small group of moderate Republican senators, worried that their leaders’ health-care bill could damage the nation’s social safety net, may pose at least as significant an obstacle to the measure’s passage as their colleagues on the right. The vast changes the legislation would make to Medicaid, the country’s broadest source of public health insurance, would represent the largest single step the government has ever taken toward conservatives’ long-held goal of reining in federal spending on health-care entitlement programs in favor of a free-market system. That dramatic shift and the bill’s bold redistribution of wealth — the billions of dollars taken from coverage for the poor would help fund tax cuts for the wealthy — is creating substantial anxiety for several Republican moderates whose states have especially benefited from the expansion of Medicaid that the Affordable Care Act has allowed since 2014.

Politico - June 25, 2017

Freedom Caucus holds fire on Senate Obamacare repeal bill

The most hardline conservatives in the House are taking an unusually cautious approach to the Senate's Obamacare replacement, promising to keep an open mind about whatever their colleagues across the Capitol send back. It’s a change in strategy for the House Freedom Caucus. When House leaders first released a health care bill in February, for instance, group members took to television talk shows to pan the plan as “Obamacare lite,” furious that it didn't, in their eyes, do enough to unravel the 2010 health care law. They also threatened to withhold their support until changes were made, and later won concessions. For now, those hardball tactics have disappeared.

June 23, 2017

Lead Stories

Texas Tribune - June 22, 2017

Abbott plots aggressive approach to special session

Gov. Greg Abbott is plotting an aggressive approach to the upcoming special session of the Legislature, diverting from his above-the-fray style to try to see through an ambitious 20-item agenda. The push came into public view Thursday, when Abbott's office began announcing lawmakers who will take the lead on individual items — state Rep. Craig Goldman, R-Fort Worth, and state Sen. Kelly Hancock, R-North Richland Hills, intend to author legislation cracking down on mail-in ballot fraud, for example. Abbott's office is working to line up similar pairs for all 20 items. These are not the only preparations his office has been making for the special session, which begins July 18.

Texas Tribune - June 23, 2017

Ramsey: You can fight City Hall — if you’re governor of Texas

City attorneys all over Texas are getting ready to read from the Book of Abbott, wherein the former attorney general for the state of Texas sayeth: "I go into the office, I sue the federal government and I go home." Sub in "state" for "federal," and you might just have the new credo for top municipal lawyers in Texas. The idea was stolen, with permission, from Dave McNeely, a longtime Texas political writer who still writes columns for papers across the state. McNeely is onto something — a notion that captures the peculiar position of a state run by federalist Republicans who want to cage the government in Washington, D.C., and who also believe Texas has given far too much leash to local governments.

Austin American-Statesman - June 22, 2017

Hough: How Senate health bill raises health costs for everyone

As Congress wrestles with replacing the Affordable Care Act, a big question is where they will finally land with Medicaid. Rolling back Medicaid hurts our country’s safety net by taking coverage away from millions of Americans — many of whom are low-income, working adults who aren’t offered health insurance through their employers or who work intermittent, contract jobs — and would bring back an antiquated, out-of-touch thinking about poverty that classifies the poor into “deserving” versus “undeserving.” Historically, children, the elderly and the disabled have been considered deserving of receiving assistance and, accordingly, have received health care coverage earlier and in higher numbers.

Dallas Morning News - June 23, 2017

Disabled protesters dragged from Republican offices a sign of things to come?

The GOP released its long-awaited health care bill on Thursday. And some people are not happy about it. Around 60 protesters organized by a disability rights group, ADAPT, gathered to stage what they called a "die-in" outside Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's office in response to proposed cuts to Medicaid. Some protesters, many of them disabled, were then carried out by police officers. Several were still chanting "No cuts to Medicaid" as they were lifted out of their wheelchairs and dragged out.

Dallas Morning News - June 22, 2017

Lindenberger: The problem with the health care bill is that the GOP is scared

The big problem with the Republicans' new health plan isn't the secrecy with which it was written. Nor even the ridiculous speed with which they now plan to rush it through the Senate. The problem is that Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and his lieutenants, including the majority whip John Cornyn of Texas, are just plum scared. How else to explain the jacked-up way the party is pretending the health care repeal is really just a budget reconciliation measure, rather than a real live piece of legislation that will strip health insurance from millions of Americans? A budget reconciliation measure requires only a simple majority to pass and can't be filibustered.

Politico - June 23, 2017

The GOP's trillion dollar tax problem

Congressional Republicans and the Trump administration, under pressure to deliver on what they hope will be the crown jewel of their economic agenda, appear close to formally jettisoning the controversial border tax proposed by House Republicans while still presenting a plan in two months that would include permanent changes to the tax code. But whether they can dump the border tax — which would hit imports but not exports — and still meet the ambitious goals set out by President Donald Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan remains a daunting challenge. Ryan and House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady were counting on the tax, formally called a "border adjustment," to raise more than $1 trillion to fund rate cuts without swelling the deficit.

San Antonio Express News - June 22, 2017

SAEN: The end of Texas gerrymandering?

Texas has a lot riding on a U.S. Supreme Court ruling on partisan gerrymandering, which is defined as the act of unfairly redistricting to keep a party in power. If you’re one of the gerrymanderers, your continuing control of the state House and Senate is at serious risk. If you are one of the many victims of Texas gerrymanders — Democrats and minorities, mainly — you could gain a competitive chance of electing the representatives you want. At the moment, legislators get to choose their voters rather than the other way around.

Austin American-Statesman - June 22, 2017

VOTER ID: Fast schedule set on Texas penalties for ‘discriminatory’ law

With the next election season looming, a federal judge has set a fast-paced schedule for determining whether Texas should be penalized for a voter ID law found to have been written by Republicans to intentionally discriminate against minority voters. Saying no additional hearings will be needed, U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos gave lawyers two weeks to file legal briefs on the matter, with a final round of response briefs due July 17. Ramos also said she wants to hear arguments about whether Texas should be placed under preclearance — meaning the U.S. Justice Department would have to approve any changes to voting laws or practices in the state.

Sacramento Bee - June 22, 2017

Texas, three more states on California’s banned travel list

California is restricting publicly funded travel to four more states because of recent laws that leaders here view as discriminatory against gay and transgender people. All totaled, California now bans most state-funded travel to eight states. The new additions to California’s restricted travel list are Texas, Alabama, Kentucky and South Dakota. They join Kansas, Mississippi, North Carolina and Tennessee as states already subjected to the ban. ... Texas Gov. Greg Abbott this month signed a law that allows child welfare providers to deny services because of “sincerely held religious beliefs,” a provision that critics interpreted as permitting adoption agencies to deny services to gay families.

Houston Chronicle - June 22, 2017

Texas not alone in its efforts to limit local control

In eight years as mayor of Amarillo, Republican Kel Seliger was always wary of big-footing from Austin and Washington, with mandates that would cost his constituents money and limit the ability of local officials to decide local issues. He was elected to the Texas Senate in 2003, joining state government as a staunch champion of local control. Now, with a special legislative session scheduled to start in less than a month with about a dozen agenda items that could limit or strip local control on a variety of issues, the Republican Party, and its newfound zeal to overrule local governments, is becoming unrecognizable to many, including Seliger.

Dallas Morning News - June 22, 2017

Will Texas have a bright future? Watch its minority populations to find out, demographer says

Texas, like everywhere else, is getting older as baby boomers age. But it’s still one of the youngest states in the nation, new census data shows. In 2016, the Lone Star State’s median age was 34.5 years, which made Texas the fourth-youngest in the country after Utah, Washington, D.C., and Alaska, according to U.S. Census Bureau data released this week. Compare that with states such as Maine and New Hampshire, whose median ages were 44.6 and 43, respectively. That relative youth, demographers say, is yet another sign of Texas’ economic allure.

State Stories

Texas Tribune - June 23, 2017

Hey, Texplainer: Why don’t local police departments pay for rape kit testing?

Hey Texplainer, why don’t local police departments pay for rape kit testing? The cost and backlog of untested rape kits in Texas have long been a source of debate, including during the 85th regular legislative session. Thousands of rape kits remain untested in the state, mostly because of a lack of funding to process them. These kits, gathered by police through hours-long, invasive exams of sexual assault victims, cost anywhere between $500 and $2,000 to test, state Rep. Victoria Neave, D-Dallas, said during the session.

Texas Tribune - June 22, 2017

Lakshmanan: Rising vaccine resistance and public health in Texas

As the last days of Texas’ regular legislative session were winding down, the number of measles cases in Minnesota was heading upward. It continues to grow: There were more than 70 cases as of last week, most of them among unvaccinated children in the state’s Somali population. More than 20 of them were so severely ill they required hospitalization. Texas isn’t Minnesota — yet. But when it comes to vaccination, the links are too close for comfort. Non-medical exemptions in Texas — where parents opt their kids out of vaccines — have been on the rise since 2003, increasing 19-fold to close to 45,000. Worse than these raw numbers are small pockets of vaccine resistance across the state where close to 30 percent of children are unvaccinated, and maybe more. That level needs to be at more like 5 percent in order to prevent a measles outbreak like the one in Minnesota.

Texas Tribune - June 22, 2017

Ladner: Texas should provide more educational options for students with disabilities

Lawmakers in many states have expanded opportunities for students with disabilities, allowing them to seek the services, therapies and schooling that best meet their needs. Sadly, Texas has not only failed to follow suit but has moved in the opposite direction by covertly denying services within the public system. Texas policy should encourage school districts to provide services to children with disabilities, and it should allow them the freedom and opportunity to find other education and therapy solutions. In 2016, the Houston Chronicle exposed a 12-year effort on the part of the Texas Education Agency (TEA) to subvert the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. The Chronicle’s efforts uncovered an arbitrary administrative cap of 8.5 percent on the number of special needs children a district could serve before facing bureaucratic interference from the TEA.

Austin American-Statesman - June 22, 2017

Herman: Daughters of Republic of Texas bow out at French Legation

After six decades of managing a significant piece of Austin and Texas history, the Daughters of the Republic of Texas are bowing out of hands-on involvement at the French Legation. The DRT pretty much had no choice in the matter. You’ll recall I recently told you about House Bill 3810, approved this year by your Legislature and signed into law by your governor. It’s an historic measure, sponsored by Rep. John Cyrier, R-Lockhart, concerning a historic structure in East Austin. Here’s your quickie refresher on the French Legation: It was completed in 1841 to house the French ambassador to the then-independent Republic of Texas.

Austin American-Statesman - June 23, 2017

PolitiFact: If it feels hotter than ever, that’s because it is

A Democrat hot after the U.S. House seat held by Republican climate-science skeptic Rep. Lamar Smith made a searing claim while strolling for support in South Austin, a news story shows. An American-Statesman story captured the scene when a resident told Democratic candidate Derrick Crowe she’s worried about climate change. Crowe responded: “That one actually keeps me up at night.” Crowe went on: “I have a 3-year-old, Henry, and every year he’s lived has been the hottest on record.” ... There’s scientific consensus that this was so, according to averaged global surface temperature readings, though it’s worth pointing out that those temperatures add up to a single indicator of climate conditions. We rate the claim True.

Austin American-Statesman - June 22, 2017

Divided Austin City Council grants $7 million favor to state

After a closed-door discussion Thursday, Austin City Council members agreed to waive $6.9 million in fees and provide other assistance to the state for a new Capitol Complex — a topic that had drawn wry skepticism during a council workshop earlier in the week. The Capitol Complex is a planned $581 million three-phase project to convert North Congress Avenue between the Capitol and the University of Texas into a grassy pedestrian mall. The later phases will create new office buildings for state workers at 16th and 18th streets. Work is expected to begin this summer. The 6-2 vote Thursday, with two abstentions and one council member absent, authorizes city staffers to draft an interlocal agreement with the state to waive fees for the first phase of the Capitol Complex project.

Austin American-Statesman - June 22, 2017

Lowenstein: Why Dawnna Dukes’ incumbency is misguiding Democrats

I was dismayed to read a broadside from Vincent Harding, chairman of the Travis County Democratic Party, purporting to explain his heavy-handed refusal to allow a vote on a resolution calling for the resignation of state Rep. Dawnna Dukes. That resolution might or might not have passed. That’s why votes are held. I’ve served five terms as a Democratic Party precinct chair: three in Travis County and two in Williamson County. I’ve chaired my county’s Rules Committee. Every county has its own rules — and Harding may well have acted within his county’s — but it violates the principles of the Democratic Party to say, “my opinion is more important than yours” and shut off a vote.

Houston Chronicle - June 23, 2017

Texas to California on travel ban: Get a life

A day after California banned state-funded travel to Texas, citing a new Lone Star adoption law they say is discriminatory, Texas officials on Friday mocked the decision as a cheap political stunt. There were suggestions that Texas lawmakers might retaliate when they come into a special session starting July 18. "California might be able to stop their state employees, but they can't stop all the businesses that are fleeing over taxation and regulation, and relocating to Texas," said Gov. Greg Abbott's press secretary. John Wittman. Privately, Abbott aides and legislative leaders dissed the California move as hollow. noting that if the Golden State is so concerned about discrimination and human rights outside its borders, then why did their Gov. Jerry Brown recently visit China.

Houston Chronicle - June 22, 2017

Senate version of health-care law gets mixed reviews in Texas

The U.S. Senate's health care plan garnered mixed reviews in Texas on Thursday. Some applauded its sweep, others offered tepid support, and still others voiced outright disgust as they accused the bill of balancing tax cuts on the backs of the state's most vulnerable. The 142-page "discussion draft," titled the Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017 and authored in secret by Senate Republicans, in essence repeats much of the U.S. House bill that narrowly passed last month. Senate leaders have said their version could be voted on next week.

Houston Chronicle - June 22, 2017

Senate version of health-care law gets mixed reviews in Texas

"I give it an F," said Chip Roy, senior adviser of the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a conservative think tank in Austin. He called it a "tweaking around the edges" of the Affordable Care Act, which Republicans like him have long vowed to dismantle in its entirety. Roy, former chief of staff for Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said he was disheartened that the Senate version "double-downed on the flawed infrastructure of Obamacare." ... "For Texas this will be even worse than the House bill," said Elena Marks, president and CEO of Houston's Episcopal Health Foundation. Reached by phone in Boston Thursday as she attended the Grantmakers in Health convention for health-care philanthropists, Marks said the mood turned somber as the bill was made public.

Ft. Worth Star-Telegram - June 22, 2017

Quiet zones at railroad crossings are popular. But are they safe?

The Star-Telegram reviewed Federal Railroad Administration data and found that 39 people have been struck by trains and killed on railroad tracks in the 13 years since the government first published rules for creating quiet zones. Two people have been killed already in Tarrant County in the first half of this year. Nationwide, there are 717 railroad crossings with quiet zones, according to the federal agency, with 129 in Texas. So what exactly is a quiet zone? Cities that don’t want trains to sound their horns can build crossings with raised curbs and quad gates, which make it nearby impossible for motorists to drive around them while the lights are flashing.

Ft. Worth Star-Telegram - June 22, 2017

Magnitude 2.8 earthquake reported northwest of Fort Worth in Reno

An earthquake that registered 2.8 on the Richter scale hit about a half mile west-southwest of Reno about 6 p.m. Wednesday, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. According to the agency, 77 people across seven ZIP codes had reported feeling the tremor as of 8 p.m. Wednesday. Reno is a town of about 2,500 residents 22 miles northwest of Fort Worth. A peer-reviewed article by researchers from Southern Methodist University, the University of Texas at Austin and the U.S. Geological Survey found that 27 earthquakes near Reno and Azle from November 2013 to January 2014 were likely caused by operations related to natural gas drilling.

Dallas Morning News - June 22, 2017

Nancy Pelosi defends leadership role, but some Texas Democrats grow restless

Amidst signs of growing discontent among House Democrats, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi offered a full-throated defense of her leadership record Thursday, pushing back against internal calls for the California Democrat to step down. “I respect any opinion that my members have, but my decision about how long I stay is not up to them,” Pelosi said at a news conference. “My caucus is overwhelmingly supportive of me.” The forceful response came as some rank-and-file Democrats have become increasingly vocal about concerns with Pelosi after the party narrowly lost a special election in Georgia this week.

