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Newsclips - January 19, 2018

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Politico - January 19, 2018

GOP leadership finally wins a round vs. Freedom Caucus

For years, the conservative House Freedom Caucus has bent GOP leaders to their will, making costly demands for their votes, or, lately, going around leadership to the White House to get what they want. But on Thursday, senior Republicans were privately rejoicing after the group of rabble-rousing conservatives got “rolled,” as one top GOP lawmaker put it, in negotiations over a short-term government funding plan. Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows and his No. 2, Jim Jordan, had spent the past two days making policy demands to win their support for the four-week spending measure they despised. The group floated a series of ideas to boost defense spending, asked for a vote on a conservative immigration bill and sought a commitment to declassify a House Intelligence Committee report.

San Antonio Express-News - January 18, 2018

Jury selected in State Sen. Carlos Uresti’s criminal trial

Following a full day of questioning, federal prosecutors and defense lawyers for Uresti and co-defendant Gary Cain picked a jury of 10 women and six men for the trial. Four of the 16 will serve as alternates; they were not publicly identified. A pool of 90 prospective jurors was assembled for jury selection. LOCAL BUSINESS Sen. Carlos Uresti and his wife Lleanna Uresti are surrounded by media as he arrives at the John H. Wood Jr. Federal Courthouse. Sen. Carlos Uresti and co-defendant Gary Cain, not pictured, were on hand for their trial at John H. Wood Jr. Federal Courthouse on Thursday, January 18, 2018 in San Antonio, Texas. Jury selected in State Sen. Carlos Uresti’s criminal trial A StandardAero employee in San Antonio works on a C-130 engine. The San Antonio facility received a commercial contract Thursday to work on Rolls-Royce jet engines that power the Boeing 757. StandardAero’s San Antonio facility wins commercial contract to Amazon has said its second $5 billion headquarters in North America would bring 50,000 jobs paying an average salary of $100,000 to the city that won the campus. Why you won’t see San Antonio on Amazon’s shortlist for the The Roadrunner Natural Gas Processing Complex in Eddy County, New Mexico was developed by Lucid Energy Group with funding from San Antonio-based EnCap Flatrock Midstream. San Antonio energy infrastructure fund EnCap Flatrock Midstream Opening statements in the trial are set for Monday morning before Senior U.S. District Judge David Alan Ezra. The trial is expected to last about three weeks. Uresti, 54, a San Antonio Democrat, and Cain, 61, are accused of defrauding investors in FourWinds Logistics, a now-defunct oil field services company. Both have denied the charges.

Austin American-Statesman - January 18, 2018

Dawnna Dukes’ campaign racks up $730,000 in debt as challengers rise

State Rep. Dawnna Dukes’ re-election campaign is off to a rocky start, as the veteran Austin Democrat has accrued more than $730,000 in outstanding loans, raised just $2,250 in recent months and has lost two dozen past supporters who have flipped their allegiance to former Austin City Council Member Sheryl Cole, one of Dukes’ five primary challengers. Cole, meanwhile, raised $91,483 in the second half of 2017 and has a little over $45,000 on hand as she prepares for the March 6 primary, which features an unusual number of challengers thanks to Dukes’ recent legal troubles and frequent absences from the Capitol.

Houston Chronicle - January 18, 2018

State to boost resources, oversight in effort to bolster special education

The Texas Education Agency will hire more special education staff and provide special education services to students who were illegally denied resources in the past in response to a federal investigation. The 13-page plan comes after the Department of Education found TEA illegally led school districts across the state to delay or deny special education services to students because of an arbitrary enrollment cap. Problems with special education were brought to light by a series of investigative reports in the Houston Chronicle.

Dallas Morning News - January 18, 2018

Toyota, a year old in Texas, has stayed out of state politics. That may change, CEO says

North Texas' biggest corporate residents vowed to get more involved in state politics after Republican state leaders made it a top priority to try and enact laws restricting bathroom access for transgender Texans despite fierce opposition from major employers. But Toyota wasn’t one of the companies that signed on to the effort. And although Toyota executives have long touted the automaker’s inclusive ethos and focus on diversity, the company declined to stake a clear position in the debate about the so-called bathroom bill. Toyota, which moved its North American headquarters to Plano a year ago, is still trying to settle in according to Jim Lentz, CEO for North America operations, who spoke to The Dallas Morning News from the Detroit Auto Show.

State Stories

San Antonio Express-News - January 18, 2018

Democratic candidate Lupe Valdez open to tax increase if elected governor

Democratic candidate for governor Lupe Valdez said Thursday she’s open to increasing taxes if necessary, but she didn’t give specifics besides saying she opposes a state income tax. “We keep the door open to a lot of stuff. Come on in,” Valdez, former Dallas County sheriff, told Evan Smith, chief executive officer and co-founder of the Texas Tribune, at a forum. Asked whether she would advocate for a tax increase, Valdez said, “At this time, I’m not sure I could totally answer that.”

San Antonio Express-News - January 18, 2018

Garcia: Temple of the (under)dog stirs up District 21

It’s hard to dislike any political candidate whose campaign pitch includes the phrase, “After I lose this election.” That phrase was uttered by Samuel Temple, the defiant outcast of the 18-candidate GOP field to succeed Lamar Smith in U.S. District 21. Alone among the Republican hopefuls, this quantitative mathematician from the North East Side has dared to blast President Donald Trump (even floating the word “impeachment”), denounced what he views as Smith’s hostility to science, pointed out that border crossings by undocumented immigrants have generally been on the decline for the past decade and bragged about his desire to collaborate with Democrats.

San Antonio Express-News - January 18, 2018

Texas still observing Confederate Heroes Day on Friday

The state of Texas on Friday will observe Confederate Heroes Day, despite numerous efforts in recent years to nix the holiday. Confederate Heroes Day is considered a “skeleton crew” holiday, meaning state offices will remain open but some employees can choose to take the day off. They can also choose to work and take a different day off, such as César Chávez Day or Rosh Hashanah. Despite a revived public outcry against Confederate symbols, statutes and even schools named after Confederate leaders, Texas continues to celebrate the holiday, which is written into law.

San Antonio Express-News - January 18, 2018

Perry backs a second term for Sid Miller

U.S. Energy Secretary and former Gov. Rick Perry endorsed Sid Miller for agriculture commissioner Thursday, lending his political popularity and association with the Trump White House to the incumbent in a contentious Republican primary race. Perry, the state’s longest-serving governor and former ag commissioner, praised Miller’s past work in the Legislature in support of conservative causes such as fighting abortion and defending the Second Amendment, along with controlling the border. As agriculture commissioner, he said Miller has worked to streamline government.

Austin American-Statesman - January 18, 2018

As storms batter Texas, billions in state property goes unprotected

You are a responsible property owner, so you make sure to buy insurance to pay for repairs or rebuilding in the event of a disaster. Unless you’re the state of Texas. This past summer, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice sustained an estimated $1 million in damage from Hurricane Harvey, most of it at the W.F. Ramsey complex, about 40 miles south of Houston. Situated on farmland near the Brazos River, about 70 percent of the property lies in a floodplain. Sidewalks, roofing, transformers and building interiors were ruined by flooding, said spokesman Jason Clark. About 4,500 prisoners had to be evacuated from the complex’s three units to escape the rising water.

Austin American-Statesman - January 18, 2018

Texan gets panel’s nod for federal judge post over Democrats’ objections

It has become a familiar scene at the Senate Judiciary Committee: A Texas nominee for a federal judicial post gets blasted by Democrats before being approved on a party-line vote. On Thursday, the committee, which includes both Texas GOP Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz, considered the nomination of Matthew Kacsmaryk for a district judgeship in Amarillo as Democrats sharply criticized his writings and comments on LGBT rights and women’s contraceptive rights. Kacsmaryk, deputy general counsel of First Liberty Institute in Plano, was approved 11-10 but not before Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., cited the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, a coalition of more than 200 national organizations, which is opposed to him.

Austin American-Statesman - January 18, 2018

Life in limbo for more than 100,000 DACA recipients in Texas

As Congress negotiates on a temporary spending bill, Austin-based recipients of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, better known as DACA, and the Mexican Legislative Caucus gathered at the Texas Capitol on Thursday to call for a legislative fix for the program that gives work permits and protection from deportation to more than 100,000 young immigrants in Texas. “There’s an urgent need for Congress to pass a permanent DACA fix before (Friday),” said state Rep. Eddie Rodriguez, D-Austin. “Congress must not allow DACA to lapse … because there would be terrible humanitarian and economic consequences.” Eliminating DACA could reduce gross domestic product in Texas by nearly $6.3 billion annually, according to the Center for American Progress.

Austin American-Statesman - January 18, 2018

Advocates: Immigrant who said guard assaulted her attempted suicide

A woman in custody at an immigration detention center in Taylor who has accused a guard of sexually assaulting her recently tried to commit suicide, advocates said this week. Laura Monterrosa, a woman from El Salvador who has been held at the T. Don Hutto immigrant detention center since May, tried to kill herself on Jan. 11, according to the Austin-based immigrant advocacy group Grassroots Leadership. “I feel very desperate because I tried to report the abuse from ICE and facility officials, but they continue to psychologically abuse me through intimidation,” Monterrosa said in a statement released Monday by Grassroots Leadership. “I do not feel safe or secure. I am not receiving the medical treatment or help I need.”

Austin American-Statesman - January 18, 2018

Democrat Lupe Valdez talks guns, immigration, spending

Democrat Lupe Valdez, six weeks into her run for Texas governor, took exception to Republican handling of immigration, gun laws and the state’s rainy day fund during a wide-ranging discussion Thursday in Austin. Valdez also defended lackluster fundraising numbers after her campaign collected only $46,000 in the last 3½ weeks of December, well behind Democratic rival Andrew White, who raised $219,000 in roughly the same amount of time. Fundraising took a backseat to finishing her time as Dallas County sheriff — a 13-year job she left Dec. 31 to run for governor, Valdez told Texas Tribune CEO Evan Smith during a public conversation.

Texas Tribune - January 17, 2018

Hey, Texplainer: Could Texans receive a false alarm about a nuclear missile launch?

Hey, Texplainer: Does Texas have statewide precautions in place should we get threatened with a ballistic missile? And could Texans ever receive false alerts like Hawaiians did Saturday? Unlike most of the continental United States, Hawaii was identified as a likely strike target by a North Korean propaganda photo from 2013. Due to its proximity to countries like North Korea, in 2016 Hawaii built a statewide version of the the federal early warning system. Texas, on the other hand, doesn’t have the same kind of statewide civil defense procedure to protect against the threat of an incoming missile.

Texas Tribune - January 19, 2018

Long-winding Texas voting rights litigation spotlights Gov. Greg Abbott's role

Days before Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the scene that played out among the Greater Arlington Missionary Baptist Church’s wooden pews was, in some ways, reminiscent of the civil rights movement from decades before. Civil rights activists and social justice advocates had gathered last week to plan a protest. They talked about the fight for equity and the importance of standing up for their community. And they discussed the role of a collective voice to draw attention to the grievances laid out by the NAACP’s Arlington branch over the selection of Gov. Greg Abbott as the North Texas MLK parade’s honorary grand marshal.

Texas Tribune - January 18, 2018

Federal shutdown would hurt Harvey victims, land commissioner tells lawmakers

The possibility of a federal government shutdown is threatening to delay a long-awaited Hurricane Harvey disaster relief package, state and local leaders told a legislative committee Thursday. During a Texas House Committee on Urban Affairs hearing in Houston, Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush and Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said the much-needed federal aid shouldn’t be bogged down by partisan issues. “Politics have gotten in the way of Congress approving that money,” Bush said. “People are waiting. They need help. This is above politics, this is above party labels ... We thought by the end of the year we would have a final conclusion on the disaster recovery package.”

Texas Tribune - January 19, 2018

Ramsey: What works in one Texas election might not work in the next one

There are some things you’re just not supposed to talk about when you’re running for statewide office in Texas. It’s dangerous to say you’re going to leave an undesirable thing “on the table.” Raising taxes, for the uninitiated, is one of those undesirable things. And it’s going to stir a noisy part of the audience if you talk about their pet issue in any way that’s different from the way they talk about it themselves. Gun laws are an example. Want to get business on your side, or at least keep business folks from joining the opposition? Ix-nay on raising the minimum wage.

Texas Tribune - January 18, 2018

Texas Education Agency releases plan to reform special education

The Texas Education Agency released a preliminary plan for reforming special education Thursday. In the plan, the TEA addresses federal concerns about Texas' failure to serve students with disabilities, in part by proposing to hire state-level teams to support school districts in improving conditions for special-needs students and monitor those that are doing especially poorly. The plan will take an estimated $35.5 million in annual costs and $19.5 million in one-time costs to carry out. The TEA promised to take regular feedback from special education advocates and parents throughout the process of finalizing the plan.

Texas Tribune - January 18, 2018

Lin: Single-payer health insurance would harm rural patients

As Republicans repeal the individual health insurance mandate with their tax reforms, many of Obamacare’s defenders have focused on other legislation to overhaul the healthcare industry. Six House representatives from Texas are cosponsoring a bill to implement single-payer in the United States, banning private insurance and mandating universal coverage under Medicare. Though they are right to support further public involvement in healthcare, Medicare For All would ruin the lives of the medically underserved by reducing the healthcare workforce, exacerbating hospital closures, and stifling technological innovation. While many liberals promise instant reductions in medical expenses through single-payer plans, universal public healthcare systems have already led to significant problems in other countries. The Fraser Institute notes that Canada’s single-payer system has brought them fewer doctors, less high-tech equipment, older hospitals, longer wait times and less access to drugs than Americans have. The root problem is that single-payer decreases payments to healthcare providers.

Houston Chronicle - January 18, 2018

If federal government shuts down, what will that mean for Texas?

Texans will feel little to no immediate impact if the federal government shuts down Friday, according to several state and federal agencies. Funding to keep the federal government running is set to run out midnight Friday unless Congress passes a new spending bill. ... If negotiations fall through, nonessential federal employees will be sent home after midnight Friday, but Texas officials say the shutdown won't change much for the average Texan - at least not immediately. Core functions will not be affected, officials insist, but there could be some closures in national parks and it may take longer to get a new passport.

Houston Chronicle - January 14, 2018

Levin: More criminal justice reform for Texas in 2018

As Texans seek to implement their New Year's resolutions, a safer, more just society should be at the top of the list. Fortunately, state lawmakers took many steps in this direction in 2017, but there is much more work to be done to ensure Texas remains a national leader in advancing criminal justice policies that enhance public safety, protect taxpayers and redeem lives. Although somewhat obscured by Hurricane Harvey, which hit right as most bills passed by Texas lawmakers went into effect in September 2017, significant reforms were enacted that will reap dividends in 2018. First, Gov. Greg Abbott signed two similar bills, Senate Bill 1913 and House Bill 351, which seek to end the use of debtors' prisons in Texas.

Houston Chronicle - January 18, 2018

Houston-area Republican candidates square off in first congressional debate

There were no fireworks and few policy differences expressed in the first showdown among the nine Republican candidates hoping to replace retiring U.S. Rep. Ted Poe in Congress. Instead, the 45-minute debate organized by the Houston Area Pastor Council on Thursday served mostly as a chance for the candidates to stress how their backgrounds made them best suited for the job and test out campaign slogans. "I want to take Texas values to D.C. and get D.C. out of Texas," said Kathaleen Wall, a big Republican Party donor who started her career working on semi-conductors. State Rep. Kevin Roberts hinted at him being the only candidate in the race who has previously been in elective office that could be applied to Capitol Hill.

Houston Chronicle - January 17, 2018

Firefighters aim to make state senator pay political price for union bill

A Houston Republican is starting to pay a hefty price as she runs for re-election for running afoul with police and firefighter unions in Texas. In the last to Legislature sessions, State Sen. Joan Huffman has sponsored legislation to make it harder for many public worker unions to collect membership dues. Now those groups are responding by funneling big money to help Fort Bend County Republican Kristin Tassin challenge Huffman in a primary on March 6 in one of the mostly hotly contested state Senate races in Texas. Of the $90,000 Tassin has raised for her campaign, $27,000 has come from firefighter unions, most notably $25,000 from Houston Fire Fighters Political Action Fund - Tassin's largest donation.

Houston Chronicle - January 18, 2018

First debate for Democrats running for Congress gets heated

It didn't take long for sparks to fly in one of the hottest congressional battles in the Houston region. In the Democratic primary to replace retiring U.S. Rep. Gene Green in Congress, Marine veteran and Galena Park High graduate Augustine Reyes used the first debate in the 29th Congressional district to question how wealthy Democratic donor-turned candidate Tahir Javed could represent the area when he just moved to Houston after more than a decade living in Beaumont. "You're not part of our community either sir," Reyes said during a debate before the Houston Area Pastor Council on Thursday.

Dallas Morning News - January 18, 2018

'There’s nothing wrong with a weapon,' but Lupe Valdez favors keeping guns from violent people

Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Lupe Valdez on Thursday said she would favor "sensible" limitations on gun rights such as increased background checks, a ban on high-capacity magazines and some way to remove weapons from Texans who've shown a propensity to settle disputes with violence. As governor, Valdez she'd seek expert advice on how to frame her proposal for removing permits and even weapons from the violence-prone. While she opposes the open carry and campus carry laws passed by the Legislature in 2015, Valdez said she favors a concealed handgun permit.

Dallas Morning News - January 18, 2018

DMN: We recommend Julie Johnson in the Democratic primary for state House District 115

The Democratic primary for state representative in District 115 is Dallas lawyer Julie Johnson's first campaign as a candidate, but she's been involved in state and national political races for the last two decades. Her knowledge of the issues, dedication and life experiences make her the superior nominee over newcomer Rock Bower in this northwest Dallas County district. Johnson, 51, who owns a small law firm, believes the state should spend more on public education and has ideas about how to make that happen. She'd tap into higher-than-expected sales tax proceeds or dip into the state's "Rainy Day fund," for example, to do so without increasing the tax burden on property owners.

Dallas Morning News - January 17, 2018

DMN: We recommend Zac Duffy in Democratic primary for Texas House District 108

In a legislative contest between two smart and well-intentioned political newcomers, we favor attorney Zac Duffy. When it comes to their stances on the issues, you're unlikely to be able to wedge an index card between the views of the 39-year-old Duffy and opponent Joanna Cattanach, 37, an educator and writer. Each would bring an East Dallas perspective to a district that also includes the Park Cities, Uptown and part of downtown. The lack of discernible issue-driven differences between Duffy and Cattanach is perhaps expected given that both are making their first runs for office.

Dallas Morning News - January 18, 2018

Texas drafts plan to assure kids get access to special education

Texas will launch an aggressive campaign to identify kids who should have received special education services that includes targeting specific districts and families. On Thursday, Education Commissioner Mike Morath released a draft of the state's plan to address issues flagged by a federal investigation that found students were intentionally denied special education services because of a perceived cap on enrollment. "This corrective action plan provides the State of Texas the chance to make meaningful, lasting change in how we educate and support children with special needs," Morath said in a news release.

Dallas Morning News - January 18, 2018

Religious conservative from Plano law firm one step closer to federal judgeship

Matthew Kacsmaryk, a religious conservative from Plano, is one step closer to becoming a federal judge. The Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday approved Kacsmaryk, deputy general counsel for First Liberty Institute, despite calls by gay-rights advocacy groups for senators to drop his nomination. In a party-line vote, the committee moved Kacsmaryk’s nomination to the full Senate for confirmation to the Northern District of Texas. If confirmed to the lifetime position, he’ll fill a seat based in Amarillo that’s been vacant since February 2016 when Mary Lou Robinson took senior status — a form of working retirement available to federal judges.

Brownsville Herald - January 13, 2018

Census change may be costly

Census surveyors already have a hard time getting undocumented immigrants to talk to them, and a mix of current political rhetoric and a proposal to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census likely is making their jobs more difficult. For instance, in a first for one Census Bureau field representative, an undocumented man actually walked out of his own apartment when the surveyor pressed the man to name his country of origin. He just shut down, the surveyor reported, and walked out of his apartment, leaving the Census Bureau field representative alone inside.

Lufkin Daily News - January 14, 2018

Roberts: Anti-vaccination movement is fake — and dangerous — news

Texas needs to stop allowing nonmedical “conscientious” exemptions in our schools. Your “right” to ignorantly and dangerously keep your child from receiving vaccinations stops at the schoolhouse door. California made it tougher for parents to opt out of vaccination compliance and vaccination rates increased. Texas should do the same. In this New Year and upcoming legislative session, may the Texas Legislature resolve to pass legislation limiting nonmedical exemptions. Here’s hoping they can ignore the cacophony of lies and claims of “rights” of those who try to stop them. Those liars endanger all our children, and that is not a right they should have.

CNN - January 11, 2018

Cuellar: The answer to border security is technology, not wall

I was born and raised on the US-Mexico border, and I represent 290 miles of that border today. I know from personal and professional experience that a physical wall would be ineffective at reducing the number of undocumented people and the amount of illegal drugs that come across the border into the United States, a point I tried to explain in Tuesday's bipartisan meeting with President Donald Trump. The more effective ways to secure the border -- which Democrats could support -- include the use of modern technology, increased border personnel and better coordination with our southern neighbor.

Texas Monthly - January 12, 2018

A Coalition Is Coming for Dan Patrick—And It’s Not a Bunch of Democrats

With a wireless microphone attached to his striped tie, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick was striding across the stage at a Texas Public Policy Foundation event in Austin, describing a legislative agenda that ranged from pushing a bill to limit access to gender-specific bathrooms to efforts to limit property tax increases by capping local government spending. Sitting in the audience, listening intently, was Kristin Tassin, a long-time Republican and president of the Fort Bend ISD school board. When Patrick got to the part of his speech where he talked about public schools and his private school voucher plan of special needs children, he suddenly said something that was like a slap in the face to Tassin. “We’re having a bit of a battle with educrats,” Patrick said. “That’s not teachers. That’s not even principals or good superintendents. It’s educrats who have forgotten that it should be about the kids and not about the adults.”

County Stories

Houston Chronicle - January 18, 2018

Lawsuit: Army Corps knew for decades about Katy flooding risks

Not long after the government erected two earthen dams on an empty patch of Katy prairie west of Houston, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers predicted that thousands of acres of private property could be consumed by lakes that would form upstream in a big storm, according to documents described in a federal lawsuit. That was in 1962. Yet neither then, nor later when hundreds of subdivisions were built upstream from those reservoirs, did the federal government buy additional land to make room for emergency lakebeds that ultimately flooded 14,000 properties during Hurricane Harvey. More than a half century of the Corps' own reports are being presented as the strongest evidence to support homeowners seeking compensation from the government because of the water that flowed into their property, according to new filings in a federal lawsuit pending in the Washington, D.C.-based Court of Federal Claims.

Austin American-Statesman - January 18, 2018

Austin-area home sales, prices hit record highs in 2017

Last year was another record-breaker for Central Texas’ housing market, the newest numbers show. And some local real estate agents and housing market experts predict 2018 will look a lot like 2017, with the market staying strong yet concerns about affordability lingering as prices continue their anticipated climb. The Austin Board of Realtors said Thursday that both sales and the median home-sales price in the region hit all-time annual highs in 2017, the seventh year in a row that the previous year’s numbers were topped. The board said home sales rose about 2.4 percent to a record 30,059 sales in the Austin-Round Rock metro area, which spans five counties stretching from Georgetown to San Marcos.

Dallas Morning News - January 18, 2018

DMN Investigates: Troubled Timberlawn psychiatric hospital is closing before the state can shut it down

Timberlawn psychiatric hospital says it is voluntarily closing its doors, just a week after state officials threatened to shut down the century-old treatment center because it was too dangerous for patients. “Our intention to close Timberlawn comes after completing a comprehensive, careful review,” chief executive James Miller wrote Thursday in a letter to staff obtained by The Dallas Morning News. He later issued a similar statement to The News, saying that the hospital’s owners had decided to shutter it in December, before the state threatened to yank its license and fine it $600,000. Timberlawn is appealing those sanctions.

Dallas Morning News - January 18, 2018

Horrific abuse of 13 California siblings began in Fort Worth area, prosecutor says

Two California parents accused of keeping their 13 children captive — some of them chained to furniture — began abusing their kids in the Fort Worth area, a law enforcement official said Thursday. David Allen Turpin, 57, and Louise Anna Turpin, 49, have been charged with torture and abuse in Riverside County in a case that has made national headlines. The Turpins were arrested this week after a malnourished 17-year-old daughter escaped their home near Los Angeles and alerted police. The alleged abuse and neglect began when the family lived in the Fort Worth area, "with the parents at one point living apart from most of the children and dropping off food from time to time," said Michael Hestrin, district attorney for Riverside County.

Dallas Morning News - January 18, 2018

'I'm happy to write a check' if you drop out, Dallas County commissioner candidate told opponent in taped call

On a Tuesday afternoon in October, J.J. Koch called Stephen Stanley with an offer he thought Stanley couldn't refuse: Drop out of the Dallas County commissioner's race, and I'll pay your campaign debt. Stanley didn't go for it. Instead, he went public. Stanley, a former Garland City Council member, recorded the conversation and released the tape Thursday at a news conference. His allegation that Koch tried to bribe him has rocked an otherwise quiet race for the Republican-leaning northern Dallas County seat.

City Stories

Austin American-Statesman - January 18, 2018

After Amazon names Austin among finalists for second headquarters, what’s next?

