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All - February 22, 2017

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Texas Monthly - February 21, 2017

Tilaferro: A Note to Readers

Yesterday, the esteemed Columbia Journalism Review published an article asserting that Texas Monthly was heading in a new direction, elevating lifestyle coverage and backing away from politics and longform journalism. The news ricocheted across social media, and it brought many a heart rate soaring up, mine included. In speaking about Texas Monthly’s online coverage, I made a comment about the relative emphasis we have placed on news and politics versus lifestyle and longform. In making this comment, I unfortunately gave the CJR the wrong impression. Let me first say that I know Texans care about politics, and deeply, especially in these times. Let me also say that I am committed to covering politics, as Texas Monthly has done since its inception, and to uphold its tradition of longform journalism. What I was trying to point out is that there is much more to the Texas identity.

Dallas Morning News - February 21, 2017

Led by D-FW, Texas housing set records in 2016

Texas home sales hit record levels last year for both prices and the number of properties purchased. It was the second year in a row that the Lone Star State's housing market reached an all-time high, according to a report by the Texas Association of Realtors. "Strong gains in end-of-year home sales activity were a key factor in making 2016 another record year for Texas real estate," said Vicki Fullerton, chairman of the Texas Association of Realtors. "Last year's record home sales activity was fueled by the momentum of multiple years' strong job and population growth across the state, despite the fact that Texas job and economic growth began to slow in 2016."

Houston Chronicle - February 21, 2017

Texas legislators trying to put brakes on Houston-to-Dallas bullet train

State lawmakers on Tuesday moved to derail plans for a privately-funded high-speed rail line in Texas, filing nearly two dozen bills to stop the project in its tracks or lessen its effect on landowners should trains roll ahead. The 18 bills, nine in the Texas Senate with companions in the Texas House, and five others focus on severely limiting Texas Central Partners' ability to develop a Houston-to-Dallas bullet train line. The project is supported by officials in both cities, but strongly opposed by many rural landowners and elected officials. Opponents called the deluge of fresh legislation an impressive and persuasive show of the uphill battle the 240-mile rail project faces. "There is a solid block," said Kyle Workman, president of Texans Against High-Speed Rail. "How many other issues do you know that generate this solidarity? This is a big deal."

Politico - February 22, 2017

GOP lessons from the latest round of brutal town halls

An overflow crowd here was eager to take on Rep. Dave Brat, the conservative Republican who just weeks earlier needled liberal protesters in his district and groused about all the women “in my grill” over GOP plans to repeal and replace Obamacare. But with a plain-spoken approach — and a format that didn't revolve around live-fire questions from the combative crowd — Brat offered his colleagues a potential blueprint for defusing tense constituent town halls that have bedeviled his Republican colleagues as they’ve been swarmed by protesters. As a restive crowd grew outside the Blackstone Herb Cottage, Brat’s staff collected constituents’ questions on index cards and handed them to the local mayor, William Coleburn.

Austin American-Statesman - February 21, 2017

Texas congress members react to Trump deportation rules

“The American people should thank Secretary Kelly for issuing two enforcement memorandums today that overturn the dangerous immigration policies of President Obama. Secretary Kelly’s actions return the Department of Homeland Security to its central mission. These actions prioritize the deportation of criminal immigrants, allocate resources to construct physical barriers along our southern border, and increase the number of immigration and border personnel to keep our communities safe from the scourge of illegal immigration.” — U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith, R-San Antonio

Texas Tribune - February 21, 2017

Texas Republicans pitch new voter ID law

Top Texas Republicans unveiled legislation Tuesday that would overhaul the state’s voter identification rules, an effort to comply with court rulings that have found that the current law discriminates against minority groups. Filed by Sen. Joan Huffman, Senate Bill 5 would add options for Texans who say they cannot “reasonably” obtain one of seven forms of ID currently required at the polls. It would also create harsh criminal penalties for those who falsely claim they need to choose from the expanded list of options. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has granted the bill “priority” status, carving it a faster route through the Legislature. Nineteen other senators have signed onto the bill, and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton — who is still defending the current ID law in court — applauded the legislation Tuesday.

Houston Chronicle - February 21, 2017

Former Houston business leader named new TAB chief

The former president and CEO of the Greater Houston Partnership was named Tuesday to head the state's largest business lobby group. In his new post, Jeff Moseley, a former state transportation commissioner who has most recently served as state vice president for governmental affairs for the Texas Central high-speed rail project, will replace Bill Hammond as CEO of the Texas Association of Business. Gary Gibson, TAB Chairman and CFO of Star Furniture Company, said in a statement that Moseley "combines the perfect blend of advocacy skills and appreciation of the work of our chamber members." TAB serves as the state's chamber of commerce.

Washington Post - February 21, 2017

After delay and amid pressure, Trump denounces racism and anti-Semitism

President Trump on Tuesday denounced racism and anti-Semitic violence after weeks of struggling to offer clear statements of solidarity and support for racial and religious minorities. During a visit to the National Museum of African American History and Culture, Trump read carefully from prepared remarks decrying bigotry and specifically condemning a wave of recent threats against Jewish centers across the country. “This tour was a meaningful reminder of why we have to fight bigotry, intolerance and hatred in all of its very ugly forms,” Trump said. “The anti-Semitic threats targeting our Jewish community and community centers are horrible and are painful and a very sad reminder of the work that still must be done to root out hate and prejudice and evil.”

National Law Review - February 20, 2017

Michigan Law Banning Automatic Payroll Deductions for Political Contributions Upheld by Sixth Circuit

The Michigan Campaign Finance Act will live on following a federal appellate court’s decision to uphold the law. By way of background, the Michigan Campaign Finance Act generally prohibits corporations and unions from contributing directly via automatic payroll deduction to political candidates, but allows contributions to political action committees (PAC). The Act was amended in 2015 to also prohibit automatic payroll deduction programs for PAC or campaign contributions, with limited exceptions. The Michigan State AFL-CIO challenged the provision in federal court, alleging in part that it violated the union members’ First Amendment rights to free speech. Essentially, the union argued that the law acted as a “viewpoint restriction on speech.”

Associated Press - February 21, 2017

East Texas congressman forgoes town halls, ducks protesters

A conservative East Texas Republican congressman has chosen to forgo town hall forums before constituents for fear of drawing demonstrations by protesters of President Donald Trump. In a statement issued Tuesday, Rep. Louie Gohmert said he was concerned that "groups from the more violent strains of the leftist ideology ... who are preying on public town halls" would "wreak havoc and threaten public safety." Instead, Gohmert said he is holding "telephone town halls." He said that in the time it takes to appear live before 30 to 100 constituents, he can communicate with thousands by telephone conference with telephone company assurance that participants are residents of his East Texas district.