Dallas Morning News - June 23, 2017

Full speed ahead for a Texas bullet train? Lawmakers let the market decide — for now

In lawmaking, as in life, some of the best moves are the ones you don’t make. In the recent Legislature, over 20 bills were filed that took aim at a high-speed rail project between Dallas and Houston, including some that may have killed the plan. Ultimately, just two bills passed — one ensuring the state won’t pick up any costs for the train and the other requiring adequate safety measures. Texas Central Partners, the group developing the rail line, didn’t object to the bills. That means the $12 billion-plus project can keep moving forward, and the market — not the government — will decide whether a private bullet train will fly in Texas.

Dallas Morning News - June 23, 2017

On Point: It's finally illegal for a grown man to marry a child in Texas

The words child marriage conjure up thoughts of ancient times when daughters were given away to older men, but here in the U.S. loopholes in laws have allowed child marriage to continue into the present day. Until this week. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed a bill Thursday that would finally ban child marriage practices in the state. Texas law had allowed 16- and 17-year-olds to marry with parental approval. Yes, you read that right, 16, children who are barely halfway through high school. Even more, Texas had the highest number of child marriages in the country with 40,000 children under 18 married between the years 2000 and 2014. But it happens in other states, too.

Dallas Morning News - June 22, 2017

1st Amendment worries: Latino elected officials take aim at Texas 'anti-sanctuary' law

Texas' tough new immigration law was in sharp focus as a national convention of Latino elected officials opened Thursday in Dallas. At a hotel luncheon with red “No on SB4” buttons at every plate, the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials overwhelmingly adopted a resolution condemning the bill that Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law May 7 to keep Texans "safe" by keeping “dangerous criminals” off the streets. Texas politicians or law enforcement officials can face removal from office if they “endorse a policy” that prohibits or materially limits enforcement of immigration laws.

Dallas Morning News - June 22, 2017

Benning: Ted Cruz's opposition to Senate health care bill will test whether he's deal maker or still just agitator

The agitator. The obstructionist. The bomb-thrower. All of those depictions of Sen. Ted Cruz were ripe to be dusted off Thursday as the Texan joined three other Republican senators in jeopardizing the Senate GOP’s Obamacare replacement plan by announcing opposition to the bill just hours after it was released. And yet there was something different this time in how the conservative firebrand couched his criticism that the bill didn’t go far enough. Cruz highlighted significant areas of agreement. He revealed that the working group for the effort had actually met in his office. He touted the need for all Republicans to be “willing to give some.” And rather than just saying “no,” he stressed how much he wants to “get to ‘yes.’ ”

San Antonio Express News - June 23, 2017

Health policy experts explain what’s in the newly released Senate GOP health care bill

After spending the entirety of the Obama administration vowing to derail the president’s signature domestic legislation, Republicans finally saw their efforts reach a tipping point Thursday as Senate leadership unveiled their version of the bill to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act. The 142-page bill is largely similar to the one passed in a close 127-123 vote last month in the House of Representatives, but there are some differences in how each affects Medicaid, Planned Parenthood funding, tax credits and other matters. The San Antonio Express-News interviewed two San Antonio-based health care policy experts, Dr. Fred Campbell of UT Health San Antonio and Dr. Dana Forgione of the University of Texas at San Antonio, about their thoughts on the new bill.

San Antonio Express News - June 23, 2017

FBI report shows Texans hit hard by cybercrimes last year

Everyone knows that everything is bigger in Texas, even online crime. The Lone Star State had the second-highest number of victims of internet crimes last year, according to an FBI report released Wednesday. Texans filed roughly 21,000 complaints and reported losing about $77.1 million to internet criminals last year, the fourth-biggest reported loss, according to the report. Cybercriminals used a variety of methods to rip off consumers and businesses in Texas, including the stealing or leaking of personal data, internet scams and corporate data breaches, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s annual Internet Crime Complaint Center report.

UPI - June 22, 2017

Dallas Fed upbeat, but sees risk from lower oil prices

Despite the recent downturn in crude oil prices, a report from the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas said the state economy is growing at a moderate pace. "The manufacturing and energy sectors saw continued job gains in May, as oil prices stabilized and the effect of the strong dollar on exports abated somewhat," the bank's latest report read. "The energy sector continues to make significant employment gains since fourth quarter 2016, after losing one in three jobs from its previous peak in fourth quarter 2014." In late December, Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas economist Keith Phillips said weakness in the state economy that started in 2016 gave way to a sense of stability in the energy and manufacturing sectors. The outlook for expansion in 2017 was "slightly better," he said.

San Angelo Standard-Times - June 21, 2017

Senator Charles Perry Responds to Being in Texas Monthly's 'Top Ten Worst Legislators' List

Perry took to Facebook late Tuesday to respond. The Lubbock senator posted the following: “Lists are lists and there is usually an agenda behind every one and Texas Monthly's list is no different. Being named on the list only reaffirms that I am in touch with my district’s conservative values and not the values of a liberal Austin publication.” Perry was elected to the Texas Senate in 2014 after serving two terms in the Texas House. He is a movement conservative seeking to reduce waste and inefficiencies in government.

Laredo Morning Times - June 21, 2017

How big was the oil boom in South Texas? A new report has the numbers.

The Eagle Ford Shale oil field had an estimated economic impact of $123 billion in South Texas in the heyday of the oil boom — a number that got sliced by more than half by the oil bust, according to a new study. A boom-bust report from the University of Texas at San Antonio tracks the wild swings of the oil business and the economic footprints that the Eagle Ford made across South Texas. It will be released today at an event at the Port of Corpus Christi, a spot that exemplifies the transformative effect of a new oil discovery. The first Eagle Ford well was drilled in 2008, and by 2014 the economic impact of the 400-mile field — both direct spending by oil companies and the ripple effect of things such as suppliers moving in or employees shopping — hit the $123 billion high point, according to UTSA.

Laredo Morning Times - June 20, 2017

State Sen. Robert Nichols announces he will be seeking re-election

Texas state Senator Robert Nichols, who represents a vast district, that includes a swath of Montgomery County, will be running for office again. Nichols, R-Jacksonville, was first elected to the state Senate in 2006, beating Frank Denton of Conroe, David Kleimann of Willis and Bob Reeves of Center in the Republican primary. Nichols announced on Monday he would be filing for re-election to the Texas Senate. The 72-year-old Nichols represents Senate District 3, an area of East Texas that includes Montgomery County and 18 other counties. The district runs some 140 miles north from Montgomery County to the Jacksonville area. He has an office in Jacksonville, as well as a district office in Montgomery.

Longview News Journal - June 22, 2017

East Texas lawmakers' highlights from the 85th legislative session

A breakdown of nuts and bolts from the 85th legislative session uncovers a busy 140 days for East Texas lawmakers, while the activity of third-term state Rep. Chris Paddie of Marshall earned the Republican a Top 10 Best Legislator nod in Texas Monthly's biennial Best and Worst Legislators report. "Representative Paddie showed a lot of leadership on difficult issues this session," House Speaker Joe Straus said in a statement about Paddie and three other East Texans making the vaunted Top 10. "He is known as a fierce and effective advocate for the people of East Texas, and I expect that his influence and effectiveness will only continue to grow." Republican Sen. Robert Nichols of Jacksonville and GOP Reps. Matt Schaefer of Tyler and Byron Cook of Corsicana also made the Top 10 Best list.

Texas Observer - June 22, 2017

Novack: Who Really Gets Government Benefits In Texas?

Texas already has some of the strictest eligibility requirements of any state for poverty relief programs. More than 4 million Texans live in poverty — about 16 percent of the state’s population — but programs such as Medicaid, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (better known as food stamps), and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (aka cash assistance) are all but off-limits to able-bodied, childless adults, even those who are extremely poor. About 3.4 million of the 4.5 million Texans currently enrolled in Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) are children, and Medicaid covers more than half of all births in Texas.

County Stories

Houston Chronicle - June 22, 2017

Harris County's Hispanic population growth leads U.S.

Are demographics Texas' political destiny? New U.S. Census Bureau data released Thursday and reported by the Texas Tribune shows that over half of Texas' torrid population growth since 2010 has come from Hispanics, and that Harris County gained more Hispanics — 39,600 — than any other county in the U.S. during that time period. "The estimated population growth among Texans of color, particularly Hispanics, sets up the state to face significant political and economic repercussions in the coming years," The Tribune's Alexa Ura writes. Here are the new Census numbers: From 2010 to 2016, when Texas' population grew by 2.7 million, from 25.1 million to 27.9 million, the Hispanic population grew by 1,420,164 (15 percent); the white population grew by 443,922 (3.9 percent); the black population was up 398,867 (13.8 percent); and the Asian population grew by 340,594 (35.5 percent).

Houston Chronicle - June 23, 2017

Fort Bend County population to increase by 2.1 million, UH study finds

Fort Bend County's population will increase by 368 percent, or more than 2.1 million people, by 2050 if current migration trends continue, according to new projections by researchers at the University of Houston's Hobby School of Public Affairs. The county southwest of Houston would experience the fourth-highest growth in the state in raw numbers, behind Harris, Collin and Denton counties, and the third-highest in percentage terms, behind Hays and Collin counties. Fort Bend County's population now is about 700,000. Statewide, the study indicates that the population will continue to get larger, older and more racially and ethnically diverse.

Houston Chronicle - June 23, 2017

Tropical Storm Cindy 'a little blowy' but not much else, residents say

Tropical Storm Cindy breezed rather than barreled ashore early Thursday, providing a hurricane season test run for emergency workers in the Houston area, annoying summer tourists and leaving residents of this historically battered Bolivar Peninsula unimpressed. "I was expecting more," said 22-year-old Jeffrey Chheang, as he filled orders at Dannay's Donuts. Customers shared his sentiments as they sauntered in, searching for sugar and caffeine after a wet night on the peninsula, which bore the brunt of the storm for the upper Texas Coast.

City Stories

San Antonio Express News - June 22, 2017

S.A. councilman says Jonas solicited a bribe

Until an unusual phone call from James Jonas two years ago, Manny Pelaez had known him for a decade as a friend, a former client and someone who shared his fascination with politics and the law. But he said the proposal the former Crystal City manager and city attorney floated that day was no more than an illegal fee kickback scheme, and left him stunned and worried. “I was shocked. I was scared. I understood law enforcement was already looking at Crystal City,” said Pelaez, testifying as a prosecution witness Thursday in a federal corruption trial of Jonas and former mayor Ricardo Lopez.

Dallas Morning News - June 22, 2017

Lieber: Former mayor of Irving admits he’s behind a terrible anonymous mailer

Irving's former mayor admitted in an interview this week that he is the creator of what The Watchdog believes to be one of the most dishonest political hit pieces ever circulated. "Yes, I'm fully responsible for it," Herbert Gears says about his dirty trick. Gears served as Irving's mayor from 2005 to 2011. Before that, he was a councilman for six years. The mailing gives the distinct impression that former mayoral candidate Kristi Pena is a drug addict, a thief who was arrested, someone who had been evicted and foreclosed upon. None of that is true. State election law requires political fliers to include who paid for the advertisement. Gears' piece doesn't do that.

San Antonio Express News - June 22, 2017

Council approves resolution on Paris climate accord

In the first voting session of the 2017-19 City Council, the body voted 9-1 today to recognize that global warming is occurring and that San Antonio will work to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. San Antonio joins other cities across the U.S. in the Mayors National Climate Action Agenda by its adoption and support of the Paris Agreement, according to language in the council-approved resolution. “It is our first council agenda, but there are very important foundations that we lay in our city on issues of resilience, on issues of equity and fairness,” Mayor Ron Nirenberg said just before the vote.

Dallas Morning News - June 22, 2017

Wilonsky: Is Dallas finally going to hold Big Tex's feet to the fire when it comes to the fair's financial obligations?

Here's what passes for good news, and breaking news, at Dallas City Hall these days: The State Fair of Texas has agreed to live up to the terms of its contract with the city. The contract it signed in 2003. And, no, that's not a joke. There's nothing funny about it. For the last 14 years the State Fair of Texas has somehow managed to avoid telling the city how much it should be investing in the old, crumbling Art Deco buildings it uses every year. And for the last 14 years, the city's just let that slide. Because, until now, that contract's amounted to little more than a nod and a wink, like most everything else involving City Hall and the State Fair, which have always been cozier than a down blanket on Christmas morning.

San Antonio Express News - June 23, 2017

Hays Street Bridge case heads to state Supreme Court

A long-running legal battle over land next to the historic Hays Street Bridge on the near East Side is going to the Supreme Court of Texas. The Hays Street Bridge Restoration Group, which raised money to revive the landmark, asked the state’s highest court this week to overturn a ruling that blocked the group’s lawsuit against the city of San Antonio over development of the 1.7-acre site at 803 N. Cherry St. land. The group sued 2012 to prevent the city from selling the land to the Alamo Beer Co. A Bexar County district court jury found in 2014 that the city failed to comply with the terms of a 2002 memorandum of understanding regarding the bridge’s restoration by not developing the land into a park.

San Antonio Express News - June 22, 2017

Council OKs resolution on Paris climate accord

Right out of the gate, Mayor Ron Nirenberg set the pace for his new administration and the City Council with resolutions Thursday affirming support for the Paris climate accord and the International Campaign for Compassionate Cities. The climate resolution, officially signing on San Antonio to the Mayors National Climate Action Agenda, sends a clear message to Washington that this municipality will work with others on the goals of the Paris accord, even if the Trump administration refuses to do so. The other resolution authorizes San Antonio to register with the compassion campaign and notes that while acts of compassion unfold daily here, the municipality will support groups and initiatives “that will make San Antonio a more compassionate city” through public, private, community and faith-based organizations.

Houston Chronicle - June 22, 2017

Metro approves plan to streamline bus service to and from Galveston

Transit officials in Galveston and Houston are about to make it easier to get from the island to the region's central business district. The Metropolitan Transit Authority board on Thursday approved its side of an agreement to share the Bay Area Park and Ride location near Interstate 45 with Galveston's Island Transit. The agreement, when finalized, would allow for Island Transit to operate service from downtown Galveston to Texas City and then connect with Metro at the Bay Area stop. "This is a considerably more convenient service," said Metro board member Christof Spieler. Service could start as early as mid-July, provided an agreement can be approved.

National Stories

US News - June 21, 2017

The Real Winners After Georgia

Triumphant Republicans are boasting that Karen Handel's win in Georgia's special House election is the ultimate validation that the backlash against President Donald Trump is Washington-centric and overblown. Disappointed Democrats remain convinced the lesson from the loss is that if they continue to widen the competitive map going forward, they're bound to score victories in unexpected places given how they've been able to trim margins in GOP-favoring districts. They both may be on to something. Seventeen months ahead of the 2018 midterms, the electoral terrain remains unsettled, with neither party holding a clear and clean advantage. But one party that will undoubtedly become a winner as a result of this increasingly competitive environment is the class of political consultants that makes a living on such campaigns.

Texas Tribune - June 22, 2017

Cruz declines to support Senate GOP health care bill, while Cornyn defends it

Republican leaders in the U.S. Senate on Thursday unveiled their plan to overhaul President Obama's 2010 health care law. Within hours, Texas' two Republican senators took opposite positions on the measure. While U.S. Sen. John Cornyn took to the floor early Thursday to defend the bill against Democratic criticism, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz joined a bloc of conservative senators who announced in the afternoon that they couldn't back the bill at this time. “Currently, for a variety of reasons, we are not ready to vote for this bill, but we are open to negotiation and obtaining more information before it is brought to the floor," Cruz said in a joint statement with U.S. Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky, Mike Lee of Utah and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin.

Houston Chronicle - June 23, 2017

Obama's secret struggle to punish Russia for Putin's election assault

Early last August, an envelope with extraordinary handling restrictions arrived at the White House. Sent by courier from the CIA, it carried "eyes only" instructions that its contents be shown to just four people: President Barack Obama and three senior aides. Inside was an intelligence bombshell, a report drawn from sourcing deep inside the Russian government that detailed Russian President Vladimir Putin's direct involvement in a cyber campaign to disrupt and discredit the U.S. presidential race. But it went further. The intelligence captured Putin's specific instructions on the operation's audacious objectives - defeat or at least damage the Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, and help elect her opponent, Donald Trump.

CNN - June 22, 2017

Intel chiefs tell investigators Trump suggested they refute collusion with Russians

Two of the nation's top intelligence officials told Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team and Senate investigators, in separate meetings last week, that President Donald Trump suggested they say publicly there was no collusion between his campaign and the Russians, according to multiple sources. Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and National Security Agency Director Adm. Mike Rogers described their interactions with the President about the Russia investigation as odd and uncomfortable, but said they did not believe the President gave them orders to interfere, according to multiple sources familiar with their accounts. Sources say both men went further than they did in June 7 public hearings, when they provided little detail about the interactions.