Online retail giant Amazon.com confirmed Thursday what many economists and business analysts have predicted for months: Austin remains in the running for one of the richest economic development deals in U.S. history. Riding its hipster vibe and high-tech reputation, Austin was named one of 20 finalists for Amazon’s giant second headquarters project. Dubbed “HQ2,” the project promises to bring 50,000 high-paying jobs and $5 billion in investment. Thursday’s announcement comes three months after 238 cities across North America submitted bids, and it formally pits Austin against other expected players including Atlanta, Boston, New York and Pittsburgh. Dallas is the only other Texas city to make the shortlist.

Austin American-Statesman - January 18, 2018

How a government shutdown would affect Austin

During a shutdown, only federal employees considered “essential,” meaning they perform work that protects human life or property, would be allowed back to work, said Hugh Brady, a University of Texas law professor. Law enforcement and military officials would be considered “essential,” he said. If a shutdown occurs, the LBJ Presidential Library at the University of Texas would close. “If the government shuts down, we shut down,” LBJ Library spokeswoman Anne Wheeler said. As for the university, students too could feel the impact of a shutdown.

San Antonio Express-News - January 18, 2018

Hispanic babies die at a higher rate in two San Antonio ZIP codes

Poverty, little access to prenatal care and untreated chronic illness in mothers are likely the causes behind new findings that show Hispanic babies in part of San Antonio’s East Side die at more than twice the overall statewide rate, experts said. The study of infant deaths in Texas released Thursday found that two adjacent ZIP codes on the East Side — 78203 and 78220 — had rates among Hispanics of 16.0 and 11.6 deaths per 1,000 births, respectively. In contrast, the state rate was 5.8 deaths, based on 2011-14 data. Infant mortality is defined as a baby who dies before turning 1.

Austin American-Statesman - January 18, 2018

Anti-CodeNext PACs spend thousands to force vote

Campaign finance reports filed in Austin this week show that groups trying to put CodeNext on the ballot are raising and spending tens of thousands of dollars. Two special political action committees that are by and large against the city’s current revamping of the entire land use code, calling the effort “CodeWreck,” have spent roughly $50,000 on a push to let voters, not the City Council, decide the fate of CodeNext. While the figure might seem a paltry sum compared with Mayor Steve Adler’s haul of $283,164 in just the first two months of fundraising for his re-election campaign, the two political action committees have done the most spending so far in this election cycle.

KTXS - January 17, 2018

Medical expert doubts the seriousness of Brady's radioactive water

Brady is hoping to receive state funds later this year to build a $26 million water treatment plant that will reduce what regulatory agencies say is a dangerous amount of a radioactive compound in the city's drinking water. But a medical expert has called into question the concerns being raised over the compound. Dr. John Dale Dunn spent more than 40 years as a doctor, and he's studied the effects of radiation in humans. "You can't even conceive how small that is. You can't even see it," Dunn said Wednesday.

National Stories

Washington Post - January 18, 2018

Shutdown looms as Senate Democrats threaten GOP plan

The House passed a short-term extension of government funding late Thursday after Republican leaders, with help from President Trump, cobbled together enough GOP votes to overcome an internal revolt. Still, the possibility of a federal shutdown moved closer to a certainty after Senate Democrats rallied against the GOP proposal, announcing they would not lend their votes to a bill that did not reflect their priorities on immigration, government spending and other issues. By Thursday evening, nine Senate Democrats who had voted for a prior spending measure in December said they would not support the latest proposed four-week extension, joining 30 other Democrats and at least two Senate Republicans — and leaving the bill short of the 60 votes needed to advance.

Washington Post - January 19, 2018

Trump administration asks Supreme Court to immediately accept DACA case

The Trump administration on Thursday night took the unusual step of asking the Supreme Court to immediately review and overturn a judge’s ruling that said the administration may not dismantle a program that provides work permits to undocumented immigrants raised in the United States. Solicitor General Noel J. Francisco asked the court to add the case to its docket this term. That would be unusual because the justices usually wait for an appeals court to act before accepting a case, and because it is late in the game for the court to add cases to its oral argument calendar, which ends in April.

Austin American-Statesman - January 17, 2018

Trump’s embrace of earmarks spurs push for congressional revival

There is a 14-mile gap in Interstate 49 outside Fort Smith, Arkansas, and local Republican congressman Steve Womack would very much like to secure the estimated $300 million in federal taxpayer dollars needed to fill it. A decade ago, it would have been fairly easy: Womack sits on the House Appropriations Committee, where he could have tucked a provision into a massive spending bill locking in the money. But so-called "earmarks" are now verboten — and Womack is left only to fume about a slow-moving bureaucratic process that he has little control over.

New York Times - January 18, 2018

Supreme Court Temporarily Blocks North Carolina Gerrymandering Ruling

The Supreme Court on Thursday temporarily blocked a trial court’s order requiring North Carolina lawmakers to produce a revised congressional voting map, making it likely that the midterm elections this year will be conducted using districts favorable to Republican candidates. The trial court had found that Republican legislators in the state had violated the Constitution by drawing congressional voting districts to hurt the electoral chances of Democratic candidates. The Supreme Court’s move was expected and not particularly telling. The court, which is considering two other major tests of partisan gerrymandering, has granted stays in similar settings. Its decisions in the pending cases, from Wisconsin and Maryland, are likely to effectively decide the North Carolina case, too.

Washington Post - January 17, 2018

Trump calls the U.S.-Mexico border ‘extremely dangerous.’ It is — but not for Americans.

If you are an American concerned about safety, your best statistical bet is to live close to the border. The crime rates in U.S. border counties are lower than the average for similarly sized inland counties, with two exceptions out of 23 total, according to an upcoming analysis by the Mexico Institute at the Wilson Center, a Washington think tank. “There is no doubt, the U.S. side [of the border] is a very safe place,” said Christopher Wilson, deputy director of the institute. There are a few general conclusions as to why this is the case. There is a substantial federal law enforcement presence in towns and along highways in the border counties. And migrants — both documented and undocumented — are careful to avoid law enforcement so as to not endanger their immigration status; their lower rates of committing crimes compared with U.S.-born citizens reflect that.

Bloomberg - January 17, 2018

U.S. Tells Puerto Rico It's Not Broke Enough to Get Loans

Puerto Rico may have too much cash to get a loan. That’s the view of the federal government. The storm-ravaged U.S. territory, where many residents are still without electricity almost four months after Hurricane Maria, is at risk of not receiving federal community disaster loans because its cash balances may be too high, officials at the Federal Emergency Management Agency wrote to Puerto Rico in a letter dated Jan. 9. Puerto Rico had $1.7 billion of available cash as of Dec. 29, despite earlier predictions by local officials that the government would run out of money in late October because of the economic toll of the calamity. By the end of November, it still had billions in other accounts, though some of it was earmarked for specific uses and couldn’t be used to keep the government running.

Austin American-Statesman - January 18, 2018

Bruggeman, Rohrbaugh: How Trump’s plan for a border wall is compromised

President Trump clearly remains fixated on building a wall along the Southwest border, though the scope of what he wants — and what the administration is pursuing — are murky. Whatever the intent, the Trump Administration has not taken steps to realize the wall, as exemplified by the president’s failure to propose and obtain the necessary funding for it. Although the wall is a bad idea on the merits and unlikely to be built, the president’s infatuation with it is taking an unfortunate and dangerous turn. As recent reporting indicates, the administration is attempting to give the president something wall-like through the expansion and construction of additional fencing. However, in doing so, the administration is ignoring the security experts and taking money from essential border security programs to pay for it.

Dallas Morning News - January 18, 2018

Bernstein: The tight labor market is reducing the racial unemployment gap

One wants to always be careful not to overinterpret any jobs report — the numbers are noisy in the monthly data. But when a number pops out that makes sense in terms of both theory and empirical evidence, it's time to take note. In this spirit, note that the African-American unemployment rate hit 6.8 percent last month, the lowest on record, with data going back to the early 1970s. In addition, the gap between black and white unemployment, measured as the black rate minus the white rate, hit 3.1 percentage points, also the lowest on record. Now, you may well be saying, "Wait up; 6.8 percent doesn't sound all that low, especially given that the overall jobless rate remains at a 17-year low of 4.1 percent."

Dallas Morning News - January 17, 2018

DMN: Hawaii's embarrassing, inexcusable missile gaffe is a good reason to review emergency warning networks

"Imagine learning that you have only minutes to live." That was the challenge posed this week by an irate Hawaii resident for whom the notion wasn't a conceptual exercise, but a terrifying reality. A million and a half Americans in the Aloha State were scared out of their gourds last weekend — as would be any of us — to receive a stark state-issued warning on their cell phones: MISSILE THREAT INBOUND ... THIS IS NOT A DRILL.

Wall St. Journal - January 18, 2018

WSJ: Transparency for Fusion and the FBI

The chance that Americans will learn what really happened between the FBI and Fusion GPS is growing with Thursday’s vote by the House Intelligence Committee to give every House Member access to key information. Soon the House should move to declassify all documents in the case that don’t jeopardize intelligence sources and methods so the public can get the complete story. Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes also moved Thursday to release to the public his committee’s interview with Fusion GPS co-founder Glenn Simpson. Every Democrat joined Republicans in voting for that public disclosure. Yet every Democrat voted against letting the rest of the House see a memo that will list the facts about the FBI’s use of FISA warrants to surveil members of the Trump campaign in 2016. Strange. What are Democrats afraid of?

Southwest Farm Press - January 15, 2018

Arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court in Texas-New Mexico water suit full of fireworks

Opening arguments last week in a water lawsuit before Chief Justices of the U.S. Supreme Court may have opened the doors to more questions than answers, and the case could set a standard in years to come in the role the federal government will play in determining water rights disputes between states. Attorneys representing the states of Colorado, New Mexico and Texas offered opening arguments before the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) this week in a federal lawsuit brought by Texas over the way Rio Grande water is apportioned and delivered, an issue that is regulated by a 1939 Rio Grande (water) Compact, entered into by the three states that outlines not only the rights of water flowing down the river but how that water will be divided between the parties of the agreement.

Politico - January 19, 2018

Inside Obama’s midterm campaign plans

Since leaving office, Barack Obama has struggled with how to do what no modern president has: take on his successor. Over the past year, he’s appeared at rallies, done a robocall, made a few endorsements. His office in Washington’s West End neighborhood, about a mile from the White House, has become a destination for Democrats looking to tap the former president for advice. But with the midterms approaching, people close to him say he’ll shift into higher gear: campaigning, focusing his endorsements on down-ballot candidates, and headlining fundraisers. He’ll activate his 15,000-member campaign alumni association for causes and candidates he supports — including the 40 who are running for office themselves. He’s already strategizing behind the scenes with Democratic National Committee chair Tom Perez and Eric Holder, who’s chairing his redistricting effort.

Houston Chronicle - January 19, 2018

HC: Fake border news

The White House apparently can't help but spew nonsense when it comes to Texas border cities. The latest drivel comes courtesy of White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who tweeted on Monday: "Ask El Paso, Texas (now one of America's safest cities) across the border from Juarez, Mexico (one of the world's most dangerous) if a wall works." She linked to a dubious column in the New York Post, and the White House later posted the column on its website. First, it's nice of the Trump administration to acknowledge that El Paso is one of the nation's safest cities. Trump and his enablers have a habit of portraying our nation's border with Mexico as a post-apocalyptic nightmare.

Dallas Morning News - January 18, 2018

Leubsdorf: Why bipartisan immigration legislation is nearly impossible

An exchange between President Donald Trump and a top House Republican on immigration legislation illustrated a major reason for nearly a decade of congressional gridlock: the stranglehold on the House legislative agenda by its most conservative Republicans. It stems from GOP leaders' adherence to a procedure barring consideration of measures without the support of a majority of House Republicans, preventing the bipartisan legislating most Americans prefer and which could help restore Congress as a functional legislative body. The exchange occurred during the White House reality show Trump staged to counter the negative portrait in Michael Wolff's controversial best-seller, Fire and Fury, several days before he further inflamed negotiations with his widely reported derogatory reference to the birthplaces of many U.S. immigrants.

Houston Chronicle - January 18, 2018

Smith, Culberson: Space telescopes promise a universe of discovery

When one first focuses on the Ultra Deep Field image, captured by the Hubble Space Telescope in 2004, it appears to be just a photo of the night sky. Dots, stars at first glance, clutter the image, but a longer, closer look leads to wonder and amazement. The image, which is a piece of the sky about the size of a penny at arm's length, shows that the "stars" are really galaxies, an estimated 10,000! The Ultra Deep Field is one of many compelling images captured by the Hubble that inspired a generation of astronomers and astrophysicists at NASA and at research facilities across the world. The House Science, Space, and Technology Committee has a copy of the Ultra Deep Field hanging in our hearing room to continually remind us of the wonder of the universe.

Houston Chronicle - January 19, 2018

Grieder: Dreamers don't need forgiveness, they need and deserve documents

About 700,000 people are currently enrolled in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which provides immigrants who were brought to this country as children with provisional legal protections on a renewable basis. What we as a nation are doing to them, at the moment, is nauseating. I say that, for context, as someone who has always been in favor of the DREAM Act but has never believed that the president can legislative via executive order, or been receptive to the notion that Barack Obama was morally compelled to try, in this case.

Newsclips - January 18, 2018

Lead Stories

Dallas Morning News - January 17, 2018

We did it! Texas shatters record for winter electricity use, without swamping the grid

Bitter cold across Texas brought a new winter record for peak electricity use, ERCOT, the state's independent electric grid operator announced Wednesday morning. At one point, Texans were using 65,731 megawatts, blowing past the previous record by nearly 5 percent. Multiple records were set overnight as temperatures plunged statewide, but the new peak arrived between 7 and 8 a.m. The peak use was significantly higher than the Electric Reliability Council of Texas' projection of 61,068 megawatts for a peak this winter. It fell short of the "extreme" peak projection by just 1,044 megawatts.

Austin American-Statesman - January 17, 2018

Paxton: School voting action appears to violate state law

A resolution encouraging students and public school employees to vote, adopted by school districts across the state, might have violated a state law that prohibits using public education money for partisan purposes, an opinion by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said Wednesday. Texas Educators Vote, a partnership of mostly pro-public education groups, last year circulated a resolution calling for the creation of a “culture of voting” that was adopted by 103 school districts, including those in Austin, Del Valle, Dripping Springs, Elgin, Jarrell, Lockhart and Thrall, according to the organization’s website.

Houston Chronicle - January 18, 2018

GOP plan to avert shutdown leaves out Harvey aid

Republican lawmakers were hammering out a stopgap deal Wednesday to avert a shutdown of the federal government this weekend, setting aside a long-sought disaster aid package for the victims of Hurricane Harvey and other natural disasters. Frustrations are rising among officials in Houston and Austin over the inaction. As Texas officials feared, an $81 billion storm relief bill passed by the House in December continues to languish amid congressional brinkmanship over a wider budget agreement, with Republicans insisting on funding President Donald Trump's border wall and Democrats holding out for a deal to protect young immigrants from deportation. A spokeswoman for Texas Gov. Greg Abbott called the standoff a disappointment.

The Hill - January 17, 2018

Former Energy employee says he was fired for leaking photos of Perry with coal mogul

A former photographer for the Department of Energy said he was illegally fired for leaking photographs of Energy Secretary Rick Perry meeting with a coal mogul. Simon Edelman filed a whistleblower complaint earlier this month with the Energy Department’s Office of Inspector General, saying leaking the photos was protected by the First Amendment. “In retaliation for exercising his First Amendment rights, Mr. Edelman was placed on administrative leave, had thousands of dollars of personal possessions unlawfully seized … and was unlawfully terminated from his job effective December 27, 2017,” John Tye, an attorney for Whistleblower Aid who is representing Edelman, wrote in the complaint.

State Stories

Austin American-Statesman - January 17, 2018

Greg Abbott has a thousand times more campaign cash than Lupe Valdez

Gov. Greg Abbott heads into his 2018 re-election campaign with more than 1,000 times as much money in the bank as Lupe Valdez, who stepped down as Dallas County sheriff in December to seek the Democratic nomination and oppose the governor’s bid for a second term. Valdez raised $46,498 in the waning days of 2017 for her late-starting gubernatorial campaign, and had $40,346 in cash on hand at year’s end, compared to Abbott’s record-setting $43.3 million. Despite Valdez’s small haul, her campaign finance report for the second half of 2017, filed with the Texas Ethics Commission ahead of Tuesday’s deadline, includes an eclectic group of donors, some of whom are in a position to provide a lot more money down the road if her campaign takes hold.

Austin American-Statesman - January 17, 2018

Workman out-raises opponents in western Travis County primary

State Rep. Paul Workman, R-Austin, eclipsed his primary challengers in campaign finance reports posted this week, raising almost $129,000 in the second half of 2017, spending slightly more than $78,000 and having about $135,000 in cash on hand. Challenger Jay Wiley raised nearly $77,000, spent $17,364 and had $73,746 on hand. Fellow GOP challenger Patty Vredevelt’s report was not available Wednesday afternoon. In the Democratic primary for that Texas House district, which includes a western portion of Austin, Lago Vista, Lakeway and Bee Cave, Vikki Goodwin raised nearly $30,000, spent $14,434 and had $76,870 on hand for the reporting period.

Austin American-Statesman - January 17, 2018

George P. Bush tops Patterson in fundraising in land commissioner race

Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush significantly out-raised Republican primary challenger and former Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson in the last half of 2017, campaign finance reports filed this week show. Bush’s campaign raised $1 million, leaving him with almost $3.4 million in the bank at the end of the year. Patterson, a three-term land commissioner who entered the race late, collected $89,465 in contributions during the last three weeks of December. He also lent his campaign $20,000, leaving him with $95,452 on hand in the same period.

Austin American-Statesman - January 17, 2018

As they search for a new chancellor, UT regents are reshaping the job

Sara Martinez Tucker, only the second woman to chair the University of Texas System Board of Regents, laughed off suggestions that she might be well-suited to become the system’s next chancellor and said she’s focused on finding the best candidates for that job as well as downsizing the system administration and figuring out what to do with land in Houston no longer needed for a campus. “My job right now is not to run for that office,” she said of the chancellorship. “I would hate for anybody to think that I was harboring those thoughts while I was chair of the search committee. My job is to articulate a compelling job description to incredible candidates in the hope of presenting this board a slate of terrific options. That’s what I’m going to stay busy doing.”

Austin American-Statesman - January 17, 2018

Dallas Fed: With tax overhaul as ‘tailwind,’ regional economy surged

Economic activity in Texas and parts of two neighboring states surged over the past six weeks, as the federal tax overhaul boosted confidence across a wide range of businesses in the region, according to a report Wednesday from the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. In its chapter of the Beige Book, an anecdotal report on the economy compiled every six weeks by the Federal Reserve banks, the Dallas Fed said the economy in its district expanded at a “robust” pace after mostly moderate or modest growth in recent years. The Dallas Fed’s district includes all of Texas and parts of New Mexico and northern Louisiana. Texas accounts for more than 95 percent of the economic activity in the region.

Austin American-Statesman - January 17, 2018

Andrew White outpaces Lupe Valdez in Democrats’ money race for governor

Houston businessman Andrew White, making his first run for elective office, far outpaced former Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez in the first few weeks of fundraising in their late-starting campaigns to become the Democratic nominee to challenge Gov. Greg Abbott, who has set a Texas fundraising record in his bid for a second term. White reported raising $219,000 in three weeks of campaigning, including loaning his campaign $40,000, according to his fundraising report for the last half of 2017, which was due Tuesday to the Texas Ethics Commission. White had $104,000 in cash on hand at the end of the year.

Austin American-Statesman - January 17, 2018

Trump invokes Barbara Jordan in immigration debate, angering Democrats

Trump said his “America First” immigration agenda was furthering “the spirit of Jordan’s vision” — angering Texas Democrats and prompting scholars to say the president had taken Jordan’s words out of context. Trump’s message began by quoting Jordan saying, “It is both a right and a responsibility of a democratic society to manage immigration so that it serves the national interest.” Trump’s message continued, “With this simple, common-sense perspective, civil rights icon Barbara Jordan challenged our nation’s leaders to maximize opportunities for all Americans by adopting an immigration policy that puts American citizens first.”

Texas Tribune - January 18, 2018

A shrinking number of rural Texas hospitals still deliver babies. Here's what that means for expecting moms.

Letha Stokes has a “very, very heavy heart” since Medical Arts Hospital ended its labor and delivery services on Dec. 6. The hospital CEO said it took three years of studying, penny pinching and what-ifs before she and the hospital board of directors decided the Lamesa-based facility in northwest Texas should not deliver babies anymore. Until recently, Medical Arts Hospital delivered an average of 100 babies per year, the majority of them covered by Medicaid, the joint state-federal health care insurer for the very poor. But the hospital also lost an estimated $500,000 a year due to the program’s low reimbursement rates. That wasn’t sustainable.

Texas Tribune - January 17, 2018

Here's how much Texas statewide officials have to spend on their re-election bids

Candidates running for most statewide offices or the Texas Legislature faced a Tuesday deadline to disclose how much their campaigns had raised and spent during the second half of last year. Here's how candidates fared financially in some of the banner races ahead of the March 6 primary: Governor: Gov. Greg Abbott's already massive war chest grew to $43.3 million after he reported raising over $9 million between July and December. That's orders of magnitude above the fundraising reported by the group of mostly unknown Democrats who have lined up to challenge him.

Texas Tribune - January 17, 2018

Texas attorney general says it's illegal for schools to bus kids to polling places

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton issued an official, nonbinding opinion Wednesday saying school districts cannot drive students to polling places unless the trip serves an educational purpose. State Sen. Paul Bettencourt, R-Houston, asked Paxton to weigh in on the issue last month, arguing that a civic engagement group called Texas Educators Vote was violating state law by encouraging school administrators to incentivize voting. The group's leaders have said they are doing their civic duty and have not run afoul of the law; they said Bettencourt's question is part of a backlash against public education.

Texas Tribune - January 18, 2018

Texas' infant mortality rates vary across state, among ethnic groups, study shows

While Texas' infant mortality rate is lower than the national average, a new study shows wide differences in rates across different areas of the state and among different racial groups. The study, released Thursday by the University of Texas System and UT Health Northeast calculated infant mortality rates — the number of infant deaths under the age of one per 1,000 live births in a given area during the same year — for ZIP codes of communities with more than 400 births from 2011-2014. “Because Texas is so big, that size can hide that we have higher rates in certain areas of the state,” said UT System Chief Medical Officer and Vice Chancellor for Health Affairs David Lakey, one of the report’s contributors.

Texas Tribune - January 18, 2018

Hey, Texplainer: What would a government shutdown mean for Texas?

Hey, Texplainer: Which Texas services will stop and which will continue if the federal government shuts down? The short answer is that it depends on what is classified as “essential.” Anything related to national security and public safety — such as the National Security Agency and the U.S. Department of Justice — is considered “essential.” A lot of other things — like museums, parks and many federal offices — are not. A shutdown will happen unless Congress passes a new spending bill and President Donald Trump signs it into law by Jan. 19. Opposition from some members of both parties could make that difficult. Republicans control both chambers of Congress, but some GOP members have expressed skepticism of proposed deals.

Texas Observer - January 17, 2018

Report: If Rural Texans Want Decent Health Care, They Should Mosey to New Hampshire

Texas and other Southern states are home to small-town doctor shortages, skyrocketing rates of preventable disease among rural residents and some of the highest uninsured rates in the nation, according to a new report that places Texas’ rural health care failings in a national context for the first time. The “report card,” published last month by researchers at Texas Tech University’s F. Marie Hall Institute for Rural and Community Health, examines each state’s rural health care in terms of mortality, quality of life and access to care. Texas was slapped with a grade of “D-” and ranked 36th out of 47 states (New Jersey, Delaware and Rhode Island were not included in the analysis for lack of rural counties). Among other factors, Texas was dinged for high rates of death from heart disease and stroke in rural areas.

Texas Tribune - January 18, 2018

Texas' and the nation's first execution of the year is set for a Houston serial killer

The first execution of 2018 in Texas and the nation is expected to take place Thursday evening for Houston’s “Tourniquet Killer.” Anthony Shore, 55, is a confessed serial rapist and strangler whose murders went unsolved in the 1980s and 1990s for more than a decade. With no pending appeals, his execution is expected to be the first under Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg, a Democrat who took office last January and has said she doesn’t see the death penalty as a deterrent to crime. Still, she has said the punishment is appropriate for Shore, deeming him “the worst of the worst.”

Texas Tribune - January 18, 2018

Nearly a year after FBI raid, Texas Sen. Carlos Uresti heads to trial to face 11 felony charges

After hundreds of legal filings and three separate trial delays, Democratic state Sen. Carlos Uresti will finally get his day in court next week to face felony charges of fraud and money laundering. Jury selection begins Thursday in the criminal case against Uresti, a two-decade veteran of the Texas Legislature charged with 11 felonies. The case is rooted in the San Antonio lawmaker’s ties to FourWinds Logistics, a now-bankrupt frac sand company alleged to have perpetrated a Ponzi scheme against its investors. Uresti — a personal injury lawyer who took notes on a yellow legal pad alongside his three defense attorneys at a pretrial hearing Wednesday — performed legal services for FourWinds and was a 1-percent owner of the company.

San Antonio Express-News - January 17, 2018

Prosecutors: State Sen. Carlos Uresti hindered FBI investigation

A key witness in state Sen. Carlos Uresti’s criminal trial, which starts with jury selection Thursday, is expected to testify that he urged her not to cooperate with federal investigators in their probe of a now-defunct San Antonio oil field services company. During a hearing Wednesday on motions to exclude certain evidence from the trial, U.S. Senior District Judge David Alan Ezra referenced a document prosecutors filed under seal last month addressing a meeting between Uresti and Denise Cantu at his law office in the summer of 2016. “Mr. Uresti allegedly encouraged Cantu not to cooperate with the FBI investigation,” Ezra said, reading from the document that prosecutors filed under seal. “The evidence is proof of consciousness of guilt and an attempt by Mr. Uresti to hinder the investigation.”