This article appeared in the San Antonio Express News

State Stories

Austin American-Statesman - February 21, 2017

Legislator seeks to keep guns out of state psychiatric hospitals

One year after state psychiatric hospitals began letting people carry guns on campus, a Republican legislator is pushing a bill that reverses course. House Bill 14, filed by Rep. Andrew Murr, R-Junction, outlaws firearms at Texas’ 10 state-run mental health hospitals, which care for people with depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and other illnesses. “No one wants a gun to fall into the hands of a mentally ill patient who could pose a danger to himself or herself, fellow patients, visitors or staff,” Murr said. For decades, the Department of State Health Services had banned guns at the psychiatric hospitals. No one — visitors, delivery people and such — could bring firearms anywhere on hospital property.

Austin American-Statesman - February 22, 2017

1934-2017: Texas Monthly writer Gary Cartwright dies at age 82

Lively, hard-living magazine writer, Gary Cartwright, 82, died at Seton Medical Center Austin about 6 a.m. Wednesday. Cartwright spent most of his career at Texas Monthly magazine, where he was among its first writers hired in the 1970s. He remained among its most durable contributors until his retirement as senior editor in 2010. “Gary was a master storyteller,” said former Texas Monthly publisher Mike Levy, who considered Cartwright a mighty catch in the early 1970s. “Great writers do three things: get the stories — in other words, get people to talk, and Gary could get anybody to talk — then put all the pieces together and have the wisdom to figure out what it meant.”

Austin American-Statesman - February 21, 2017

Texas Monthly editor: ‘Texans don’t care about politics’ quote taken out of context

Comments made by Texas Monthly’s new editor-in-chief Tim Taliaferro in a Columbia Journalism Review article published Monday have had social media in a tizzy. The Review reported that Texas Monthly is shifting its focus from “in-depth political coverage and longform journalism” to “lifestyle coverage, website enhancements, and a live-events business.” The article quoted Taliaferro as saying that “Texans don’t care about politics.” Texas Twitter did not appreciate being spoken for, and many tweeted out their displeasure with both the comment and the magazine’s seemingly new direction. Taliaferro fired out a few tweets of his own Monday.

Texas Tribune - February 22, 2017

House member marks one-year anniversary of filing zero campaign finance reports

State Rep. Ron Reynolds marks an unusual anniversary Wednesday: one full year without filing a single campaign finance report. On Tuesday, the state attorney general’s office sued the Democrat from Missouri City for failing to file reports on his personal finances or his contributions and expenditures. Reynolds, who won re-election to his Fort Bend County seat in 2016 despite multiple criminal convictions for illegally soliciting clients, owes $41,500 in fines to the Texas Ethics Commission for failing to file the required reports.

Texas Tribune - February 21, 2017

Austin senator — a Baylor alum — takes aim at university sexual assault

Responding to a sexual assault scandal that has rocked Baylor University over the past two years, Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, has filed legislation to make it easier for college students to report sexual violence. His five bills, which extend to public and private institutions alike, would require universities to provide an anonymous online reporting process and would prohibit administrators from punishing sexual assault victims or witnesses who reveal that they were drinking underage. Watson's legislation also would establish “affirmative consent” as the standard for Texas campuses — which his bill defines as "express consent demonstrated through words or actions indicating an active and voluntary agreement to participate in an act."

Texas Tribune - February 22, 2017

Texas counties see price tags on both sides of "sanctuary" debate

More than a year before Texas Gov. Greg Abbott punished Travis County — yanking away $1.5 million in state grants — for scaling back cooperation with federal immigration officials, he fired a warning shot toward Dallas County. “'Sanctuary City' policies,” Abbott wrote to Sheriff Lupe Valdez, “will no longer be tolerated in Texas.” His October 2015 letter came after Valdez — in comments she later said were misconstrued — said she would more closely scrutinize requests from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to hold non-citizens in county jails after they were otherwise processed.

Texas Tribune - February 22, 2017

Ramsey: Sex trafficking series shows Texas vexed by long-term challenges

Elected officials can be effective in the short term — when there’s a crisis, when a one-time legal tweak is needed, when there’s an immediate answer to a political necessity. But they often fail at the long-term stuff — the persistent problems that require years of steady pressure and care but that only generate headlines and public attention once in a while. Protecting the state’s children is one of those. Headlines and public attention have created a priority: It’s a crisis now, and lawmakers are focused on it. That shouldn’t be necessary. The state’s protective services for children and adults has reached crisis stage and has been “fixed” before, most recently with legislation in 2005.

Texas Tribune - February 21, 2017

Texas congressional Democrats fear "dreamers" will lose benefits

Texas Democrats in Congress are bracing for the possibility of the Trump administration ending benefits for people who were brought into the United States illegally as children. Their fears come amid a Department of Homeland Security memo Tuesday outlining how the agency will implement the president’s plans to aggressively rid the country of undocumented immigrants. In August, Trump released an immigration plan that threatened to roll back benefits awarded to “dreamers” — people who came out of the shadows under former President Barack Obama's 2012 program, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. Since getting to the White House, Trump has softened his tone on ending the DACA program.

Texas Tribune - February 22, 2017

UT/TT Poll: Education is pretty good, but Texans have some suggestions

More Texans than not believe the quality of the state’s public education system is pretty good, but it’s not a majority point of view, according to the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll. While 47 percent said schools are either excellent or good, 42 percent said they are either not very good or terrible. Excellent and terrible rankings were even, with each at 8 percent. Texans who have kids in schools have a higher regard for the quality of public education in the state: 56 percent rated the schools excellent or good, while 40 percent said they were not very good or terrible. The most effective way to improve the schools, according to 21 percent of Texans, would be to cut the number of standardized tests students have to take.

Houston Chronicle - February 22, 2017

Demonstrators to rally, urge Culberson to meet with constituents

Houston residents will rally today in front of Lakeside Country Club in west Houston to protest an appearance by U. S. Rep. John Culberson. The protesters say the country club event excludes many of his constituents who say the congressman has been avoiding their phone calls, emails and town hall meetings. The protest is a joint event hosted between Resist Houston, Greater Houston Democrats and the Human Right Campaign. The gathering is among a growing number of similar protests across the state and nation organized to hold local representatives and members of Congress accountable for their actions in Washington D.C.

Houston Chronicle - February 21, 2017

Judge sues feds saying he shouldn't have to watch LGBT inclusion video

A Social Security administrative judge in Houston says the federal government subjected him to a religiously hostile work environment when it required him to view a training video about lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender sensitivity and inclusion in the workplace. Now he is suing the government in federal court for a violating his civil rights and his freedom to espouse his own religious views. UNPREPARED?: Cub Scout pack asked transgender boy to leave group Gary Suttles, an administrative law judge employed by the Social Security Administration in Houston, said he was unfairly required to view the 17-minute video on demand, in accordance with a 2011 executive order that required diversity and inclusion training at federal worksites.