Daily Caller - June 22, 2017

Feds: More Than A Quarter Of Illegal Immigrant Minors In Our Care Are Gang Members

The Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) surveyed illegal immigrant minors in its custody and found that 28 percent of them were gang members, according to Senate testimony. The Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing Wednesday on the “MS-13 problem.” The Salvadoran gang has grown in the recent years in the U.S. due to an influx of illegal immigrant minors from Central America. Scott Lloyd, director of the ORR, described in his opening testimony the extent of the gang problem among these young illegal immigrants. Unaccompanied illegal immigrant minors are kept in ORR facilities until the agency can find them a sponsor, who is typically a relative. Lloyd said that a review of these unaccompanied minors in their facilities on June 9 found that of 138 minors in these facilities, 35 were “voluntarily involved with gangs.”

Washington Times - June 22, 2017

1.4 million illegals working under stolen Social Security numbers: Audit

Most illegal immigrants who pay taxes have stolen someone else’s legal identity, and the IRS doesn’t do a very good job of letting those American citizens and illegal immigrants know they’re being impersonated, the tax agency’s inspector general said in a new report released Thursday. The theft creates major problems for the American citizens and legal foreign workers whose identities are stolen, and who have to deal with explaining money they never earned. But the IRS only manages to identify half of the potentially 1.4 million people likely affected by the fraud in 2015, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration said in its report.

Washington Examiner - June 21, 2017

Democrats had the worst May fundraising since 2003

The Democratic National Committee raised nearly $4.3 million in May, making it the organization's worst May on record for fundraising since 2003, according to newly released Federal Election Commission data. In May 2003, the Democratic group pulled in $2.7 million. Although 2017 is an off-year for fundraising, the DNC has raised between $4.5 million and $20 million every May in the nearly decade and a half since then. The low number follows another rough fundraising month in April, in which the group hauled in $4.7 million, making it the worst April of fundraising since 2009.

Newsweek - June 22, 2017

Texas made attacking cops a hate crime; these states could be next

Police in Texas will have an extra level of protection starting September 1, when a legislative amendment goes into effect that makes attacking officers a hate crime. At least four states have enacted such legislation, sometimes called “Blue Lives Matter” laws, and more than a dozen states are considering similar bills despite challenges from opponents. In 2016, Louisiana became the first state to enact such a law, adding police to the types of people protected under an existing hate crime statute and thus increasing penalties for attacking police officers and other emergency responders because of their professions. In March, the governors of Kentucky and Mississippi each signed versions. The states that have considered similar legislation include California, Florida, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Washington and Wisconsin.

Politico - June 23, 2017

The next big bill that could be written in secret

The Senate health care bill might not be the only blockbuster piece of legislation this year written behind closed doors by an elite few. Both senior administration officials and congressional leaders are already telegraphing that the tax reform measure they hope to move this fall will largely be shaped among themselves in private meetings. While many griped about the secrecy surrounding the health legislation, few rank-and-file Republicans seem to be objecting to that approach on tax reform, which has the potential to remake a federal tax system that brings in more than $3 trillion a year.

Washington Post - June 23, 2017

Putin denied meddling in the U.S. election. The CIA caught him doing just that.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly — and often tauntingly — denied that his government interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential race. Earlier this month he said that the cyber campaign might have been the work of “patriotically minded” Russian hackers he likened to “artists” who take to canvases to express their moods and political views. New details reported Friday by The Post reveal the extent to which the Russian meddling bore Putin’s own signature and brushstrokes. U.S. intelligence officials have been pointing at Putin since October, when the Obama administration released a statement declaring that the stream of embarrassing emails and other material being posted online by WikiLeaks and other sites were tied to Russian hacking efforts that “only Russia’s senior-most officials could have authorized.”

Washington Post - June 23, 2017

Both Democrats and Republicans care about ‘states’ rights’ — when it suits them

After President Trump declared his intention to leave the Paris climate agreement, three Democratic state governors announced that their states would continue to pursue efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Meanwhile, Republicans in Congress vowed to enact federal laws to preempt state and local immigration policies at odds with the GOP agenda. This contradicts conventional wisdom, which holds that Republicans promote states’ rights while Democrats want more policymaking power concentrated at the federal level. Is this a partisan reversal on states’ rights? Our research suggests not. Rather, both parties have historically promoted or preempted states’ rights depending on their party’s political goals for a given issue.

Austin American-Statesman - June 22, 2017

Kander: Language barrier shouldn’t be a barrier to democracy

Though voting should be a simple process, it’s undeniable that some people face more obstacles at the polls than others. When English is not your first language, the voting process can be especially difficult. Though a controversial voter ID law here has grabbed national headlines, fewer Texans know about the state’s more obscure voting rights battle that’s threatening the right to vote for U.S. citizens who don’t speak English. Several years ago, Mallika Das of Williamson County brought her son Saurabh to the polls to help her interpret her ballot. When they arrived, Saurabh was told that he couldn’t help his mom because he was registered to vote in a neighboring district. Mallika Das was a U.S. citizen and eligible voter who wanted to exercise her constitutional right — but that day, she couldn’t properly cast a ballot. They wouldn’t let her son help her.

Dallas Morning News - June 22, 2017

Salter: The Fed is essentially lawless, and that's a drag on the nation's economy

Although it's been a few days since the U.S. Federal Reserve announced it plans to tighten monetary policy and shrink its balance sheet, the financial press remains flooded with speculation about how the central bank's actions will affect the economy. A phenomenal amount of time and money is spent trying to anticipate what the Fed will do and, afterwards, what the ramifications will be. The reason it takes so many experts to weigh in on Fed behavior is because the Fed's actions are fundamentally unpredictable. This is a huge defect in an organization of such public importance in a nation whose founding principles include the sanctity of the rule of law. "Rule of law" does not merely mean "according to some official procedure."

Politico - June 22, 2017

Winners and losers from the Senate repeal bill

THE WINNERS: The wealthy: The bill would strike Affordable Care Act taxes on high earners, particularly a levy on investment income that fell on married couples with more than $250,000 of adjusted gross income and single filers with more than $200,000 of adjusted gross income. It also nixes a Medicare Hospital Insurance tax on incomes above $250,000. The young and healthy: The plan focuses on lowering premiums by allowing states to cut some of Obamacare’s major insurance rules that help protect sicker patients but also drive up the cost of coverage. For instance, states could cut mandated coverage of emergency care and substance abuse treatment. Younger and healthier people with fewer health care needs would be able to buy skimpier health insurance.

Politico - June 22, 2017

The Senate GOP's backdoor Obamacare rollback

Buried deep in the 142 pages of the Senate’s new health care bill is an immense reform that could pave the way for a new rollback of parts of the Affordable Care Act—one that takes place state by state, rather than in Washington. Although the bill preserves most of the consumer protections written into the 2010 law, it also contains a provision that allows states effectively to waive many of them, and gives them a financial incentive to do so. The bill dramatically expands a policy built into Obamacare that lets states apply for waivers to loosen the law's insurance requirements. And although it will likely receive less attention than the bill's Medicaid reforms or tax cuts, the new bill loosens the waiver rules in way that could completely reshape the individual insurance market, allowing states to drop almost every major Obamacare insurance regulation as long as it doesn’t increase the federal deficit—with almost zero oversight from the federal government. Everything from the requirement that insurers cover maternity care to protections for people with pre-existing conditions could be at stake.

Washington Post - June 22, 2017

McConnell decides to call GOP colleagues’ bluff with health-care proposal

After weeks of secretive talks, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell finally unveiled his proposal to dramatically reshape the health-care industry knowing full well that — as currently written — it lacks the votes to win approval. But using a time-honored tactic of congressional leadership, the Kentucky Republican decided it was time to call the bluff of his GOP colleagues. By releasing a “discussion draft” of his plan to repeal portions of the Affordable Care Act and threatening to put the measure to a vote next week, McConnell is pushing this campaign into its final act — the negotiation phase, where the sausage-making will begin in earnest.

Washington Post - June 22, 2017

Supreme Court sides with Serb who lied during naturalization process

The government may not strip someone’s citizenship for lying during the naturalization process without proving the falsehood is relevant, the Supreme Court ruled Thursday. The court unanimously rejected the government’s view that simply proving that someone lied during the process was enough. Justice Elena Kagan said that would give the government too much power. “The government opens the door to a world of disquieting consequences,” Kagan wrote, adding that it would “give prosecutors nearly limitless leverage — and afford newly naturalized Americans precious little security.”

The Hill - June 22, 2017

Dem lawmaker: 'You'd have to be an idiot to think we could win the House with Pelosi'

A Democratic lawmaker who supported House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) during her last leadership challenge now says "you'd have to be an idiot" to believe Democrats can take the House back from Republicans with her leading the party. Rep. Filemon Vela told Politico on Wednesday that Pelosi's leadership makes a Democratic majority in the lower chamber impossible. “I think you’d have to be an idiot to think we could win the House with Pelosi at the top,” Vela said. The two-term Texas Democrat supported Pelosi over Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) during leadership elections at the end of last November.

The Hill - June 22, 2017

Changing America, part V: The coming millennial boom

233 Changing America, part V: The coming millennial boom © Getty Images In the weeks before residents of Tulsa, Okla., went to the polls last spring, coasters started showing up in the city’s bars advertising a party outside the county elections office. The group of civic-minded young professionals who paid for the coasters offered free Uber rides to the party, where people could vote early. They ordered pizzas and set out yard games. They paid for buses to truck in high school seniors, eligible to vote for the first time. In April, voters approved a bond measure raising taxes to fund economic development with more than 70 percent of the vote. In June, the incumbent mayor lost his bid for reelection to a younger city council member who promised a more livable city.

WJLA - June 22, 2017

Is the vote safe? DHS officials warn about the security of future elections

Current and former officials with the Department of Homeland Security provided assured that the Russian meddling in the 2016 election failed to alter any votes during testimony on Capitol Hill, but warned that in future elections the vote may not be secure. On Wednesday, former Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Jeh Johnson told a House panel that voter registration databases were some of the most exposed elements of the election system and subject to manipulation by outside actors, but they were not the only vulnerabilities. "The process is vulnerable to future cyberattacks by those who are becoming increasingly aggressive, ingenious and capable," Johnson said, suggesting that future attacks may not focus on the vulnerabilities identified in 2016.

The Hill - June 22, 2017

Four Senate conservatives say they oppose ObamaCare repeal bill

Four Senate conservatives have announced their opposition to the Senate GOP bill repealing ObamaCare, a power move intended to give them leverage going forward. Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Mike Lee (Utah), Ted Cruz (Texas) and Ron Johnson (Wis.) all said they are not ready to vote for the bill in a joint statement. While the statement was not scathing, it said the current bill would not lower healthcare costs enough to win their support. “Currently, for a variety of reasons, we are not ready to vote for this bill, but we are open to negotiation and obtaining more information before it is brought to the floor," the statement said.

Albany Times Union - June 22, 2017

Debate heats up over teaching climate change in US schools

The struggle over what American students learn about global warming is heating up as conservative lawmakers, climate change doubters and others attempt to push rejected or debunked theories into the classroom. An overwhelming majority of climate scientists say manmade emissions drive global warming, but there's no such consensus among educators over how climate change and its causes should be taught. Several U.S. states recently considered measures allowing or requiring teachers to present alternatives to widely accepted viewpoints on such topics.

New York Times - June 23, 2017

Sanger-Katz: Shifting Dollars From Poor to Rich Is a Key Part of the Senate Health Bill

The Affordable Care Act gave health insurance to millions of Americans by shifting resources from the wealthy to the poor and by moving oversight from states to the federal government. The Senate bill introduced Thursday pushes back forcefully on both dimensions. The bill is aligned with long-held Republican values, advancing states’ rights and paring back growing entitlement programs, while freeing individuals from requirements that they have insurance and emphasizing personal responsibility. Obamacare raised taxes on high earners and the health care industry, and essentially redistributed that income — in the form of health insurance or insurance subsidies — to many of the groups that have fared poorly over the last few decades.

The Hill - June 23, 2017

Poll: Voters grow weary of Russia probes

A majority of voters believe the Russia investigations are damaging to the country and are eager to see Congress shift its focus to healthcare, terrorism, national security, the economy and jobs. Those are the findings of the latest Harvard-Harris poll, provided exclusively to The Hill, which paint a complicated picture of voters’ opinions about the myriad probes that have engulfed the White House. Sixty-four percent of voters said the investigations into President Trump and Russia are hurting the country. Fifty-six percent of voters said it’s time for Congress and the media to move on to other issues, compared to 44 percent who said the focus should stay on Russia.

Politico - June 23, 2017

Inside McConnell’s plan to repeal Obamacare

As Mitch McConnell unveiled the Senate’s long-anticipated Obamacare repeal bill at a closed-door briefing Thursday morning, he urged GOP senators to withhold statements announcing outright opposition to the proposal and remain flexible, according to people familiar with the matter. About four hours later, a quartet of McConnell’s most conservative members said in a joint statement that they are “not ready to vote for this bill.” But notably, GOP Sens. Rand Paul, Mike Lee, Ron Johnson and Ted Cruz left themselves plenty of room to eventually support it after further negotiation and persuasion — a critical nod to the Senate majority leader’s request.

June 22, 2017

Lead Stories

Dallas Morning News - June 21, 2017

House Republican plans to file 2 bathroom bills during special session

The special legislative session is nearly a month away, but Rep. Ron Simmons is ready to file two different versions of what is likely to be the most controversial measure that lawmakers will debate: restricting where transgender Texans can use the bathroom. Simmons, a Republican from Carrollton, told The Dallas Morning News he will file one proposal that will mirror a bill he filed that failed during the regular legislative session — an expansive ban on transgender bathroom use — and another that would apply only to public schools. "I am going to file two versions. One that just does schools and one that does political subdivisions," Simmons said Tuesday, adding that when Gov. Greg Abbott officially notifies the Legislature of his intent to hold a special session, "it will be filed within minutes."

Dallas Morning News - June 21, 2017

Henson, Blank: It's not just Austin the GOP hates; local governments have become political foil for conservatives

Austin seems to have a time-honored role as a target for the ire of state legislators. But the capital city was hardly alone in the latest legislative session, which saw the clearest and most persistent attack yet on the autonomy of local governments. Several Texas cities have been involved in skirmishes over issues such as sanctuary cities, plastic bag bans, transgender bathroom policies and ride-sharing ordinances, to name a few. These increasing efforts by the state to pre-empt local governments are part of a political trend that is much bigger than Austin. In the middle of the legislative session, the most popular and well-known Republican leader in the state, Gov. Greg Abbott, clearly articulated the approach that has been percolating in conservative corners of the GOP for years: "As opposed to the state having to take multiple rifle-shot approaches at overriding local regulations," he told attendees at the Texas Conservative Coalition Research Institute in March, according to The Texas Tribune, "I think a broad-based law by the state of Texas that says, across the board, the state is going to pre-empt local regulations is a superior approach."

Texas Tribune - June 22, 2017

Texas Hispanics behind half of state's growth since 2010

The state’s population is still booming, and Hispanic Texans are driving a large portion of that growth. New population estimates released Thursday by the U.S. Census Bureau show that just over half of Texas’ population increase since 2010 can be attributed to a rapidly growing Hispanic community and its expanding presence in nearly every corner of the state. As of July 2016, the Texas population nearly reached 27.9 million — up from 25.1 million in 2010.

Salon - June 20, 2017

Vecsey: Rick Perry’s plan to kill funding for wind and solar power

Energy Secretary Rick Perry is cooking up a case to stifle further federal support of renewable wind and solar energy. He’s ordered a dubiously sourced staff study that is aimed to paint renewables as an unreliable source for the nation’s electric grid. The study, due June 23, seeks to determine whether federal tax and subsidy policies favoring renewable energy have burdened “baseload” coal-fired generation, putting power grid reliability at risk. It is being spearheaded by Energy Department political appointee Travis Fisher, who’s associated with a Washington policy group that opposes almost any government aid for renewable energy.

Washington Post - June 21, 2017

Lane: Do we really want the Supreme Court to decide how partisan is too partisan?

On Dec. 12, 2000, the Supreme Court ended the recount of Florida’s votes in that year’s presidential election, effectively awarding 25 electoral votes to Republican George W. Bush and making him president. The decision was 5 to 4, with the most conservative Republican-appointed justices in favor of Bush. Democrats condemned the ruling as nakedly partisan, saying it was based not on precedent but a cooked-to-order legal rationale: Recount rules didn’t treat all ballots the same way, thus violating the 14th Amendment guarantee of equal protection of the laws. Many critics saw Bush v. Gore as an indelible blot on the court’s legitimacy.