San Antonio Express-News - January 17, 2018

Austin entrepreneur Kopser leads money chase in S.A. congressional district

Joseph Kopser, an Austin entrepreneur running for San Antonio Republican Lamar Smith’s open congressional seat, is raising money at a rate more than five times greater than any Democratic rival, his report to the Federal Election Commission will show. Kopser will report this month that he raised more than $260,000 in the last quarter of 2017 and has $330,000 on hand, giving him what he sees as a significant advantage in reaching voters in the runup to the March 6 primary and beyond. “We are the only campaign with the message and the machinery to be able to compete in this gerrymandered district and win the general election,” he said.

San Antonio Express-News - January 17, 2018

Texas cities eye possible government shutdown with anger, frustration

The feeling of déjà vu is inescapable for San Antonians and other Texans in predominantly military communities as Congress edges closer to a government shutdown. If it happens, the effects would ripple through the Lone Star State’s 15 major active-duty and reserve installations, a federal golden egg that pumps an estimated $150 billion a year into the economy. Shutdowns cracked it in 1995 and 2013 by sidelining tens of thousands of workers. The spectacle of politicians playing chicken over a budget or continuing resolution whose passage by Friday is required to keep the government running, and the prospect of a shutdown curtailing military and other federal operations here, drew a deep sigh of resignation from Mayor Ron Nirenberg.

Houston Chronicle - January 17, 2018

Houston-area woman arrested outside Sen. John Cornyn’s office during Dream Act protest

A Houston-area woman was among dozens of pro-Dream Act protestors arrested Tuesday and Wednesday outside the U.S. Capitol. Lauren Summerville, 42, of Kingwood, was one of more than 100 people charged with obstruction by Capitol Police after activists from the United We Dream movement descended upon Washington, D.C., to show their support for a clean Dream Act bill – seeking to codify the Obama-era Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, with no strings attached. DACA, an executive order, protected hundreds of thousands of young immigrants from deportation who were brought to the United States illegally by their parents.

Dallas Morning News - January 17, 2018

Dallas Morning News hires former Wall Street Journal editor to lead editorials

Brendan Miniter, an alum of the Wall Street Journal and the George W. Bush Presidential Center, has been named The Dallas Morning News’ new editor of editorials. The 43-year-old native of New York state takes over Feb. 5 for longtime editorial page editor Keven Ann Willey, who last year announced plans to retire and travel with her husband, chef Georges Badoux. Like Willey, Miniter will be a vice president of The News. Following a national search “with dozens of interesting candidates and a smaller group of very serious applicants … Miniter emerged as the strongest candidate and the best fit for this institution,” said Mike Wilson, editor of The News.

Dallas Morning News - January 17, 2018

Ragland: Lupe Valdez's campaign for Texas governor isn't just short on cash — it's short on contact

Here's what I can't figure out: If Lupe Valdez is going to hold herself out as a Woman of the People, why is it so hard to get through to her? Maybe it's just me. But even if that's true, even if I'm the only reporter in town who hasn't gotten a call back from Valdez since she started toying with the idea of abandoning her post as Dallas County sheriff to run for governor, that's one too many. The reason is simple: Valdez is short on funds and low on octane as she tries to shift votes to Democrats.

Dallas Morning News - January 17, 2018

Hard-right conservatives Huffines, Paxton bring big money, name recognition to Texas Senate race

One of the most closely watched Senate races in Texas is drawing big money for both Phillip Huffines and Angela Paxton. Campaign finance reports filed this week show Huffines' campaign has raised $523,907 since July 1, bringing his total contributions last year to more than $1.08 million. He also bolstered his campaign, which launched in March, with a $2 million loan. Paxton didn't join the Senate race until September. In four months, she raised $475,929, according to her campaign filing. The race pits two hard-right conservatives with lots of name recognition.

Dallas Morning News - January 17, 2018

Democratic challenger outraises Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton — with a hefty loan from himself

The Democrat hoping to oust indicted Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has raised nearly $1 million, his campaign says, more than the incumbent brought in over six months last year. But the actual numbers are a bit more complicated than that. Democrat Justin Nelson, a lawyer from Houston, raised $911,000 over just seven weeks at the end of last year, his campaign has said. But more than half of that amount — $500,000 — came out of the candidate's own pocket. Meanwhile, on Thursday, Paxton's campaign announced the attorney general raised $774,000 between July and December 2017.

Dallas Morning News - January 17, 2018

Jeffers: Texas Gov. Greg Abbott wants a bigger share of the Hispanic, black vote

Republican Greg Abbott is certain he'll be re-elected governor, and he has a $43 million campaign starter fund to back him up. But even with light opposition in the GOP primary, and favorable odds in the general election, Abbott has specific goals above his likely victory. "As you probably know, we aim to increase the percentage of votes that I got among Hispanics," Abbott told me after a campaign event in Arlington on Wednesday. "I'll tell you what early information shows, that I hope to cement, that I'm getting increasing support in the African- American community. I've been reaching out, and the outreach is paying off." So there it is.

Dallas Morning News - January 17, 2018

Abbott: I have a plan to rein in property taxes

Owning a home or starting a business is part of the American dream. However, for many Texans, their dream is coming face-to-face with the harsh reality of skyrocketing property taxes. The issue of rising property taxes has plagued our state for decades. Since 1997, property tax collections in Texas have increased by 195 percent. Across Dallas-Fort Worth, and in many parts of Texas, homeowners are at risk of being forced out of homes they have lived in for years, young families who are just starting out are unable to afford their first homes, and businesses are unable to grow because of high property taxes.

Dallas Morning News - January 17, 2018

Reynolds: Andrew White will valiantly prove once again why centrists cannot win in Texas

Andrew White deserves a round of applause for trying. The 45-year-old scion of late Gov. Mark White (famously run out of town on a rail for insisting Texas schoolboy athletes pass a class and ensuring teachers in the state aren't D-M-U-B) hopes to market himself as a brand extension by running for governor as a "conservative Democrat." That's a once-populous breed now more closely resembling endangered snipes and coelacanths. Andrew White has positioned himself as a believer in both social and economic freedoms and distanced himself from hot-button issues like abortion. Aside for a few fudgy points, White makes a valiant attempt to square the circle.

El Paso Times - January 17, 2018

González, Femath focus on education in campaign for El Paso's House District 75 seat

At a time when El Paso is seeing an influx of charter schools and lawmakers in Austin are grappling with how to fix the state's troubled school finance system, education is at the center of the race for one of the city's two contested seats in the statehouse. "Voters will specifically care about education, educational access and how we're making sure we have strong public schools for the future," said state Rep. Mary González, D-Clint, a longtime education advocate who has worked on legislation to reform how Texas funds its public schools.

Ft. Worth Star-Telegram - January 17, 2018

Here’s how Gov. Abbott would limit property tax increases

Gov. Greg Abbott has a plan to give Texans long-sought property tax relief. The key, said Abbott, who is seeking a second term in office, is putting a 2.5 percent revenue growth cap on property tax dollars collected by local taxing entities — cities, school districts and counties — unless voters approve a larger amount. “Our fellow Texans are angry and they are frustrated about the skyrocketing property taxes in this state,” said Abbott, who was flanked Wednesday by more than a dozen North Texas lawmakers as he detailed his plan at the Tarrant County Sub-Courthouse in Arlington. “And they are demanding that something be done.

County Stories

Dallas Morning News - January 17, 2018

2 Texas school districts shut down for a week due to flu outbreak

Two Texas school districts have closed their campuses for a week due to high numbers of students and staff experiencing flulike symptoms. Gunter ISD, north of the Dallas-Fort Worth area, announced Wednesday that it would close after 30 percent of its students were absent due to illness. Bonham ISD, which is northeast of Dallas in Fannin County, made a similar announcement Tuesday, noting that all of its campuses had seen increased numbers of flu cases.

San Antonio Express-News - January 17, 2018

TEA removes South San conservator

The Texas Education Agency has removed the conservator monitoring the board of South San Antonio Independent School District, almost two years after the agency ordered state oversight of the district. In a letter Wednesday to the district superintendent and board president, A.J. Crabill, deputy commissioner of governance for the TEA, wrote that “the appointment of the conservator is no longer necessary,” effective immediately. As the basis for the decision, Crabill pointed to improvements with the board after trustees participated in a two-day TEA governance workshop in January 2017.

Dallas Morning News - January 17, 2018

Dallas County commissioner candidate alleges opponent tried to pay him to quit race

A candidate for Dallas County commissioner said Wednesday that his opponent offered him money to drop out of the race, an allegation that he said has prompted an ethics investigation. Stephen Stanley, a former Garland City Council member, said he filed a complaint with the state after feeling uneasy about the offer made in the fall by J.J. Koch, a Dallas lawyer. Stanley said he provided an audio recording of the telephone conversation to investigators, and plans to hold a news conference Thursday.

City Stories

Austin American-Statesman - January 17, 2018

In just two months, Adler amasses $283k campaign war chest

Mayor Steve Adler has raised more than a quarter of a million dollars for his 2018 re-election bid, according to a campaign finance report filed Wednesday — a big early war chest in a city that caps individual donations at just $350. The donations, from more than 1,100 individual donors in the last two months of 2017, totaled $283,164, according to the report. They came mostly in the final weeks of December, after Adler formally began fundraising for re-election. His campaign touted the number of individual donors as a “record number of contributors.” Adler’s opponent, former City Council Member Laura Morrison, who did not begin fundraising until this month, did not need to file a report for 2017. She said she expects Adler to outspend her in the race.

National Stories

Los Angeles Times - January 17, 2018

California bullet train cost surges by $2.8 billion: 'Worst-case scenario has happened'

The estimated cost of building 119 miles of bullet train track in the Central Valley has jumped to $10.6 billion, an increase of $2.8 billion from the current budget and up from about $6 billion originally. The new calculation takes into account a number of intractable problems encountered by the state rail agency. It raises profoundly difficult questions about how the state will complete what is considered the nation’s largest infrastructure project with the existing funding sources. ... It remains unclear how the Central Valley cost increases will affect the total program, which under the 2016 business plan is supposed to cost $64 billion. But the jump in the Central Valley — a 77% increase above the original estimate — suggests the authority and its consultants have vastly underestimated the difficulties of buying land, obtaining environmental approvals, navigating through complex litigation and much else.

Politico - January 17, 2018

Poll: Under Trump, global approval of U.S. leadership hits historical low

Other nations’ approval of U.S. leadership under President Donald Trump hit a historical low of 30 percent in 2017, according to a Gallup poll released Thursday. The measure, the lowest since Gallup began tracking it worldwide in 2007, signals an 18-point drop from a year earlier, when 48 percent approved of the national influence under former President Barack Obama. It is the single largest year-to-year drop in approval of U.S. leadership — or of any country examined — to date. The steep decline, researchers said, can be largely attributed to the shift in leadership in the West Wing.

Reuters - January 17, 2018

Exclusive: Trump denies U.S. embassy to be moved to Jerusalem within a year

President Donald Trump denied on Wednesday that the planned relocation of the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem would take place within a year, after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he expected the controversial move to happen by then. Reversing decades of U.S. policy, Trump in early December recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and set in motion the process of moving the embassy from Tel Aviv, imperiling Middle East peace efforts and upsetting the Arab world and Western allies alike. U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said last month the embassy move was “probably no earlier than three years out, and that’s pretty ambitious,” a timeframe that administration officials have attributed to the logistics of finding and securing a site as well as arranging housing for diplomats.

Washington Post - January 17, 2018

Divisions over immigration, military dollars threaten to derail government spending bill

Bitter divisions in both parties threatened Wednesday to derail Congress’s effort to keep the federal government fully operating past the end of the week. The shutdown threat emerged on two fronts: Republican defense hawks in the House said a short-term spending plan the party introduced late Tuesday did not devote enough money to the military. Meanwhile, Democrats, whose support would be critical for passage in the Senate, began lining up in opposition amid pressure from immigration activists to use the budget talks as leverage to legalize many young immigrants known as “dreamers.” By Wednesday evening, the short-term bill was on the cusp of failure.

Washington Post - January 16, 2018

Phillips: Will the government shut down this week? It’s possible.

It's possible the government could shut down on Friday. There are a number of factors that are playing into a potential shutdown, but they all boil down to one underlying problem: Congress is struggling to compromise on pretty much anything. Congress has until Friday to pass a spending bill, and in the absence of a deal that funds the government for the rest of the year, it looks as though they'll scramble to pass a short-term one that keeps the lights on for another couple months. But even that could be difficult to do in time, thanks to the latest battles on immigration. The last time the government shut down was in 2013, when Republicans tried to force a spending bill to defund Obamacare, which was a non-starter for President Obama and Senate Democrats.

Austin American-Statesman - January 17, 2018

Cornyn, Cruz take opposing sides in Senate debate

It was as close to a standoff as ever happens on the Senate floor: Texas GOP U.S. Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz were standing next to each other but working against each other, trying to convince a hold out senator to vote their way on foreign surveillance legislation. The clock was ticking on Tuesday night, with the usual 15-minute procedural vote left open for nearly an hour and a half, as only a few senators had not voted on whether to limit debate and force a final vote on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act’s section 702. Some Democrats had joined most Republicans in supporting the measure being pushed by GOP leadership, but they were short two votes to clear the procedural hurdle.

New York Times - January 17, 2018

Apple, Capitalizing on New Tax Law, Plans to Bring Billions in Cash Back to U.S.

Apple, which had long deferred paying taxes on its foreign earnings and had become synonymous with hoarding money overseas, unveiled plans on Wednesday that would bring back the vast majority of the $252 billion in cash that it held abroad and said it would make a sizable investment in the United States. With the moves, Apple took advantage of the new tax code that President Trump signed into law last month. A provision allows for a one-time repatriation of corporate cash held abroad at a lower tax rate than what would have been paid under the previous tax plan. Apple, which has 94 percent of its total cash of $269 billion outside the United States, said it would make a one-time tax payment of $38 billion on the repatriated cash.

Associated Press - January 18, 2018

Entire operation of federal consumer regulator under review

The Trump-appointed acting director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau said Wednesday that he is launching a review of all the federal consumer watchdog agency's policies and priorities. It's the second major step taken this week by Mick Mulvaney, who took over as acting director in late November, to reshape the bureau. On Tuesday, the bureau announced a review of its recently enacted rules for payday lending. The review is the clearest sign yet that the future direction and role of the CFPB, which has existed for less than a decade, will be dramatically different than it was under the Obama administration.

This article appeared in the Houston Chronicle

Washington Post - January 17, 2018

‘A real disconnect’: Trump administration offers conflicting signals on potential deportation of ‘dreamers’

With an immigration deal looking fraught on Capitol Hill, the Trump administration is offering public assurances that undocumented immigrants known as “dreamers” will not be targeted for deportation even if lawmakers fail to provide them permanent legal status. Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said this week that immigrants who have lived in the country illegally since they were children remain a low priority for removal — behind felons, suspected terrorists and those with outstanding deportation ­orders. The promise appeared to be intended to rebut suggestions that the Department of Homeland Security would initiate mass roundups of dreamers if Congress and the White House are unable to strike a deal to preserve the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program President Trump terminated last fall.

Politico - January 17, 2018

Oprah 2020 gets low ratings from voters

Americans love Oprah Winfrey. But they aren’t exactly clamoring for the media mogul and former talk-show host to challenge President Donald Trump in 2020. A majority of voters across several polls don’t think Winfrey should run for the White House, according to polls conducted since Winfrey’s much-heralded speech at a Hollywood awards show launched a round of presidential speculation. Even among Democratic voters, more say she shouldn’t run for president than should. Still, there’s enough evidence to continue fueling speculation about her political prospects. Winfrey performs well on polling ballot tests, tying or leading Trump in a number of surveys. The POLITICO/Morning Consult poll shows Democratic voters prefer her to a host of other potential candidates — except former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)

Politico - January 17, 2018

GOP reels after ‘electric shock’ defeat

Gov. Scott Walker called the results a “wake-up call for Republicans in Wisconsin.” But the alarm has been sounding for the past year — long before a state Senate special election delivered a solidly Republican seat to Wisconsin Democrats on Tuesday. Since 2016, Democrats have outperformed Hillary Clinton’s performance in more than two-thirds of state legislative special elections across the nation. And in the six congressional special elections held in 2017, Democrats overperformed in five of them — and that list doesn’t even include the December pickup of a Senate seat in ruby-red Alabama.

Houston Chronicle - January 17, 2018

WH claiming sweeping 'executive privilege' in Russia probes

President Donald Trump's White House is relying on a sweeping interpretation of executive privilege that is rankling members of Congress on both sides of the aisle as current and former advisers parade to Capitol Hill for questioning about possible connections with Russia. The White House's contention: Pretty much everything is off limits until the president says it's not. The argument was laid bare this week during former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon's interview with the House Intelligence Committee. As lawmakers in the closed-door session probed Bannon's time working for Trump, his attorney got on the phone with the White House counsel's office, relaying questions and asking what Bannon could tell Congress, according to a White House official and a second person familiar with the interview.

Washington Post - January 17, 2018

Kessler: Fact-checking President Trump’s ‘Fake News Awards’

The “Fake News Awards” announced on the Republican National Committee website and touted by President Trump pose a conundrum: Does it really count if the news organization admits error? Regular readers of The Fact Checker know that we do not award Pinocchios if a politician admits error. Everyone makes mistakes — and the point is not to play gotcha. News organizations operate in a competitive arena and mistakes are bound to be made. The key test is whether an error is acknowledged and corrected. President Trump almost never admits error, even as he has made more than 2,000 false or misleading statements.

Daily Caller - January 16, 2018

House Report Concluded Pakistanis Made ‘Unauthorized Access’ To Congressional Servers

House investigators concluded that Democratic IT aides made unauthorized access to congressional servers in 2016, allegedly accessing the data of members for whom they did not work, logging in as members of Congress themselves, and covering their tracks, according to a presentation summarizing the findings of a four-month internal probe. Their behavior mirrored a “classic method for insiders to exfiltrate data from an organization,” and they continued even after orders to stop, the briefing materials allege. There are indications that numerous members’ data may have been secretly residing not on their designated servers, but instead aggregated onto one server, according to the briefing and other sources. Authorities said that the entire server was then physically stolen.

Newsclips - January 17, 2018

Lead Stories

Dallas Morning News - January 16, 2018

His challengers have confidence — but Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has $18 million

The men hoping to oust Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick certainly have the confidence to win. But do they have the cash? Scott Milder, who'll face Patrick in the March 6 Republican primary, raised just shy of $40,000 over two months — including $10,000 he lent himself. Mike Collier, a Democrat who unsuccessfully ran for comptroller in 2014, bested Milder's fundraising numbers by more than a dozen-fold, raising half a million dollars last year. But they both face an uphill battle against the Republican incumbent. Patrick is very popular with primary voters — he beat his 2014 GOP opponent, incumbent Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, by 31 percentage points — and raised $2.5 million in the second half of last year.

Austin American-Statesman - January 16, 2018

Sheryl Cole raises $232,000, emerges as top threat to Rep. Dukes

Former Austin City Council member Sheryl Cole has emerged as the biggest Democratic primary threat to beleaguered state Rep. Dawnna Dukes’ 12-term tenure representing House District 46. An ethics commission report filed before Tuesday’s deadline shows Cole had raised $91,483 since mid-August, according to her campaign manager, André Treiber, who said another $23,831 was unofficial as it had been pledged but not received. Overall, Cole’s campaign says it has received $232,246 in donations and pledges, with state Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, giving $1,000.

Houston Chronicle - January 16, 2018

Falkenberg: Abbott owes an apology to Houston Republican - and Houston voters

At first, it was just odd that Texas' highest elected official, Gov. Greg Abbott, would take time out of his busy schedule to meddle so personally in a lowly state house race. It was odd that he was backing the opponent of a popular veteran lawmaker in his own party, Republican state Rep. Sarah Davis. It was odd that, in doing so, Abbott was making his own party vulnerable to defeat in the highly educated West University Place district where moderates like Davis abound. But now, Abbott's behavior is beyond odd. It's flat-out shady, petty and deceitful. Dare I say it? Flat out Trumpian.

Associated Press - January 16, 2018

Conservatives balk at GOP plan to avert government shutdown

Disgruntled conservatives threatened late Tuesday to scuttle Republican leaders' plans to prevent a weekend government shutdown, saying GOP leaders now lack the votes to push their proposal through the House. The setback came as a deal between President Donald Trump and Congress to protect young immigrants from deportation also remained distant. The intransigence by the House Freedom Caucus came as Republican leaders raced against a Friday deadline for pushing a short-term spending bill through Congress. If they fail, federal agencies would start shutting their doors over the weekend — an election-year debacle that GOP leaders and many Democrats are eager to avoid for fear of alienating voters.

This article appeared in the San Antonio Express News

New York Times - January 16, 2018

Bannon Is Subpoenaed in Mueller’s Russia Investigation

Stephen K. Bannon, President Trump’s former chief strategist, was subpoenaed last week by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, to testify before a grand jury as part of the investigation into possible links between Mr. Trump’s associates and Russia, according to a person with direct knowledge of the matter. The move marked the first time Mr. Mueller is known to have used a grand jury subpoena to seek information from a member of Mr. Trump’s inner circle. The special counsel’s office has used subpoenas before to seek information on Mr. Trump’s associates and their possible ties to Russia or other foreign governments.

State Stories

Austin American-Statesman - January 16, 2018

Supreme Court rejects Texas Democrats’ redistricting appeal

The U.S. Supreme Court Tuesday dismissed an appeal from the Texas Democratic Party arguing that the state’s political maps were improperly gerrymandered along partisan lines. The court did not comment on its decision to dismiss the appeal beyond noting that it lacked jurisdiction on the claim. On Friday, the court announced that it will review maps the Legislature drew for the Texas House and congressional districts after a three-judge federal court panel ruled in August that 11 districts were drawn to intentionally discriminate against minority voters.

Austin American-Statesman - January 16, 2018

Herman: Your governor needs even more money

Today, it is my sad duty to come to you with a tale of greed, avarice and Possibly Everything That’s Wrong With America. It comes in the form of two emails that hit my inbox within hours of each other. One came from our governor and the other came on behalf of our governor, a man with an insatiable desire to get some money out of your pocket and into his already-stuffed political kitty. It’s OK to want to raise a lot of campaign money. But if you feel a need to raise ALL the campaign money … Last Thursday, in advance of the then-approaching deadline for reporting how much money he raised in the second half of 2017, the Abbott campaign trumpeted this: “Texans for Greg Abbott Starts 2018 with Record-Setting $43.3 Million Cash on Hand. Raises $9 Million in Latest Reporting Period.”

Austin American-Statesman - January 16, 2018

Andrew White outpaces Lupe Valdez in Democrats’ money race for governor

Houston businessman Andrew White, making his first run for elective office, far outpaced former Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez in the first few weeks of fundraising in their late-starting campaigns to become the Democratic nominee to challenge Gov. Greg Abbott, who has set a Texas fundraising record in his bid for a second term. White reported raising $219,000 in three weeks of campaigning, including loaning his campaign $40,000, according to his fundraising report for the last half of 2017, which was due Tuesday to the Texas Ethics Commission. White had $104,000 in cash on hand at the end of the year.

Austin American-Statesman - January 16, 2018

Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Beto O’Rourke fence about El Paso’s safety

The fact-checking PolitiFact Texas project has previously spotted flaws in claims about El Paso’s relative safety. This week, still, a Texas Democrat hoping to fill the Senate seat held by Republican Ted Cruz brought up such rankings in rebuffing a pro-border-wall claim by President Donald Trump’s spokeswoman. As recapped by Jasper Scherer of the San Antonio Express-News, Democratic U. S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke of El Paso responded to a Monday tweet from the White House press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, in which Sanders suggested El Paso’s status as one of America’s safest cities could be traced to enhanced fencing between El Paso and neighboring Ciudad Juarez.

Texas Tribune - January 16, 2018

As U.S. Supreme Court takes up Texas redistricting case, it dismisses partisan gerrymandering appeal

Texas, for now, will not join the list of states fighting in court over the limits of partisan gerrymandering. As it considers cases out of other states over whether extreme practices of partisan gerrymandering can be deemed unconstitutional, the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday dismissed the efforts of Texas Democrats and other plaintiffs to revive a related legal claim in the ongoing litigation over the state’s political boundaries. The high court’s dismissal comes just days after it agreed to hear a case over whether Texas’ congressional and House district boundaries discriminate against voters of color.

Texas Tribune - January 16, 2018

Dangerous Deliveries -- Is Texas doing enough to stop moms from dying?

In the photos flashing on the projector screen, Michelle Zavala had a look of serenity. In one, her eyes were closed as she smiled with her newborn daughter Clara nestled under her chin. Another showed her kissing her husband Chris on vacation. Another captured her laughing while stomping grapes at a vineyard, radiating the positivity that people loved about her. Below the screen, Michelle lay in a casket, surrounded by bouquets of flowers. The Pflugerville woman died in July — just nine days after giving birth to Clara — from a blood clot in her heart. She was 35. Across the United States, maternal mortality — when a mother dies from pregnancy-related complications while pregnant or within 42 days of giving birth — jumped by 27 percent between 2000 and 2014, according to a 2016 study published in the medical journal Obstetrics and Gynecology. But researchers were stunned by Texas, where the maternal mortality rate had apparently doubled between 2010 and 2012.