Houston Chronicle - February 22, 2017

Tomlinson: Eminent domain power comes with responsibilities

"From the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked." In that biblical passage, Luke tells us that power comes with the responsibility to serve the greater good. That principle has special application to pipeline companies, something Magellan Midstream Partners would do well to remember. The Tulsa, Okla.-based partnership operates some of the most important oil pipelines in Texas, and it has used the power of eminent domain to force reluctant landowners to grant them right of way. An efficient pipeline system is deemed a greater good that trumps personal property rights.

Houston Chronicle - February 21, 2017

Texas lawmakers move to stymie high-speed rail project

Nearly a dozen Republican state lawmakers, mostly from rural and suburban districts, filed a flurry of bills Tuesday aiming to “derail” plans for a privately-funded high-speed rail line in Texas. The 18 bills, nine each in the Texas Senate and Texas House, aim to limit Texas Central Partners’ ability to develop a Houston-to-Dallas line supported by both metro areas, but strongly opposed by many rural landowners and elected officials. The bills complicate the private company’s right to acquire property via eminent domain, strengthen landowner protections, compel state agencies to assess the feasibility of the planned rail line and prohibit the state from ever maintaining or operating a high-speed rail line.

Houston Chronicle - February 21, 2017

State lawmaker unveils bill requiring consent before sex at Texas colleges

Under a new bill proposed by Austin Democrat Kirk Watson, sex on Texas college campus requires a “yes.” New legislation filed by Watson on Tuesday would require all institutions of higher education to enact an affirmative consent standard to be tougher on those accused of sexual violence. “The absence of ‘yes’ should also mean ‘no,’ Watson said in a statement. A separate bill would change the definitions of “consent” in the penal code in three ways, including establishing that consent is absent each time someone knows his or her partner is incapable of understanding the nature of the sexual activity.

Houston Chronicle - February 22, 2017

Texas campuses face delicate balance between free speech and hateful public expression

Texas universities' public speech policies are colliding with hateful expressions on campuses. The University of Texas at Austin is the latest Texas university grappling with racist, anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim posters - several of which reference President Donald Trump or his policies - in the last two months. Campuses responding to racist posters or planned controversial events - such as white nationalist Richard Spencer's speech at Texas A&M university in December - can find themselves in a tough position. University leaders must balance the right to free speech with student and faculty calls for sensitivity and pressure. Outside groups also have criticized college campuses for coddling students and being unwelcome to conservative points of view.

Houston Chronicle - February 21, 2017

Donald Trump may be unpopular, but Texas congressmen love him

Donald Trump may be the most unpopular new president in modern history with polling numbers that are the envy of no one. But, for Republican members of the Texas congressional delegation, he's just fine. And, it seems, they may just stick with him for a while. The website FiveThirtyEight.com, which tracks all manner of political statistics, compiled the voting patterns of members of Congress during Trump's first month in office.

Dallas Morning News - February 21, 2017

Jeffers: Luck or skill? Daily fantasy sports like DraftKings splitting conservative Texas lawmakers

Ezekiel Elliott rumbles up the middle for a 50-yard touchdown run. The Dallas Cowboys get a victory, and you win money with your fantasy football team. Were you lucky or good? That's the question lawmakers aim to answer when they settle on whether to allow fantasy sport companies like FanDuel and DraftKings to operate in Texas. At first glance, the issue doesn't appear a winner for the companies. Texas legislators have long shunned anything that resembles gambling. Last year Attorney General Ken Paxton issued an opinion that because daily fantasy sports involve "partial chance," they qualify as gambling.

Dallas Morning News - February 22, 2017

Torres: We have ourselves to blame for labor exploitation and trafficking

When Texans think of human trafficking, they often focus on the victims of sexual exploitation. While it is certainly a heinous form of trafficking, where we've missed a step in addressing the problem is assuming that sex trafficking is the biggest issue. We have yet to fully understand the most common form of exploitation in Texas and across the nation -- labor trafficking. The U.S. labor force participation rate is at 63 percent, similar to that of Texas. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 45 percent of that workforce labors in the service, construction, natural resources, production and transportation industries -- all considered blue collar or manual labor.

Dallas Morning News - February 22, 2017

Ragland: We must demand better justice for woman sentenced to eight years for illegal voting

The way things look now, it'll be months before Rosa Maria Ortega, the Mexican native sentenced to eight years in prison by a Tarrant County jury for voting illegally, finds any judicial relief. Months before her court-appointed attorney, David A. Pearson, is ready to file an appeal. Months before her trial attorney, Clark Birdsall, will petition the judge to suspend the balance of her sentence and, instead, put the mother of four on "shock probation." Months — almost a year, really — before she's eligible for parole. Months, in other words, before the criminal justice system can pull its pants up and fix a cruelly harsh and heavy punishment.

Dallas Morning News - February 21, 2017

Texas' state and local budgets got $26M a day from oil industry in 2016 — and that's low

The Texas oil and gas industry gives, and it takes away. A report released this morning from the Texas Oil and Gas Association calculated the extraordinary amount of government money generated by the industry. Oil and gas pumped $9.4 billion into government budgets through taxes and royalties in 2016. That adds up to $26 million each day, according to Todd Staples, TXOGA's president. But Staples also pointed out that these numbers are lower than in past years because of the prolonged slump in oil and gas prices. The prices are up now but haven't recovered to earlier levels.

Dallas Morning News - February 21, 2017

Aggressive campus anti-rape laws proposed for Texas colleges in wake of Baylor scandal

Texas could soon pass some of the most aggressive campus rape laws in the country, a reaction to the sexual assault scandal at Baylor University. “I love my school, but I’ve been extraordinarily disappointed,” said Baylor alumnus Kirk Watson, a Democratic senator from Austin. “I actually think there is a real feeling that we need to address sexual assault. Watson filed five bills Tuesday that aim to increase and encourage reporting and lessen rates of sexual violence, harassment and stalking on college campuses. But he’s also the co-sponsor of a proposal that would require school employees — and even some students — to report assaults or else face criminal penalties.

Dallas Morning News - February 21, 2017

Federal judge blocks Texas' move to kick Planned Parenthood out of Medicaid

A federal judge on Tuesday said Texas can't remove Planned Parenthood from Medicaid, issuing a temporary block of the state's ouster that will allow the provider to continue to care for patients through the program. U.S. District Court Judge Sam Sparks issued a preliminary injunction and said the state didn't have grounds to conclude that Planned Parenthood "warranted termination from the Medicaid program as unqualified." His temporary block will stay in place until a full trial is scheduled, argued and decided. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said in a prepared statement that he will appeal the decision, which he said "is disappointing and flies in the face of basic human decency."