Politico - June 22, 2017

The GOP’s Suburban Nightmare

Surveying the Democratic wreckage after a disastrous 1952 campaign, Robert Taft, the typically taciturn Ohio Republican senator, made a bold prediction about the opposition. “The Democratic Party,” the onetime Senate majority leader asserted, “will never win another national election until it solves the problem of the suburbs.” Taft wasn’t exactly right, but he wasn’t wrong either. The millions of voters fleeing overcrowded cities to seek the American dream would ultimately power Republicans to victory in six of the next nine presidential elections, and in the process, reshape the GOP’s postwar image as the party of the suburbs.

New York Times - June 20, 2017

The Health Care of Millions Depends on a Few Senators

We do not know a lot about what is in the health care bill that Republicans are trying to rush through the Senate, but what we do know suggests it will be as bad or worse than the dreadful legislation that the House passed in May. The Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, is doing everything he can to keep the public in the dark about his plan to undo major provisions of the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. But Washington being Washington, a few details have become public. All are alarming and depressing. And as they emerge, and the public unveiling of the bill grows closer — it could come on Thursday — the need for a few wise Republicans to stand with Senate Democrats to say “no” becomes ever more urgent.

Houston Chronicle - June 21, 2017

What they said: GOP Board of Ed members sound off on special session

Members of the State's Board of Education overwhelmingly oppose school vouchers and state regulations about which bathrooms students should use -- including most of the board's Republicans. Both school vouchers and bathrooms are issues high on Republican Gov. Greg Abbott's wish list of 20 matters he wants lawmakers to tackle during this summer's special legislative session, which begins July 18. Both issues failed to win House approval during this year's regular legislative session. Fifteen SBOE members are elected to oversee the state's education curriculum and standards, not to legislate on school choice or bathroom policies.

Politico - June 21, 2017

Pelosi faces growing doubts among Dems after Georgia loss

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and other top Democrats put a brave face on Wednesday morning after a disappointing loss in the Georgia special election, yet there is no disguising the unhappiness in the party ranks. There is no challenge to Pelosi’s leadership, and none is going to happen at this point, said numerous Democrats. But it’s clear frustration is growing with the longtime Democratic leader following the extensive losses Democrats have suffered over the past half-decade. And the fact that Republicans spent millions of dollars on TV ads tying Democratic hopeful Jon Ossoff to Pelosi — and the brand of progressive policies she represents — shows that she will once again be an issue for Democratic challengers in the very districts that the party needs to win to make her speaker again.

Dallas Morning News - June 21, 2017

Jeffers: Special elections show Democrats need more than anti-Trump message to win in 2018

Tuesday's special congressional elections in Georgia and South Carolina provide teachable moments for Texas Democrats. It won't be easy to flip Republican districts in 2018. The reality in American politics is that House districts are drawn so tightly to favor one party that beating incumbents is near impossible. It doesn't matter how many times you toss Donald Trump's name in the mix, or how intense the resistance is to the controversial president's policies. Trying to win on the other party's turf is usually a losing proposition.

State Stories

Dallas Morning News - June 22, 2017

Overlooked -- As women go to jail in record numbers, who's looking out for their kids? No one.

At age 12, Kylia Booker knew enough to keep her head down and her mouth shut. Braid your sisters’ pigtails. Get them on the school bus. Walk half a mile to the convenience store to buy groceries with the food-stamp card. Don’t let anyone know you and the babies are home alone ’cause Mama is in jail again. For nearly a month, Kylia and her two young sisters lived alone in a rented house in Arlington. No one involved in jailing their mother — not the police, not the courts, not the sheriff’s department — ever checked on them. It was not the first, the last, or even the most dangerous time that the Booker sisters were overlooked by adults who put their mother in jail.

Dallas Morning News - June 21, 2017

Bathroom bill another way to 'bully' transgender kids, mothers say

A special legislative session is set for July 19 and one of the items on the agenda is the bathroom bill, which could potentially limit where transgender Texans can use the restroom. Mothers Angela Castro and Rachel Gonzales both said that when their daughters, Roxy Castro, 14, and Libby Gonzales, 7, transitioned, their friends at school had no trouble accepting them. Roxy is a student in Tarrant County, and Libby attends a Dallas school. It's not children who have an issue with transgender youth, it's the government, Angela Castro said.

Dallas Morning News - June 21, 2017

Officers who are divorced, in debt more likely to use deadly force, UT-Dallas study finds

A new study by researchers at the University of Texas at Dallas reports that factors like divorce and debt increase police officers' likelihood of using deadly force. The study, published in the journal Police Quarterly, focused on indicators in officers' personal lives. Researchers gathered data from 1,935 Philadelphia police officers, 5 percent of whom were involved in shootings. The study found that officers who exhibited poor personal self-control, as determined by eight factors, were more likely to use deadly force.

Dallas Morning News - June 21, 2017

Dallas Republican Jason Villalba to seek re-election to Texas House

Dallas Republican Jason Villalba will run for re-election to the Texas House instead of challenging incumbent Don Huffines for Senate. Villalba, a frequent target of Michael Quinn Sullivan and his Empower Texans political action committee, has served in North Dallas' House District 114 for three terms. "The Texas Legislature needs now, more than ever, solutions-minded, common-sense public servants," Villalba said in a prepared statement. "It breaks my heart when I see our beloved Texas go down the path of Washington-style politics, where division and bickering hamper the will of the people.

Dallas Morning News - June 21, 2017

Court rules Texas can challenge block of fetal remains burial rule

Texas chalked up a legal win Wednesday in its court battle to require the burial of fetal remains from abortions and miscarriages. Last month, the state appealed to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals a ruling that blocked the state's fetal remains burial rule. On Wednesday, the court denied a motion from the rule's opponents to dismiss that appeal. The rule requires fetal remains from abortions and miscarriages to be buried or cremated. After several abortion providers sued over the regulation last year, in late January, U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks said the rules "likely are unconstitutionally vague and impose an undue burden on the right to an abortion."

San Antonio Express News - June 21, 2017

Trump nominating Bexar County GOP leader to HUD position

President Donald Trump will nominate the vice chair of the Bexar County Republican Party to join his administration as assistant secretary of fair housing and equal opportunity, within the Department of Housing and Urban Development, according to a White House news release. Anna Maria Farias has been with the Bexar County GOP since 2015. She’s a chair of the board of regents at Texas Woman’s University and previously worked at HUD from 2001-2008. She was inducted into the Texas Woman’s Hall of Fame in 2000. Farias grew up in Crystal City. She returned to her hometown in 1993 to serve as executive director of the Housing Authority until 2000. She also lived in the housing developments during her tenure, according to the news release.

Austin American-Statesman - June 21, 2017

Texas has more LGBT pride than 47 states, according to ranking

Say it loud and say it proud, Texas. According to a new list, you’ve got LGBT pride to spare, at least on social media. It’s Pride month, and Internet service provider resource High Speed Internet ranked the U.S. states according to how often they used Pride-related hashtags on their photos of marches, parades and festivals. Texas landed at No. 3, behind only New York at No. 2 and California at No. 1. (Please, contain your shock that two coastal, urban population giants beat the Lone Star State in an LGBT pride contest.)

Austin American-Statesman - June 22, 2017

Rux: Why Texas should eye gerrymandering cases at Supreme Court

On Monday, the Supreme Court agreed to hear Gill v. Whitford, a case involving a challenge to Wisconsin’s Republican-drawn legislative maps. The challengers claim that these maps put Democratic legislators at an unfair disadvantage by preventing them from gaining seats in the legislature despite their popularity among voters. At the heart of the case is a constitutional challenge to partisan gerrymandering, the practice of drawing legislative districts based on the partisanship of constituents. Regardless of whether these challengers are successful, the court’s decision will have important consequences for Texas’s political future. In 2004, the Supreme Court heard the case of Vieth v. Jubelirer — another challenge to partisan gerrymandering.

Austin American-Statesman - June 22, 2017

Riddle: Texas has 455 reasons not to handle a phone while driving

A year has passed since our family changed forever. My daughters, 19-year-old Brianna and 17-year-old Jade, were so full of life, enthusiasm and love for the world around them. They were my babies and my only two children. I say “were” because last year, on Sunday, March 20, my daughters were killed in a terrible crash that was the result of distracted driving. Brianna and Jade were on their way home from spring break on South Padre Island when the driver of their car lost control while checking her phone’s GPS and an 18-wheeler plowed into the rear of the car. Brianna was riding in the back seat and died on impact. Jade was the front-seat passenger and passed away several hours later. Their friend, Brittanie, was also in the back seat and died in the crash. The driver of the car was critically injured and survived.

Austin American-Statesman - June 21, 2017

Blasting State Rep. Dawnna Dukes for her ‘worst lawmaker’ ranking, potential rival calls for her resignation

The day after Texas Monthly named Austin Democrat Dawnna Dukes one of the state’s ten worst lawmakers, a potential opponent joined the calls Wednesday for Dukes to resign. Michael Hendrix, a District 46 resident who said he is considering running for Dukes’ seat in the state House, joined a half-dozen friends and supporters at an ad-hoc, hastily called event at East Austin’s Butterfly Bar. Hendrix, who said he has lived in the district about a month, said Dukes should resign in part because she has been ineffective on LBGTQ issues at a time “when we are under attack” at the statehouse. Hendrix, who is gay, said the district deserves a representative who is both present (Dukes missed more than 900 votes during the session), not in legal trouble (she is facing 15 indictments) and an effective voice for Texas’ LBGTQ community.

Austin American-Statesman - June 21, 2017

Texas appeal to reinstate fetal burial rule can proceed, court says

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton can proceed with an appeal seeking to resurrect a state rule that requires fetal tissue to be buried or cremated, a federal appeals court has ruled. The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday rejected a request, filed two weeks ago by several abortion providers, to dismiss Paxton’s appeal. The court’s three-judge panel gave no explanation for the decision, which included a separate order rejecting Paxton’s request to speed the appeal toward a resolution. The appeal revolves around U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks’ January ruling that blocked enforcement of a rule requiring abortion clinics, hospitals and health centers to bury or cremate fetal remains after an abortion or treatment for a miscarriage.

Austin American-Statesman - June 22, 2017

Troisi: How Texas stands to lose millions with revised health bill

The American Health Care Act now being considered by a Senate committee would result in many disturbing consequences, including an estimated 23 million people losing their health insurance coverage by 2026 and increased premiums and other out-of-pocket costs. An estimated more than 2.5 million Texas would lose insurance coverage, adding to our already high rates of those uninsured. The AHCA would cut more than $830 billion from the federal contribution to the Medicaid program over the next decade. The bill would also allow states to opt out of protections that restrict insurance companies from charging higher premiums for people with pre-existing conditions and from the requirement that insurers cover 10 essential health benefits, including maternity care, prescription drugs and services for mental health and substance use disorder.

Texas Tribune - June 21, 2017

Texas group that fueled Trump voter fraud claim scales back 2016 election audit

The Houston-based organization that fueled President Donald Trump’s unsubstantiated claim that “millions” of people voted illegally in the 2016 election says it’s scaling back its effort to catalogue the fraudulent votes it alleged. True The Vote, a watchdog group focused on “election integrity,” says it’s short on the cash needed to complete a forensic audit of the 2016 election — an effort Trump applauded in his first days in the White House. “As it stands, we do not have the funding to do what we want to do. We’ve gathered 2016 voter rolls, we’ve gathered information from thousands of [Freedom of Information Act requests], but we’re limited by the lack of resources,” Catherine Engelbrecht, the group’s founder, said Tuesday in a video message to supporters.

Texas Tribune - June 22, 2017

Texas A&M reigns, UH gets a boost in Texas college sports revenue

The rich keep getting richer in Texas college sports, and the little guys keep having a harder time keeping up. That’s one of the key takeaways from Ballpark Figures, The Texas Tribune’s visualization of money for athletics at the state’s top university athletics programs. We analyzed the NCAA financial reports for the eight public schools that play the highest level of college football, the Football Bowl Subdivision. You can explore the full app here. Below are some things that grabbed our attention. Note, however, that these stats are for the 2015-16 sports year. Data for the year that’s currently wrapping up won’t be available until 2018.

Houston Chronicle - June 22, 2017

Tropical Storm Cindy pushes ashore in southern Louisiana, largely spares Houston area

Taking a last-minute veer to the east and sparing much of the Houston area, Tropical Storm Cindy made landfall about 4 a.m. Thursday in southwestern Louisiana, according to the National Weather Service. Harris County officials said Thursday morning that Cindy was, for the most part, "no different than a wet day" in Houston. "For most people this morning there isn't any reason not to do what you're going to do this morning," said Jeff Lindner, a meteorologist with the county's flood control district. The storm was moving toward the north at about 12 mph. Maximum sustained winds had decreased to about 40 mph.

Houston Chronicle - June 21, 2017

FTC drops antitrust case against state medical board, cites new law

The Federal Trade Commission announced Wednesday that it has closed its investigation into whether the Texas Medical Board violated federal antitrust law when it adopted rules to restrict telemedicine in the state. The commission voted 2-0 to drop the probe in light of the passage last month of a state law removing a contentious restriction that limited the use of virtual diagnosis in most cases unless a doctor had conducted some kind of prior exam, either in person or through a video device. It was considered one of the strictest rules in the country and has been at the heart of a six-year legal battle between the state medical board and Teladoc, a multimillion-dollar telemedicine leader based in Lewsiville, that had leveled the antitrust accusation.

Houston Chronicle - June 21, 2017

HC: Lethal heat -- Treating state convicts humanely means adding air conditioning to Texas prisons.

What civilized society would treat someone as savagely as North Korea treated Otto Warmbier? For the answer to that question, maybe we Texans need to look in the mirror. What happened to that college student during his 17 months in North Korean custody should make us think twice about what's unfolding in a federal courtroom this week in downtown Houston. Our state's prison system is on trial, accused of abusing convicts by locking them in hot cells where temperatures rise high enough to kill grown men. We condemn North Korea for treating an American prisoner badly enough to cause his death, but the simple and shameful truth is that our state government is doing the same thing in our name. And it's got to come to a stop.

Houston Press - June 20, 2017

From Incidents With Rattlesnakes to Broken Jaws, Texas Public Schools Are Immune from Lawsuits

A boy is playing in a sandbox on his school’s playground. Suddenly, the ground caves in beneath him and drops him into a rattlesnake den. The child is seriously injured. Worse for him, the child lives in Texas. The boy’s parents contact longtime personal injury lawyer John Kemmerer Ivey of Boerne and ask him to file a lawsuit against the school district. He passes. There is no case. “Their child was bit repeatedly by the snakes and almost died,” recalls Ivey. “[But] because there was no motor vehicle involved, there was no liability. It did not arise out of the operation or use of a motor vehicle. “I had the unsavory job of explaining to the parents that the State of Texas and the school district doesn’t care.”

Dallas Observer - June 19, 2017

Five Key Takeaways From Texas' New Laws On Carrying Knives

In 1871, the Texas Legislature passed a bill forbidding Texans from carrying Bowie knives and other arms like slingshots, swords, canes and brass knuckles. In 2017, these restrictions have ended. State law defines an illegal knife as a knife with a blade longer than 5½ inches, a hand instrument designed to cut or stab by being thrown, a dagger, a Bowie knife, a sword or a spear. But Gov. Greg Abbott signed HB 1935 into law this month, changing the term “illegal knife” to “location-restricted knife.” Changes will take effect Sept. 1. It's a move that knife advocates hail as lifting a nearly 150-year ban because it allows Texans to carry location-restricted knives almost anywhere in Texas.

Bloomberg - June 20, 2017

Texas Is Too Windy and Sunny for Old Energy Companies to Make Money

As attractive a renewable-energy concept as wind power is, it’s plagued by a fundamental flaw. It blows the most in the dead of night, precisely when there’s the least demand for electricity. That’s true for just about every wind-blown spot across the U.S., from the foothills of the Tehachapi Mountains in California to the coastal plains of North Carolina. And then there’s South Texas. It is to wind, engineers have discovered in recent years, a bit like what Napa Valley is to wine and Georgia is to peaches. For not only does the state’s Gulf Coast generate strong evening gusts, but it also blows fiercely in the middle of the day, just as electricity consumption is peaking. It’s the result of something called convection currents—a phenomenon caused by the gap between the temperature on the water and land—and it’s allowing wind farms owned by Apex Clean Energy Inc. and Avangrid Inc. to tap into the midday spike in electricity prices that comes as air conditioners start to hum.