Texas Tribune - January 16, 2018

After special education contract fiasco, Texas official considered for Massachusetts job

Penny Schwinn, the Texas Education Agency's deputy commissioner of academics, is a finalist for a job as Massachusetts education commissioner — a month after a special education contract she spearheaded took a nosedive. According to a release from Massachusetts' state education agency, Schwinn is one of three finalists for the job, after a committee conducted interviews with a pool of 18 candidates in December and January. The Massachusetts state board of education will publicly interview Schwinn and the two other finalists on Jan. 26 in Boston and will select its new commissioner Jan. 29.

Texas Tribune - January 17, 2018

A shrinking number of rural Texas hospitals still deliver babies. Here's what that means for expecting moms.

Letha Stokes has a “very, very heavy heart” since Medical Arts Hospital ended its labor and delivery services on Dec. 6. The hospital CEO said it took three years of studying, penny pinching and what-ifs before she and the hospital board of directors decided the Lamesa-based facility in northwest Texas should not deliver babies anymore. Until recently, Medical Arts Hospital delivered an average of 100 babies per year, the majority of them covered by Medicaid, the joint state-federal health care insurer for the very poor. But the hospital also lost an estimated $500,000 a year due to the program’s low reimbursement rates. That wasn’t sustainable.

Texas Tribune - January 17, 2018

Ramsey: There's a reason Texas governors keep failing to lower property taxes

First things first: Gov. Greg Abbott’s latest campaign idea isn’t going to lower your property taxes. Property taxes are local. It’s in the Texas Constitution: The state can’t levy a property tax. The governor and the Legislature can’t lower rates. The state doesn’t do property appraisals, either, so they can’t mess with the value of any particular property on the tax rolls. Still, anguish over property taxes is at or near the top of the list of what Abbott and other politicians hear most often from Texans. This is not a complicated part of the civic compact: Voters are peeved. Politicians aim to please. Lowering taxes would make a politician popular with voters.

San Antonio Express-News - January 16, 2018

Garcia: Profanity divides Democratic rivals in U.S. District 23

Gina Ortiz Jones, a former Air Force intelligence officer and senior adviser for trade enforcement, gave an interview to the Huffington Post in which she complained that Hurd gets away with voting against his constituents’ interests because of his amiable personality. Jones also took aim at Hurd’s live-streamed bro trip from San Antonio to Washington D.C. last year with Democratic Congressman Beto O’Rourke, a viral happening widely praised for its bipartisan spirit. “When bipartisanship means two dudes get in a car and help each other get elected, we’re all f***ing screwed,” Jones said.

San Antonio Express-News - January 16, 2018

Patterson raises $90,000 in GOP race against Land Commissioner George P. Bush

Republican Jerry Patterson raised nearly $90,000 during the first month campaigning to win back his old job from Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush, according to campaign finance reports filed this week. The sum pales, however, in comparison to the $1 million the Bush campaign reports pulling in over the last six months. The face-off is expected to be one of the most competitive statewide GOP primaries on March 6. Patterson was land commissioner for three terms before making an unsuccessful bid for lieutenant governor in 2014. Bush then won his first four-year term leading the Texas General Land Office, which oversees everything from the Alamo to housing relief in wake of Hurricane Harvey.

Dallas Morning News - January 16, 2018

Abbott wants to limit local jurisdictions' ability to raise Texans' taxes

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott will ask the Legislature to cap the annual revenue growth of cities, school districts, counties and other local taxing jurisdictions at 2.5 percent. It's part of a 33-page property tax reform plan that Abbott unveiled Tuesday in Houston. He'll also talk about the plan Wednesday in Arlington. "With the skyrocketing rise in property taxes, more and more Texans face the risk of being forced out of the homes they have lived in for decades," Abbott said in a news release. "Young families who are just starting out are having trouble affording their first home and businesses are unable to grow and hire more workers. Enough is enough."

Dallas Morning News - January 16, 2018

State, not schools, denied kids special ed services, Texas administrators say

Kids were denied special ed services because of state's "dereliction of duty," not schools,' Texas administrators say. Texas educators are pushing back against Gov. Greg Abbott's assertion that children were denied special education services because of schools' "dereliction of duty." Last week, federal authorities found that schools across the state broke the law by intentionally delaying or denying students such programs in order to stay under perceived enrollment caps and avoid state scrutiny.

Dallas Morning News - January 16, 2018

Dallas judge sues own party to remain on ballot, warns of 'absolute power'

An embattled two-term Democratic Dallas judge has sued her own party after she was kicked off the ballot for not properly filling out paperwork. Instead of writing whether she was running as a Democrat or Republican, state District Judge Teresa Hawthorne wrote the date of the election, said Sarah Duncan, an attorney for the Dallas County Democratic Party Hawthorne filed the lawsuit Friday after Dallas County Democratic Party chairwoman Carol Donovan removed her from the ballot. She is asking a judge to keep her name on the ballot.

Dallas Morning News - January 16, 2018

Republican challenging Ag Commissioner Sid Miller debuts first ad, touts conservative credentials

Incumbent Republican Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller has a primary challenger ready with a statewide attack ad ready to hit the airwaves. Trey Blocker, a former lobbyist and attorney from Austin, markets himself as a sixth-generation Texan and Christian in the new ad, positioning himself further to the right than Miller. He said he's looking forward to using his first statewide ad to help voters learn who he is and what’s at stake in the race. “Texans cannot trust Sid Miller,” Blocker said in a prepared statement. “I am running to return to the Texas Department of Agriculture to its core mission of preserving, promoting, and protecting agriculture.”

Dallas Morning News - January 16, 2018

Jeffers: With only $46,000 in the bank, Lupe Valdez has meager resources in her bid for governor

Lupe Valdez is low on cash for her underdog campaign for governor. The former Dallas County Sheriff had only $46,498 in her campaign account at the beginning of the year, according to financial disclosure reports due Tuesday. In comparison, Valdez's main opponent in the March 6 primary, Houston businessman Andrew White, raised over $200,000 and has about $104,000 on hand. White, the son of former Gov. Mark White, entered the race Dec. 7. Of White's total, $40,000 is his own money. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has $43 million in his campaign account, a record total for any statewide candidate.

Dallas Morning News - January 16, 2018

Democratic challenger outraises Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton — with a hefty loan from himself

The Democrat hoping to oust indicted Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has raised nearly $1 million, his campaign says, more than the incumbent brought in over six months last year. But the actual numbers are a bit more complicated than that. Democrat Justin Nelson, a lawyer from Houston, raised $911,000 over just seven weeks at the end of last year, his campaign has said. But more than half of that amount — $500,000 — came out of the candidate's own pocket. Meanwhile, on Thursday, Paxton's campaign announced the attorney general raised $774,000 between July and December 2017. Paxton currently has $5.7 million in the bank for his re-election, while Nelson has $644,994 cash on hand, the campaigns said.

Corpus Christi Caller-Times - January 17, 2018

González, Femath focus on education in campaign for El Paso's House District 75 seat

At a time when El Paso is seeing an influx of charter schools and lawmakers in Austin are grappling with how to fix the state's troubled school finance system, education is at the center of the race for one of the city's two contested seats in the statehouse. "Voters will specifically care about education, educational access and how we're making sure we have strong public schools for the future," said state Rep. Mary González, D-Clint, a longtime education advocate who has worked on legislation to reform how Texas funds its public schools.

Ft. Worth Star-Telegram - January 16, 2018

North Texans divided on Donald Trump’s ‘s--thole countries’ comment

President Trump’s recent description of Haiti, El Salvador and some African nations as “s--thole countries” has been met with fire and fury. Not just by those who condemn the remarks as insensitive and profane, but by Trump’s many defenders who believe he’s just telling it like it is. This Star-Telegram Editorial Board denounced the President’s comments as “horribly offensive, insensitive and racially charged.” We said they could potentially strain international relationships - which seems to be happening. We also acknowledged, however, that Trump remains popular among many Texans, despite his crude outbursts and insults. So we asked those who voted for him to help us understand how they feel about him now. Do you forgive his latest rhetoric? 42 percent said Trump's policies outweigh his inflammatory comments. 37 percent said under no circumstances should we allow this behavior. 21 percent said he’s attempting another distraction and it's working

Ft. Worth Star-Telegram - January 16, 2018

Grabert: Texans must unite to fight the scourge of sex trafficking

January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month, a time for each of us to leave our comfort zone and consider the terrible costs, human and otherwise, of this scourge on our state. Early in his tenure, Department of Family and Protective Services Commissioner Hank Whitman identified trafficking as one of his top 10 priorities — and he’s followed through with that commitment. Child sex trafficking is complex and pervasive, and it cuts through traditional government/law enforcement jurisdictions. Government agencies and law enforcement agencies must share information, intelligence and human resources to understand it, fight it, and most important, take care of those victimized by it.

Fox News - January 15, 2018

'Hey there, white people!': Rice students' Martin Luther King Day satire draws outrage

A Rice University student newspaper faced condemnation after publishing a "satirical" post aimed at shaming white people on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. The Rice Thresher typically prints satirical humor on the back page of their paper, Inside Higher Ed reported, but the latest issue, published Wednesday, drew outrage for an ad offering a “guilt-free MLK day pass” coupon. “Hey there, white people!” the post begins. “We know. You have a day off to celebrate someone who managed to beat your system.

Rio Grande Guardian - January 16, 2018

Cuellar, Hinojosa say Texas GOP leaders should stand up to Trump on NAFTA

Two top lawmakers from South Texas have criticized Republican statewide leaders for using back against President Trump’s stance on the North American Free Trade Agreement. At a news conference, state Sen. Juan Hinojosa of McAllen and U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar of Laredo said anti-Mexican rhetoric coming out of Washington, D.C., along with President Trump’s hostility towards NAFTA was hurting the border region’s economy. Hinojosa even listed some McAllen stores that he said are closing because the number of customers from Mexico has dropped alarmingly.

City Stories

Texas Observer - January 16, 2018

Bova: Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo on Sanctuary Cities, Police Unions and Tommy Guns

As I enter Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo’s downtown office, he’s just wrapped up a TV interview, and the moment we finish talking, he’ll rush downstairs for a press conference. The media-friendly 53-year-old has been a fiery opponent of anti-immigrant and anti-LGBT legislation, and during the chaos of Hurricane Harvey, he maintained a constant Twitter stream of his personal rescue efforts. Born in Cuba, where his father was also a police officer, Acevedo came to Los Angeles as a political refugee at 4 years old. At the Austin Police Department, which was then under federal investigation for use of force against minorities, Acevedo ratcheted up discipline against officers, drawing the praise of many reformers. In November 2016, he took the top job at the Houston Police Department. Acevedo spoke with the Observer about government mistrust, police transparency and the “sanctuary cities” ban.

Dallas Morning News - January 16, 2018

Dallas open house will be public's first chance to weigh in on high-speed rail proposal

The Federal Railroad Administration has made Texas' talk of high-speed rail official with the release of a 1,200-page document that identified a preferred route and stations. And beginning later this month, the public will have a chance to weigh in on the potential Dallas-to-Houston line during a series of meetings. Meetings are set for Jan. 29 at Dallas' Wilmer-Hutchins High School and at Corsicana Middle School in Navarro County. They will be the first of required public hearings to discuss the lengthy Draft Environmental Impact Statement released Dec. 15 by the railroad agency.

Austin American-Statesman - January 16, 2018

Half of Llano police force is on leave in Texas Rangers investigation

Nearly half of the small Llano Police Department, including its chief, is on leave because of an investigation by prosecutors and the Texas Rangers stemming from an incident in the spring. Llano County District Attorney Sonny McAfee confirmed the ongoing investigation Tuesday and said he is unsure when it might be completed. “Anytime we have a complaint from a citizen that there is a potential criminal liability on law enforcement, we take it seriously,” McAfee told the American-Statesman. “That’s why we conduct investigations.” McAfee declined to discuss the nature of the allegation, but an attorney for one of the officers said it involved a public intoxication arrest.

National Stories

San Antonio Express-News - January 16, 2018

In race against the clock, Will Hurd gets co-sponsors for his bipartisan immigration bill

In the furious drive to secure protections for “Dreamers” by week’s end, San Antonio Republican Will Hurd declared Tuesday that he has rounded up 40 co-sponsors for bipartisan legislation that increases border security while putting provisions of the expiring Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program into law. “Congress in the years has proven that comprehensive and partisan, we don’t do very well. We’re trying a different approach. Let’s be narrow and bipartisan,” Hurd said. Hurd, flanked by a cadre of bipartisan allies, spoke at a news conference before formally introducing legislation that is becoming more popular but lacks endorsement from leaders of the GOP-run Congress.

San Antonio Express-News - January 16, 2018

DACA recipients get temporary reprieve but are left with an uncertain future

When President Donald Trump announced the end of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program last year, Jonathan Jimenez said he was devastated. Jimenez, 22, was in the process of requesting travel papers under the Obama-era program that gave work permits to some young people in the country illegally. Because his parents are undocumented, Jimenez was the only one who could visit an ailing aunt in Mexico with an assurance he could come back to the U.S.

Washington Post - January 16, 2018

Justice will ask Supreme Court to intervene, allow Trump administration to end DACA

The Justice Department on Tuesday said it would take the “rare step” of asking the Supreme Court to overturn a judge’s ruling and allow the Trump administration to dismantle a program that provides work permits to undocumented immigrants raised in the United States. The Trump administration said it has appealed the judge’s injunction — which said the Obama-era program must continue for now — to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit. But the Justice Department will also petition the Supreme Court later this week to intervene in the case, an unusual action that would allow the government to bypass the 9th Circuit altogether in its bid to phase out the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program starting in March.

Dallas Morning News - January 16, 2018

Bezos gives $33 million for DACA scholarships

Amid the uproar over President Donald Trump's comments about immigration at a White House meeting, Amazon chief executive Jeff Bezos made his position clear on Friday. The billionaire and his wife, MacKenzie, announced a $33 million gift to TheDream.US to fund 1,000 college scholarships for undocumented immigrant high-school graduates registered under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy. The group works with more than 70 low-cost colleges in 15 states. It provides so-called Dreamers, who came to the U.S. as children, with $33,000 to attend these schools for four years.

New York Times - January 16, 2018

White House Fuels Immigration Debate with Terrorism Statistics

The Trump administration released statistics on Tuesday showing that the vast majority of people convicted of terrorism charges in the United States over the last 15 years were born in foreign countries. The report came amid a politically-charged push by the Trump administration to enact new restrictions on immigration, in part by arguing that the current system puts the nation at risk. The 11-page report, parts of which were confusing and in some respects misleading, highlighted cases in which immigrants were linked to terror plots after being admitted to the country as part of the diversity visa lottery, or because they were related to American citizens or legal residents. Entitled “Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States,” the report concluded that three out of four of convicted terrorists were foreign-born.

New York Times - January 15, 2018

As Shutdown Talk Rises, Trump’s Immigration Words Pose Risks for Both Parties

President Trump’s incendiary words about immigration have dampened the prospects that a broad spending and immigration deal can be reached by the end of the week, raising the possibility of a government shutdown with unknown political consequences for lawmakers in both parties. Democrats facing re-election in states that Mr. Trump carried in 2016 fear that a government funding crisis, precipitated by an immigration showdown, could imperil their campaigns. And they are growing increasingly uneasy that liberal colleagues eyeing White House bids are demanding that any spending bill beyond a stopgap measure that expires on Jan. 19 include protections for undocumented immigrants brought to the United States illegally as children.

Associated Press - January 16, 2018

Tillerson warns military action on NK unless diplomacy works

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson warned Tuesday that if North Korea does not choose to negotiate on giving up its nuclear weapons that pose a growing threat to the United States it could trigger a military response. After a meeting of U.S. allies on how to beef up the sanctions pressure, Tillerson stressed that the Trump administration seeks a diplomatic resolution in the nuclear standoff, but he said the North has yet to show itself to be a "credible negotiating partner." He said U.S.-North Korea talks would require a "sustained cessation" of threatening behavior.

This article appeared in the San Antonio Express News

Politico - January 16, 2018

Bannon refused to answer House panel's questions about time in White House

President Donald Trump's former adviser Steve Bannon refused to answer questions Tuesday from the House intelligence committee about his time in the White House, prompting panel members to subpoena him on the spot, according to a person familiar with the interview. Bannon appeared before the committee as part of its investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, speaking just weeks after a falling-out with Trump over comments he made in an explosive new book. ... The source said Republicans lawmakers — including Rep. Mike Conaway (R-Texas) and former federal prosecutor Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) — were frustrated that Bannon was not more forthcoming. Bannon did not invoke executive privilege, the source said.

Politico - January 16, 2018

DNC overhaul struggles as Sanders-Clinton rivalries persist

One year into Tom Perez’s project to save the Democratic National Committee from complete collapse, officials are beginning to dig out of the hole left by Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s mismanagement, Barack Obama’s indifference, Russian hacking and the bitter rivalry between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders capped by accusations of election rigging. But going into a midterm election that should be the Democrats’ to lose, the DNC is still struggling to bring its factions together and assert itself. Throw into the mix powerful super PACs, the much-better-funded party committees focused on Congress and governors, and more independent voters than ever, and many wonder whether the DNC has a place at all anymore.

New York Times - January 16, 2018

Horror for 13 California Siblings Hidden by Veneer of a Private Home School

PERRIS, Calif. — The private school had a welcoming name. The principal was scientifically minded. But the Sandcastle Day School was a nightmare for the six students enrolled there. David A. Turpin created the school inside his nondescript stucco home southeast of Los Angeles. But the only ones enrolled there were the six of his 13 children who were school age. And what took place inside was not teaching but torture, the authorities said, after they raided the house over the weekend and found a horrifying scene of emaciated children chained to furniture. The putrid smell overwhelmed them. By creating such a school of horrors, Mr. Turpin had kept the authorities at bay. His children were never seen by teachers or counselors.

Dallas Morning News - January 16, 2018

Immigration raids at 7-Eleven came as franchisees feud with the Irving-based retailer

Before last week’s raids of 7-Eleven stores as part of an immigration crackdown, one of the biggest issues for franchisees was the company itself. While owning a 7-Eleven store has long been a way for people — including many immigrants — to gain a foothold in the American economy, some now see the Irving-based parent company’s demands eating into their profits. 7-Eleven and its franchisees are feuding over how to share the costs of making stores more convenient for an increasingly demanding customer. Franchisees say too much of the cost is on them just as a new contract is about to be written.

Politico - January 16, 2018

Trump's first-year report card: Voters say he's no genius

Donald Trump’s quarterly report card is in — and if he were back in school, he’d find himself on academic probation. More voters give Trump a failing grade for his first year as president than think he deserves an “A” or “B,” according to a new POLITICO/Morning Consult poll, conducted earlier this month. Trump’s best marks come on the economy, jobs and fighting terrorism. But he gets poor marks for his handling of health care, the national debt and foreign relations. Overall, 35 percent would give him an “F” — slightly more than the 34 percent of voters who would give Trump an “A” or “B” grade for his first year. The remaining voters give him a “C” (14 percent) or a barely passing “D” (11 percent), and 5 percent have no opinion.

New York Times - January 16, 2018

Days After Hawaii’s False Missile Alarm, a New One in Japan

Japan’s public broadcaster on Tuesday accidentally sent news alerts that North Korea had launched a missile and that citizens should take shelter — just days after the government of Hawaii had sent a similar warning to its citizens. The broadcaster, NHK, corrected itself five minutes later and apologized for the error on its evening news. The initial texts cited J-Alert, a system used by the government to issue warnings to its citizens about missiles, tsunamis and other natural disasters. But NHK later said that the system was not to blame for the false alarm.

Wall St. Journal - January 16, 2018

The Antitrust Case Against Facebook, Google and Amazon

Standard Oil Co. and American Telephone and Telegraph Co. were the technological titans of their day, commanding more than 80% of their markets. Today’s tech giants are just as dominant: In the U.S., Alphabet Inc.’s Google drives 89% of internet search; 95% of young adults on the internet use a Facebook Inc. product; and Amazon.com Inc. now accounts for 75% of electronic book sales. Those firms that aren’t monopolists are duopolists: Google and Facebook absorbed 63% of online ad spending last year; Google and Apple Inc. provide 99% of mobile phone operating systems; while Apple and Microsoft Corp. supply 95% of desktop operating systems. A growing number of critics think these tech giants need to be broken up or regulated as Standard Oil and AT&T once were. Their alleged sins run the gamut from disseminating fake news and fostering addiction to laying waste to small towns’ shopping districts.

Newsclips - January 16, 2018

Lead Stories

Washington Post - January 15, 2018

Shutdown looms as Republicans seek short-term spending deal for government

Chances of a government shutdown grew Monday as Republicans concluded that they would be unable to reach a long-term spending accord by the Friday deadline. GOP leaders are now turning to a short-term funding measure in hopes of keeping agencies open while talks continue, but Democratic leaders say they are unlikely to support any deal that does not protect young illegal immigrants. Aides to key negotiators from both parties planned to meet Tuesday in an effort to rekindle budget talks, setting up a Wednesday meeting of the leaders themselves. If they cannot agree, the government would shut down at midnight Friday for the first time since 2013. House Republican leaders are scheduled to discuss their plans for a stopgap spending measure with rank-and-file lawmakers Tuesday evening.

Dallas Morning News - January 12, 2018

Supreme Court to weigh wider collection of billions in internet sales taxes

The U.S. Supreme Court will consider freeing state and local governments to collect billions of dollars in sales taxes from online retailers, agreeing to revisit a 26-year-old ruling that has made much of the internet a tax-free zone. Heeding calls from traditional retailers and dozens of states, the justices said they would hear South Dakota's contention that the 1992 ruling is obsolete in the e-commerce era and should be overturned. This is a big issue for states like Texas, which doesn't have a state income tax and depends heavily on its 6.25 percent sales tax. Texas may be losing more than $1 billion a year in sales taxes, according to an estimate from the Texas Comptroller's Office.

The Hill - January 16, 2018

Court battle brewing over work rules for Medicaid

A battle is brewing in the courts over the Trump administration's move to let states impose work requirements for recipients of Medicaid, the health insurance program for the poor. Advocacy groups are gearing up to sue the administration, arguing that it doesn’t have the power to allow work requirements and other rules for Medicaid without action from Congress. But the administration is defending the legality of the shift. When unveiling guidance Thursday on the work requirements, top Medicaid official Seema Verma said the administration has "broad authority” under current law to allow states to make changes through waivers.

San Antonio Express-News - January 15, 2018

Alamo Trust to hold open meetings in wake of transparency concerns

A nonprofit board overseeing the Alamo’s day-to-day operations will open its meetings to the public this year. But one state senator says state officials and philanthropists in charge of the historic mission and battle site and a far-reaching plan to improve it should do more to provide a level of openness befitting the Texas shrine. “The public just has an inherent right to know how their tax dollars are being spent. And we’re now talking about the Alamo, which is a big deal,” said Sen. Kirk Watson, one of several Senate Finance Committee members who directed Land Commissioner George P. Bush at a Dec. 5 hearing to simplify the management structure and access to records regarding the Alamo and long-term master plan.

State Stories

San Antonio Express-News - January 15, 2018

Top Dems running for Texas governor raise less than $300,000 combined

The top Texas Democrats running for governor on Monday reported raising less than $300,000 combined in their first three weeks of campaigning, significantly less than most statewide political competitors have usually posted just over eight weeks before their primary. Houston entrepreneur Andrew White disclosed in new state campaign-finance reports that he has raised $219,277 from more than 200 contributors — including $40,000 from himself — in the fundraising period that ended Dec. 31, 2017. Former Dallas Sheriff Lupe Valdez, who announced her campaign a day before White, reported raising less than a quarter of White’s amount: $46,498. White, son of the late Gov. Mark White, reported he has about $104,000 in the bank as fundraising continues, compared to Valdez’ $40,346.

Austin American-Statesman - January 15, 2018

UT rejects money from group with Chinese Communist Party ties

The University of Texas has decided to forgo money for its new China Policy Center from a foundation with ties to the branch of the Chinese Communist Party that manages influence operations abroad. The decision by UT President Gregory L. Fenves followed an internal university review and a plea from Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, who warned that accepting money from the China-United States Exchange Foundation, or CUSEF, could facilitate China’s propaganda efforts and impair the university’s credibility.

Texas Tribune - January 15, 2018

Walker: Texas Democrats are poised to win in 2018

If you’re a Democrat, you ought to be hopeful and excited about our chance to win in Texas in 2018. A wave is coming. Voters in midterms reliably deliver a shellacking to any president’s party. This trend is supercharged by the countless offenses of the past year: Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s bizarre bathroom fetish, the Republican crusade against healthcare, a tax bill that loots the treasury to enrich Republican donors, and the everyday disaster that is Donald Trump’s presidency. Democrats, the wind is in our sails. Even Abbott’s political advisor agrees: the enthusiasm gap Republicans face is real. Nationally, reviewing more than 70 special elections for state and federal office in the past year, Democrats outperformed in 74 percent of them and by a 12 percent margin on average.

Texas Tribune - January 15, 2018

In Texas Democratic gubernatorial primary, White raises over $200k, Valdez takes in $46k

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew White raised over $200,000 during the first three weeks of his campaign, while one of his better-known primary opponents, Lupe Valdez, took in a quarter of that over roughly the same period. White's campaign told The Texas Tribune on Monday that he raised $219,277 from 200-plus donors through the end of the fundraising period on Dec. 31. The total haul includes $40,000 from White, a Houston businessman and the son of late Gov. Mark White. Andrew White announced his bid on Dec. 7. Valdez and White are two of the more prominent Democratic gubernatorial candidates, a field that totals nine.