Dallas Morning News - February 21, 2017

House Speaker Paul Ryan in Dallas for fundraiser, visit to police headquarters

House Speaker Paul Ryan was in Dallas this week to raise money for GOP congressional candidates. Along the way, he found time to pose for selfies with Dallas police officers. Ryan's trip began Monday night with a closed fundraiser in Dallas for the National Republican Congressional Committee. Among the local leaders in attendance was Rep. Pete Sessions of Dallas, chairman of the House Rules Committee. Then on Tuesday, Ryan, of Wisconsin, dropped by Dallas Police Headquarters en route to a trip to the nation's southern border.

Dallas Morning News - February 21, 2017

Dallas first responders gather at Capitol to fight for pension resolution

Texas House Pensions Committee Chairman Dan Flynn, R-Canton, gave a preview of his plan to save the failing pension system on Monday, though no bills have been filed. Flynn's approach would scale back future benefit payments, increase the retirement age and, instead of pay out lump sums to retirees who accrued them, dole out the money as annuities for the retiree's life. Pension board trustees unanimously approved the plan, though many expressed reservations. "I believe it's a start," said Larry Williams, a retired firefighter who worked in Dallas for 40 years. "I think Flynn is on the right track. He seems to be on the side of compromise and the side of solving the problem, and we're very glad about that."

Ft. Worth Star-Telegram - February 18, 2017

Engel: Texas should not jeopardize major events over potty law

Greg Abbott has heard from the NFL, and The Gov of the Great State a’ Texas is not having any. Greg’s message to the NFL is you don’t tell us Texans how to live. Davy Crockett told Mr. Santa Ana something similar at the Alamo, which didn’t go exactly the way it was drawn on the iPad. At least Mr. Crockett and the gang in the Misión San Antonio de Valero were fighting over something worth fighting for; Abbott’s finger-waving moment at the NFL reeks of empty political grandstanding over a hill that is not worth the price.

Ft. Worth Star-Telegram - February 17, 2017

Greene: Some at the Capitol in Austin put Texas economy at risk

To paraphrase a familiar quote: The only thing necessary for something bad to happen in the Texas Legislature is for good people to do nothing. If you like living in one of the country’s strongest state economies, it’s time to pay attention. If you like the billions of dollars in corporate America’s investments in our state, it’s time to pay attention. If you like the millions of jobs created by companies moving here from other states, it’s time to pay attention. As a reminder of the state’s economic ascendency in recent years, here are just a few headlines and news reports citing the exodus of job creators from California alone to Texas: Breitbart.com: “The top 10 states that California businesses have relocated to over the last seven years are in the following order: (1) Texas …”

Ft. Worth Star-Telegram - February 21, 2017

FWST: CPS must be a better option than crime

As legislators work to turn attention and a little money to the child welfare system, more about how the state fails these kids keeps coming out. Texas Tribune investigated one of the more dire aspects of the state’s crumbling child welfare system — victims of sex trafficking. One report estimates about 313,000 Texans are victims of human trafficking, about 80,000 of them minor and youth victims of sex trafficking. About 78,000 of those victims had some contact with the child welfare system, says the University of Texas at Austin study. The Tribune investigation illustrated how the child welfare system fails some children, allowing them to become prey to sex traffickers. It laid out pertinent and reasonable solutions legislators should consider for fixing this atrocious cycle of crime and abuse.

Dallas Morning News - February 22, 2017

Piquero: Sometimes, locking kids up makes matters worse

In an ideal world, correctional institutions should aim to rehabilitate young offenders. When this works, youth make gains in social capital that will reduce the likelihood that they will return to crime when they re-enter society. But as a new study shows, sometimes, these environments can do the opposite and function as schools for crime that facilitate "criminal capital" and encourage future offending. In a study of over 600 serious juvenile offenders, my colleagues and I report in the Journal of Quantitative Criminology that institutions can expose juveniles to conditions that may actually help to increase their illegal behavior - and illegal earnings - when they are released. In fact, we found that the daily illegal wage rate was almost $190 after release and over a seven-year follow-up period.

San Antonio Express News - February 21, 2017

Divided Supreme Court weighs fatal border patrol shooting

A divided Supreme Court weighed a civil rights case Tuesday stemming from the death of a 15-year-old Mexican boy who was killed by a U.S. Border Patrol agent firing a pistol across the border from El Paso, an incident that led to reforms in the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency. Seven years after the shooting, the family of Sergio Hernandez says it has been denied justice in American courts because their son collapsed and died on the Mexican side of the border, out of reach of constitutional protections against unjustified deadly force. The family, after a series of court reversals, is seeking a high-court ruling allowing them to bring suit in Texas against the border agent, Jesus Mesa.

San Antonio Express News - February 17, 2017

Hansen: Texas has much to win, lose with NAFTA renegotiation

President Donald Trump wants to “kick-start” the process to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement, which he has called the “worst deal ever.” Texans should be concerned. Texas consumers have a huge stake in NAFTA, which currently lowers the price we pay for many goods. One-third of goods imported from Mexico by the U.S. are imported by Texas — more than any other state. The president has proposed new taxes on imports from Mexico. But these taxes would not be paid by Mexico. They would be paid by Texas consumers. They would also exact a heavy price from Texas companies and the Texans who work for them.

San Antonio Express News - February 21, 2017

Funding request for restoration of the Alamo may run into reality of tight state revenue picture

An ambitious effort to restore the Alamo and redevelop the surrounding area is running into the reality of a tight Texas budget, as some lawmakers ask if there might be an alternative to using state general revenue for the project. “Every dollar we take in GR (general revenue) to go to this is a dollar that we don’t have for something else. So if there are mechanisms that work as well for you all, then I think we should take a hard look at them,” Rep. Ron Simmons, R-Carrollton, told Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush at a Tuesday budget hearing. The questions are significant coming from budget-writers in the House, whose starting-point spending plan would give Bush all the millions he’s seeking in state general revenue to “re-imagine” the Alamo.

San Antonio Express News - February 21, 2017

Global investors warn Texas against ‘bathroom bill’ passage

Global investors with more than $11 trillion in assets sent a letter to Texas’ top elected leaders on Tuesday urging them to reject a proposal restricting which bathrooms transgendered people can use. It cited “troubling financial implications for the business and investment climate.” “Hate hurts businesses’ bottom line,” New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer, one of 40 signatories, said in an interview Tuesday afternoon. The letter was signed by major investment groups including BlackRock and T. Rowe Price Associates; state pension funds, treasurers and comptrollers; unions; and two faith organizations. They say that all together, they represent 15 percent of all global investment assets.