Texas Observer - June 21, 2017

How the Texas Legislature Reached a Dangerous Stalemate on Vaccines

It was mid-April, more than halfway through the legislative session, and Texans for Vaccine Choice was finally getting the fight it had been spoiling for. On April 11, a bill to require schools to report the number of unvaccinated kids had been heatedly debated in a House committee. Doctors, public health experts, parents and others had testified in favor of House Bill 2249, calling it a transparency measure that would simply provide information about vaccination rates at individual schools. The matter was pressing, they said, because more and more parents were opting their kids out of vaccinations using a “reasons of conscience” exemption created by the Legislature in 2003. Without action, recent high-profile outbreaks of mumps and measles in Texas would only grow worse.

Slate - June 16, 2017

Cauterucci: Texas, the State With the Country’s Second-Highest Child Marriage Rate, Finally Bans It

This law is a big deal for Texas, where the child-marriage rate is one of the highest in the nation. According to a 2016 Pew Research Center report, nearly seven of every 1,000 minors aged 15 to 17 were married in 2014, a rate second only to West Virginia’s. The national average is five per 1,000, and every other state in the country has a rate under six per 1,000. (Tahirih has also noted that the Pew report may underestimate rates, since it doesn’t count children under 15 or minors in the 15 to 17 age range who were married but have already divorced.) Between 2000 and 2014, almost 40,000 minors were married in Texas, Tahirih says, citing Texas Department of State Health Services statistics. Most of these minors were child and adolescent girls, some as young as 12 years old, marrying adult men.

Bloomberg - June 21, 2017

Take a Look at the States Sending the Most Carbon Into the Air

A recent report distributed by a diverse group including Ceres, Bank of America Corp., the Natural Resources Defense Council and electricity suppliers Entergy Corp. and Exelon Corp. offers a state-by-state breakdown of carbon-dioxide emissions from power plants. Here are the highlights: Texas sits at the top of the list -- with more than twice the total carbon emissions of any other state. Despite a surge in wind power there, Texas still depends on fossil fuel-burning generators to serve a large and growing population. ... The picture changes when you rank states by their emissions rates -- the volume of carbon dioxide they release for every megawatt-hour of electricity produced. Wyoming, Kentucky and West Virginia jump to the top of the list because of their heavy use of coal, which produces almost twice as much carbon dioxide when burned as natural gas does. Texas drops to 20th for all-source emissions rates, and Florida falls to 27th.

CNet - June 20, 2017

Uber and Lyft messed with Texas -- and won

Bid Wallace wore a big grin as he pulled his silver SUV into the Austin parking lot where I was waiting for a ride. "Everybody is smiling today," he told me as I climbed in. After a year-long hiatus, Wallace last month was driving again for Lyft in the Texas capital. It was his first day back, and work was steady. In May 2016, both Uber and Lyft pulled out of Austin after a bitter showdown with local regulators. City lawmakers had passed an ordinance the previous December requiring, among other things, that ride-hailing companies add fingerprint background checks for their drivers. Uber and Lyft refused to comply, saying their private background checks were thorough enough. They called the requirements overly burdensome.

County Stories

Texas Observer - June 21, 2017

Getting Wise to Bad Air: North Texans Take Smog Monitoring Into Own Hands

How bad is the smog problem in Wise County? Situated just west of the Dallas-Fort Worth sprawl, Wise County is in the heart of the Barnett Shale gas patch and since 2012 has been designated by the EPA as out of compliance with federal ozone standards. But the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) can only guess at how bad the pollution is; the agency is unwilling to install an air monitor there that would track ozone levels. “The state is not interested in putting a monitor out there and neither is the county,” said Jim Schermbeck, the director of Downwinders at Risk, a North Texas environmental group.

Austin American-Statesman - June 22, 2017

Census: Hays County has 2nd-fastest-growing Latino population in state

When the Centro Cultural Hispano de San Marcos first opened in 2010, the nonprofit community organization offered about five classes in Mexican folkloric ballet, mariachi and other arts. Seven years later, the center offers three times as many programs, has doubled its classroom capacities — and still has waiting lists. “We’re really jockeying for space because more people want to bring programs to the center than we have space,” President Ruben Becerra said. The surge in interest at the Centro is just one manifestation of a countywide trend reflected in Census Bureau numbers released Thursday: Hays County had the second-fastest-growing Hispanic population in the state from 2010 to 2016, among counties with at least 50,000 people.

San Antonio Express News - June 22, 2017

Bexar County records big boost in seniors 65 to 74 years old

Clay Hadick, 68, and his wife, Dianna, were ready to leave New Jersey when he retired from the pharmaceutical industry in 2012. They moved to Texas, settling in Bexar County — specifically, in Alamo Ranch, in a gated community for people age 55 and older. They enjoy the warm weather, the low cost of living, the lack of a state income tax and the friendly people here. Hadick had lived in Bexar County in the early 1980s, when he was in the Army and stationed at Brooke Army Medical Center. Since 2010, a rising tide of seniors 65 to 74 years old has been making this home.

Houston Chronicle - June 22, 2017

Judge withdraws from costly legal representation in $3.5 million bail lawsuit

One of 15 Harris County judges challenging a federal order altering the cash bail system for low-income misdemeanor defendants has dropped out of the group that hired a pricey Washington, D.C., law firm to appeal the lawsuit. Criminal Court-at-Law Judge Mike Fields, a Republican who has been on the bench since 1998, opted out of the appeal prepared by $550-an-hour lawyer, Charles "Chuck" Cooper, who was just retained as private counsel for Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

KXAS - June 21, 2017

Denton County Going Back To Paper Ballots

The way people vote in Denton County is changing. Tuesday night, the Denton County Commission voted to replace its old electronic system for a new, all paper system after three recounts after the November presidential election. “I think we are kind of going backwards in technology,” said voter Angela Cope. Cope has never used paper ballots before and doesn’t trust them. She says she’s not sure spending almost $9 million for an all paper system is the best use of taxpayer money. “I’ve never had any trouble with an electronic ballot,” said Cope. “I’m okay with staying with the electronic.”

City Stories

Dallas Morning News - June 22, 2017

White ex-employee at Infosys in Plano files suit, claims company favored workers from India

Infosys, the India-based information technology consulting firm with an office in Plano, is facing yet another reverse discrimination lawsuit asserting that it creates a hostile work environment for workers who are not from India or South Asia. Erin Green, a former supervisor at Infosys, filed suit this week in the Eastern District of Texas in Sherman, alleging that he and black and white staffers on his team were denied raises and promotions, and that other "non-South Asian" workers were berated by South Asian company officials.

Houston Chronicle - June 21, 2017

Houston City Council votes to join lawsuit over SB4

Houston City Council voted Wednesday to sue the state over its new "sanctuary cities" law, joining Texas' three other largest cities in challenging the controversial measure. Council voted 10-6 to join San Antonio, Austin, Dallas, El Paso County and several other local governments and nonprofits in a consolidated case challenging the state. Councilman Jack Christie abstained. A preliminary hearing in the case is scheduled for Monday. "This is not an issue of our choosing," Mayor Sylvester Turner said. "But when it ends up on your plate, you have to address it."

Dallas Morning News - June 21, 2017

Oscar Health to expand its Texas footprint, but what about Dallas-Fort Worth?

Insurance startup Oscar Health plans to expand into five additional Texas counties in 2018, but none of them will be in the Dallas-Fort Worth market, the insurer said Wednesday. The company says it has filed a request with the federal government to begin selling plans in Travis, Williamson, Hays, Comal and Guadalupe counties during enrollment this fall. The New York-based insurer was co-founded by Josh Kushner, brother of White House senior adviser Jared Kushner. It began selling health plans on the marketplace in Texas in 2015. A year later, like several national carriers, Oscar scaled back its offerings in the state, citing financial losses.

San Antonio Express News - June 21, 2017

In Crystal City, bribes caught on tape

In 2015, James Jonas, the Crystal City manager and city attorney, made a casual request for a little help with expenses for a city social function held at the Austin Club. “I’m kind of funding the dinner out of thin air. Any level of sponsorship or help would be appreciated,” Jonas told civil engineer Dan Hejl, one of the invitees. “It’s not required. You’ve been a good friend,” Jonas added. Hejl soon came through with $3,000, enough to pay for the whole dinner, and Jonas was very appreciative. Unknown to Jonas, Hejl was an informant for the FBI and was taping that and other conversations with him. The recorded evidence was presented Wednesday at the federal corruption trial of Jonas and former Crystal City Mayor Ricardo Lopez.

Dallas Morning News - June 21, 2017

‘Russians didn’t elect Donald Trump. I did,' Texas man proclaims on billboard

A Texas man rented a billboard to make sure that Central Texans know exactly where he stands politically: “The Russians didn’t elect Trump. I did.” Kyle Courtney's billboard message to ABC News went up Tuesday on Interstate 10 in southern Boerne, about 30 miles outside San Antonio. The Boerne man said in a statement that he paid for the billboard because the television network he grew up watching has “lost touch with America and forgotten the working man.”

National Stories

Associated Press - June 22, 2017

Census: US more diverse, white population grows least

The United States is growing older and more ethnically diverse, a trend that could strain government programs from Medicare to education, the Census Bureau reported Thursday. Every ethnic and racial group grew between 2015 and 2016, but the number of whites continued to increase at the slowest rate — less than one hundredth of 1 percent, or 5,000 people, the Census estimate shows. That's a fraction of the rates of growth for non-white Hispanics, Asians and people who said they are multi-racial, according to the government's annual estimates of population. President Donald Trump's core support in the racially divisive 2016 election came from white voters, and polls showed that it was especially strong among those who said they felt left behind in an increasingly racially diverse country. In fact, the Census Bureau projects whites will remain in the majority in the U.S. until after 2040.

This article appeared in the San Antonio Express News

Associated Press - June 22, 2017

Cornyn lays out goals of 'constrained' Senate GOP health care plan

With Senate Republicans set to roll out their closely-guarded health care bill Thursday morning, Texas U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, the Senate's No. 2 Republican, signaled that the plan might fall short of the long-term GOP goal of repealing Obamacare root and branch. "We are constrained by budget rules and we'll do the very best we can under the circumstances," he told Texas reporters on the eve of the plan's rollout. He also blamed the Democrats for "being unwilling to lift a finger." Texas' junior senator, Republican firebrand Ted Cruz, was not immediately available for comment, though he has been part of a Senate working group trying to achieve a compromise stemming from the bill passed by House Republicans last month.

This article appeared in the Houston Chronicle

Austin American-Statesman - June 20, 2017

Parker: How we can start taking back our country

Is there anything we can do? Let private citizens at least compete with the government monopoly they themselves have created. I propose allowing dollar-for-dollar charity tax credits. The nation has magnificent private charities dealing with the problems of the poor. Charities such as Feeding America, Salvation Army, Food for the Poor, Catholic Charities USA, World Vision and many more. With more resources, they could do much more and innovate. Let’s let private citizens take the initiative for change that clearly won’t happen in the public sector.

Gallup - June 21, 2017

Terrorism Fears Drive More in US to Avoid Crowds

Thirty-eight percent of U.S. adults say the threat of terrorism makes them less willing to attend events where there are thousands of people. This is up from 27% in July 2011, the last time Gallup asked the question. It is also the highest level recorded since Gallup began asking the question after 9/11. These most recent data come from Gallup's latest survey conducted June 7-11. The record-high percentage of Americans avoiding large events comes on the heels of the May 22 terrorist attack on concertgoers in Manchester, England, and the June 3 attack at a crowded bridge and restaurants in London.

Austin American-Statesman - June 21, 2017

FBI: Gunman who shot congressman had no target in mind

Adrift and nearly out of money after three months of living out of his van in the Washington area, the gunman who shot a top House Republican and four other people on a Virginia baseball field didn't have any concrete plans to inflict violence on the Republicans he loathed, FBI officials said Wednesday. James T. Hodgkinson, 66, was shot and killed by police after he opened fire on Congressional Republicans practicing for their annual charity baseball game against Democrats last week. Rep. Steve Scalise of Lousiana, the House majority whip, was struck in the hip and gravely wounded. Scalise remains hospitalized, and his condition was upgraded to fair on Wednesday. All five people who were shot, including two U.S. Capitol police officers, survived their injuries.

Wall St. Journal - June 21, 2017

Predicting the Next Pandemic

Where will the next pandemic come from? Likely from bats. Fighting emerging infectious diseases costs billions of dollars, as the AIDS pandemic and the recent Ebola epidemic in West Africa attest. So researchers from New York City-based nonprofit EcoHealth Alliance set out several years ago to try to pinpoint where and how future pandemics might erupt. Analyzing a database of wildlife species and viruses known to infect mammals and people, they calculated how many unknown viruses may be out there, who carries them and where they are likely to be.

Washington Post - June 21, 2017

Senate health-care draft repeals Obamacare taxes, provides bigger subsidies for low-income Americans than House bill

Senate leaders on Wednesday were putting the final touches on legislation that would reshape a big piece of the U.S. health-care system by dramatically rolling back Medicaid while providing a softer landing to Americans who stand to lose coverage gained under the Affordable Care Act. A discussion draft circulating Wednesday afternoon among aides and lobbyists would roll back the ACA’s taxes, phase down its Medicaid expansion, rejigger its subsidies, give states wider latitude in opting out of its regulations and eliminate federal funding for Planned Parenthood. The bill largely mirrors the House measure that narrowly passed last month but with some significant changes. While the House legislation pegged federal insurance subsidies to age, the Senate bill would link them to income as the ACA does.

Politico - June 21, 2017

Anti-tax group contacted by FBI in baseball shooting investigation

The FBI has reached out to Americans for Tax Reform in connection with its investigation of the shooter at last week’s congressional baseball practice, the group's president Grover Norquist said at a private meeting Wednesday. A source who attended the conservative policy group's meeting said Norquist revealed that both he and ATR were mentioned either in physical or electronic files found among the possessions of the attacker, James Hodgkinson, who died following a shootout with police. There’s no indication that the influential anti-tax group is a central focus of the investigation, but the source said ATR staff have been told to reach out to the FBI with any information about Hodgkinson, including whether he ever contacted anyone from the organization.

Associated Press - June 21, 2017

US officials underscore Russia threat to 2016 elections

U.S. officials sought Wednesday to underscore for lawmakers the threat Russia posed to the 2016 vote for the White House, outlining efforts to hack into election systems in 21 states and to fill the internet with misinformation during a divisive campaign season. Officials also revealed what appeared to be a breakdown in communications about how severe the threat appeared, and they reported tensions the Obama administration faced in trying to publicly warn of meddling in the face of a skeptical then-candidate Donald Trump. "One of the candidates, as you'll recall, was predicting that the election was going to be rigged in some way. And so we were concerned that, by making the statement, we might in and of itself be challenging the integrity of the — of the election process itself," Jeh Johnson, the former head of the Homeland Security Department, told members of the House intelligence committee.

This article appeared in the San Antonio Express News

KXAS - June 22, 2017

Senate GOP leaders unveil health-care bill

Senate Republicans on Thursday released a health-care bill that would curtail federal Medicaid funding, repeal taxes on the wealthy and eliminate funding for Planned Parenthood as part of an effort to fulfill a years-long promise to undo Barack Obama’s signature health-care law. The bill is an attempt to strike a compromise between existing law and a bill passed by the House in May as Republicans struggle to advance their vision for the country’s health-care system even though they now control both chambers of Congress and the White House. At around 9:30 a.m., Republican senators entered a room near the Senate chamber where leaders started briefing them on the bill. The legislation, labeled “discussion draft” and numbering 142 pages, was then posted online by the Senate Budget Committee.

Washington Post - June 22, 2017

What the Senate bill changes about Obamacare

Under Senate Republicans’ plan, the government would no longer penalize Americans for failing to have health insurance. The federal health insurance subsidies that help most people with ACA marketplace plans afford their coverage would change. Health care would get substantially less affordable for most of these people, especially those who are poor, unhealthy or old, according to Linda Blumberg of the Urban Institute, Christine Eibner of the RAND Corporation and Karen Pollitz of the Kaiser Family Foundation. The bill would restructure Medicaid, narrow the program’s eligibility and likely decrease its funding.