Texas Tribune - January 15, 2018

After Cruz raises worries about "propaganda," UT says it won't accept money from Chinese foundation

After months of internal uproar and a letter from U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, the University of Texas at Austin has declared its China center will not accept funding from a Hong Kong-based foundation that the Republican from Texas said helps spread Chinese government propaganda abroad. The decision – first reported in an article in the “Opinions” section of The Washington Post – was disclosed in a letter sent Friday from UT-Austin President Greg Fenves to Cruz. The school must "ensure that the receipt of outside funding does not create potential conflicts of interest or place limits on academic freedom and the robust exchange of ideas,” Fenves wrote.

Dallas Morning News - January 15, 2018

Hill Country ranch once owned by President Lyndon Johnson up for sale for $2.8 million

The one-time Texas Hill Country property of former President Lyndon B. Johnson is for sale, with a $2.8 million asking price. Located on 142 acres near Johnson City, family namesake of the former president, the property is the former home of Italian artist Benini, renowned for his paintings and sculptures. DMTX Realty, a sales team affiliated with Coldwell Banker United Realtors, has the listing for the property, which is at 377 Shiloh Road. Blanco County deed records show that the property was purchased by Johnson one week into his presidency in 1963 and remained in his ownership until 1971. Johnson used the secluded property as a private retreat.

Dallas Morning News - January 15, 2018

DMN: We recommend Lynn Stucky in the GOP primary for Texas House District 64

Incumbent Lynn Stucky is the better choice over retired U.S Marine and pharmaceutical salesman Mark Roy in the Republican primary for state House District 64. Stucky won election to the Legislature two years ago from this district, which encompasses Denton and nearby cities. He was supported then by tea party activists, but this time faces a challenger, Roy, who is positioning himself to Stucky's right in the primary. A Sanger veterinarian, Stucky describes himself as "a conservative, Republican, Christian" and holds some positions that are more conservative than this newspaper would advocate.

Dallas Morning News - January 15, 2018

DMN: We recommend Nathan Johnson in the Democratic primary in state Senate District 16

Both Democrats in the state Senate District 16 race strike us as smart and well-qualified. We recommend Nathan Johnson over Joe Bogen for the nomination due to his superior command of issues and strategy. There aren't many stark differences between the candidates -- both are Dallas lawyers and first-time office seekers -- in terms of positions on key issues. They both think the state should spend more on public education and transportation, for example; Johnson had the more specific ideas about how to do that by reforming the margins tax and exploring multiple funding options for transportation.

Dallas Morning News - January 15, 2018

DMN: We recommend Linda Koop in the Republican primary for state House District 102

Republican Linda Koop has demonstrated smarts, nuanced thinking and conservative ideals in her two terms representing District 102, making her a clear choice to head back to Austin over two challengers in the GOP primary. The 67-year-old former Dallas City Council member showed thoughtful leadership during the last session on creative solutions to improve public schools, displaying a keen knowledge of what's important to constituents in her northwest Dallas- and Richardson-based district.

Dallas Morning News - January 15, 2018

DMN: We recommend Jan McDowell in the Democratic primary for Congressional District 24.

Voters in the Democratic Primary for the 24th Congressional District have a crowded ballot with returning candidate Jan McDowell and three first-timers in John Biggan, Todd Allen and Joshua Imhoff. McDowell, 64, Biggan, 34, and Allen, 38, would be capable representatives. But we give the edge to McDowell because of her earnest efforts to learn constituents' needs over the last two years and the financial background required to attack tough budget issues.

Texas Observer - January 8, 2018

The Day Shift

"La calavera,” the caller intoned, as Beatriz García placed a turquoise glass bead over the skull-and-crossbones icon on one of the two brightly colored cards on the table in front of her. It was 9 a.m. on a Tuesday morning at Lindos Momentos Adult Day Care in McAllen, and the chalupa — a bingo-like game featuring iconography drawn from Mexican folklore — was already in full swing. Beatriz, 74, has five children and worked for 21 years in a local elementary school cafeteria. Her husband, Guillermo, sits at her side. He’s 80 and picked cotton for 25 cents an hour as a migrant farmworker in his youth, and later worked as a handyman. When they both retired in 2004, they tried staying at home, but found it hard to manage on their own due to Beatriz’s bad knees, Guillermo’s health woes, including quintuple bypass surgery, and their youngest son Ray’s schizophrenia and depression. So they decided to give adult day care a try.

Texas Observer - January 11, 2018

New Report Finds — Surprise — Indigent Defense Attorneys Shouldn’t be Under the Control of the State Prison System

A new report by a committee of the State Bar of Texas aims to draw attention to a glaringly obvious conflict of interest at a little-known indigent defense system in Texas. Current and former attorneys with the State Counsel for Offenders (SCFO), which represents indigent inmates accused of committing crimes inside Texas prisons, claim higher-ups at SCFO have ordered them to change legal strategy, for example prohibiting them from filing motions to assist mentally ill clients and even forcing them to withdraw from certain cases. S

The Guardian (UK) - January 12, 2018

Is deep-red Texas ready for a gay Latina Democrat? Lupe Valdez thinks so

It would rank as one of the greatest political upsets of 2018 and a stunning rebuke to Trumpism: a gay Latina Democrat grabbing hold of the country’s biggest red state. But is Texas ready for Lupe Valdez? The question was first posed in Dallas in 2004, when Valdez scored a surprise victory to become the nation’s first openly gay female Hispanic sheriff on the same night that George W Bush secured a second term in the White House. She won re-election three times in Dallas county before announcing last month that she would resign to stand for Texas governor.

Outsmart Magazine - January 5, 2018

Meet the six transgender Texans on the ballot in 2018

As a child, Jenifer Rene Pool was picked on mercilessly. She was small in stature, and relied on thick eyeglasses due to poor eyesight. “Classmates would grab my glasses and throw them around to each other,” the Houston transgender activist recalls. “I hate bullies. Everyone should be treated fairly,” Pool adds. “This is the premise of our national Constitution, and for the most part, the Constitution of the State of Texas. It is why I have decided to run for State representative in 2018.”

County Stories

San Antonio Express-News - January 15, 2018

Hurricane Harvey wreaks new damage on Texas homeowners as mortgage delinquencies soar

Hurricane Harvey, which ravaged the Gulf coastline in late August, left the finances of many Texas homeowners equally damaged as a rising number of borrowers in parts hit hardest by the storm struggled to stay current on their mortgages. Mortgage delinquency rates soared in September and October in many of the coastal and other cities flooded by Harvey, including Houston, Beaumont and Corpus Christi, according to new data from real estate analytics company CoreLogic. The percentage of mortgage loans across Texas that were delinquent by 30 days or more rose during those months for the first time since December 2011, CoreLogic said. Borrowers who were at least one payment behind rose to 6.8 percent across the state during those two months, up from 5.5 percent the year before, CoreLogic found.

City Stories

Dallas Morning News - January 15, 2018

Baylor to open a new $30 million heart hospital in McKinney in 2019

Construction may begin this month on a new 35,000-square-foot heart hospital slated to open in first quarter of 2019 on the Baylor Scott and White Medical Center McKinney campus. The new Heart Hospital Baylor McKinney will serve patients in need of cardiovascular care in Collin and Grayson counties, as well as in parts of Oklahoma, according to Baylor Scott and White Health executives. The facility will sit on the northwest corner of the existing campus.

National Stories

Wall St. Journal - January 15, 2018

U.S. Plans New Nuclear Weapons

The Pentagon is planning to develop two new sea-based nuclear weapons to respond to Russia and China’s growing military capabilities, according to a sweeping Defense Department review of nuclear strategy. The planned move has ignited a broad debate over future U.S. nuclear strategy at a time when the nation also faces the threat of proliferation, in particular from North Korea’s efforts to expand its arsenal of nuclear weapons and develop long-range missiles capable of delivering them. Supporters of the Pentagon’s plan say it is time for the U.S. to update its nuclear forces to deal with changing threats some three decades after the end of the Cold War. Critics worry that the Pentagon’s search for more flexible nuclear options could lower the threshold for their use.

Washington Post - January 15, 2018

The Senate’s push to overrule the FCC on net neutrality now has 50 votes, Democrats say

Fifty senators have endorsed a legislative measure to override the Federal Communications Commission's recent decision to deregulate the broadband industry, top Democrats said Monday. The tally leaves supporters just one Republican vote shy of the 51 required to pass a Senate resolution of disapproval, in a legislative gambit aimed at restoring the agency's net neutrality rules. Those rules, which banned Internet providers from blocking or slowing down websites, were swept away in a December vote led by Republican FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. Republicans had argued that the rules were too restrictive for industry, while Democrats said they provided a vital consumer protection.

San Antonio Express-News - January 15, 2018

Family migration visas at risk in DACA debate

An aggressive push to overhaul the decades-old system for sponsoring family members for citizenship is complicating the drive to protect “Dreamers” from deportation at a critical point in negotiations. When two dozen influential members of Congress left a White House meeting last week, it looked as though they would take up immigration in two phases: first, by increasing border security and tinkering with the entry system while fixing the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. Later, they would take up long-debated and vexing issues on immigration reform. But things changed quickly, with hard-liners insisting that a DACA fix be tied to significant changes in “chain migration” — and President Donald Trump seemingly undermining trust among negotiators with vulgar remarks he is said to have made about Haiti, El Salvador and some African nations.

Associated Press - January 15, 2018

On King day, Trump mentioned as much as civil rights leader

They had gathered to commemorate Martin Luther King Jr., but many of those who delivered speeches on the national holiday created to honor the slain civil rights leaders focused their remarks on another man: President Donald Trump. Two of King's children, the pastor of the Atlanta church where King once preached, and the Rev. Al Sharpton were among those on Monday who indicated that the Trump presidency was undermining efforts to ease racial tensions in the U.S. And they sharply criticized disparaging remarks about African countries and Haiti he is said to have made last week. Trump marked his first Martin Luther King Jr. Day as president buffeted by claims that during the meeting with senators on immigration last Thursday, he questioned why the U.S. is accepting more immigrants from Haiti and "shithole countries" in Africa, when it should be welcoming more people from nations like Norway.

This article appeared in the San Antonio Express News

Houston Chronicle - January 11, 2018

Poll: Latinos are more financially optimistic, less supportive of Trump

Hispanics in the United States grew more financially optimistic during last year and towards 2018, but a better economy didn't improve their lack of support for President Trump, according to findings from a new pool. A new national Hispanic Consumer Sentiment Index published on Thursday by the Florida Atlantic University's College of Business indicated that Latinos consistently expressed to be financially "better off than a year ago" during 2017, with a range of 68% to 65% among the four quarters. The HCSI closed 2017 with a score of 93.5, up 1.5 points from the third quarter of that year and up 3.6 points from the first quarter, the same source said.

New York Times - January 15, 2018

One Year After Women’s March, More Activism but Less Unity

In many ways, that goal has been realized. In the wake of the march on Washington — and simultaneous marches in more than 600 towns and cities across the country — thousands of women threw themselves into activism for the first time in their lives, especially in red states where the events provided a rare chance to build a network of like-minded people. In Texas, emails collected by the organizers of the Women’s March in Austin are being repurposed to promote candidates who support abortion rights. In Arkansas, Gwen Combs, the elementary schoolteacher who organized the Little Rock march, is now running for Congress. Thousands of women in October attended a convention in Detroit training them on everything from lobbying elected officials to confronting white supremacy. But as the movement evolves, differing priorities and tactics have emerged among the women, nearly all of them unpaid and spread across the country.

Washington Post - January 15, 2018

Enders, Scott: White racial resentment has been gaining political power for decades

Astute observers of politics might be tempted to interpret recent developments as indicators of a spike in negative racial attitudes. But none of this is new. Our research shows that racial attitudes have been increasingly influencing U.S. public opinion for at least 30 years, long before Trump entered the political scene. Let’s be more particular. White racial resentment has remained remarkably stable over time. But that racial resentment has become much more highly correlated with particular political attitudes, behaviors and orientations. More and more, white Americans use their racial attitudes to help them decide their positions on political questions such as whom to vote for or what stance to take on important issues including welfare and health care.

Austin American-Statesman - January 15, 2018

Herman: Sen. John Cornyn continues to tolerate President Trump

These should be good times for John Cornyn. He’s the senior U.S. senator from the greatest state ever created. He’s the GOP’s No. 2 man in that chamber. And after eight years toiling under the yoke of a Democratic president, Cornyn is one year into total D.C. domination by his party. And though there’s not unanimity on this, there are accomplishments to tout after the first year of the GOP control for which Cornyn long longed. So how come he spends so much time explaining and bemoaning the state of the union? Be careful, we’ve been warned a time or two, for what you wish. Cornyn wished for a Republican president. Just not this particular, peculiar one.

Politico - January 16, 2018

The Democrat Trumpworld fears most

One former White House official outlined a theory of the case that has gained some traction: Trump’s policies will continue to be popular all the way through his reelection campaign, but his approval rating will never crack 45 percent — creating an opening for Biden, or someone like him, to recapture the loyalty of white Rust Belt Democrats who helped elect Trump in 2016. “What we can’t let voters do is think they can get the same policies with someone they like better, like Joe Biden — someone who would fight for them but who doesn’t have the crass edge,” said the former White House staffer. “I hope CNN has Kirsten Gillibrand on every minute of every day. Love it. Bring it. She's easy to destroy. If you're the president, or the RNC, you're more worried about someone who looks like Biden — someone who has more mainstream appeal, who blue-collar workers could identity with.”

Los Angeles Times - January 14, 2018

Jackson: Why is liberal California the poverty capital of America?

Guess which state has the highest poverty rate in the country? Not Mississippi, New Mexico, or West Virginia, but California, where nearly one out of five residents is poor. That’s according to the Census Bureau’s Supplemental Poverty Measure, which factors in the cost of housing, food, utilities and clothing, and which includes noncash government assistance as a form of income. Given robust job growth and the prosperity generated by several industries, it’s worth asking why California has fallen behind, especially when the state’s per-capita GDP increased approximately twice as much as the U.S. average over the five years ending in 2016 (12.5%, compared with 6.27%).

Washington Post - January 15, 2018

Borchers: Facebook invites you to live in a bubble where you are always right

Facebook wants the latest version of its News Feed to be “more fulfilling” and “good for your well-being.” To accomplish this goal, the technology giant is giving top billing to posts shared, liked and discussed by the people in users' social networks while de-emphasizing material posted by corporate brands and content that might have gone viral in the broader Facebook community. Facebook's News Feed has long prioritized the posts that users' friends interact with, but it also has displayed other content that Facebook expects users will find interesting. This will still be true, but Facebook will weight material that comes from within users' social networks even more heavily than it has in the past. Unsaid, but rather obvious, is that social networks tend to comprise like-minded individuals, who tend to post items that fellow members agree with.

Dallas Morning News - January 15, 2018

Giovanetti: Trump's tax reform is a miracle that should make everyone giddy

Those of us who have spent decades advocating for tax reform are still trying to process the late December passage of the most sweeping tax reform in 30 years. There are policy experts who have literally spent their entire careers pushing for tax reform, and even organizations that exist for that sole purpose. To finally succeed seems almost too good to imagine. My own organization, the Institute for Policy Innovation, was founded in Dallas just after Ronald Reagan's 1986 tax reform to continue to advocate for economic growth through tax policy. We began years ago to diversify into other policy areas in part because fundamental tax reform seemed impossible in a context where Democrat class warfare rhetoric demanded higher taxes and Republicans were utterly inept in actually accomplishing anything beyond rhetoric.

Houston Chronicle - January 15, 2018

Tomlinson: Trump's racism threatens U.S. economy

The belief that someone's birthplace determines the content of their character is, by definition, racist. Where you were born, the color of your skin and your gender does not determine how much you can contribute. That is why President Donald Trump's questions about why the U.S. accepts immigrants from certain countries is so deeply racist, no matter what word he used to describe them. His uneducated opinion on immigration will hurt the U.S. economy. We need immigrants to meet our workforce needs, according to federal data collated by Houston commentator and mayoral candidate Bill King.

Newsclips - January 15, 2018

Lead Stories

New York Times - January 14, 2018

Military Quietly Prepares for a Last Resort: War With North Korea

Across the military, officers and troops are quietly preparing for a war they hope will not come. At Fort Bragg in North Carolina last month, a mix of 48 Apache gunships and Chinook cargo helicopters took off in an exercise that practiced moving troops and equipment under live artillery fire to assault targets. Two days later, in the skies above Nevada, 119 soldiers from the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division parachuted out of C-17 military cargo planes under cover of darkness in an exercise that simulated a foreign invasion.

San Antonio Express-News - January 14, 2018

Fikac: Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick is Trump’s top Texas cheerleader

President Donald Trump couldn’t ask for a more ardent defender than Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who has compared Trump to Ronald Reagan, praised his “steel-trap memory” and decried as nonsense a bestseller that paints the workings of the White House as beyond a disaster. With the same focus that allowed him to move past Trump’s assertion — revealed during the presidential campaign — that he could grab women’s private parts with impunity, Patrick is gliding past the most recent events with his eye on the big picture. Patrick’s loyalty hasn’t been swayed by the investigation into the Trump campaign with regard to Russia’s efforts to sway the presidential election.

Houston Chronicle - January 12, 2018

Craddick: When it comes to NAFTA, mend it. Don't end it.

Many Texans support NAFTA based on the premise that it allows American workers and businesses to compete on a level playing field with anyone in the world. President Trump has tapped into the concern of many workers that international trade is too often tilted against American interests. From the dumping of Chinese steel to foreign governments propping up domestic companies for an unfair competitive advantage, there are legitimate concerns about trade practices that harm American industry.

Dallas Morning News - January 13, 2018

North Texas transit leaders say tolls are a matter of choice, necessity in plans for LBJ East improvements

Regional transit leaders recently met to finalize their pitch to the Texas Transportation Commission to sell tolled, managed lanes as the best way to build large-scale highway projects, starting with Interstate 635 East through Lake Highlands, Garland and Mesquite. The members of the Regional Transportation Council, which allocates federal and state funding, also talked about the pitfalls of state leaders' suggested track — to make the improvements to 10.8 miles of I-635, also called LBJ Freeway, without borrowing and recapturing money through tolls. Nobody in Austin disagrees with the regional council's assessment that LBJ East is the region's most needed project. Ten lanes currently handle more than 200,000 cars per day between Central Expressway and Interstate 30.

State Stories

Texas Tribune - January 15, 2018

Ramsey: It takes more than a “shithole” to scare off a Texas Republican

Once upon a time, nervous candidates would scatter and disown a party leader talking about “shithole” countries. Candidates run to the things that help them, run away from the things that hurt them and leave the rest alone. Democrats in conservative districts tried to uncouple their campaigns from President Barack Obama after the 2010 Tea Party elections showed them the strength of the conservative backlash in Texas. When U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold of Corpus Christi was found to have used $84,000 in taxpayer money to pay sexual harassment claims against him, did you see his fellow Texas congressional Republicans scurry to his defense? Here’s a hint: He’s not on the 2018 ballot.

Texas Tribune - January 14, 2018

Special education caps were the Texas Legislature's idea, educators say

After a federal report blasted Texas for failing kids with disabilities, educators and public education advocates are pointing the finger directly at state legislators who, they argue, first suggested capping special education to keep costs low. The U.S. Department of Education last week released a monitoring report, after a 15-month investigation, finding that the Texas Education Agency effectively capped the statewide percentage of students who could receive special education services and incentivized school districts to deny services to eligible students. Gov. Greg Abbott released a statement soon after that criticized local school districts for their "dereliction of duty" in failing to serve students — which touched a nerve for educators.

Texas Tribune - January 15, 2018

Political fallout of Hurricane Harvey could begin this year in Houston

The latest drama involving President Donald Trump may dominate the political conversation in every major America city, except one – Houston. There, where a handful of Congressional races are heating up ahead of the Texas March 6 primary, there’s another name on voters’ minds: Harvey. In Texas’ largest city and its suburbs, incumbents and candidates alike are making the case to voters why they can best represent a region that continues to reel from last year’s devastating hurricane. “It seems likely that this issue of the flooding will be an issue both in the primary and in the general, particularly for Congressional candidates,” said Bob Stein, a Rice University political scientist.

Texas Tribune - January 15, 2018

Cox: License to carry concealed guns shouldn’t stop at the state line

Law-abiding gun owners often hear horror stories about fellow gun owners who crossed state lines and unwittingly became criminals for breaking laws they didn’t know existed. There was the North Carolina guy who was arrested for having his firearm while driving to New Jersey to help with Hurricane Sandy. There was the single mom from Pennsylvania who spent years fighting to stay out of prison after driving with her firearm into another state. There was the man from Tennessee who was arrested in Delaware after he was stopped for speeding. The stories are countless. None of these people purposefully did anything wrong. They only took to the road, were stopped for traffic violations, and informed the police they were carrying.

San Antonio Express-News - January 12, 2018

San Antonio political leaders blast Trump’s immigration comments

Two prominent San Antonio leaders from different political parties criticized President Trump’s reported vulgar and derogatory language regarding immigrants, saying such disrespectful speech is bad for the country. “There is no question about it: The vast diversity of our population makes America a better place. I’m proud that, in Texas, people of countless different nationalities come together every day “ said House Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, in a statement released Friday.

San Antonio Express-News - January 14, 2018

Immigration laws limit local police, experts say

Police Chief William McManus sparked a controversy when he brought state charges against an alleged immigrant smuggler, resulting in the release of 12 immigrants who had apparently entered the country illegally. Federal and state laws address how local law enforcement agents cooperate with immigration authorities, but experts said it’s unlikely McManus did anything illegal. Q: Do local law enforcement officers have to work with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement? A: Under a federal law that President Donald Trump mentioned last year in an executive order about immigration enforcement, state and local governments must allow officers to communicate with immigration officials. “All (the law) says is you can’t prevent your law enforcement (officials) from sharing information,” said Alyson Sincavage, a legislative associate at the American Immigration Lawyers Association. “It does not mandate local law enforcement to hold people, to investigate people. It just says simply that you cannot prevent the sharing of information.”

San Antonio Express-News - January 15, 2018

Democrats again holding out hope that Latino voters will make a difference

As Democrats look to make gains in Congress and mount a challenge to Gov. Greg Abbott this year, they shouldn’t count on a big Latino vote, despite the backlash to hard-line policies and rhetoric of Trump and the GOP on immigrants. It’s more complicated than that. To succeed, they would have to translate that anger into a surge in Latino voter turnout — something Democrats have predicted for years but has not materialized. Democrats would also need their predictions to come true that more Latino voters means more votes for them. How likely is that? Zamora and several of her friends laugh. “You act like all (Latinos) vote and think alike. Wrong,” said one friend, Maryana Gonzales, adding that she would probably vote Republican, if she votes in November at all.

Austin American-Statesman - January 14, 2018

PolitiFact: TEA-backed training fulfills Abbott’s principal promise

Back when he was campaigning to be governor of Texas, Greg Abbott called for training school principals to be better leaders. Legislative proposals to get such training off the ground floundered, however, leading us to previously rate this Abbott vow a Promise Broken. ... It looks as if it could take awhile before every current or potential Texas school leader gets a shot at the touted training. But we [now] rate this vow a Promise Kept.

Austin American-Statesman - January 12, 2018

AAS: New tax code is harsh on nonprofits. How Texans can help

When local, state and federal programs fail to serve Central Texas families and individuals who are the most in need, local nonprofit organizations help fill the gaps by using the generous contributions of those who find value in giving their neighbors a hand up when they need it. The recent federal tax overhaul, however, has nonprofits bracing for a significant decline in contributions because millions of people are expected to lose incentives to give. The law, according to estimates from the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, will decrease charitable giving to nonprofits by at least $13 billion, or 4.5 percent. Smaller local nonprofits and churches could get hit the hardest.

Austin American-Statesman - January 15, 2018

$23 million in state-funded vests to raise police safety to new level

Texas plans to spend $23 million to equip law enforcement officers across the state with rifle-resistant vests, which will provide officers with a level of security that most have never had. The law enforcement agencies that are receiving state grants to purchase the vests are big and small. Some have fewer than a dozen officers; others have thousands. The vests — which can be somewhat large and bulky — are commonly used for critical incidents and, in some cases, are meant to be worn over an officer’s clothing in addition to a bulletproof vest. Lawmakers approved the funding last year in response to the July 7, 2016, shooting in downtown Dallas in which a man armed with a rifle ambushed officers and civilians during a protest against police brutality. He killed five police officers, struck nine others and injured two civilians.

Temple Daily Telegram - January 13, 2018

GOP’s factions emerging in House District 55 race

The Texas Republican Party’s factions are appearing in the race for Texas House District 55. Three Republican candidates are vying to be Bell County’s next lawmaker. There’s incumbent state Rep. Hugh Shine, Open Carry Texas founder CJ Grisham and Calvary Chapel Rev. Brandon Hall. District 55’s next representative will almost certainly be determined in this primary. No Democrats are running in the November election. Like many of the roughly two dozen GOP races for the House in which an incumbent is being flanked to the right by challengers, this race could boil down to one question: Who is the truest conservative?

Texas Observer - January 11, 2018

Report: Almost 25,000 Texans Are Drinking Tap Water With High Levels of Radium

Water in the small Central Texas town of Brady has the highest radium levels in the state — almost double the legal limit set by the EPA, according to a new report. But Kim Lenoir, the city manager in charge of cleaning up Brady’s water supply, says she isn’t alarmed. In fact, Lenoir, who moved to town four years ago, says she still drinks the tap water. “You have to understand it’s natural,” Lenoir told the Observer. “I know that it is safe to drink, just like we tell our citizens.” Brady relies on seven wells that draw water from the Hickory Aquifer, which consists of sandstones that are naturally radioactive.