San Antonio Express News - February 21, 2017

SAEN: Partisan motives just as bad as racial gerrymandering

The claims are different from those in a Texas case on gerrymandering, but a Wisconsin case that could make it to the U.S. Supreme Court bears watching. In fact, a ruling affirming a lower court could change the entire landscape for constitutional challenges to redistricting maps nationwide. The high court has been reluctant to rule definitively on whether gerrymandering for partisan purposes — to unfairly benefit Republicans or Democrats — is unconstitutional.

Courthouse News - February 17, 2017

Texas Law Blamed for Racial Segregation

A Texas law preventing cities from banning federal housing voucher bias discriminates against black people by keeping them out of white neighborhoods, a low-income housing advocacy group claims in court. Dallas-based Inclusive Communities Project sued Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Wednesday in Dallas federal court, claiming a section of state law passed in 2015 violates minorities’ civil rights. Texas Local Government Code 250.007 states, “A municipality or county may not adopt or enforce an ordinance or regulation that prohibits an owner, lessee, sublessee, assignee, managing agent, or other person having the right to lease, sublease, or rent a housing accommodation from refusing to lease or rent the housing accommodation to a person because the person’s lawful source of income to pay rent includes funding from a federal housing assistance program.”

Texas Monthly - February 21, 2017

Raatcliffe: Latinos Won’t Turn Texas Blue Anytime Soon

For the past twenty years, Texas Democrats have entered every election saying demographics are on their side. They’ve been hoping that the state’s burgeoning Hispanic population will carry the party back into power. If the 2016 election loss of Democrat Hillary Clinton in Texas proves anything, it is that the state’s Latino vote is less the Sleeping Giant than a growing adolescent who has not yet come of age. And probably won’t anytime soon. Last fall I reported that there was a surge in Texas of about 530,000 Latinos who had registered to vote amid the anti-Mexican, build-a-wall rhetoric of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. That registration increase apparently played a major role in the spike in Latino voters who showed up to vote in Texas last November. About 395,000 more Latino voters went to the polls than did in the 2012 presidential election.

Corpus Christi Caller Times - February 21, 2017

Manufacturers’ great days on the Horizon

.S. manufacturers’ spirits have been rising. Whether caused by the manufacturing-focused election season or America’s continued economic recovery, optimism is on the rise across Texas. The Dallas Fed’s recent report reflects this trend. It found that factory activity increased for the seventh consecutive month in January. New orders climbed to a multiyear high as well, pointing toward good things to come. The numbers are encouraging, but economic indicators aren’t what matter to working families. They want to know that their jobs are secure and that new opportunities are on the horizon. The good news: they are.

McAllen Monitor - February 19, 2017

Border Health Pac to wait for time with Speaker of the House

The Border Health PAC is courting U.S. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan. When news broke that the third in line to the presidency was coming to McAllen, sources close to the political action committee said the PAC was planning on giving Ryan a significant contribution. But that is not happening — just yet. Prisylla Ann Jasso, executive director for the PAC, said Ryan was not scheduled to meet with members of the PAC during his first visit to the Rio Grande Valley this week. The committee has been in contact with Ryan’s office, she said, but did not secure a time with him because of his tight schedule. “He is not visiting with us at this time,” Jasso said. “I think he’s very pressed for time.”

Associated Press - February 22, 2017

Supreme Court orders new hearing for black Texas inmate

The Supreme Court has ordered a new court hearing for a black Texas prison inmate who claims improper testimony about his race tainted his death sentence. The justices voted 6-2 Wednesday in favor of inmate Duane Buck. Buck had tried for years to get federal courts to look at his claim that his rights were violated when jurors were told by a defense expert witness that Buck was more likely to be dangerous in the future because he is black. Chief Justice John Roberts said in his majority opinion that the federal appeals court that heard Buck's case was wrong to deny him a hearing. Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas dissented.

This article appeared in the San Antonio Express News

KEYE - February 21, 2017

Texas lawmaker seeks to create border state enforcement group

Tuesday, Texas Representative Kyle Biedermann filed a legislation to create an Interstate Border Security Compact to strengthen defense along the Texas border with Mexico. According to a release, the bill would "allow the State of Texas to enforce federal immigration law, ensuring the safety of its citizens." “As I have gone door-to-door talking to thousands of my constituents, one message is clear, border security is one of their top concerns. We’re hopeful that the federal government will step up to the plate to secure our border. However, if they won’t do it, Texas will,” said State Representative Biedermann.

County Stories

San Antonio Express News - February 21, 2017

Bexar County commissioners say no to nuclear waste shipments

On Tuesday, Bexar County became the first county in Texas to officially oppose having high-level nuclear waste pass through the county on its way to a West Texas waste site. The commissioners unanimously approved a resolution opposing shipments of nuclear fuel rods from more than 62 sites across the U.S., most of them operating or closed reactors used to produce power. If the waste storage site in Andrews County is approved, the fuel rods could start being shipped to the Waste Control Specialists facility on the Texas-New Mexico line starting in 2021.

Houston Chronicle - February 21, 2017

Demonstrations press Cruz to listen to constituents

More than 200 people with posters, placards and bullhorns gathered outside Texas Sen. Ted Cruz's downtown office Tuesday afternoon to urge him to meet with constituents who don't agree with him, his policies or his president. "Do your job, Ted Cruz," was the opening chant outside the Esperson Buildings on Travis. The group invited him to attend an evening town hall meeting. "His office has not been responsive to our calls," said Linda Morales, organizing coordinator for the AFL-CIO union whose group, with others, hosted the town hall later Tuesday without the senator. "We are his constituents. We are voters in his district and we at least expect him to pop in and say something to us. He was able to pop in in the Valley and make a presentation there. … We are concerned about a lot of issues that pertain to us - that pertain to working families."

Dallas Morning News - February 21, 2017

As his corruption trial begins, John Wiley Price's absence 'very obvious' at Dallas County

The black leather chair was noticeably empty Tuesday. For a long time, it's been the perch from which Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price spices up otherwise dry government meetings. Price has been a fixture in that seat wearing his custom-painted bow ties and colorful suits. It's where he sits, cracking jokes and handing out bobbleheads of himself. Minutes later, he's grilling hospital officials and going on tirades about racism in America. But on Tuesday morning, his seat sat empty for the first time in years, maybe decades, county officials said. Since he took office in 1985, Price has said, he's never taken vacation.

Houston Chronicle - February 21, 2017

Sheriff cuts ties with ICE program over immigration detentions

Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez has ended a controversial partnership with federal immigration authorities that trained a team of county deputies to determine the immigration status of jailed suspects and hold those selected for deportation. Gonzalez, a Democrat who took office in January, said he will re-assign 10 county deputies trained under a U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement program known as 287(g) that cost at least $675,000 in salaries and deploy them to other law enforcement duties. The withdrawal of the sheriff's deputies will still allow ICE officials to come to the jail and screen jail inmates to determine their immigration status and the county will hold them for deportation if requested, Gonzalez said.