Washington Post - June 22, 2017

Gingrich just admitted Trump was being dishonest about White House tapes — because nothing matters

President Trump is supposed to reveal this week, six weeks after making the initial suggestion, whether he actually has tapes of his White House conversations. Trump last month wielded those potential tapes as a very thinly veiled threat against former FBI director James B. Comey. And ever since then, he and the White House have decided to withhold the truth from the American people, refusing to answer a simple yes-or-no question. But Newt Gingrich just gave away the game, for all intents and purposes. In an interview with the Associated Press, the Trump-backing former House speaker basically admits that Trump was just bluffing to try to get inside Comey's head. “I think he was in his way instinctively trying to rattle Comey,” Gingrich said. “He's not a professional politician. He doesn't come back and think about Nixon and Watergate. His instinct is: 'I'll outbluff you.'”

Houston Chronicle - June 22, 2017

Tomlinson: Former CEO was least of Uber's problems

Taxi drivers around the world are celebrating the ouster of former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick, whose ride-hailing app and bad boy attitude made him one of the most despised and admired Internet entrepreneurs in the world. The coup d'etat staged by Uber's board of directors, though, is only a small step to solving the giant problems at the San Francisco tech firm. Kalanick infused Uber with a pirate mentality, expecting executives to bend and break any rules that stood in the company's way. Uber made a game of challenging local regulations and even built software to thwart code enforcers, triggering a federal investigation.

Dallas Morning News - June 21, 2017

DMN: What we can learn from Colorado law to ban smartphones for kids under 13

A Denver dad says smartphones turned his two youngest sons into zombies. So he turned himself into a crusader. Timothy Farnum, an anesthesiologist, wants Colorado to be the first state to ban smartphone sales to children younger than 13, and he already has plenty of parents on board. The behavior of his own boys, 10 and 11, underwent striking changes when they got phones of their own. They became withdrawn, distracted, disinterested in playing outdoors. When he tried to take the phones away, Farnum told CNN, one of his previously easygoing sons showed symptoms that looked alarmingly like drug withdrawal: "He was very addicted to this little machine. It kind of scared me."

The Hill - June 21, 2017

Abortion language may be cut from Senate ObamaCare bill

Key provisions of the House’s ObamaCare repeal bill meant to curb abortion services are in serious danger of being dropped from Senate legislation, which could cost the bill votes from conservatives. Republicans are using budget reconciliation rules to pass the ObamaCare repeal bill in order to prevent Democrats from filibustering it. The problem is that provisions in the healthcare bill must be budget-related to be included in a measure considered under those special rules. While no final decision will be made by the parliamentarian until there is a formal bill, she has given strong indications that the abortion language will not make the cut.

Dallas Morning News - June 21, 2017

Jensen: How radicals are offering realistic solutions to our spiraling political problems

Let's start with a general distinction: Liberals typically support existing systems and hope to make them more humane. Leftists focus on the unjust nature of the systems themselves. Two of these key systems are capitalism (an economic system that, to a leftist, celebrates inequality and degrades ecosystems) and imperialism (a global system in which First World countries have long captured a disproportionate share of the world's wealth through violence and coercion). Liberals don't oppose capitalism or U.S. imperialism, arguing instead for kinder-and-gentler versions. Leftists see the systems as incompatible with basic moral principles of social justice and ecological sustainability.

New York Times - June 21, 2017

Cohn: Dueling Realities for Democrats: Big Gains but Large Obstacles in 2018

The Democrats fared far better in this spring’s special congressional elections than even the most optimistic Democrat might have guessed a few months ago. But in the end, they lost all four in Republican-held districts — including the hotly contested election in Georgia’s Sixth Congressional District on Tuesday. This contradiction is the heart of the challenge the party faces in 2018. Democrats will probably benefit from an extremely favorable political environment, as they do today. But the problem is they’re going uphill, even if the wind is strongly at their backs. The 2018 midterm elections will be decided in Republican-leaning terrain. Even a wave the size of the electoral tsunamis that swept Republicans out of power in 2006 and back into it 2010 would not guarantee the Democrats a House majority in 2018.

Austin American-Statesman - June 20, 2017

Young: In replacing ACA, Team ‘Mean’ hands off duty to ‘Coward Caucus’

Donald Trump didn’t just say the House-passed bill to replace the Affordable Care Act was mean. He called it “mean, mean, mean.” That’s “mean” times three. Interesting. When he invited the House White Caucus, er, Republican Caucus, over for a celebratory photo op after its passage, he said the bill was “incredibly well-crafted.” But let’s give Trump credit here for saying something true – maybe a first. The House bill is well-crafted — for something so incredibly mean. What this means is that Senate Republicans have a low bar to scale — or a high bar to limbo — as they take their own stab at wrecking health coverage in America.

Politico - June 21, 2017

How the GOP could go nuclear on Obamacare repeal

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has promised that senators will get unlimited opportunity for amendments in any health care floor fight next week. Senate Democrats aren’t so sure. Riled-up liberal activists are urging Democrats to effectively filibuster the GOP’s health care bill by attacking it with hundreds of amendments. But Democratic senators are floating the prospect that McConnell will move to cut off the vote-a-rama if he feels Democrats are putting up votes on amendments purely as a delay tactic — a maneuver that would effectively be tantamount to a legislative nuclear option. Even though it appears highly unlikely to be triggered, it’s still a tool at McConnell’s disposal. And one of his top deputies said in an interview Wednesday that it remains an option.

Houston Chronicle - June 21, 2017

Tomlinson: U.S. economy fails to deliver on social progress

The American economy is not paying off for most Americans. Americans of all political stripes are unhappy with business as usual. Their dissatisfaction comes from the social contract, an expectation that business will better our society through increased innovation, trade and wealth. And American business is not improving the lives of average Americans. For proof, check the Social Progress Index, a holistic measure of a country's social performance created by the nonprofit, nonpartisan Social Progress Imperative.

June 21, 2017

Lead Stories

Washington Post - June 20, 2017

Republican Karen Handel defeats Democrat Jon Ossoff in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District

resident Trump’s hopes of steadying his presidency and his agenda on Capitol Hill were given a lift Tuesday when a Republican won a special congressional election in the Atlanta suburbs. Republican Karen Handel defeated Democrat Jon Ossoff in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District, retaining a seat that has been in GOP hands since 1979 after a grueling, four-month campaign that earned the distinction of being the most expensive House race in history. Handel’s win will bring fresh attention to a beleaguered Democratic Party that has suffered a string of defeats in special elections this year despite an angry and engaged base of voters who dislike Trump.

San Antonio Express News - June 20, 2017

SAEN: Straus spot on about needless bills

Speaker Joe Straus’ comments about Texas unnecessarily courting controversy and strife with its legislative agenda were welcome coming from someone so high in state leadership. Straus has likely said or thought these things before — he’s certainly done his part thwarting more than a few of these items. But his comments before a conference of the Texas Association of School Boards last week came at a propitious time. Gov. Greg Abbott has called a special session for July 18 that will consider 20 items, among them matters already debated and failing to get to the governor’s desk for signature. After the Legislature tackles a worthy sunset bill that keeps offices open, it will be free to move on to the other 19 issues.

Austin Business Journal - June 20, 2017

Positive S&P rating review of Texas budget says state has 'turned corner' after oil downturn

Texas' $217 billion budget for the next two years is "neutral," meaning it won't have a positive or negative effect on the state's overall credit rating, according to S&P Global Inc., which also projected Texas employment will continue to grow at about 2 percent annually, outpacing the national average. The state got high marks for new transportation spending from S&P and a slightly negative assessment on the decision to delay paying for Medicaid case growth over the next two years. S&P (NYSE: SPGI), a New York City-based financial info and analytics company, currently rates Texas’ general obligation debt as "AAA," the highest rank possible, signaling the obligator is "extremely" likely to pay back the money.

Houston Chronicle - June 20, 2017

Texas congressman blasted for saying Clintons 'killed' Vince Foster in threat to Lynch

A prominent liberal group blasted Texas Republican Pete Olson Tuesday for a radio interview earlier this month where he speculated that ex-President Bill Clinton threatened then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch last year by threatening he would have her killed like Clinton-era figure Vince Foster. Olson, in a June 9 interview with Houston-based radio host Sam Malone, ventured that Clinton's controversial meeting with Lynch on an airport tarmac in Phoenix was likely to force her to back off the FBI's e-mail investigation of his wife, then-Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. Clinton and Lynch described the meeting as a social encounter.

Austin American-Statesman - June 20, 2017

Herman: Gov. Greg Abbott neither vetoes nor signs hundreds of bills

Statistics don’t lie, but sometimes we don’t know what they’re trying to say. With that in mind, this: Gov. Greg Abbott has let hundreds of bills become law without signing them. This year he did so on bills on a variety of topics, including guns, beer and NASCAR. Civics 101: The gubernatorial power to sign or veto a bill is among the most important powers a Texas governor has. Most bills OK’d by the Legislature are signed into law by the governor. A few are vetoed. But there’s a third pathway: Bills that aren’t vetoed or signed. Those become what’s known as “laws.” It’s legal, legitimate and it happens. It’s also kind of weirdly explainable.

Texas Monthly - June 20, 2017

Ratliffe: The Best and Worst Legislators 2017

Around the Texas Capitol this year, it wasn’t unusual to hear the 85th Legislature described as the worst anyone could remember. While we wouldn’t go that far, this session had more than its fair share of dispiriting moments. Quite a few of those came courtesy of the bathroom bill and the misleading public-safety rhetoric its supporters used to justify restrictions on where transgender Texans could relieve themselves. The bill died in the House, but the issue hasn’t gone away. Lawmakers also took a simple bill to ensure that Texas cities comply with federal immigration requests and amended it to allow police to inquire about immigration status when they merely detain someone. Democrats argued that the “show me your papers” provision could lead to racial profiling of Latinos, and police chiefs said it would result in an increase in crime. On the other hand, the Legislature did provide a major funding increase—$509 million—to the Child Protective Services department, which desperately needed it.

Dallas Morning News - June 21, 2017

Elite shale task force says fracking adds $2 billion to Texas road repair costs

Texas' role as a petroleum powerhouse started with the famed Spindletop oil gusher near Beaumont in 1901. But 116 years later, there's still uncertainty about the industry's impact on the state's people and environment, according to a new study released today. A task force set up by the Academy of Medicine, Engineering and Science of Texas released a 204-page report Monday that found both great economic benefits and areas of concern about the latest drilling boom. Despite the uncertainty, study organizers said they hoped the two-year effort would cut through some of the confusion around fracking and how it impacts Texans and the environment. "In an era of alternative facts, this report is bringing together much or most of the scientific evidence about the actual impacts of shale development," said task force chairwoman Christine Ehlig-Economides, who teaches petroleum engineering at the University of Houston.

Washington Post - June 21, 2017

Trump seeks sharp cuts to housing aid, except for program that brings him millions

President Trump’s budget calls for sharply reducing funding for programs that shelter the poor and combat homelessness — with a notable exception: It leaves intact a type of federal housing subsidy that is paid directly to private landlords. One of those landlords is Trump himself, who earns millions of dollars each year as a part-owner of Starrett City, the nation’s largest subsidized housing complex. Trump’s 4 percent stake in the Brooklyn complex earned him at least $5 million between January of last year and April 15, according to his recent financial disclosure. Trump’s business empire intersects with government in countless ways, from taxation to permitting to the issuing of patents, but the housing subsidy is one of the clearest examples of the conflicts experts have predicted.

Washington Post - June 21, 2017

The Daily 202: Democrats despondent, Trump emboldened after GOP victory in Georgia special election

With all the ballots counted, Republican Karen Handel won the most expensive House race in U.S. history by 3.8 percentage points. That’s a larger margin of victory than the 1.5 points that Donald Trump carried Georgia’s 6th Congressional District by last November. Handel even wound up winning by a greater margin than the GOP candidate in an unexpectedly close special election to replace OMB Director Mick Mulvaney in South Carolina that had not been on the national radar. The suburban district north of Atlanta is ruby red and has been in GOP hands since Newt Gingrich won it in 1979, but that does not make Jon Ossoff’s defeat any less devastating for Democrats struggling to find their way in the Trump era.

Wall St. Journal - June 21, 2017

Official Says Russia Targeted 21 States for Election Hacking

A senior Department of Homeland Security official told Congress on Wednesday that federal investigators had evidence that the Russian government targeted election systems in nearly two dozen states during the 2016 elections. “As of right now, we have evidence of election-related systems in 21 states that were targeted,” said Jeanette Manfra, the acting deputy undersecretary for cybersecurity and communications at DHS. Her remarks came in testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee, which is conducting a wide-ranging probe of Russian activities in the elections. It was the first time a DHS official had publicly quantified the number of states targeted by the hacking.

CNBC - June 20, 2017

The strange bedfellows who are killing the GOP's Obamacare replacement bill

Usually, we describe the people behind a financial scam as either "pulling a fast one," or "pulling the wool over our eyes." Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is doing both right now with his highly secretive and expedited Obamacare replacement bill process. And no, this isn't going to be one of those cases where doing those sneaky things is likely to produce a good result. So who's going to stop this process? From what we've seen so far, it looks like an odd coalition of the Senate's leading liberals and conservatives. Who says there's no bipartisan cooperation in Congress?!? Those leading liberals in the Senate, like Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, are at the head of a predictable charge on the Democratic side of the aisle against the repeal process.

State Stories

Austin American-Statesman - June 20, 2017

As Austin and Texas battle, city leaders look warily at partnership

On this third week of June 2017, Austin leaders found themselves paused between two legislative sessions seeking to overturn city regulations and curtail efforts to raise taxes, and City Hall is both suing the state and being sued over immigration enforcement policies. So it might be an awkward moment for the state of Texas to ask for a $7 million favor. But that’s exactly what the City Council is asked to approve this week: An interlocal deal to grant $6.9 million in fee waivers for a Capitol Complex master plan, plus expedited permitting, conversion of 16th, 17th and 18th streets to two-way traffic and appointment of a city project team. The $581 million state project plans to transform Congress Avenue north of the Capitol into pedestrian green space, anchored in later phases by new office buildings at 16th and 18th streets for state workers.

Austin American-Statesman - June 20, 2017

For low-income families in Central Texas, summer brings added strain

School may be out for summer, but at lunchtime on a recent Thursday at Travis High School dozens of children and teenagers packed into the cafeteria to scoop up such options as chicken lime tacos, veggie dippers and chocolate milk before taking their seats at long tables in the cafeteria. By the end of summer, Austin Independent School District officials expect to serve more than 150,000 meals at 60 campuses as part of the Summer Food Service Program, which offers breakfast and lunch options to any child up to age 18 who comes through the doors during a scheduled mealtime, no identification needed. Because it’s a federally funded program, the district doesn’t foot the bill and children don’t need to be enrolled in the district or even be school age to benefit.

Texas Tribune - June 21, 2017

Congress is eyeing big Medicaid cuts. Here’s why it matters to Texas families.

Despite years of sleepless nights, emergency room trips and long stares into the financial abyss, Kate Robinson-Howell and Bob Howell of Austin are adamant that they are a Medicaid success story. Their second child, Apollo, was born with a malformed esophagus and trachea. He had emergency surgery to reconstruct his airway when he was just four months old. Now two years old, Apollo eats through a gastronomy tube that protrudes from his stomach, suffers from chronic lung disease and has endured dozens of emergency room visits and countless hours of speech, physical and feeding therapy.

Texas Tribune - June 15, 2017

Formby: Public education systems in Colombia and Texas have a lot in common. Blame the Legislature.

About a month has passed since Colombian public school teachers last held classes, and not because it’s summer break. Around 350,000 teachers from the Fecode union are striking, demanding their government increase public education funding. Colombia’s public schools are suffering from an inequitable funding system, much like the funding crisis Texas public schools face. The Colombian and Texas governments are confronting the problem much in the same way — inaction. However, while Colombia struggles to rebuild its society, economy and education system all at once, Texas’s public education shortcomings stem solely from the Texas Legislature’s inaction. In 2016, I moved from Texas — where I was born, raised and educated — to Medellin, Colombia to work as a public school teacher. The first day I arrived at school, I was shocked. Student bathrooms did not have toilet paper or hand soap. My average class size was around 35 students, and only one classroom in the entire school was equipped with technology. Over the past year, I learned the problems at my school run much deeper — according to the administration, the government has spent less than a quarter of what it budgeted for my school.