D Magazine - January 12, 2018

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott Fetes a Legendary Dallas Billionaire

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott spun his wheelchair around and reached up to shake hands with State Sen. Don Huffines, whose district includes part of Dallas County. “Welcome back to Dallas,” Huffines said to the governor. “Are we in your district now?” Abbott asked. “Yes, sir—the heart of it,” Huffines replied, smiling slightly. “This house is the heart of it!” “This house” was the stately, red-brick, Preston Hollow mansion of Annette Simmons, who’d lived there for years with her late husband Harold Simmons, the Dallas entrepreneur and philanthropist who died in 2013 at age 83.

Teslarati - January 12, 2018

SpaceX could begin testing its Mars rocket in Texas by late 2018, early 2019

On the heels of a successful wet dress rehearsal for Falcon Heavy, SpaceX’s President and COO Gwynne Shotwell spoke briefly about SpaceX for an aerospace conference located at Texas’ Academy of Medicine, Engineering & Science. Ars Technica’s senior spaceflight editor Eric Berger was in attendance and provided a rough outline of live tweets during the first group of presentations. While the phrasing cannot provide absolute confirmation, Berger summarized a statement by Shotwell suggesting that SpaceX’s Boca Chica, Texas launch site, currently in the early stages of construction, could be ready to host “vehicle tests” as soon as late 2018, early 2019.

County Stories

Houston Chronicle - January 14, 2018

Harris County leads Texas in life-without-parole sentences as death penalty recedes

Once known as the "capital of capital punishment," Harris County is now doling out more life without parole sentences than any other county in the state. In the 12 years since then-Gov. Rick Perry signed the life without parole or "LWOP" bill into law, Harris County has handed down 266 of those sentences - nearly 25 percent of the state's total, according to data through mid-December obtained from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. "It's concerning, but this is like economics or engine performance, there's no free lunch," said Houston defense attorney Patrick McCann. "We have far fewer death cases than we used to. That's a tremendous win. But now we have a lot of LWOP sentences."

Dallas Morning News - January 12, 2018

DMN: Dallas County judges' cynical electioneering indicts their integrity

The Democratic Party primaries for judicial seats in Dallas County are a mess to make a mother weep. In three civil court races, the incumbent judges — all competent, all experienced — have conducted themselves in ways that indict their fitness for continued service on the bench. In each case, the sitting judges — Martin Hoffman of the 68th District, Jim Jordan of the 160th District and Carl Ginsberg of the 193rd District — have allowed themselves to become mere politicians in pursuit of another term. These judges appear surprised and even offended to have drawn primary opponents from female candidates whose records they believe compare poorly to their own.

City Stories

Dallas Morning News - January 14, 2018

For Haiti-born Plano mayor, Trump's vulgar immigration comments 'offensive on a personal level'

The Haiti-born mayor of Plano said he was personally offended by the remarks President Donald Trump made during an Oval Office meeting this week when he reportedly used a vulgarity to refer to Haiti, El Salvador and African nations. Harry LaRosiliere, who has served as Plano's mayor since 2013, called Trump's comments "offensive on a personal level" in a prepared statement released Saturday. LaRosiliere said his parents moved to the U.S. from Haiti when he was 3 years old. "My mother worked for 30 years, a third of those years cleaning offices, not far from Trump Tower, so my sister and I could have an education and be the first college graduates of our family.

San Angelo Standard Times - January 12, 2018

San Angelo officials travel to D.C. in hopes of bringing interstate to city

A six-person group — including San Angelo Mayor Brenda Gunter, Tom Green County Judge Steve Floyd and members of the city’s Development Corporation — will travel to Washington D.C. to meet with state representatives and the U.S. Transportation Department about the designation of Interstate 14. The group, as well as officials from Mississippi and Louisiana — known as the Gulf Coast Strategic Highway Coalition — will meet with members of Congress about extending the general route of I-14 to San Angelo and Midland, as well as to Louisiana and Mississippi. The goal of the trip is to prepare and introduce legislation that will authorize the changes, and gain co-sponsorship of that legislation by congressional members in all three states.

Houston Chronicle - January 14, 2018

King: The outlook for Houston is up to us

To say that 2017 was year of extremes for Houston is a gross understatement. We experienced the highest of highs and the lowest of lows, from a World Series Championship to the worst flooding in generations. In the wake of such an extraordinary year, it seems apropos to ask: Based on everything we experienced in 2017, should we be optimistic or pessimistic about the future of our region? I am concerned about the region's future because we face some daunting challenges. Houston's future will depend to a great degree on how we address them.

Austin American-Statesman - January 14, 2018

State offers millions to boost 8 Austin schools. But there’s a catch.

The Austin school district is hoping to land millions of dollars from the state to transform a handful of struggling campuses in Northeast Austin that have high concentrations of minority and low-income students. But critics warn that the new Texas Education Agency program providing the money is pushing districts statewide to allow outside organizations to run their campuses or give charter operators a bigger foothold in areas where traditional public schools already face fierce competition. “What we’re seeing now in state government is the incentive for local school districts to give up responsibility and control for local schools,” said Louis Malfaro, president of the labor group Texas American Federation of Teachers.

Austin American-Statesman - January 15, 2018

Austin women’s march against Trump will mark a year of resistance

The one-year anniversary of Donald Trump’s inauguration as president will see women’s protest marches and rallies in Austin and 10 other Texas cities on Jan 20. Activists, including Texas Handmaids and the Resistance Choir of South Central Texas, have planned a rally at City Hall in Austin to call for Trump’s impeachment followed by a march to the Capitol for a rally defending abortion and other reproductive rights, according to the organizers’ Facebook page. A rally at San Antonio’s Main Plaza hosted by the TX 23rd District Indivisibles will include a push for voter registration.

Politico - January 10, 2018

‘I can shut my door and I ain’t worried about nothing’

In early January, freezing temperatures hit Texas’ most populous city, killing at least two homeless people. It was the type of weather that, just a couple of years ago, would have sent Allan Clifton to the emergency room. Instead the 64-year old spent much of the day in shorts in a studio apartment, paid for with federal dollars. Clifton spent much of 2015 and early 2016 homeless on Houston’s streets until he got his apartment as part of a city project to provide housing for chronically homeless people who frequently end up in the emergency room. When he was homeless, Clifton ended up in the emergency room about once a month, whenever his back, injured in a 2013 motorcycle accident, would give out. Since he got the apartment 18 months ago, he’s appeared in the emergency room only once, after a bicycle accident, and his back has improved so much that he rarely needs pain pills.

National Stories

Washington Post - January 15, 2018

How a congressional harassment claim led to a secret $220,000 payment

Settling sexual harassment cases on Capitol Hill is risky for members, whose careers can derail if allegations become public, and for accusers confronting a system that victims’ advocates argue protects the powerful. The process may run up tens of thousands of dollars in private legal bills for both parties and consume months or years of staff time. And there is no accountability for the use of taxpayer funds to settle cases. Strict confidentiality required under the law keeps secret the names of members and terms of settlement agreements.

Associated Press - January 13, 2018

Medicaid work mandate will create uncertainty in some states

Republicans this past week began to realize their long-held goal of requiring certain adults to work, get job training or perform community service in exchange for getting health coverage through Medicaid. Whether that's a commonsense approach or an added burden that will end up costing many Americans their health insurance will now be debated in states across the country considering the landmark change to the nation's largest health insurance program. To Medicaid recipients such as Thomas J. Penister of Milwaukee, it's created uncertainty about their ability to have health coverage.

This article appeared in the San Antonio Express News

The Hill - January 14, 2018

Five hurdles to a big DACA and border deal

A bipartisan immigration fix is facing an increasingly uphill fight in Congress after President Trump rejected a Senate proposal and sparked a political firestorm by referring to several developing nations as “shithole countries.” Both sides are digging in on their positions in the fallout, raising fresh questions about what — if any — deal could make it to Trump’s desk before early March. The Trump administration announced in September that it is ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

Dallas Morning News - January 14, 2018

200,000 Salvadorans are losing their right to stay in the U.S. What can they do?

Frantic Salvadorans have been burning up the phone lines with immigration attorneys and human rights groups since learning they’ll lose permits that have allowed them to live in the U.S. What can they do? Almost nothing, immigration experts say. Their options are limited and the outlook is bleak, said Bill Holston, executive director of the Human Rights Initiative of North Texas.

Austin American-Statesman - January 15, 2018

PolitiFact: Most DACA recipients are employed or in school

Calling out Republicans, Julián Castro of Texas said research shows that nearly every young immigrant at risk of losing federal protection from deportation is employed, in school or serving in the military. ... Castro said a “recent analysis” showed that 91 percent of DACA recipients are employed, in school or serving in the military. Some 97 percent of respondents to an August 2017 online survey reported being employed or in school. However, the researchers asked no questions about military service. We rate this claim Mostly True.

Politico - January 14, 2018

The next GOP panic: Governors races

Buoyed by November election results, a surge in fundraising and expectations of a massive liberal wave, Democrats are preparing for an assault on one of the GOP’s most heavily fortified positions: governors mansions. It’s a far cry from last summer, when Democrats bottomed out at the state level. Back then, after West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice switched allegiance to the GOP, the number of governorships in Democratic Party hands fell to just 15, a historic low.

Politico - January 14, 2018

Rand Paul: 'Unfair' to call Trump a racist

Sen. Rand Paul came to President Donald Trump's defense Sunday, arguing it is unfair to label Trump a racist over reported comments about immigration from "shithole" countries. "I don't think the comments were constructive at all," Paul, a Republican from Kentucky, said on NBC's "Meet the Press." "But I also think that to be fair, we shouldn't draw conclusions that he didn't intend." ... I think it's unfair then to sort of all of a sudden paint him, 'Oh, well, he's a racist,' when I know, for a fact, that he cares very deeply about the people in Haiti because he helped finance a trip where we were able to get vision back for 200 people in Haiti," Paul said.

Politico - January 14, 2018

GOP tax law a one-two punch to charities — and American giving

Back in 2011, when Republicans still talked about deficits, a bipartisan budget commission proposed to save tens of billions a year by revamping the charitable deduction for federal income taxes. The plan was to substitute a 12 percent tax credit available only to those who gave more than 2 percent of their adjusted gross income. The precise numbers were subject to fine-tuning, but the framework set three goals: lower the deficit, put middle-class donors on more equal footing with the wealthy and establish some minimum standard for generosity to qualify for a tax benefit.

Dallas Morning News - January 14, 2018

Gillman: Shattered norms: In just one year, has Donald Trump changed the presidency forever?

Aside from the promises kept or broken, the turmoil and tweet rants, historians are already debating whether Donald Trump has had a lasting impact on the presidency. The American system of government hinges not just on constitutional checks and balances but on norms and expectations. In his first year as president, Trump has shattered one after another. That has delighted supporters. He cast himself as an outsider who would shake up Washington and “drain the swamp," and they welcome whatever change he can bring to the office, the longer-lasting the better.

Associated Press - January 15, 2018

Woodward, Colvin: Trump has kept many promises during his first year in office

President Donald Trump often brags that he's done more in his first year in office than any other president. That's a spectacular stretch. But while he's fallen short on many measures and has a strikingly thin legislative record, Trump has followed through on dozens of his campaign promises, overhauling the country's tax system, changing the U.S. posture abroad and upending the lives of hundreds of thousands of immigrants.

The Hill - January 12, 2018

EMILY’s List eyes $90 million haul for 2018

EMILY’s List is looking to invest tens of millions of dollars in candidates for 2018 – an amount similar to a presidential year – as it looks to take advantage of strong donor interest and a surge of women running for elected office. “It’s been the best off-year we’ve ever had,” EMILY's List President Stephanie Schriock said during an interview for The Hill’s Power Politics podcast. EMILY’s List raised and spent $90 million as it worked to elect Hillary Clinton and other female candidates in 2016. A recent burst of mobilized donors and eager candidates has propelled the organization to think big for 2018.

Associated Press - January 15, 2018

Missile-alert mistake feeds doubts about a real emergency

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen urged Americans not to lose faith in their government. "I would hate for anybody not to abide by alerts and warnings coming from government systems," Nielsen said on "Fox News Sunday." ''They can trust government systems. We test them every day. This is a very unfortunate mistake, but these alerts are vital. Seconds and minutes can save lives." With mobile phones ubiquitous, wireless alerts can quickly disseminate information to a wide number of users, but there have been concerns about creating a panic if they are sent too broadly.

This article appeared in the San Antonio Express-News

The Hill - January 14, 2018

GOP may increase IRS’s budget

Republicans are weighing whether to increase the IRS’s funding so that the agency has more money to implement the new tax-cut law. GOP lawmakers were highly critical of the agency during the Obama administration, but now want to make sure that their signature legislative achievement is carried out effectively. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Friday that the administration is talking to Congress about providing the IRS with more money for implementation purposes. And GOP lawmakers have expressed an openness to a funding increase.

Texas Tribune - January 15, 2018

Prophet: Congress shouldn’t create more barriers

I remember having an out-of-body experience waiting to see my name up on the University of North Texas Coliseum's scoreboard. My lifelong goal of becoming a professional journalist was mere seconds away from being realized. People in my hometown might never have imagined how this moment was a part of fate's master plan. I have severe cerebral palsy. This makes me unable to speak and I get around in a wheelchair. I wanted to be a reporter, as I had dreamt about making a difference for my community. Fighting for ideals such as ensuring the inequality of people with disabilities has always been my focus. This is why I am gravely concerned about how U.S. House Republicans have crafted a bill, H.R. 620, undermining the accessibility guidelines for businesses that the Americans with Disabilities Act had created.

Los Angeles Times - January 11, 2018

Here’s why Issa, Royce retirements could help lead to Democratic control of the House

The announced retirement this week of two endangered Southern California congressmen, Republicans Darrell Issa and Ed Royce, could signal something larger. If a Democratic wave is building, the swell may be gathering along the Pacific Coast. California always stood at the center of this year’s fight for control of the House. Democrats, in the minority for most of the decade, need 24 seats to seize control in November. More than half a dozen of their top targets are in California, including the seats held by Issa and Royce. Significantly, their districts — filled with well-educated suburbanites, social moderates, aspiring immigrants and their millennial offspring — are the very embodiment of the year’s election battleground; not just in California, but in Arizona, Minnesota, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Texas and Washington state.

Dallas Morning News - January 9, 2018

DMN: Paying them is fair, but it doesn't address college athletes' real need: an education

It’s hard to beat college football for its pageantry and excitement. Monday night’s national championship game in Atlanta, between SEC rivals Alabama and Georgia, didn’t disappoint. The overtime game, which Alabama won, capped a football season that drew millions of fans to stadiums across the country and millions more to television screens at home. Top-tier athletics can foster school spirit and keep alumni loyal and engaged. The games are thrilling to watch. But those same sports programs are increasingly disconnected from the nonprofit educational mission of the universities that sponsor them. That’s not a news flash, but it’s worth pondering when Alabama head coach Nick Saban’s salary topped $11 million and ESPN televised Monday’s game as part of a 12-year, multi-billion-dollar contract with the College Football Playoff.

Newsclips - January 14, 2018

Lead Stories

Washington Post - January 13, 2018

‘The wave versus the map’: Democratic control of Senate moves from preposterous to possible

The possibility that Democrats could win the Senate in 2018 seemed preposterous a year ago, given President Trump’s stunning victory and the basic math facing a party defending three times as many seats as Republicans in November’s midterm elections. Not anymore. The debate has grown over Democrats’ chances of capturing control of the agenda and holding power over Trump’s nominations, including potential vacancies on the Supreme Court. The dispute pits the practitioners of big data against those who also scout candidates and measure broader political atmosphere to make their bets.

Texas Tribune - January 12, 2018

At fundraiser, Abbott says Davis bill could have undercut Harvey response

Gov. Greg Abbott accused Houston-area state Rep. Sarah Davis, a fellow Republican, of nearly thwarting the state's response to Hurricane Harvey at a private fundraiser Thursday evening for Davis' primary challenger, according to people with direct knowledge of the event. "Just a month before Hurricane Harvey hit Houston, Texas, she engineered an effort to convince the Texas House of Representatives to cut [$70 million] of the Texas Disaster Relief Fund," Abbott said at the fundraiser for Davis' opponent, Susanna Dokupil. "Now, fortunately, the Senate was wise enough not to go along with her. But, imagine where we would have been had ... Sarah Davis’ wisdom had prevailed."

Dallas Morning News - January 12, 2018

Schnurman: Who’s afraid of politics? Dallas firms want to get out the vote and set Texas on a better path

Here’s a new item for the business agenda in 2018: Get out the vote — in March, no less. This week, some of North Texas' largest employers joined a coalition to amplify business’ voice in politics. They want to go deeper than lobbying Austin, and their first goal is to get local companies to urge workers to turn out for the March primary. In Texas, a sliver of voters in the primary and runoff typically choose most elected officials. With gerrymandering and polarization, fewer seats are decided in the general election when turnout is higher. That’s one explanation for the rightward drift of the Texas Legislature, which recently focused on socially-divisive issues such as the bathroom bill and sanctuary cities ban.

Austin American-Statesman - January 13, 2018

Texas teacher groups forging into politics, but are efforts legal?

Incensed by lawmakers’ recent attempts to divert state money from public education and curtail the power of employee unions, public school teachers could prove to be a formidable force in upcoming Texas elections. “It’s just the hostility shown by a large number of elected officials toward public education,” said Troy Reynolds, a Splendora school administrator and the founder of Texans for Public Education, an 18,000-member group that mostly operates on Facebook. “What we do want are representatives that we trust, and we don’t have that right now.”

State Stories

Austin American-Statesman - January 12, 2018

Texas employers worry immigration crackdown may cause worker shortage

If it weren’t for people allowed into the United States under temporary work permits, Bill Carson doubts he’d be in business in Travis County. The owner of Native Texas Nursery — a 40-acre tree and plant farm in East Austin — says he has trouble hiring U.S. citizens for the physically demanding, outdoor labor. “And in an urban environment like Austin, (finding employees with agricultural skills) is even worse, because you have people who haven’t grown up on a farm,” Carson said.

Austin American-Statesman - January 13, 2018

Central Texas VA reports big drop in narcotic prescription rates

Department of Veterans Affairs doctors are prescribing significantly fewer narcotic painkillers to patients than they did five years ago, according to recently released numbers. On Thursday, the VA became the first hospital system in the country to publicly post its opioid prescription rates as it seeks to reduce the use of narcotic painkillers that have been blamed for deadly overdoses among veterans. Prescribing rates in the Central Texas VA system fell 55 percent between 2012 and 2017, the sixth-largest decline in the nation. Opioid prescriptions now make up 8 percent of all VA pharmacy prescriptions in the region, compared with 18 percent in 2012.

Austin American-Statesman - January 12, 2018

Mass casualty events prompt FBI, local agencies to forge closer ties

Columbine. Newtown. Sutherland Springs. There is not a single place in this country bucolic enough that it is immune to violence on a scale that could be enough to cripple local first responders. Authorities acknowledge that the threat of so-called mass casualty incidents has fundamentally changed training, preparation and relationships among small policing jurisdictions and their big city and federal counterparts. It was evident in the cross-jurisdiction response after the Nov. 5 killing of more than 20 First Baptist Church parishioners in Sutherland Springs, one of hundreds of such incidents in the United States since 2000 and one of the deadliest.

Austin American-Statesman - January 13, 2018

Marry a laptop? Polygamy? Gay marriage sees a new wave of attacks

Vocal opponents of gay rights are pressing a Dallas federal judge to end same-sex marriage, arguing that to do otherwise would open the door to allowing Texans to marry multiple partners and inanimate objects. The lawsuit, rejected as frivolous by gay-marriage advocates and Texas officials, is among at least 15 similar petitions filed nationwide by the activists, including Chris Sevier, a former Austin resident now living in Dallas who has been bounced out of several courts for trying to marry his laptop — a computer that led him to sue Apple Inc., unsuccessfully, for not protecting him from an internet porn addiction that ruined his marriage.

Austin American-Statesman - January 11, 2018

After serving his prison time, he can vote. But can he run for office?

A towering criminal justice activist with an earring and a past behind bars is the first candidate to jump into the race against Austin City Council Member Ora Houston in northeastern Austin’s District 1. He doesn’t know if he’s eligible. But he may be the first in Texas to challenge a state provision blocking felons from public office. Lewis Conway Jr., a Grassroots Leadership organizer, launches his campaign Tuesday with a party and fundraiser at Midtown Live Sports Café. Conway has a 1992 manslaughter conviction for stabbing an acquaintance to death during a fight over stolen money.

Austin American-Statesman - January 12, 2018

U.S. Supreme Court will examine Texas redistricting

With elections looming, the U.S. Supreme Court announced Friday that it will review two lower-court rulings that ordered Texas to redraw 11 political districts found to be discriminatory. Texas officials appealed the August rulings, which invalidated two congressional districts and nine Texas House districts, saying they were intentionally formed by Republicans in the Legislature to discriminate against minority voters, who tend to favor Democrats. Friday’s decision to combine the Texas cases and hear oral arguments in the spring came almost four months after the Supreme Court, acting on a Texas request, blocked the lower court’s efforts to begin redrawing the districts to allow time to consider whether to review the rulings.

Dallas Morning News - January 11, 2018

DMN: We recommend Perry Cockerell in the GOP primary for the 5th Court of Appeals, Place 12

Republicans in North Texas are fortunate to have two strong candidates competing for the 5th Court of Appeals, Place 12 seat. We tip slightly for Dallas attorney Perry Cockerell over Jim Pikl of McKinney, but it seems voters would be well served by either in the seat left open by retiring Justice Robert Fillmore. Also on the ballot is William "Randy" Johnson, a solo practitioner from Plano who doesn't seem to be actively campaigning and declined to answer our Voter Guide questionnaire or sit for an editorial board interview.

Austin American-Statesman - January 10, 2018

Trask: GED testing outcomes and opportunities also matter

CPPP’s recent report about GED testing in Texas gives the impression that the only valid metric worth monitoring is the number of GED graduates. However, outcomes and what GED graduates do with their credential must be part of how we measure the success of the program. The report rightly points out that in today’s economy adults need to be able to gain skills and training beyond just a high school equivalency degree in order to support Texas’ current and future economy. Our focus on outcomes and stronger bridges to higher education is why we made changes to the GED test in 2014. Since 2014, GED grads have been significantly more likely to be prepared for enrolling and persisting in college and career training programs. Within just two years of launching the new program, more than 41 percent of grads have enrolled in local college programs, and more than 90 percent remain enrolled from semester to semester. Before 2014, 35 percent of grads enrolled in college programs but a shockingly low 29 percent remained enrolled from one semester to the next.

Texas Tribune - January 11, 2018

In Texas and beyond, some watch Mexican presidential campaign with free trade concerns

Some business leaders in Mexico, Texas and elsewhere in the United States are nervous about what a potential victory by López Obrador could mean for international trade, the bread and butter for several border economies. Texas is Mexico's No. 1 trade partner. From January to November of 2017, the Laredo and El Paso customs districts saw $270.2 billion and $85.5 billion in two-way trade with Mexico, respectively, according to WorldCity, a Florida-based economics think tank that uses U.S. Census data to track trade patterns. “He has tapped into a growing nationalist sentiment in Mexico, perhaps due to President [Donald] Trump’s rhetoric [about Mexico],” said Jon Barela, the CEO of the Borderplex Alliance, a nonprofit focused on promoting business and economic development in Ciudad Juárez, El Paso and New Mexico.

Texas Tribune - January 13, 2018

Valdez, campaigning for governor, defends record as sheriff

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Lupe Valdez on Friday defended her tenure as Dallas County sheriff, holding firm against criticism of her office's transparency and a 2015 showdown with Gov. Greg Abbott over immigration policy. Speaking with reporters here at a campaign event, Valdez, who was sheriff from 2005 until she resigned to run for governor late last year, said she thought there was "more than enough transparency as long as the law allowed" while she had the job. She has faced scrutiny of her handling of inmate deaths at the Dallas County jail, but she insisted she had been diligent, letting investigations develop before releasing information that could jeopardize them.

Texas Tribune - January 14, 2018

Amid sexual harassment concerns, lawmakers consider how to check their own power

Against the backdrop of a pervasive culture of sexual harassment at the Capitol that regularly goes unchecked, Texas lawmakers are grappling with how to overcome a particularly thorny part of governing: how to check their own power. Calls for independence between sexual misconduct investigations and those in power have grown in recent months, and experts and several lawmakers agree that impartiality is crucial for building trust in a reporting system at the Capitol, where repercussions for elected officials are virtually nonexistent. But efforts to establish that independence — which could require officeholders to give up their current oversight over investigations — will likely face political challenges in persuading lawmakers to hand over power to a third party.

San Antonio Express-News - January 12, 2018

Forum brings together GOP candidates in crowded race for Texas’ 21st Congressional District

Fifteen of the 18 Republican candidates in the primary for U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith’s congressional seat made their pitch Thursday at a forum organized by the San Antonio Republican Women. In a crowded race that is all but guaranteed to go to a runoff after the March primaries, the forum offered the candidates a valuable yet brief opportunity to answer a key question for their largely undecided electorate: Who should succeed Smith, a conservative bulwark for the district since 1987? Many of the candidates have established similar, if not identical, conservative positions on key issues — something Chip Roy, a former chief of staff for Sen. Ted Cruz and one of the congressional hopefuls, acknowledged Thursday.