City Stories

Austin American-Statesman - February 21, 2017

Austin City Council members criticize new Trump immigration measures

Members of the Austin City Council lined up Tuesday to condemn the Trump administration’s expansion of deportation criteria for undocumented immigrants in the country, blasting the administration’s efforts as an attack on the city’s Latino community. The Homeland Security Department memos, signed by Secretary John Kelly, lay out that any immigrant living in the United States illegally who has been charged or convicted of any crime — and even those suspected of a crime — will now be an enforcement priority. That could include people arrested for shop lifting or minor traffic offenses.

Austin American-Statesman - February 22, 2017

Austin fire chief punishes union president over records violation

Last summer, as the Austin fire union was preparing to represent one of its members at a disciplinary hearing, department officials permitted union president Bob Nicks to review confidential documents in the case under a provision of the city’s labor contract with firefighters. With a couple of clicks, Nicks secretly downloaded the information onto his personal laptop — but says he disclosed what he’d done a few days later to top department officials. But his actions led to an unusual punishment from Fire Chief Rhoda Mae Kerr: She banned him from representing any other firefighter at a disciplinary hearing for more than a year — a punishment that strikes at the core of one of his primary duties as union president.

National Stories

New York Times - February 21, 2017

The Road, or Flight, From Detention to Deportation

During his frenetic first week in office, President Trump made good on a core campaign pledge to overhaul the nation’s immigration enforcement. With the stroke of a pen, he redefined the meaning of “criminal alien” by vastly expanding the criteria used to decide who is a priority for deportation. It is not just the “bad hombres” that he talked about on the campaign trail. Any undocumented immigrant convicted of a crime or believed to have committed “acts that constitute a chargeable criminal offense” — essentially, anyone who is suspected of a crime, but has not yet been charged — is now at the top of the list. For undocumented immigrants, the path between detention and deportation is sometimes long and usually twisted. An immigration judge’s deportation order can be appealed — to the Board of Immigration Appeals and, in a very small number of cases, all the way to the Supreme Court.

Houston Chronicle - February 21, 2017

Trump administration working on trans bathroom guidelines

The Trump administration is working on a new set of directives on the use of school bathrooms by transgender students, the White House said Tuesday. The announcement alarmed LGBT groups across the country that have urged President Donald Trump to safeguard Obama-era guidelines allowing students to use school restrooms that match their gender identity, not their assigned gender at birth. White House spokesman Sean Spicer did not provide any details on the new guidelines that are being prepared by the Justice Department, but said Trump has long held that such matters should be left to the states, not the federal government, to decide.

Associated Press - February 21, 2017

After Trump travel ban, immigrants seek to naturalize

Since last month, immigrants have been rushing to prepare applications to become U.S. citizens. Legal service organizations in Los Angeles, Maryland and New York catering to diverse immigrant communities from Latin America, Asia and the Middle East all said they've been fielding a rising number of calls and questions about how to become a citizen. The wait time has doubled for a spot at a monthly naturalization clinic focused on Asian immigrants in Los Angeles. Since Trump's executive orders on immigration, the number of immigrants inquiring about citizenship has also doubled at a Muslim organization in Southern California and at Latin American-focused groups in Maryland and New York, advocates said.

This article appeared in the Houston Chronicle

Dallas Morning News - February 21, 2017

While Trump talks border wall, feds spending millions on upgrades to existing fences

Along a stretch of the Mexico border butting up against the Texas-New Mexico state line, construction workers are building a looming rust-colored barrier. It's not a new wall as President Donald Trump has promised, but a new fence to replace the old one that was falling apart. “It’s to upgrade it,” explained Erica King, a Border Patrol agent in the El Paso sector. “It’s to replace old fencing that was already deteriorated and just needed to get replaced.” As Trump moves forward with a plan to build a “big,” “beautiful,” “great” wall, millions are being spent to upgrade sections of the existing fence and maintain hundreds of miles of fence in key spots along the border. Critics of Trump’s border security strategy question the need for a new border barrier and balk at the cost, estimated to be as much as $25 billion — without maintenance expenses.

Daily Beast - February 21, 2017

Why Is Facebook Helping Fund CPAC?

A pillar of famously liberal Silicon Valley is underwriting Washington’s biggest gathering of conservatives. Sources with direct knowledge of the matter tell The Daily Beast that Facebook made a six-figure contribution to CPAC, the yearly conference for conservative activists which will feature President Donald Trump, White House advisor Steve Bannon, NRA president Wayne LaPierre, and other right-wing favorites. Facebook’s contribution is worth more than $120,000, according to our sources. Half of that is cash, and the other half is in-kind support for CPAC’s operations. Facebook will have a space at the conference for attendees to film Facebook Live videos, and will also train people on best practices for using the social network and Instagram.

Washington Post - February 22, 2017

Sotomayor questions whether lethal injection is ‘our most cruel experiment yet’

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote Tuesday that lethal injection “may turn out to be our most cruel experiment yet” in the search for a humane manner in which to carry out the death penalty. Sotomayor, along with Justice Stephen G. Breyer, dissented from the court’s decision not to hear the case of Thomas Douglas Arthur, Alabama’s oldest inmate, who killed his girlfriend’s husband in 1982. The court, with Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. providing a “courtesy” fifth vote, recently delayed Arthur’s execution while deciding whether to take his case. As is the court’s custom, the majority did not give a reason for passing up Arthur’s case.

New York Times - February 22, 2017

From Trump the Nationalist, a Trail of Global Trademarks

Donald J. Trump has cast himself as the anti-globalist president. But Donald Trump, the businessman, is a different story. During the campaign, Mr. Trump’s organization continued to file dozens of new trademarks, in China, Canada, Mexico, the European Union and Indonesia, and one of his companies applied for trademark protection in the Philippines more than a month after the election, a review of foreign records by The New York Times showed. His trademarks in recent years have covered all manner of potential products, including soap and perfume in India, engineering services in Brunei and vodka in Israel.

New York Times - February 21, 2017

Porter: President Trump Wants a Wall? Mexico Is It

Just over 10 years ago, United States Border Patrol agents were startled by an unexpected new development in their rear-guard battle to stop illegal immigration: Brazilians. In 2005 thousands of them started streaming across the southwestern border. More than 31,000 were apprehended by the Border Patrol trying to make their way into the United States, a number surpassed only by Mexicans, Salvadorans and Hondurans. And then, just as abruptly, the flow stopped. Under pressure from Washington, Mexico reimposed a tourist visa requirement on Brazil that it had eliminated five years before. This severed a trafficking route that started with an easy flight from Rio de Janeiro to Cancún and ended in a trek across the desert into southern Texas.