Texas Tribune - June 21, 2017

Ramsey: 5 takeaways from the UT/TT Poll

1. The president is popular with Texas Republicans. He’s so popular, they’ve gone soft on Russia. Overall, Donald Trump’s numbers in Texas don’t look so hot: 50 percent of voters disapprove of the job he’s doing, 53 percent said he doesn’t have the temperament to be president, 55 percent said he is dishonest and untrustworthy and 47 percent said he’s not competent. Texas Democrats might never be happy with Trump, and they’re killing his overall numbers. But Republicans remain solidly behind him: 80 percent job approval, 68 percent like his temperament, 66 percent said he’s honest and trustworthy and 80 percent said he is competent to be president.

Texas Tribune - June 19, 2017

Jones: The 2017 Texas Senate, from Right to Left

The recently ended regular session of the Texas Legislature offered a fresh reading of the politics of the members of the Texas Senate — a body that has edged to the right this decade as new senators have been elected. Political scientists have for decades used roll call votes cast by members of the U.S. Congress to plot them on the Liberal-Conservative dimension along which most legislative politics now takes place. This ranking of the Texas Senate does the same — by drawing on the 1,626 non-lopsided roll call votes taken during the 2017 regular session. As with previous rankings conducted in 2015, 2013 and 2011, this one uses a Bayesian estimation procedure belonging to the family of methodological approaches that represent political science’s gold standard for roll call vote analysis.

Texas Tribune - June 20, 2017

Texas congressman says remarks on Clintons, Vince Foster were "a step too far"

U.S. Rep. Pete Olson, R-Sugar Land, on Tuesday walked back comments he had made on local radio in which he accused — without evidence — former President Bill Clinton of admitting to the murder of a deceased aide and of threatening former Attorney General Loretta Lynch. In discussing a now-infamous episode from last year in which Clinton had a tarmac meeting with Lynch, Olson speculated on local radio that in that conversation, Clinton admitted he was a party to the 1993 death of White House aide Vincent Foster and essentially threatened some similar form of retribution against Lynch if she did not drop an investigation into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's email server.

Houston Chronicle - June 21, 2017

Tropical Storm Cindy expected to hit Texas-Louisiana border overnight

Tropical Storm Cindy is expected to hit the Gulf Coast overnight and bring with it gusty winds, heavy rain and some flooding through Thursday night. Cindy, which originated earlier this week in the Yucatan Peninsula, is expected to land along the Texas-Louisiana border between 1 a.m. and 6 a.m. Thursday, according to the National Weather Service. The storm was named Tuesday. The storm was moving northwest Wednesday morning across the Gulf with maximum winds of 60 mph.

Houston Chronicle - June 20, 2017

Most GOP education board members split with Abbott over vouchers

The Texas State Board of Education is known for its conservative ideals, but a majority of its Republican members said Tuesday they oppose GOP Gov. Greg Abbott's demand that lawmakers pass a school voucher program and a bathroom law in next month's special session. Most of the education issues Abbott wants lawmakers to consider during their 30-day special session should be left to local school districts rather than dictated by the state, six Republican members of the board told the Houston Chronicle on Tuesday. The six board members all said vouchers were a bad idea. Two members said they supported the Legislature taking up the issues and two others were unavailable for comment.

Dallas Morning News - June 21, 2017

Peacock: Restrictions on free trade will cost Texans dearly

Last month, the Texas Legislature passed a law that will force taxpayers to pay up to 20 percent more for some public projects. In Washington, D.C., a tax is being considered that could increase what Texans pay for insurance. Why would the government do this? The short answer is influence by special interests and a poor understanding of the benefits of free trade. Unless we successfully combat these factors in both Austin and Washington, Texans and the Texas economy will suffer. As the nation's top exporting state, Texas benefits greatly from international trade. Research by the Texas Public Policy Foundation shows that all Texans — not just exporters — benefited as the North American Free Trade Agreement helped diversify the Texas economy, allowing it to better survive economic disruptions like reductions in oil prices and major events like the Great Recession.

Dallas Morning News - June 21, 2017

DMN: Why Texas needs Donald Trump to make the Dreamer program permanent

We're glad to see President Donald Trump give a reprieve — even if it is temporary — to hundreds of thousands of unauthorized immigrants who were brought to this country as small children. For months, 800,000 of these so-called Dreamers have lived with uncertainty that the president would make good on his pledge to "immediately terminate" the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which provides them protection to work and go to school in the U.S. On the campaign trail, Trump called the program an "illegal executive amnesty" and promised to end it immediately. He's smart to change course, allowing the Dreamers to stay and renew their permits every two years — at least for now.

Dallas Morning News - June 21, 2017

Oscar Health to expand its Texas footprint; deadline for insurance rate hikes is today

Insurance startup Oscar Health plans to expand into to five additional Texas counties in 2018, but none of them will be in the Dallas-Fort Worth market, the insurer said Wednesday. The company says it has filed a request with the federal government to begin selling plans in Travis, Williamson, Hays, Comal and Guadalupe counties during enrollment this fall. The New York-based insurer was co-founded by Josh Kushner, brother of White House senior adviser Jared Kushner. It began selling health plans on the marketplace in Texas in 2015. A year later, like several national carriers, Oscar scaled back its offerings in the state, citing financial losses.

Dallas Morning News - June 21, 2017

TCU reports more liquor-law violations than any other Texas school, study says

Texas Christian University ranked third in the country among schools that report the most disciplinary action against students for alcohol violations, according to a study by ProjectKnow. ProjectKnow — a website designed to provide resources for addicts, alcoholics and their families — released the study Friday comparing campuses that allow alcohol on school grounds with those that have zero-tolerance policies for alcohol on campus, also known as "dry" campuses. TCU was the only Texas school that made the list of schools reporting the most arrests or disciplinary actions for liquor-law violations. No Texas schools were among the top 10 with the most reported drug-law violations.

Dallas Morning News - June 20, 2017

Texas Rep. Michael Burgess to seek re-election in heavily conservative district

Michael Burgess is seeking re-election to North Texas' Congressional District 26, perhaps the most conservative area in the state. The Pilot Point Republican told The Dallas Morning News Editorial Board on Tuesday that he is needed in Congress for at least another term. A medical doctor by profession, Burgess is one of the leading voices in the GOP's effort to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, one of the crowning achievements of Barack Obama's presidential tenure.

San Antonio Express News - June 20, 2017

Supreme Court case on partisan gerrymandering could touch Texas

U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett has represented three districts, jumping from one to the next as Republicans repeatedly and unsuccessfully have sought to boot the Democrat out of Congress through redistricting. “I say this with reverence: Doggett is a bit like a cockroach in the sense that in a nuclear winter, he would be the one that survives,” said Matt Mackowiak, a Republican consultant who is the new chairman of the Travis County Republican Party. If the U.S. Supreme Court limits partisan gerrymandering in a Wisconsin case it has agreed to hear this fall, efforts like those aimed at Doggett could be restricted and potentially give Democrats at least two more congressional seats in Texas, experts say.

San Antonio Express News - June 20, 2017

California’s climate risk database draws ire from Texas AG Paxton

California’s insurance commissioner, who has required San Antonio’s USAA and other insurers to disclose their fossil fuel investments, is drawing the wrath of Texas’ attorney general and officials from 12 other states. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton this week joined 11 other Republican attorneys general and Kentucky’s GOP governor in signing on to a letter demanding that California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones, a Democrat, stop requiring insurance companies to report their fossil fuel investments and signing a “pledge” to divest from the coal industry. “The threats made by the California insurance commissioner will hurt families, businesses and insurance carriers across the nation,” Paxton said in a statement.

Texas Monthly - June 18, 2017

Solomon: The Alex Jones Show

We’d all come to see the Alex Jones show. Not InfoWars, the one that airs on over one hundred radio stations every weekday and streams on YouTube to two million subscribers—the one in which Jones has four unfettered hours to explain to his audience why, exactly, “there is a war on” for their minds. This version, rather, played out inside of the Honorable Orlinda Naranjo’s 419th District Court. Spectators poured into the Travis County courtroom’s movie theater-style seats—reporters, fans, the curious. A retired attorney who moved to Texas weeks earlier found out about the trial from a buddy who told him, “You don’t want to miss this.” A young woman spent her entire week in court just to watch. “Are you a fan of Alex Jones?” someone asked her in the hallway during a recess. “Oh, no,” she said, laughing.

Community Impact Newspapers - June 16, 2017

Central Texas schools see growing number of unvaccinated students

In the past five years, Texas has seen the number of students claiming conscientious, or non-medical exemptions, from vaccines grow by roughly 47 percent, or 16,284 students, according to a Department of State Health Services report. This trend extends to the North Austin area as well, including Georgetown ISD, which has seen increases in this select student population over the past four academic years. “I think in general, even when you look nationwide, the incident of exemptions is increasing,” said Jennifer Ashman-Porter, director of guidance and wellness for the district.

Texas Observer - June 20, 2017

Novack: How Texas’ Anti-Abortion Lawmakers Win Even While Losing in Court

“Why don’t we just stop passing unconstitutional laws?” asked an exasperated Representative Chris Turner, D-Grand Prairie. He spoke in May as the House debated a sweeping new anti-abortion bill that Governor Greg Abbott has since signed into law. Turner didn’t really get an answer to his question and he probably didn’t expect to, but it is an interesting one. So why do anti-abortion lawmakers keep passing unconstitutional laws? One answer is: because it works. Five hours and 25 amendments after the debate started, what began as a limited set of requirements emerged as Senate Bill 8, an omnibus measure that mandates burdensome clinic regulations and outlaws a safe, common abortion procedure. Abortion-rights advocates and their opponents alike call Texas’ new anti-abortion law the most sweeping since House Bill 2 was passed four years ago.

Houston Press - June 20, 2017

Is Don Willett Being Kept From the Federal Bench Because of His Trump Tweets?

Certain court watchers have been excited about the possibility of Texas Supreme Court Justice Don Willett going federal ever since his name first appeared on President Donald Trump's list of potential U.S. Supreme Court nominees in the middle of the 2016 presidential election. This is partly because Willett, a conservative justice, is well regarded on both sides of the aisle as a great legal mind, the sort that should sit on the Supreme Court one day. But there's another reason the thought of Willett being elevated to the Supreme Court or at least a federal appellate court position made some people giddy, and that's Willett's wonderful Twitter account. But now it seems entirely possible that Willett's Twitter account — which has made him a household name in recent years — may be keeping him from a promotion.

SE Texas Record - June 19, 2017

Texas AG urges FCC to reject broadband industry petition to strip states of consumer protection powers

In an effort to protect Texas consumers, Attorney General Ken Paxton on June 19 urged the Federal Communications Commission to deny a petition by the broadband industry to strip states of their authority to investigate and settle claims over false and misleading advertising about broadband Internet speed. The broadband industry’s petition asks the FCC to block state and local authorities from routine enforcement of state consumer protection laws and declare that the FCC regulate all advertising about broadband performance. But the petition “represents nothing more than the industry’s effort to shield itself from state law enforcement,” Paxton wrote in a letter to the FCC that was signed by a bipartisan group of 35 state attorneys general.

County Stories

San Antonio Express News - June 20, 2017

County budget anticipates property tax reform

With property-tax reform among the governor’s agenda items for July’s legislative special session, county budget experts plan to factor in a 5 percent increase in property-tax revenue ahead of the budget process for the 2017-2018 fiscal year. But, according to county finance director Seth McCabe, homeowners most likely won’t see a reduction in property taxes even if a bill makes its way to the governor’s desk, due in part to the school taxes homeowners also pay, he said. The special session agenda includes plans to address school finance, as well. “It’ll be a difficult budget to balance,” said County Judge Nelson Wolff on Tuesday, citing an uptick in crime and higher jail population compared to previous years that will require more resources.

Denton Record Chronicle - June 20, 2017

Locals concerned about future of agriculture in Denton County

Texas is losing its productive agricultural land, and Denton County is no exception. Locals who own land in Denton County are voicing their concerns about the area's changing landscape. Some assert that owning land today is getting harder. From 1997 to 2012, Texas lost 1.1 million acres of working agricultural land, according to Texas Land Trends, an organization that monitors and compiles data for Texas from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the National Agriculture Statistics Service.

City Stories

San Antonio Express News - June 20, 2017

Pimentel promoted to E-N’s Editorial Page editor

O. Ricardo Pimentel, a member of the San Antonio Express-News Editorial Board, which vets political candidates and stakes out positions on public policy, has been promoted to Editorial Page editor. “His experience and dedication will be a significant asset to the organization,” Express-News Publisher Susan Lynch Pape said in announcing his promotion. Pimentel, 64, said he is excited about meeting the challenges of his new job, which will include developing a plan to reach more readers and listen to more voices in a social-media age of tweets and snapchats.

Houston Chronicle - June 20, 2017

Sparks flare at City Council as public testifies on SB4

City Council chambers erupted Tuesday after a testy exchange between lawmakers over the state's new "sanctuary cities" law, which Houston is considering challenging in federal court. Councilman Greg Travis told state Rep. Gene Wu, who testified in favor of a lawsuit, that the rhetoric "needs to be toned down," after Wu called the law known as Senate Bill 4 "evil." "To sit here and call people evil and hateful for wanting to enforce laws that are already on the books – change the laws if you don't like them. But that's not done here. That's done over in Congress," Travis said.

Texas Tribune - June 21, 2017

Ride-hailing nonprofit struggles to survive in Austin

The return of Uber and Lyft to Austin has put the city’s only ride-hailing nonprofit in a fight for survival. RideAustin, one of several small companies that started operations in Austin after the ride-hailing giants left the city in May 2016, is now seeing its ridership cut in half since the two returned to town. The company is slashing expenses and cutting staff, said CEO Andy Tryba. “We always knew that at some point Uber and Lyft were going to come back. So we've always prepared for it,” Tryba said in an interview with The Texas Tribune, adding that RideAustin expected a big drop in rides — but didn’t think it would happen so fast.

Rolling Stone - June 20, 2017

SXSW Backs Austin Lawsuit Against Texas' Anti-Immigration Bill

The organizers of the South by Southwest Festival have issued a statement in support of a lawsuit the city of Austin filed against the state of Texas protesting Senate Bill 4, which would ban "sanctuary cities" in the state. In a statement that questions the "constitutionality" of the controversial bill, SXSW CEO Roland Swenson said, "We are concerned that SB4 will substantially limit the participation of U.S. citizens and foreign nationals in SXSW and limit the diversity and quality of the event. This decrease in participation will also diminish our substantial economic contribution to the City of Austin and the State of Texas." Earlier this month, Democratic Senators Robert Menendez of New Jersey and Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada asked SXSW organizers to move the festival out of Austin until the anti-immigration bill is repealed. However, Swanson stated that SXSW would remain in Austin and "continue to make our event inclusive while fighting for the rights of all."

KUHF - June 20, 2017

Former Houston Mayor Annise Parker On The “Bathroom Bill” And Her Political Future

Q: What was it like for you to watch the fight over the bathroom bill unfold during the regular session of the Texas Legislature? A; “It’s been a difficult session for the LGBT community, but more importantly, they managed to waste a huge amount of time and energy and legislative bandwidth that is… unnecessary in practical terms, but [also] painful to a lot of Texans.” Q: How concerned are you that like this could wind up passing during the special session? A: “I’m unfortunately fairly sure that some version of this passes, and then there’s an immediate impact on the economy of the state of Texas. We had a clear example of what could happen if you pass something like this in North Carolina…And, in fact, organizations like the Texas Association of Business are adamantly opposed to doing something like this…

McAllen Monitor - June 19, 2017

Local members of Congress react to Weslaco sailor who died in weekend ship accident

U.S. Reps. Filemon Vela and Vicente Gonzalez expressed grief over the death of a Weslaco sailor who was among the seven killed in a weekend collision between a Naval destroyer and a cargo ship off the coast of Japan. Gunner's Mate 2nd Class Noe Hernandez, 26, of Weslaco was identified as one of those who died in the accident on Saturday. “As we grieve the loss of the sailors who committed their lives to protecting and serving our country, I am particularly saddened to learn that one of the sailors found was a South Texas native, Gunner's Mate 2nd Class Noe Hernandez of Weslaco,” said Rep. Vela.