Houston Chronicle - January 13, 2018

Immigration detention deaths reach the highest total since 2009

A Mexican immigrant's death near Houston after he was evacuated from the path of Hurricane Irma in September marked the end of the deadliest year for immigrants held in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody in nearly a decade. Felipe Almazan-Ruiz, 51, was taken to a hospital days after being booked into an immigration contract detention facility in Livingston, according to ICE. Almazan-Ruiz had initially been arrested by ICE in Miami in July, but ended up in Texas after hurricanes struck both states. He died Sept. 17 from cardiac arrest.

Houston Chronicle - January 13, 2018

Backlash builds over immigration, but it's unclear how much it'll help Democrats

As Democrats look to make gains in Congress and mount a challenge to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott this year, they shouldn't count on a big Latino vote, despite the backlash to hardline policies and rhetoric of Trump and the GOP on immigrants. It's more complicated than that. To succeed, they would have to translate that anger into a surge in Latino voter turnout -- something Democrats have predicted for years, but has not materialized. Democrats would also need their predictions to come true that more Latino voters means more votes for them.

Dallas Morning News - January 11, 2018

Texas plaintiffs still fear exposure of voter data even with Trump's fraud commission dissolved

ident Donald Trump’s controversial voter fraud commission was disbanded last week, but plaintiffs in a Texas lawsuit want more assurances about the safety of voter information. The question of what voter data Texas can release to such commissions and what safeguards they must ensure stems from a lawsuit filed in July by the Texas NAACP and the Texas League of Women Voters seeking to block the state from handing over its voter rolls to the federal commission. Texas election law includes provisions that prohibit the information from being used for commercial purposes.

Dallas Morning News - January 11, 2018

McKenzie: Restoring trust in the media starts with journalists knowing voters better

Declining trust in the media is at the heart of the debate over whether the information we are receiving about our world and its leaders is accurate. You can see this skepticism in polling data that show a greater decline in faith in the media than in business, government or non-governmental organizations. The 2017 Edelman Global survey reveals that disturbing trend, as does a 2016 Pew Research Center study that says few Americans have "a lot of" trust in the information we receive from professional outlets. ... A Southern Methodist University journalism class I taught last fall spent time studying the importance of knowing voters. This newspaper's Gromer Jeffers talked to the class about the advantage of seeking out voters away from the drama of a campaign event. By doing so, journalists get to know more than the candidate. They get to know the mood of the nation.

Dallas Morning News - January 11, 2018

DMN: We recommend John Browning in GOP primary for 5th District Court of Appeals, Place 11

Rockwall attorney John Browning offers the right combination of practical experience, extracurriculars and strong work ethic to handle the diverse and heavy load of the 5th District Court of Appeals. Browning, 53, would bring more than 28 years of trial and appellate experience to this bench, a state intermediate appeals court that handles cases for Dallas, Collin, Grayson, Hunt, Rockwall and Kaufman counties.

Dallas Morning News - January 12, 2018

Floyd: Real relics from make-believe Alamo represent the powerful myths of Texas history

If you can imagine Davy Crockett without envisioning John Wayne, you're a more disciplined historian than I. If you can't, it's understandable. Truth and myth emulsify in Texas, nowhere more so than at our most revered shrine: the Alamo. The stirring battle tale — generally factual, despite being massaged and hucksterized for nearly two centuries — informs a unique mindset that entails a pleasant Texan sense of self-satisfaction, and that tends to get on non-Texan nerves. No matter. It's our iconic story, and when it became an iconic movie, Texas was not re-created in Hollywood. Hollywood came to Texas.

Dallas Morning News - January 11, 2018

Marchant: North Texans are already benefiting from tax reform

In the days and weeks after the president signed historic tax reform into law, more than 100 businesses around the country — including right here in North Texas — are putting more money in the pockets of their employees. Companies such as Dallas-based AT&T, Southwest Airlines and Texas Capital Bank and Fort Worth-based American Airlines are giving bonuses to their workforces, increasing investment in their operations and donating millions of dollars to charities because of tax reform. My goals throughout this process were to push for bold reforms that expand economic opportunities and cut taxes for the people I represent. We need policies in place that encourage businesses in our community to grow and invest in their employees. The final result reflected these goals.

Dallas Morning News - January 12, 2018

Baptist preacher's crusade against 'sinful' school vouchers steps on Texas GOP leaders' toes

Quoting Bible verses and calling the school vouchers propos?al ?by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and other lawmakers “sinful,”? Fort Worth minister Charlie? Johnson has been driving ?feverishly ?around the state before the March 6 primary. At rallies and impromptu meetings arranged by friendly school superintendents with local ministers, the longtime Southern Baptist preacher delivers a fiery message? on behalf of public schools. His get-out-the-vote crusade has irritated GOP state leaders and staunchly conservative activists who favor using tax dollars ?to help parents of children enrolled in public schools pay to attend private schools.

Ft. Worth Star-Telegram - January 12, 2018

Get ready to go first, Texans. The country is watching

Texans will make history March 6. When voters here head to polls that day to cast ballots in the Republican and Democratic primaries, they will be the first in the country to weigh in on mid-term elections. At stake here are a number of races, ranging from fights for the U.S. House of Representatives to the battle for the Texas Legislature. Among the premier races: U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz’s first re-election bid since being the underdog who came out on top in his unexpected 2012 victory.

Washington Post - January 12, 2018

Supreme Court takes on Texas gerrymandering case, will look at Internet sales tax

The Supreme Court on Friday added a third examination of discriminatory gerrymandering charges to its docket, this time from Texas, and announced it will consider overruling a decades-old precedent that hobbles states from requiring online retailers to collect sales tax. Those cases — along with a challenge to how Securities and Exchange Commission employees enforce investment protection laws — highlight a batch of grants that will fill much of the court’s remaining term, the justices announced Friday. And one other issue still could be added: a review of President Trump’s latest travel ban on immigrants and visitors from certain countries. The justices will consider next week whether to take that case.

Denton Record-Chronicle - January 10, 2018

Denton Record-Chronicle: Keep state, private expenses separate

Victor Vandergriff, one of five commissioners who oversee the Texas Department of Transportation, is probably not very happy with the Texas Tribune. The Tribune, an online news organization in Austin, reports Vandergriff has been billing taxpayers for his trips to Austin as a TxDOT commissioner while also lobbying for car dealerships at the Legislature. The Vandergriff name has been prominent in North Texas for many years. Victor's father, Tom Vandergriff, was a new-car dealer and served as Arlington mayor for many years. Victor is an attorney and former board member of the North Texas Tollway Authority.

Beaumont Enterprise - January 9, 2018

Beaumont Enterprise: State bungled retired teachers' health care

For decades teachers in Southeast Texas and the rest of the state worked under a basic understanding: Their salaries wouldn't be that great, but like many government workers, that would be offset in part by better benefits. Educators believed they would have affordable health insurance through the Teacher Retirement System's TRS-Care. As they learned to their surprise in this new year, they don't. Premiums have skyrocketed in 2018 to about $1,000 per month - with higher out-of-pocket costs too. With average monthly pensions of $2,000 per month, that's clearly not sustainable. Some teachers have been forced to return to substitute teaching or other part-time jobs.

County Stories

Dallas Morning News - January 12, 2018

DMN: Dallas County judges' cynical electioneering indicts their integrity

The Democratic Party primaries for judicial seats in Dallas County are a mess to make a mother weep. In three civil court races, the incumbent judges — all competent, all experienced — have conducted themselves in ways that indict their fitness for continued service on the bench. In each case, the sitting judges — Martin Hoffman of the 68th District, Jim Jordan of the 160th District and Carl Ginsberg of the 193rd District — have allowed themselves to become mere politicians in pursuit of another term. These judges appear surprised and even offended to have drawn primary opponents from female candidates whose records they believe compare poorly to their own.

San Antonio Express-News - January 13, 2018

Former Starr County judge convicted of bribery launches bid to win back bench

A former Starr County justice of the peace will attempt to win back his old job despite being convicted on two counts of bribery and removed from the bench. Salvador Zarate Jr., 65, was arrested for taking a $500 bribe in exchange for reducing bond on two people arrested on drug charges in the county jail. Get the latest news, sports and food features sent directly to your inbox. Sign up for our newsletters MOST POPULAR Morgan Workman leans on her niece Amanda Pomeroy, 9, while Morgan's father, Darrell Harris, watches as they wait for Morgan's wedding to begin at Spinelli's in Comfort on Thursday, Jan. 11, 2018. Two survivors of the deadly massacre in Sutherland Springs tie... Edward Benavides, the new CEO of the tricentennial celebration for the city, stands for a portrait at the Centro de Artes building in Market Square in San Antonio, Texas on December 15, 2015. Former head of San Antonio’s tricentennial quits the city... DeWitt County Judge Daryl Fowler asked if there was a safe harbor for counties that acted in good faith when they established reinvestment zones. But, he said, “Our counsel said if the courts find that it’s an unconstitutional taking, there is no safe harbor.” Legendary Briscoe family sues Dimmit County Robert Diaz (center left), Junior Rodriguez (center right) and other homeless men try to stay warm Thursday while cooking bacon and chicken near the Hays Street Bridge. Homeless combat cold with surroundings, blankets as winter... Manu Ginobili’s golden years compare with all-time greats. Ginobili’s season might be one for the ageless In Texas, a candidate for public office cannot have been finally convicted of a felony. But the embattled Zarate has appealed his conviction, which officials say paved the way for him to enter the race.

Austin American-Statesman - January 13, 2018

AAS: Ruling in Kleinert case weakens police accountability

Last week’s decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to not take up a case involving a former Austin police officer who fatally shot an African-American man was a huge victory for the officer, ending a saga that began in 2013. For Travis County prosecutors who took the case to the high court in hope of holding Charles Kleinert criminally responsible in the death of Larry Jackson Jr., the ruling was a big defeat. The decision raises new concerns and challenges for Travis County and other local authorities in their ability to hold officers — who work for and are paid by cities and counties, but serve on federal task forces — legally responsible for crimes.

City Stories

Austin American-Statesman - January 13, 2018

Austin ISD trustee blasts board for stalling Confederate name removals

The Austin school trustees have backed away from changing Confederate school names at five campuses next month, drawing strong criticism from the only black member of the board. Trustees were scheduled to vote on renaming the schools in February, but told administrators this week they wanted to postpone any decision and instead develop a clear process for how these school names are changed. “I think the board has no moral compass and moral spine in terms of wavering on this issue,” said Trustee Ted Gordon, who is one of two board members who are minorities. “It’s the board’s responsibility to decide what is morally correct and try to educate the community in the direction we believe in and not simply sit back.”

Ft. Worth Star-Telegram - January 13, 2018

Kennedy: Here’s how to fix Fort Worth. (It’s not about Dallas, or pilots, or the cow.)

The day of reckoning has come for Fort Worth, blurring from a distinct metropolitan city into the western sprawl of the DFW metroglob. A new business plan for the city included wakeup alarms for city leaders: Our residents are less likely to have a college degree than Houston’s or Dallas’, and nowhere near as well-educated as Denver’s or Austin’s. Even our high school graduation rate trails San Antonio’s or Oklahoma City’s, both working-class cities with a rough-and-tumble cowboy past. So the blunt truth is: Fort Worth and Tarrant County are not very smart.

Dallas Morning News - January 12, 2018

First Baptist pastor Robert Jeffress says sentiment of Trump's vulgar immigration remarks 'on target'

Dallas megachurch pastor Robert Jeffress defended Donald Trump's reportedly calling Haiti, El Salvador and some African nations as "shithole countries," saying the president got the "sentiment" correct. Jeffress, the head of First Baptist Dallas and an adviser to the president, said Friday that Trump was "right on target" when he questioned why the U.S. should permit more immigrants from countries like Haiti and some in Africa during a bipartisan meeting on immigration reform Thursday. "Apart from the vocabulary attributed to him, President Trump is right on target in his sentiment," Jeffress told the Christian Broadcasting Network.

National Stories

New York Times - January 14, 2018

DACA Participants Can Again Apply for Renewal, Immigration Agency Says

The federal government said on Saturday that it would resume accepting renewal requests for a program that shields from deportation young immigrants who were brought illegally to the United States as children. In a statement, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services said that “until further notice,” the Obama-era program, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, known as DACA, “will be operated on the terms in place before it was rescinded” in September, when President Trump moved to end it. The decision came after a federal judge in California issued a nationwide injunction on Tuesday ordering the Trump administration to resume the DACA program.

New York Times - January 12, 2018

Trump’s Immigration Remarks Outrage Many, but Others Quietly Agree

The Czech president has called Muslim immigrants criminals. The head of Poland’s governing party has said refugees are riddled with disease. The leader of Hungary has described migrants as a poison. This week, Austria’s new far-right interior minister suggested “concentrating” migrants in asylum centers — with all its obvious and odious echoes of World War II. So when President Trump said he did not want immigrants from “shithole” countries, there was ringing silence across broad parts of the European Union, especially in the east, and certainly no chorus of condemnation. In fact, some analysts saw the remarks as fitting a pattern of crude, dehumanizing and racist language to describe migrants and asylum seekers that has steadily edged its way into the mainstream.

Washington Post - January 12, 2018

Trump’s vulgarity: Overt racism or a president who says what many think?

One barnyard epithet, and the leader of the free world was now definitively a racist or, alternatively, was back in the good graces of those who had worried he was wavering in his nationalism. One ugly denunciation of the population of much of the planet, and President Trump had once again propelled himself to center stage — boxing out discussion of any number of world crises and, more immediately, freezing progress toward a bipartisan deal on immigration policy. Trump’s slur Thursday against the “shithole countries” from which he would rather the United States take fewer immigrants sparked a louder-than-usual tempest Friday, but the storm took a very familiar shape.

Washington Post - January 13, 2018

Trump, condemned for ‘shithole’ countries remark, denies comment but acknowledges ‘tough’ language

President Trump’s comments about African countries and Haiti drew condemnation from around the world Friday, putting the White House and Republicans on the defensive while casting doubt on hopes of resolving disputes in the coming weeks over immigration legislation. In a tweet Friday, Trump seemed to deny using the term “shithole” to refer to some countries during a private White House meeting Thursday, but acknowledged he used “tough” language during the negotiations. Among Republicans, there were differing responses to the comments, but few of them outright condemned his remarks.

Dallas Morning News - January 12, 2018

DMN: Trump can go beyond DACA to usher in a larger immigration solution

One of the most immediate immigration crises that lawmakers face is how to handle the Dreamers, an estimated 800,000 immigrants who arrived here illegally when their parents brought them as children. But in a remarkable White House meeting with top Democratic and Republican lawmakers this week, President Donald Trump indicated he's open to supporting a comprehensive immigration reform that could go well beyond that. This was most welcome news. Not since Ronald Reagan has an American president presided over a comprehensive overhaul of our immigration laws — and in the minds of many, Reagan's fix only created new and vexing problems. Millions of immigrants have arrived illegally in the decades since. Their presence here has helped build our local economies, reunited many families and given birth to legions of new American citizens.

Dallas Morning News - January 9, 2018

Leubsdorf: We're probably not getting rid of Trump until the voters boot him out

For the past week, Washington and the political world have been fixated on Michael Wolff's gossipy account of the chaos and dysfunction within Donald Trump's White House. But the significance of Wolff's disclosures has been somewhat clouded by the media focus on such corollary issues as their long-term effect on Steve Bannon's influence, factual errors on some details, and whether the author violated disclosure rules in reporting top aides' devastating comments about the president's alleged shortcomings.

Politico - January 10, 2018

Zeitz: Why the 25th Amendment Doesn’t Apply to Trump—No Matter What He Tweets

But is the 25th Amendment really in play here—and, what’s more, should it be? If original intent were the sole standard, the answer would probably be no. Forged in the shadow of John Kennedy’s assassination, amid heightened Cold War tensions, the 25th Amendment was designed to address serious lapses in the Constitution’s provisions for presidential succession. Specifically, it was designed to protect the government from random occurrences like sudden illness or a failed assassination attempt.

New York Post - January 13, 2018

Exec charged with bribing Russian official in uranium deal

There’s an indictment in the FBI probe of the Uranium One scandal, in which the Obama administration cleared a business deal that gave a Russian company control of 20 percent of the US uranium industry. A grand jury brought 11 counts of money laundering and wire fraud against Mark Lambert, the former head of a Maryland transportation company.

Washington Post - January 11, 2018

Scott: The state of America, according to Generation Z

They’re optimistic about America’s future More than half — 59 percent — of young people say America’s best days lie ahead, which is slightly larger than the percentage (52 percent) of all Americans belief this. But more than 4 in 10 — 41 percent — believe that the country’s best days are in the past. Of the ethnic groups surveyed, black young people were the least likely to say that America’s best days lie ahead. Only 54 percent of black young people hold that sentiment, compared with two-thirds of Asian young people, 60 percent of white young people and 56 percent of Latino young people.

Associated Press - January 13, 2018

Chelsea Manning files for US Senate bid in Maryland

Chelsea Manning intends to run for the U.S. Senate in Maryland, returning the transgender former soldier to the spotlight after her conviction for leaking classified documents and her early release from military prison. Manning, 30, filed her statement of candidacy with the Federal Election Commission on Thursday, listing an apartment in North Bethesda as her address. She is running as a Democrat and will likely challenge two-term Sen. Ben Cardin in the primary. The state's senior senator is an overwhelming favorite to win.

This article appeared in the San Antonio Express-News

New York Times - January 12, 2018

Porn Star Was Reportedly Paid to Stay Quiet About Trump

A lawyer for President Trump orchestrated a $130,000 payment to a pornographic-film actress in October 2016 to prevent her from going public with claims of a consensual sexual encounter with Mr. Trump, The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday. The reported payment came shortly before the presidential election and as the actress, Stephanie Clifford, 38, was discussing sharing her account with ABC’s “Good Morning America” and the online magazine Slate, according to interviews, notes and text messages reviewed by The New York Times.

HuffPost - January 5, 2018

She Quit Working For Trump. Now She’s Running For Congress To Fight Him.

Gina Ortiz Jones thought she could work for President Donald Trump. When he won the presidency in November 2016, Jones, a career civil servant who served in the Air Force in Iraq under George W. Bush and as an intelligence officer under Barack Obama, stayed in her job as a director in the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative. But by June, she couldn’t do it anymore. Trump’s plans to gut education and housing aid hit too close to home for Jones, as someone who relied on reduced-cost school lunches and subsidized housing when she was a kid being raised by a single mom in San Antonio. She was also appalled by the president’s hires for top jobs.

Houston Chronicle - January 6, 2018

Grieder: Sessions is in the weeds on marijuana policy

Perhaps the greatest advantage Donald Trump has, heading into the second year of his presidency, is that his most ferocious critics tend to be among the most indiscriminate. Last year, for example, they opposed his decision to nominate Jeff Sessions for attorney general. They were right to do so, in my view, given that many Americans had very valid concerns about his commitment to voting rights and due process, among other things. MOST POPULAR UH sends wrong message in hiring Kendal Briles Why can't male astronauts see in space? NASA, Texas... Davis fires back at fellow House member trying to oust her 10 Houston master-planned communities make top-seller list U.S. 290 construction finally to end (mostly) later this year Voting in Texas for 2018 just weeks away thanks to nation's... The Woodlands first in area to unveil dockless bikes for... In fairness, Senate Democrats who raised these concerns during the confirmation process may have been outvoted regardless.

The Hill - January 11, 2018

Democrats planning protests for Trump’s first State of the Union

Democrats are already plotting ways to protest during President Trump’s State of the Union later this month. At least one lawmaker plans to boycott the speech entirely, with more Democrats possibly opting to skip the event as well. Female Democrats including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) plan to wear black to show solidarity with victims of sexual misconduct, just as Hollywood stars did at an awards show over the weekend. Members of the Democratic Women’s Working Group had been discussing ideas for a coordinated effort around the State of the Union after wearing white — the color of suffragettes — to Trump’s first joint address to Congress last year. They settled on wearing black after watching the Golden Globes on Sunday.

Newsclips - January 12, 2018

Lead Stories

Washington Post - January 12, 2018

Trump derides protections for immigrants from ‘shithole’ countries

President Trump grew frustrated with lawmakers Thursday in the Oval Office when they discussed protecting immigrants from Haiti, El Salvador and African countries as part of a bipartisan immigration deal, according to several people briefed on the meeting. “Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?” Trump said, according to these people, referring to countries mentioned by the lawmakers. Trump then suggested that the United States should instead bring more people from countries such as Norway, whose prime minister he met with Wednesday. The president, according to a White House official, also suggested he would be open to more immigrants from Asian countries because he felt they help the United States economically.

Politico - January 10, 2018

Rash of retirements dim GOP hopes of keeping the House

A flurry of Republican retirements in recent weeks has further weakened the party’s hold on the House heading into the midterms — and the exodus probably isn’t over. California Reps. Darrell Issa and Ed Royce both bailed on their reelection campaigns in the past 48 hours, bringing the total of Republican-held open seats to a staggering 29 districts, a figure that includes lawmakers seeking higher offices. The Issa and Royce retirements open up seats that Hillary Clinton carried in the 2016 presidential race and will be more difficult — and expensive — for Republicans to defend, particularly if the party is swept under a Democratic wave.

Dallas Morning News - January 11, 2018

Unlike other states, Texas hasn’t applied for Medicaid work requirements under Trump's new policy

The Trump administration announced Thursday that states can apply to add work requirements to their Medicaid programs. The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said the policy guidelines are an attempt to get more able-bodied adults working or engaged in their communities. Ten states have already applied, but Texas isn’t one of them. Drew White, a senior federal policy analyst at the conservative Texas Public Policy Foundation, said he applauds the move to give states more flexibility with Medicaid. But because Texas didn’t expand its program to include more people under the Affordable Care Act, requiring its Medicaid recipients to work wouldn’t have much of an impact.

Texas Tribune - January 11, 2018

Criticism builds for Texas DPS decision to lay off 117 older officers

In its latest attempt to address budget cuts, the Texas Department of Public Safety is again facing harsh criticism. Multiple lawmakers and the department’s officers association have called for the reversal of a DPS decision to cut the positions of 117 law enforcement officers currently employed under the agency’s retire/rehire program. The decision was made while the agency looks for ways to comply with a mandated budget cut of more than $50 million, according to a DPS memo from last month. Other budget decisions made by the department this year have been overturned after public uproar.

Houston Chronicle - January 11, 2018

Conservative group's involvement in local race shows Montgomery County's strategic value

Empower Texans hated state Rep. Mark Keough before it loved him. The hard-right political organization excoriated Keough in a piece on its website in January 2017. The Woodlands Republican had given a speech seconding the nomination of state Rep. Joe Straus, a longtime Empower Texans nemesis, for another term as Texas House speaker. "Sadly," the article stated, "Keough appears to be simply the latest politician to run as a conservative only to sell out their word and their principles to support a corrupt Democratic coalition in the House." A year later, Keough is challenging Montgomery County Judge Craig Doyal in the March 6 Republican primary. Empower Texans has endorsed him.

State Stories

Dallas Morning News - January 11, 2018

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has raised historic $43 million for re-election campaign

Gov. Greg Abbott has a staggering $43.3 million to spend on his re-election campaign, a major hurdle for any of the nine Democrats trying to replace him. Figures obtained by The Dallas Morning News show Abbott raised over $9 million during the fundraising period from July 1-Dec. 31 last year. Allowing for some spending, his campaign fund rose from $41 million in the summer to $43.3 million at the beginning of 2018. Abbott is expected to add to his fundraising total and, perhaps, exceed the $48 million he spent in his 2014 race against Democrat Wendy Davis.

Dallas Morning News - January 11, 2018

Flame torches and improvised shields: New items banned from Capitol grounds in response to protests

In response to "violent confrontations" during protests, the Texas Department of Public Safety announced new security measures Thursday that ban certain items, including flame torches, metal signs and improvised shields, from the Capitol grounds. Firearms and "other deadly weapons" are also banned, except when people have a license to carry. The ban is effective immediately. "These measures are aimed at preventing violent confrontations during protests and demonstrations; maintaining order; and protecting all Capitol visitors from injury or infringement of constitutional rights," read a news release from the department.

Dallas Morning News - January 11, 2018

Grayson County district attorney one step closer to U.S. attorney post in Sherman

Grayson County’s district attorney is one step closer to filling the open U.S. attorney seat in the Eastern District of Texas. The Senate Judiciary Committee approved Joseph Brown, President Donald Trump's pick and a self-described conservative leader, in a voice vote Thursday. Now, he’ll await a vote by the full Senate before he can be confirmed to the post based in Sherman. It's not unusual for the Eastern District to hear cases with North Texas implications, including Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott's September hearing over his six-game NFL suspension.

Dallas Morning News - January 11, 2018

What should Texas inmates read? Banned book list under review

Texas prison officials are reviewing how to decide which books are banned in state jails and prisons. The Texas Department of Criminal Justice is reviewing the agency's banned books policy, spokesman Jason Clark confirmed this week. The audit was initiated after The Dallas Morning News reported on inconsistencies in the policy, but Clark said "there was no single event that precipitated the review." "All policies are periodically reviewed, and this one is no exception," Clark added.

Dallas Morning News - January 11, 2018

Democrat running against Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton raises $900K

The Democrat hoping to oust Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has announced he has nearly 1 million dollars to bankroll his run against the Republican incumbent. Justin Nelson, a lawyer from Houston, raised $911,000 through the end of 2017, his campaign said Thursday. More than half of that amount — $500,000 — came out of the candidate's own pocket. Nelson has an uphill battle against his Republican opponent. While Paxton was indicted for securities fraud more than two years ago, he remains popular with conservatives who favor his far-right stances on issues like LGBT rights, immigration and abortion.