Slate - February 21, 2017

Appeals Court Rules that Second Amendment Doesn’t Protect Right to Assault Weapons

On Tuesday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit ruled that the Second Amendment doesn’t protect assault weapons—an extraordinary decision keenly attuned to the brutal havoc these firearms can wreak. Issued by the court sitting en banc, Tuesday’s decision reversed a previous ruling in which a panel of judges had struck down Maryland’s ban on assault weapons and detachable large capacity magazines. Today’s ruling is a remarkable victory for gun safety advocates and a serious setback for gun proponents who believe the Second Amendment exempts weapons of war from regulation. In 2013, Maryland passed a law barring the sale, possession, transfer, or purchase of what it dubbed “assault weapons,” including AR-15s, AK-47s, and semiautomatic rifles. It also banned copies of these firearms and large capacity magazines. Gun advocates sued, alleging that the law violated their right to keep and bear arms under the Second Amendment.

Fox News - February 21, 2017

Lawmakers probe US funding for Soros groups, left-wing causes in Europe

George Soros' alleged meddling in European politics has caught the attention of Congress. Concerns about Soros' involvement most recently were raised by the Hungarian prime minister, who last week lashed out at the Soros "empire" and accused it of deploying "tons of money and international heavy artillery." But days earlier, Republican lawmakers in Washington started asking questions about whether U.S. tax dollars also were being used to fund Soros projects in the small, conservative-led country of Macedonia. Rep. Christopher Smith, R-N.J., led a group of House lawmakers in writing to Ambassador Jess Baily -- an Obama appointee -- demanding answers.

Politico - February 22, 2017

Trump lashes out at 'so-called angry crowds' at GOP town halls

President Donald Trump on Tuesday evening portrayed the heated reception some Republican lawmakers are getting at their town halls as fiction, instead accusing liberal activists of ginning up negative headlines. "The so-called angry crowds in home districts of some Republicans are actually, in numerous cases, planned out by liberal activists. Sad!" Trump tweeted. GOP lawmakers on recess, including Sen. Chuck Grassley, are getting an earful in their home districts, with some constituents railing against Trump's plans to repeal Obamacare, his controversial Cabinet nominees and his Supreme Court pick.

Reason - February 21, 2017

Trump Eyes Libertarian-Minded Texas Judge for Federal Court Vacancy

There are currently two vacancies on the New Orleans-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit, the federal appellate court whose jurisdiction covers federal districts in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas. According to a recent report published in Legal Times, the Trump administration is moving quickly to fill those vacancies and is now considering a shortlist of six candidates for the two jobs. What names are on the list? Here's Legal Times: According to four people who are familiar with the process but who declined to be named, the candidates being considered include: Texas Supreme Court Justice Don Willett; U.S. District Court Judge Reed O'Connor of Fort Worth; former Texas solicitor general James Ho; Andy Oldham, a deputy general counsel to Gov. Greg Abbott; Michael Massengale, a justice on Houston's First Court of Appeals, and Brett Busby, a justice on Houston's Fourteenth Court of Appeals.

Politico - February 22, 2017

Mexican officials riled by Trump’s new deportation memos

President Donald Trump's blunt diplomatic touch is creating new headaches for the deeply troubled U.S.-Mexico relationship. The Trump administration riled Mexican officials by choosing Tuesday — on the eve of visits by the U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly to Mexico City — to release sweeping guidelines on deportations and a border wall. As Mexican officials rushed to contact the State Department for more information, the timing of the guidelines' release threatened to severely hinder what could have been a diplomatic make-up session, U.S. and Mexican officials and analysts said.

Dallas Morning News - February 21, 2017

Budowich: Why the Tea Party wins and the anti-Trump resistance will fail

Left-of-center pundits and activists across the nation are upset about November's election results. However, as they continue grasping for answers, they are mistakenly trying to draw parallels between today's anti-Trump protests and the Tea Party movement in the false hope that political salvation is just around the corner. When people think of the Tea Party, they often remember the national protests. However, the movement's legacy was not cemented by rallies. Instead, it is being realized through continuous waves of victories at the ballot box. Most importantly for the conservative activists, those election victories are likely to continue because there is a strong Tea Party presence in the very essence of the conservative, Republican political infrastructure.

Vox - February 21, 2017

Yglesias: Donald Trump could bring back the debate over the Export-Import Bank

Trump is not exactly an ideological rigorist. Nor is he a person whose life and career bespeaks a deep aversion to crony capitalism. He ran for president as a booster of American manufacturing and a fierce proponent of the view that international trade is a game with winners and losers. That seems to make him a perfect fit for the bank. And indeed, when moderate Democratic senators from states Trump won met with him on February 9 to discuss possible areas of collaboration, they emerged saying that Trump was on their side on the Ex-Im Bank. This impression was reenforced when Trump made a well-received campaign stop at a Boeing plant in South Carolina, since Boeing is the bank’s main interest group backer. It was surprising, then, when the New York Times reported on Friday that Trump’s Office of Management and Budget team was preparing a budget that would eliminate the bank. This sets the stage for a renewed policy battle that is interesting in its own right, while also highlighting the unique dynamics around the Trump administration’s ideological proclivities.

Dallas Morning News - February 21, 2017

In cross-border shooting case, Supreme Court asks: Does Constitution stop at the border?

The Supreme Court heard arguments Tuesday in a case involving the cross-border shooting of a Mexican teenager, who was standing in Mexico, by a U.S. Border Patrol agent who was standing in El Paso. The case may invite prosecution against Border Patrol agents who injure or kill Mexican citizens at a time when the Trump administration is looking to swell the ranks and expand the responsibilities of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. But during oral arguments, the justices at times focused on the minute circumstantial details of the highly unusual case — like the fact that both countries are technically responsible for maintenance of the concrete culvert that winds between two fences on the border of El Paso and Juárez.

Washington Post - February 21, 2017

Trump administration issues new immigration enforcement policies, says goal is not ‘mass deportations’

The Trump administration on Tuesday sought to allay growing fears among immigrant communities over wide-ranging new directives to ramp up enforcement against illegal immigrants, insisting the measures are not intended to produce “mass deportations.” Federal officials cautioned that many of the changes detailed in a pair of memos from Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly will take time to implement because of costs and logistical challenges and that border patrol agents and immigration officers will use their expanded powers with care and discretion. Yet the official public rollout of Kelly’s directives, first disclosed in media reports over the weekend, was met with outrage from immigrant rights advocates over concerns the new policies will result in widespread abuses as authorities attempt to fulfill President Trump’s goals of tightening border control.

Newsweek - February 21, 2017

DuBose: Why has Trump appointed Perry to Energy?