National Stories

Washington Post - June 21, 2017

Special elections are still painting a good picture for Democrats, overall

Republicans held on in Tuesday's special election in Georgia, securing a big victory in a much-watched race. But as I argued Tuesday, it's easy to overstate the significance of a special election in one out of 435 congressional districts — especially a unique one that shifted so bigly between the 2012 and 2016 presidential elections. And the totality of special elections this year is still painting an increasingly clear picture: Democrats are over-performing, even if they aren't winning the big ones. Call it “moral victories” or whatever you want; it's still a form of clear progress. It's been true in a strong majority of special elections so far this year (except Georgia), from Kansas to Montana to a lower-profile congressional race Tuesday in South Carolina to a slate of state legislative races.

Politico - June 21, 2017

How McConnell gets to 50 votes to repeal Obamacare

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell needs to nail down 50 GOP votes to repeal Obamacare. He has no easy options. He can lean toward conservatives like Rand Paul of Kentucky and Mike Lee of Utah, who want to dismantle as much of Obamacare as they possibly can. But if he does that, he risks losing a group of Senate moderates, including Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Rob Portman of Ohio and Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, who are pushing for a slower phase-out of the Medicaid expansion that is covering low-income people in some of their states.

Politico - June 21, 2017

Poll: Opposition to GOP health bill is on the rise

Opposition to the Republican health bill is growing, according to a new POLITICO/Morning Consult poll. As the GOP-led Senate prepares to take up the measure, only 35 percent of voters surveyed approve of the bill passed by the House last month. Nearly half of voters, 49 percent, disapprove of the bill. The other 16 percent don’t know or don’t have an opinion, the poll shows. POLITICO/Morning Consult polling indicates the bill has become less popular since the House advanced it in early May. Immediately after the bill passed, slightly more voters approved of the bill, 38 percent. Opposition to the bill was lower, too, immediately after the House passed it: 44 percent.

Politico - June 20, 2017

Senate GOP plans July debt ceiling vote

Senate Republicans are planning for a July vote to raise the debt ceiling, according to senators and aides. But House Republicans aren't prepared to show their hand yet, although they also hope to resolve the issue before the August recess begins. Yet with a possible health care vote in July — if the Senate passes a bill — top House Republicans are worried that the two issues could become entangled politically, making two already difficult votes even tougher.

Washington Post - June 20, 2017

Senate GOP leaders will present health bill this week, even as divisions flare

After weeks of secret deliberations, Senate Republicans are in the final stages of a sweeping rewrite of the nation’s health-care laws amid growing frustration among the rank and file over how to fulfill the party’s top campaign promise over the past seven years. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Tuesday that GOP leaders will produce a “discussion draft” on Thursday and hinted that a final vote could come next week — even as key senators expressed concern about the emerging legislation, the lack of transparency surrounding it and the disagreement that remains.

Washington Post - June 21, 2017

Trump says China’s pressure on North Korea ‘has not worked out’

President Trump on Tuesday appeared to lose faith in China's ability to pressure North Korea to curb its abusive behavior, throwing into question how his administration plans to contain the rogue nation's growing nuclear threat. A day after American college student Otto Warmbier, who spent 17 months in captivity in Pyongyang, died in his home town of Cincinnati, Trump called his treatment “a total disgrace” and suggested he has given up hope that Beijing can exert meaningful leverage on dictator Kim Jong Un's regime. The president's declaration marks a potential turn in his administration's strategy on North Korea, which had focused on ramping up international economic and political pressure on Kim, especially from China, on which North Korea's economy relies heavily.

Houston Chronicle - June 21, 2017

Lee, Cruz: In Trump era, it's time to reassess Western Hemisphere alliances

As citizens of the United States, we recognize the rights of foreign peoples to live and govern themselves as they see fit. Just as the American people would not tolerate another nation dictating to us how to run our country, we believe other people should be able to make their own laws free from outside interference. But the United States also has a tradition of participating in international organizations that promote the spread of democracy while also protecting the sovereignty of other countries. At times, this delicate balance has been lost and our ability to promote American interests has been diminished. Unfortunately, that is what has happened with U.S. involvement in the Organization of American States over the last eight years.

Dallas Morning News - June 20, 2017

As Senate vote on Obamacare overhaul looms, Republicans defend closed-door process

Senate Republicans could bring legislation to dismantle the Affordable Care Act up for a vote as early as next week, with a "discussion draft" expected Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has announced. The news comes as Republicans — including Texas Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz — push back against mounting criticism of the GOP’s closed-door negotiations over the measure, and party leaders work to shore up support for the pending legislation. Democrats are blasting what they say is a rushed and secretive process, with GOP leaders poised to skip public hearings before voting on the bill that will affect millions of Americans. A handful of Republicans have expressed similar concerns.

Associated Press - June 20, 2017

Republican aligned with Trump wins South Carolina House seat

Republican Ralph Norman won a special election Tuesday to fill the South Carolina congressional seat vacated by Mick Mulvaney, battling to a victory closer than many expected to replace the new White House budget director. "It's a good win, and we're excited," Norman, a real estate developer who aligned himself with President Donald Trump, told The Associated Press. "We're looking forward to getting to work in Washington." Norman, who celebrated his 64th birthday on election night, defeated Democrat Archie Parnell with 51 percent of the vote, with 99 percent of precincts reporting. Parnell had roughly 48 percent of the vote.

This article appeared in the Houston Chronicle

Austin American-Statesman - June 20, 2017

Young: In replacing ACA, Team ‘Mean’ hands off duty to ‘Coward Caucus’

Donald Trump didn’t just say the House-passed bill to replace the Affordable Care Act was mean. He called it “mean, mean, mean.” That’s “mean” times three. Interesting. When he invited the House White Caucus, er, Republican Caucus, over for a celebratory photo op after its passage, he said the bill was “incredibly well-crafted.” But let’s give Trump credit here for saying something true – maybe a first. The House bill is well-crafted — for something so incredibly mean. What this means is that Senate Republicans have a low bar to scale — or a high bar to limbo — as they take their own stab at wrecking health coverage in America.

Associated Press - June 21, 2017

FBI: Gunman acted alone in shooting of congressman

A gunman acted alone when he shot and wounded a top House Republican and four other people on a northern Virginia baseball field, the FBI said Wednesday. Tim Slater, the special agent in charge of the Washington FBI office, also said during a news conference that James T. Hodgkinson did not have any ties to terrorism. Rep. Steve Scalise, the House majority whip, was gravely wounded in the shooting last week. He has undergone several surgeries and remains hospitalized. His condition has been upgraded to serious.

This article appeared in the San Antonio Express News

Wall St. Journal - June 20, 2017

Gerrymandering’s Roots Stretch Back to Infancy of the U.S.

While the Supreme Court said Monday it would weigh the constitutionality of states’ drawing electoral districts to advantage one political party over others, gerrymandering—the term and the practice—goes back to the beginning of the republic. The origin of the term “gerrymander” dates to early 19th Century Massachusetts, according to historians. It is a combination of the word “salamander” and Gerry, the last name of the governor of Massachusetts at the time who approved a redistricting plan with a Boston-area district shaped like the lizardlike amphibian. In February 1812, Elbridge Gerry signed a bill into law that established new senate districts throughout the state. The new districts heavily advantaged Democratic-Republicans—the party of Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and James Monroe —over Alexander Hamilton’s Federalists, their chief political rival at the time.

New York Times - June 20, 2017

Senate Democrats Try to Gum Up Works Over Affordable Care Act Repeal

Democrats vowed on Monday to slow work in the Senate to a crawl to protest the secrecy surrounding the Republican effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, as Republican leaders raced to prepare a bill for a vote as soon as next week. Without the votes to stop the majority party from passing a bill, Democrats can only draw attention to the way Republicans are creating their bill — behind closed doors without a single hearing or public bill-drafting session. Senate Republican leaders hope for a showdown vote before lawmakers leave town at the end of next week, an ambitious timeline that would spare Republicans from constituent pressure over the Fourth of July recess.

CyberScoop - June 18, 2017

Question for states: Why isn't more DHS grant money funneled to cybersecurity?

A House bill to reauthorize the Department of Homeland Security includes a requirement to study why state and local governments have not been using homeland security grant programs to fill the large gaps in their cybersecurity defenses. The requirement was added by voice vote during a markup of the bill by the House Homeland Security Committee as an amendment proposed by Rhode Island Democrat James Langevin. It requires figures on the amount of DHS grant money spent by state and local governments on cybersecurity over the past decade, as well as a report on “obstacles and challenges related to using grant funds to improve cybersecurity.”

Casper Star Tribune (WY) - June 20, 2017

Wells Fargo scandal grows more political

Sen. Elizabeth Warren renewed her attack on Wells Fargo & Co., urging the Federal Reserve to remove the 12 directors who were on the board when bank employees set up legions of fake customer accounts. ... Both parties have tried to leverage the scandal to further political goals. GOP Rep.Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, who chairs the House Financial Services Committee, has used it to criticize the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, contending its regulators should have spotted the fraud before the bank flagged it. On the Democratic side, Warren said during hearings last year that former Chief Executive John Stumpf should face criminal prosecution, while Rep. Brad Sherman, D-Calif., is sponsoring a bill to prohibit banks from using arbitration agreements to limit consumers' ability to pursue claims.

The New Yorker - June 20, 2017

Toobin: Behind the Democrats’ Emoluments Lawsuit Against Trump

In one of the other cases filed against Trump earlier this year, brought by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics, the Justice Department argued that the case should be thrown out because “the Emolument Clauses apply only to the receipt of compensation for personal services and to the receipt of honors and gifts based on official position. They do not prohibit any company in which the President has any financial interest from doing business with any foreign, federal, or state instrumentality.” To respond to that argument, Blumenthal and his lawyers found an unlikely potential ally—the young Samuel Alito, who wrote a legal opinion about the clause in 1986, during the Reagan Administration, when he was a lawyer in the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel. The issue in that case was less than momentous: whether a nasa scientist could accept payment of a hundred and fifty dollars for reviewing a Ph.D. thesis at the University of New South Wales, in Australia. Alito concluded that the scientist could keep the fee, because the university was not a “foreign state,” but he took an otherwise hard line on the clause, writing that it “is directed against every kind of influence by foreign governments upon officers of the United States.”

Politico - June 20, 2017

Trump's job approval remains steady in Pew survey

Amid heightened scrutiny and growing investigations into his five-months-young term, President Donald Trump’s approval ratings remain steady in a Pew poll. Trump’s approval rating stands at 39 percent, according to a Pew Research Center survey released Tuesday. The rating is unchanged from previous surveys, as 39 percent of Americans approved of Trump’s presidency in April and February. Also unchanged in the new survey are the divisions across gender, race and ethnicity, age and education when it comes to Trump’s support. Half of whites approved of the job Trump has done. This was the only major demographic group to have more participants approve than disapprove of the president’s performance. Blacks and Hispanics disapproved of Trump at rates of 88 and 72 percent, respectively.

The Hill - June 20, 2017

Mattis gaining power in Trump’s Cabinet

James Mattis is quickly becoming one of the most powerful Defense secretaries in recent memory, with access to President Trump that few can match. Trump last week gave the former Marine Corps general full authority to decide the number of additional U.S. troops sent to Afghanistan, a move that comes even before a war strategy has been set. The president has given Mattis similar authority in Iraq and Syria. And while former President Obama talked frequently to his top commanders overseeing operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, Trump has instead chosen to speak only to Mattis and a handful of other Cabinet secretaries, according to a White House spokesman.

Dallas Morning News - June 21, 2017

Former Energy chief says Rick Perry's view on climate and CO2 'flies in the face of science'

Former Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz on Wednesday said he was "disappointed" in his successor Rick Perry's recent questioning of how much carbon dioxide emissions contribute to climate change, saying it "flies in the face of science." Perry created a stir this week when he said in a TV interview that it's "inappropriate" to treat those who don't believe the science is settled as if they are Neanderthals. Asked Monday on CNBC if he believes carbon dioxide is the "primary control knob for the temperature of the earth and for climate," Perry said no. He responded that "most likely the primary control knob is the ocean waters and this environment that we live in."

Dallas Morning News - June 21, 2017

After baseball shooting, Texas congressman wants to let lawmakers carry guns anywhere

With members of Congress fretting about their security after a shooting at baseball practice last week, one Texas lawmaker has a new suggestion: Let them carry guns anywhere. Rep. Brian Babin, R-Woodville, introduced a bill Tuesday that would allow certified members of Congress to carry concealed personal firearms “in nearly every scenario,” with a few exceptions, such as the White House and other secure sites. Noting that the baseball practice shooting — which wounded Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana and four others — could have been worse if not for two Capitol Police officers on the scene firing back, Babin described his legislation as “an important and necessary step.”

Dallas Morning News - June 21, 2017

DMN: After another police acquittal, could brain science succeed where courts fail?

If we want to reduce police officers' use of deadly force, we must not only demand better training but also enlist the help of brain scientists in the effort. Even on the best day, a cop is too often in a no-win situation: Hesitate too long, and both the officer and public are at risk. Act too fast, and another person, perhaps innocent of any wrongdoing, could be dead. Time and again, the criminal justice system tips in favor of the police officer as judges and juries consider the "reasonableness" of a shooting. That's a standard derived from the 1989 Supreme Court case Graham vs. Connor, which defined "reasonableness" as judged from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene, not anyone with the advantage of 20/20 hindsight.

Dallas Morning News - June 21, 2017

Leubsdorf: U.S. was inching closer to its goals with Cuba before Trump restricted trade

Cheered by Cuban-American supporters in Miami's "Little Havana," President Donald Trump announced grandly he was "canceling" his predecessor's "terrible and misguided deal" between the U.S. and Communist Cuba. Fortunately, Trump exaggerated the extent of his actions. Unfortunately, he took some, once more positioning himself on the wrong side of both history and public opinion. As President Barack Obama correctly foresaw, increasing Cuba's relations with the democratic world, especially the United States, is far more likely to bring about change than the totally negative Cold War policy undertaken more than a half century ago.

Dallas Morning News - June 21, 2017

Goodman: Why you can't visit your doctor virtually and why that might finally be changing

Sometime in the last century, most professionals discovered that face-to-face meetings with clients weren't always necessary — or even desirable. Lawyers, accountants, engineers, architects and scores of other professional service providers discovered the phone. Then they discovered email. Then video conferencing. But not doctors. Most doctors today communicate with their patients the same way the Greek physician Galen did 2,000 years ago: one on one, in person. Why is that? One reason is unwise legislation. Another is resistance to change by the American Medical Association and state medical societies. A third reason is Medicare, whose payment practices tend to be copied by most employers and private insurers. But the biggest problem is that rank-and-file doctors have been unwilling to step into the modern age.

Dallas Morning News - June 19, 2017

DMN: The Supreme Court has a chance to restore democracy to redistricting

We are pleased that the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear what potentially could be the most consequential partisan gerrymandering case in years. Courts have rejected district election maps on grounds they were drawn outlandishly to disadvantage minority voters. However, the court has never turned down a map drawn to give an advantage to a political party. That's what makes this case so consequential. Political parties routinely draw maps that either concentrate or dilute the other party's voters to create safe districts for their own incumbents. The court should take this opportunity to end this practice.

San Antonio Express News - June 19, 2017

Hacking, lower funding raise worries about next census

The 2020 census may seem far in the future, but Latinos and others with vital interests in population trends fear that lack of funding and new Census Bureau methods could add up to mistakes in the next effort to count every person in America. Two former census directors said in interviews that they have concerns about lagging preparation and a decision to cancel several test sites because of uncertainty about money from Congress. Fewer than half of the 700,000 census-takers deployed in the last decennial count, in 2010, will hit the streets next time. Trying to cut costs, the Census Bureau has revised operations, intends to deploy aerial imagery and rely heavily on information from government databases, and, for the first time, give people the option to reply online to survey questions.

National Real Estate Investor - June 16, 2017

10 States with the Highest Number of Store Closures Per Capita

An NREI review of store closures announced in 2017 by six big retail chains — J.C. Penney, Macy’s, Kmart, Payless ShoeSource, RadioShack and Sears — shows California stands to lose 165 of those locations, with Texas in second place at 150. We pulled store closure stats from lists compiled by Business Insider, Consumerist and Reader’s Digest, and pulled population figures from the U.S. Census Bureau. Store closure totals don’t tell the full story of the impact that store shutdowns among those six chains are having on the 50 states and the District of Columbia. A better barometer is the per capita share of stores set to shutter in each state and D.C. And by that measure, California and Texas fare better than many of their counterparts. In fact, neither California nor Texas shows up in the top 10 when you look at store closures per 100,000 residents; California is No. 29 (rate of 0.42), and Texas is No. 15 (rate of 0.54).