Dallas Morning News - January 11, 2018

Former Texas first lady Rita Crocker Clements remembered in simple Dallas ceremony

Hers was a life marked by love, purpose and remarkable efficiency, and with her passing, the memorial service for Rita Crocker Clements was no different: Simple, expeditious and uplifting, the way she would have wanted. "You know how she was," said her son, Jim Bass, as he met outside with mourners afterward. "Chop, chop. It was what she was all about." On Thursday, a crowd of several hundred gathered at Dallas' St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church to remember Clements, the former Texas first lady and political and civic fireball who died Saturday at 86, from complications of Alzheimer's disease.

Austin American-Statesman - January 11, 2018

Texas’ highest courts launch review of mental health and incarceration

Concerned about exceeding the eight minutes she was given to address the tricky relationship between mental health disorders and the state’s criminal justice system, Burnet County Justice of the Peace Roxanne Nelson saved her best story for a private audience in the hallway. Nelson was among 20 mental health experts and advisers invited to testify Thursday at the Texas Supreme Court at a hearing to establish a new judicial commission on mental health. The commission — made up of judges from the state’s two highest courts, the Supreme Court and the Court of Criminal Appeals — is a brainstorming group aiming to serve defendants who suffer from mental illness.

Austin American-Statesman - January 11, 2018

Attorney general: City manager candidates not a competitive secret

The city of Austin cannot withhold records showing who applied for its city manager position by claiming the information would harm the city competitively in a search for qualified applicants, the Texas attorney general’s office says. Nor is the information a trade secret, a matter that would harm the search firm competitively or “highly intimate and embarrassing,” Matthew Taylor, an assistant attorney general in the open records division, wrote in his opinion. The opinion says that the city and its executive search firm, Russell Reynolds, must turn over the bulk of the information the American-Statesman requested related to the search for a new city manager, including candidate applications. Austin may withhold only attorney-client privileged emails and some personal email addresses and cellphone numbers.

Austin American-Statesman - January 11, 2018

LBJ’s former ranch listed for $2.8 million

The one-time Texas Hill Country property of former U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson is for sale, with a $2.8 million asking price. Located on 142 acres near Johnson City, family namesake of the former president, the property is the former home of Italian artist Benini, renowned for his paintings and sculptures. DMTX Realty, a sales team affiliated with Coldwell Banker United Realtors, has the listing for the property, which is at 377 Shiloh Road. Blanco County deed records show that the property was purchased by Johnson one week into his presidency in 1963 and remained in his ownership until 1971. Johnson used the secluded property as a private retreat.

Austin American-Statesman - January 11, 2018

Key Texas lawmaker supports Medicaid policy change

An influential Texas lawmaker says he supports a new federal policy that allows states to impose work requirements for Medicaid recipients. State Sen. Charles Schwertner, R-Georgetown, who chairs the Texas Senate’s Health and Human Services Committee, said the policy change will allow states more flexibility with their health care systems. However, he said the new policy would have less impact in Texas than in some other states due to Texas’ already limited Medicaid eligibility for nonworking residents.

Austin American-Statesman - January 11, 2018

Report: Texas schools illegally denied special education to students

The Texas Education Agency led schools to illegally delay or deny special education services to students statewide, according to a report released Thursday by the U.S. Education Department. In a 14-page letter, regulators concluded that the agency’s 2004 decision to effectively cap the number of students that could be enrolled in special education at 8.5 percent violated federal laws that require schools to serve all students with disabilities. The result was that students who should have been getting help with their learning disabilities in many cases were instead left to struggle in regular classrooms with few resources, as parents fought with school officials for their children’s federally guaranteed rights.

Texas Tribune - January 12, 2018

Baylor won’t say which coaches are to blame for its sexual assault scandal. How are other schools vetting them?

A bid to better their football team’s offense put University of Houston officials on the defensive this past week. It’s a posture several schools have had to adopt in recent years after announcing they’d hired coaching staff – like UH’s new offensive coordinator Kendal Briles and offensive line coach Randy Clements – who had worked at Baylor University and departed under the cloud of a sexual assault scandal.

Texas Tribune - January 11, 2018

Ray Keck to step down as president of Texas A&M University-Commerce

The president of Texas A&M University-Commerce, Ray Keck, announced Thursday that he will step down from his position effective Aug. 31. "It is time to redirect passion and energy, to return to teaching and to continue to assist, in every helpful way, a new leader for A&M Commerce," Keck said in a statement. He will take a year of leave and then return to the campus as a faculty member, according to a news release. The Texas A&M University System Board of Regents will name a search committee in February to find a successor, the release said.

Texas Tribune - January 11, 2018

Texas delegation splits on warrantless N.S.A. spying

In a rare vote that did not follow Texas delegation party lines, the U.S. House passed a measure on Thursday that will reauthorize the collection of foreign surveillance within the United States for another six years. The legislation will extend the government's capacity to collect the correspondence of foreign targets from American cell phone and technology companies without a warrant, including when an American is involved in the conversation. Republicans mostly backed the measure and Democrats largely opposed it. But many members crossed party lines as those from both ends of the political spectrum have raised privacy concerns about domestic surveillance.

Texas Tribune - January 12, 2018

Ramsey: Do Texas Democrats care that this is Mark White’s son?

The name “White” probably isn’t enough, but perhaps it will help Andrew. He is the son of the late Gov. Mark White, who served from 1983 to 1987 and was known for education reforms and for losing his re-election bid for some of the more unpopular pieces of those reforms. Andrew White hasn’t run for office before. In fact, his current bid for governor came to his mind at his father’s funeral last year. He says — in one of those phrases that tells you he’s absorbed some political skills, that he’s running because he’s interested in public service and not because he’s interested in political ambition.

Texas Tribune - January 11, 2018

Flu patients leave Texas hospitals strapped

Big-city hospitals in Texas have been overwhelmed this week by an influx of flu patients, and state health officials say influenza activity is widespread across the state. At Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas, waiting rooms turned into exam areas as a medical tent was built in order to deal with the surge of patients. A Houston doctor said local hospital beds were at capacity, telling flu sufferers they might be better off staying at home. Austin's emergency rooms have also seen an influx of flu patients.

Texas Tribune - January 12, 2018

Texas Republicans: What do you want from party leaders ahead of the 2018 primaries?

With early voting for the 2018 primary elections in Texas just 39 days away, The Texas Tribune is hitting the road to learn more about what GOP voters want from their party leaders — and from the race to replace the speaker of the House — in the next legislative session. Texas is the country’s biggest red state, with more than 50 percent of its voters casting a ballot for President Donald Trump in 2016. But the 2017 legislative session revealed deep divisions in the Texas GOP, with Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and House Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, sparring over a contentious "bathroom bill," property taxes and other issues. In October, Straus had announced that he wouldn’t be running for re-election in 2018. A string of Republican U.S. House members followed suit.

Texas Tribune - January 11, 2018

Texas Supreme Court hears oral arguments in plastic bag ban case

Plastic bag bans in Texas are hanging in the balance following oral arguments in a state Supreme Court case Thursday morning. In the case Laredo Merchants Association v. The City of Laredo, lawyers spent almost an hour arguing whether Laredo’s 2015 ban was illegal under state law. If the Republican-led court rules against the city, bag bans across the state could be deemed illegal. The city of Laredo’s lawyer, former Supreme Court justice Dale Wainwright, argued single-use bags are not garbage, so they are not covered by the several lines of state law that the case hinges on.

San Antonio Express-News - January 11, 2018

Medicaid work requirements, if adopted, would affect few Texans

Only a small percentage of low-income Texans who get their health care through Medicaid would have to work to receive benefits should the state decide to adopt work requirements, according to figures provided by an advocacy organization. The Trump administration announced Thursday that states can now require able-bodied adults to work or participate in other “community engagement” to qualify for Medicaid. In Texas, the health care program primarily insures low-income children, who make up more than 75 percent of the 4.4 million enrollees, according to the Austin-based Center for Public Policy Priorities.

San Antonio Express-News - January 11, 2018

Police chief stands by decision in immigration case

Police Chief William McManus was defiant Thursday as he faced an investigation into whether he violated the state’s anti-sanctuary cities law in his handling of a human-smuggling investigation. Speaking during a news conference about Human Trafficking Awareness Month, McManus said he stood by his decision to use state charges against a suspect in a human-smuggling case, a move that resulted in the release of 12 immigrants suspected of being in the country illegally. “I broke no protocols, I did exactly what my chiefly prerogatives allowed me to do,” he said. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement “was on the scene, and … they had every opportunity to do their job and it didn’t get done. And that is all I’m going to say about it from this point on, and the reason is because it’s under investigation.” ICE disputed the chief’s version of events.

Houston Chronicle - January 11, 2018

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew White calls for end to death penalty

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew White called Thursday for Texas to abolish the death penalty, saying if elected governor he will work to erase the hallmark law that has fueled the nation's busiest death chamber in past decades. Speaking with reporters after a candidate forum, White said he would commute the death sentences of condemned convicts, if given the chance, and would lobby the legislature to do away with the lethal injection law.

Houston Chronicle - January 11, 2018

Texas female prison population rises as male population decreases

The female prison population in the Lone Star state is on the rise even as fewer men are filling state lock-ups - but experts say it's not clear why. With its baffling numbers, outlined in a freshly released Prison Policy Initiative report put out Tuesday, Texas bucked the national trend from 2009 to 2015. Across the country, prison populations gradually dipped for both genders over the same time, although men saw sharper reductions than women. So why is Texas one of a handful of states that didn't follow that pattern? "If that question had an answer I think we would be closer to solving it," said Lindsey Linder, a policy attorney with the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition.

Houston Chronicle - January 11, 2018

Texas has the most contaminated water in the country, according to new report

Texas has the most contaminated water in the country, according to a new report from the Environmental Working Group (EWG). This finding was included in a report claiming more than 170 million Americans in all 50 states have been exposed to radioactive elements in their water. The report includes analysis EWG claims it conducted of public water systems in the U.S. from 2010 to 2015. EWG's report claims that Texas has the most widespread contamination affecting more than 3,500 utilities serving 22 million people. The contamination included detectable levels of radium-226 and radium-228.

Associated Press - January 11, 2018

Texas Sales Tax Collections up as Harvey Recovery Continues

Financial experts say Texas sales tax collections for the last few months of 2017 increased by double digits compared to a year earlier partly because of the surge in rebuilding and other recovery from Hurricane Harvey. Moody's Investor Service issued a report Thursday showing December 2017 sales tax collections increased by 12.3 percent over December 2016. Collections from Aug. 31 through the end of 2017 rose 10.2 percent over collections in 2016.

This article appeared in US News

Ft. Worth Star-Telegram - January 11, 2018

MLK parade that was to have included governor fails to get permit, is canceled

City officials on Thursday canceled a controversial Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade that was to have included Gov. Greg Abbott as the honorary grand marshal and served as a six-county celebration of the late civil rights leader’s work. City officials said the decision was made because organizers of the Toyota North Texas Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Parade had “failed to meet event planning and security-related funding requirements.” The parade was billed as a way to combine MLK events in Tarrant, Dallas, Denton, Ellis, Kaufman and Collin counties in one regional celebration. But critics quickly spoke out against Abbott’s inclusion, with some calling for a boycott or other protest.

Corpus Christi Caller-Times - January 8, 2018

Grabert: Child sex trafficking is everyone’s problem

January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month, a time for each of us to leave our comfort zone and consider the terrible costs, human and otherwise, of this scourge on our state. Early in his tenure, Hank Whitman, commissioner of the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, identified trafficking as one of his top 10 priorities — and he has followed through with that commitment. Child sex trafficking is complex, pervasive, and cuts through traditional government/law enforcement jurisdictions. Government agencies and law enforcement agencies must share information, intelligence, and human resources to understand it, fight it, and most importantly, take care of those victimized by it.

Edinburg Politics - January 10, 2018

Texas Public Safety Commission “picking youth over experience” in budget-cutting move that will fire 117 veteran DPS troopers, says Rep. Canales

Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, on Monday, January 8, 2018, called on Steven McCraw, Director of the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS), to work with him and other state lawmakers to prevent the planned firing of 117 commissioned DPS officers in a budget-cutting move by the Texas Public Safety Commission. “These 117 officers, who are now slated for downsizings, were all hired as part of the Retire/Rehire Program, which encouraged retired officers to re-enter the Department to help fill the shortage of commissioned officers,” Canales stated in his letter to McCraw. “These troopers are some of the most experienced and knowledgeable in Texas, in addition to the fact that they showed an incredible selflessness by coming back to law enforcement when their state needed them,” the House District 40 lawmaker emphasized.

Corpus Christi Caller-Times - January 5, 2018

Moritz: Willett taking more than just Twitter wit to the federal bench

Don Willett formally said goodbye to the Texas Supreme Court on the first work day of the new year and was sworn in as judge on the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. But, perhaps strangely, he did not tweet out the career promotion either right before or right after it happened. Texas political junkies and court nerds know Willett through the near 26,000 tweets he’s posted since he launched his account in 2009. That was some five years after he joined the state’s highest civil court.

Lufkin News - January 5, 2018

Culler takes shot again against Gohmert

Anthony Culler hopes to be the David to Louie Gohmert’s Goliath. The former Nacogdoches County resident is trying for the second time to unseat Gohmert, who he says dismissed him and his family when they sought help to prevent losing their home on FM 343 to foreclosure in 2010. He and Lufkin resident Roshin Rowjee will face Gohmert in the March 6 Republican primary. The winner will face a Democratic challenge in November by either Brent Beal or Shirley J. McKellar.

County Stories

Dallas Morning News - January 11, 2018

Dallas County sues big drug companies over opioid epidemic

Dallas County sued a slew of drug companies and doctors this week over their alleged roles in the deadly opioid epidemic, joining dozens of other governments nationwide that have launched court battles. The 59-page claim filed Monday in Dallas County court accuses at least 11 pharmaceutical companies — including Purdue Pharma, which makes the bestselling painkiller OxyContin — and three local doctors of knowingly pushing addictive drugs on patients while claiming they were safe. The three doctors have all been convicted of illegal "pill mill" over-prescription practices.

Dallas Morning News - January 11, 2018

Why Dallas-Fort Worth led the nation's top areas with over 100,000 new jobs

Dallas-Fort Worth’s job base grew the fastest of the nation’s dozen biggest metro areas over the year, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Thursday. From November 2016 to November of last year, the D-FW metro added 100,400 jobs — a 2.8 percent increase. That was also the largest increase by sheer number. Boston and Phoenix each grew 2.2 percent during the same time, and employment in Atlanta grew 2.1 percent.

Dallas Morning News - January 11, 2018

D-FW needs 20,000 more construction workers, Dallas Builders Association says

Last year Dallas-Fort Worth homebuilders started almost 34,000 homes. The construction total would have been even greater if builders could have rounded up more workers. The labor shortage that's hammered the U.S. housing industry continues to be one of the biggest worries for builders. "We are 20,000 construction workers short in D-FW despite wages rising 35 percent for most needed trades," said Phil Crone, head of the Dallas Builders Association. "I only see the shortage easing if the demand eases, I don't see that occurring in an impactful way.

Dallas Morning News - January 11, 2018

Dallas judge who shamed jurors can't run for re-election

An embattled two-term Dallas judge cannot run in the county's Democratic primary after the party rejected her from the ballot because of a paperwork error. Instead of writing whether she was running as a Democrat or Republican, state District Judge Teresa Hawthorne wrote the date of the election, said Sarah Duncan, an attorney for the Dallas County Democratic party. Dallas County Democratic Party chair Carol Donovan discovered Hawthorne’s filing was not completed properly after Democrat Raquel “Rocky” Jones, who is seeking to unseat Hawthorne, filed a challenge, Duncan said Thursday. The error was discovered on the petition containing public signatures that is required to become an official candidate.

City Stories

San Antonio Express-News - January 11, 2018

San Antonio bans tobacco sales to young adults under 21

San Antonio on Thursday became the first Texas city to ban retailers from selling tobacco products to young adults 18 to 20 years old, but several City Council members expressed disappointment that merchants didn’t have more of a voice in the law’s evolution. Council members also pushed the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District to provide updates once enforcement begins so they can evaluate if the new rules truly make a positive impact. After more than two hours of discussion, City Council voted 9-2 to approve the “Tobacco 21” law, scheduled to take effect Oct. 1 — two months later than originally planned.

National Stories

Politico - January 11, 2018

Trump’s secret plan to scrap Obamacare

Early last year as an Obamacare repeal bill was flailing in the House, top Trump administration officials showed select House conservatives a secret road map of how they planned to gut the health law using executive authority. The March 23 document, which had not been public until now, reveals that while the effort to scrap Obamacare often looked chaotic, top officials had actually developed an elaborate plan to undermine the law — regardless of whether Congress repealed it. Top administration officials had always said they would eradicate the law through both legislative and executive actions, but never provided the public with anything close to the detailed blueprint shared with the members of the House Freedom Caucus, whose confidence — and votes — President Donald Trump was trying to win at the time.

Politico - January 12, 2018

Surveillance bill clears key hurdle amid confusion over Trump tweets

The House on Thursday passed a long-term extension of controversial online spying tools just hours after President Donald Trump sparked confusion with successive tweets that condemned, then supported the measure. The bill, which passed by a 256-164 vote, would renew Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act for six years, allowing the intelligence agencies to retain powers that libertarians and privacy advocates have spent years trying to rein in, but that national security leaders say are critical to the country’s fight against terrorism and crime.

Politico - January 11, 2018

Heartland Democrats to Washington: You’re Killing Us

The facts are harsh. “The number of Democrats holding office across the nation is at its lowest point since the 1920s and the decline has been especially severe in rural America,” Bustos writes in the report. In 2009, the report notes, Democrats held 57 percent of the heartland’s seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. Now: 39 percent. In 2008, Barack Obama won seven of the eight heartland states. In 2012, he won six. In 2016? Trump won six. There are 737 counties in the Midwest—Trump won all but 63 of them. “We can’t keep bombing in the rural parts of these states,” Bustos told me. And with arguably some of the most critical midterms in American history less than 10 months away, the 2020 presidential election already looming and redistricting control on the line, Democrats need to find a fix fast, said Robin Johnson, a Bustos adviser and consultant who teaches political science at Monmouth College in Illinois and conducted the interviews for the report last summer. “If we don’t get this right in the next two cycles,” he told me, “we’re done”—rendered mostly powerless in Congress and in heartland state houses. He called the report “a cold reality check.”

New York Times - January 11, 2018

Trump Administration Says States May Impose Work Requirements for Medicaid

The Trump administration said on Thursday that it would allow states to impose work requirements in Medicaid, a major policy shift that moves toward fulfilling a conservative vision for one of the nation’s largest social insurance programs for low-income people. Federal officials said they would support state efforts to require able-bodied adults to work or participate in other “community engagement activities” as a condition of eligibility for Medicaid. “Our fundamental goal is to make a positive and lasting difference in the health and wellness of our beneficiaries, and today’s announcement is a step in that direction,” said Seema Verma, the administrator of the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

New York Times - January 11, 2018

A Year Later, Trump Is Less Popular Across Voting Blocs. See by How Much.

President Trump’s approval rating fell across a wide swath of demographic groups over his first year in office, including among those seen as important to his base, like white voters, evangelical Christians and those who live in rural areas. The data is from Morning Consult, a polling company that conducted daily tracking of Mr. Trump’s approval among all adults. Despite losing some support across many groups, Mr. Trump remains popular with many of the constituencies that helped usher him into the White House. His largest declines were among groups that never supported him much to begin with.

El Paso Herald Post - January 10, 2018

Sen. Cornyn: One Million Americans Getting Raises or Bonuses After Tax Reform

Tuesday on the Senate floor, U.S. Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) discussed the benefits workers in Texas and across the nation will receive as a result of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. Excerpts of Sen. Cornyn’s remarks are below, and video of his remarks can be found above “More than 100 companies have announced they will give wage increases, they’ll increase their charitable contributions, and will give out bonuses to their employees. One million Americans are receiving money they previously didn’t have, thanks to passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.”

Washington Post - January 11, 2018

New marijuana crackdown policy could become election-year headache for GOP

Although marijuana is illegal under federal law, eight states and the District of Columbia have passed laws allowing recreational consumption. Pot is legal, in some form or under some circumstances, in an additional 22 states. Sessions’s directive, issued last week, overturns an Obama-era policy discouraging federal enforcement in states where marijuana is legal. The attorney general said prosecutors should use their own discretion, taking into consideration the department’s limited re­sources, the seriousness of the crime and the deterrent effect that they could impose. Over the past two decades, public opinion has swung dramatically toward decriminalizing pot.

Wilmington News Journal (DE) - January 10, 2018

U.S. senators take aim at Delaware's bankruptcy advantage

A pair of U.S. senators is taking aim at one of Delaware's golden geese. U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and John Cornyn, R-Texas, introduced a bill on Monday that threatens to undercut Delaware's status as one the nation's leading bankruptcy venues. ... The Bankruptcy Venue Reform Act seeks to block companies from filing for bankruptcy in the states where they are incorporated and instead force them to file where they are headquartered or hold most of their assets.

Houston Chronicle - January 10, 2018

5 Mexican states get US 'do not travel' warning

Five states in Mexico have gotten the sternest "do not travel" advisories under a revamped U.S. State Department system unveiled Wednesday. The five include the northern border state of Tamaulipas and the Pacific coast states of Sinaloa, Colima, Michoacan and Guerrero. The State Department had previously discouraged travel to all or part of the five states' territories but the new warnings are sterner, placing the drug- and crime-plagued states on the same level warning level as Somalia, Yemen, Syria or Afghanistan.

Washington Examiner - January 11, 2018

Pew: US media bias ranks worst in the world

More than in any other country, Americans on both sides of the political aisle believe the media does does a poor job covering political issues fairly, according to a blockbuster new survey of media consumption in 38 nations. What’s more, the Pew Research Center’s study found that supporters of President Trump believe the media is doing a worse job covering politics than the supporters of any of the other international political leaders in countries surveyed. “Large gaps in ratings of the media emerge between governing party supporters and non-supporters.

Bloomberg - January 5, 2018

Payday Loan Mogul Trades Ferrari-Racing Life for Prison Term

Scott Tucker says he’s a pioneering self-made man who, without a college degree, founded successful businesses in a variety of fields and contributed billions of dollars to the U.S. economy. A judge says he’s an unrepentant fraud and sentenced him to almost 17 years in prison. The disgraced payday loan mogul, better known as a race-car driver on U.S. and European circuits, enjoyed a luxurious lifestyle, with a private jet, a vacation home in Aspen, Colorado, and a fleet of Ferraris. The 55-year-old resident of Overland Park, Kansas, was never short of cash. The same can’t be said of his former customers. Millions of Americans who couldn’t get loans from regular banks flocked to Tucker’s businesses, where they were sometimes charged interest rates exceeding 700 percent for small loans they needed to make ends meet, the U.S. said.

Washington Post - January 11, 2018

New Trump administration tax guidelines rely on workers to double-check their paychecks

Millions of Americans will need to use a new Internal Revenue Service tool to ensure their new paychecks are accurate, Trump administration officials said Thursday as they issued guidelines for implementing the recently passed tax law. The guidelines are necessary for businesses to calculate how much to withhold in taxes from employees’ paychecks beginning as soon as next month. The White House said Thursday businesses should make these adjustments by Feb. 15, part of the administration’s push for millions of workers to see bigger paychecks as quickly as possible. In rushing the process, the Treasury Department is asking companies to rely on outdated forms to help determine how much to withhold.

The Hill - January 9, 2018

Koch-backed groups launch 'Right to Try' campaign

Koch brothers-backed groups are launching a campaign urging Congress to pass legislation allowing terminally ill patients to request access to experimental drugs the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) hasn’t approved. Nearly 40 states have this law, known as “Right to Try,” already on their books. But Freedom Partners, in partnership with Americans for Prosperity — two groups funded in part by billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch — say federal legislation is needed to assuage patient fears that the federal government will override state laws. The new push, launched Monday, consists of a lobbying effort, 30- and six-second digital ads, a social media effort and more.

Washington Post - January 10, 2018

Oprah might run for president. We did the opposition research for you.

Since everyone's suddenly talking about Oprah 2020, let's talk about what her campaign might look like — or more specifically, what her opponents might do to it. There's no reason to think politics will become any less brutal in the next two years. And there's every reason to expect that opposition researchers would happily dig through Oprah Winfrey's storied history as a talk-show host, cultural icon, fake book promoter, advocate of mystical healing powers, fearer of hamburgers and apparent chum of Harvey Weinstein. Not to mention the child sex abuse scandal.

Daily Caller - January 10, 2018

Gohmert: Republicans Will Lose Congress And Trump Will Face Impeachment If The Border Wall Is Not Funded

Let it be known and clearly stated here without reservation: If Republicans again help pass an amnesty bill, no matter what legalistic or deceptive name it is given without first securing the border and building a wall where it is needed, enough Republican voters will stay home next November that the majority will be surrendered to the Democrats. Following that devastating loss, the first order of business for new House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in January 2019 in the 116th Congress will be an impeachment vote regarding President Donald J. Trump. The great hope for a return to the rule of law that was created when President Trump was elected will be gone.

New York Magazine - January 10, 2018

Faris: Trump Ending DACA Was Never About the Law. A Federal Judge Noticed.

Rather than look Dreamers in the eye and tell them himself that they’re no longer wanted in the United States, Donald Trump dispatched his embattled attorney general to announce last September that their lifeline, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, would be wound down. It was a cowardly play, but Jeff Sessions seemed delighted to be a good soldier and declare the initiative’s demise. The move was sparked by Republican officials from ten states threatening to sue the administration if it failed to shut down DACA, which Sessions had determined was unconstitutional anyway. Their justifications were thin at best.