Perry is, to put it kindly, not that bright. He lacks the experience to lead a large bureaucracy, despite the fact that he served as governor of Texas for 14 years. And he’s corrupt. Trump was onto Perry’s questionable intelligence quotient when the Republican primary field was shaping up in July 2015 and Perry was a fresh and eager contender, just leaning into what would become his second failed attempt to win his party’s presidential nomination. “He should be forced to take an IQ test before being allowed to enter the GOP debate,” Trump tweeted in mid-July 2015. “He put glasses on so people will think he’s smart. And it just doesn’t work. People see through those glasses,” Trump said at a South Carolina rally a week after his Twitter swipe at Perry.

New York Times - February 22, 2017

For-Profit Schools, an Obama Target, See New Day Under Trump

Since Election Day, for-profit college companies have been on a hot streak. DeVry Education Group’s stock has leapt more than 40 percent. Strayer’s jumped 35 percent and Grand Canyon Education’s more than 28 percent. You do not need an M.B.A. to figure out why. Top officials in Washington who spearheaded a relentless crackdown on the multibillion-dollar industry have been replaced by others who have profited from it. President Trump ran the now-defunct Trump University, which wound up besieged by lawsuits from former students and New York’s attorney general, who called the operation a fraud. Within days of the election, Mr. Trump, without admitting any wrongdoing, agreed to a $25 million settlement.

New York Times - February 22, 2017

Brzezinski, Wasserman: Why the World Needs a Trump Doctrine

The global order is in disarray. The world is sliding into significant disorder with no international structure capable of handling the kinds of problems that are likely to erupt almost simultaneously. To compound it all, chaos among the major powers could generate truly disastrous consequences. So far, President Trump has failed to formulate any significant, relevant statements about the global condition. Instead, the world has been left to interpret the sometimes irresponsible, uncoordinated and ignorant statements of his team. Self-promoters seeking important positions should not be permitted to create the impression that their sometimes simplistic and extremist terminology is becoming national policy. The recent public embarrassment over American policy toward the Kremlin, culminating in the resignation of Michael T. Flynn as national security adviser after just 24 days in the job, speaks for itself. While we did not support Mr. Trump, he is the president of the United States. He is our president, and we want him to be a success. Right now, he does not look like that to the rest of the world, or to us.

Washington Post - February 21, 2017

With NAFTA in Trump’s crosshairs, Mexico’s border factories brace for the unknown

EL PASO — If you sleep on a memory foam mattress, chances are good that its fabric cover was made here in a small factory in this desert border town on the westernmost edge of Texas. Well, here and over there, across the Rio Grande in Ciudad Juarez, a Mexican city where pieces of fabric cut in El Paso are stitched together and shipped back across the border. The supply of cheap labor in Mexico has fueled the rise of manufacturing plants dotting the border known as maquiladoras. The journey of this mattress cover, from El Paso to Ciudad Juarez and back, illustrates the far-reaching tentacles of free trade and its impact on the border economy and across the United States.

Washington Post - February 21, 2017

Interactive: How many structurally deficient bridges are in your county?

Bridges are rated by a sufficiency rating that is an overall measure based on inspector ratings of many aspects of the bridge’s top deck and underlying structure. The worst bridges, generally with a score below 50 percent, are classified as “structurally deficient.” Bridges with scores generally between 50 and 80 percent are considered “functionally obsolete.” A low score does not mean that a bridge will fall, but it indicates that it needs repair. Bridges with posted load limits are in greatest need of repair. Federal financing has been prioritized for bridges with the lowest sufficiency scores. Here is a closer look at a sample of counties with high rates of structurally deficient bridges from around the country.

Washington Post - February 21, 2017

Paul Ryan will tour the U.S.-Mexico border for the first time as immigration debate heats up

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan is leading a delegation of lawmakers to the U.S.-Mexico border this week as Congress debates how to pay for President Trump’s campaign promise to build a wall to keep out undocumented immigrants. It will be the first trip to the U.S-Mexico line for the Wisconsin Republican, who arrived in Texas on Monday to attend a fundraiser with members of the state’s GOP delegation. On Wednesday, Ryan is scheduled to visit the U.S. Border Patrol station in McAllen for a day-long tour of the Rio Grande Valley. With a small group of House Republicans led by top Homeland Security officials, Ryan will “examine the challenges of securing our border and learn more about the issues facing border communities,” spokeswoman AshLee Strong said.

Politico - February 21, 2017

Mexican officials riled by Trump’s new deportation memos

President Donald Trump's blunt diplomatic touch is creating new headaches for the deeply troubled U.S.-Mexico relationship. The Trump administration riled Mexican officials by choosing Tuesday — on the eve of visits by the U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly to Mexico City — to release sweeping guidelines on deportations and a border wall. As Mexican officials rushed to contact the State Department for more information, the timing of the guidelines' release threatened to severely hinder what could have been a diplomatic make-up session, U.S. and Mexican officials and analysts said.

The Hill - February 21, 2017

Trump officials weigh fate of birth-control mandate

The era of free birth control for women could be coming to an end. The requirement that insurance companies cover contraception at no cost is believed to be on the chopping block now that Tom Price has taken over the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Price opposed the mandate as a member of Congress and could take aim at the regulation — and other rules related to ObamaCare — as Republicans in Congress move to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. “There’s a lot of pressure on this administration and a lot of people within the administration who clearly have an agenda that runs contrary to this provision,” said Adam Sonfield, a senior policy manager at the Guttmacher Institute, a liberal think tank.

Wall St. Journal - February 21, 2017

‘Trump Bump’ for Dow Industrials Is Biggest Post-Inaugural Move Since FDR

President Donald Trump has been doing a lot of bragging about the stock market rally lately. How does it measure up? By some measures, the rally that took place during Mr. Trump’s first 30 calendar days in office has been the largest for any president’s first month on the job since 1945. Since inauguration day on Jan. 20 through Friday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average climbed more than 4%. That’s the biggest gain over the first 30 days of a presidency since Franklin Delano Roosevelt was inaugurated for is final term 72 years ago, according to WSJ Market Data Group. During that period, the Dow rallied 4.1% to 159.01 points.

All - February 21, 2017

Lead Stories

Politico - February 21, 2017

Trump administration starts laying out its crackdown on undocumented immigrants

Donald Trump's administration on Tuesday started fleshing out its crackdown on undocumented immigrants and its plan to build a wall along the border with Mexico, releasing guidelines and rules that aim to fast track those campaign pledges. In memos circulated Tuesday morning, the administration says it will prioritize removing undocumented immigrants who are charged with a crime or in the country's jails, but also undocumented immigrants who have "abused" public benefits, misrepresented themselves or "in the judgment of an immigration officer, otherwise pose a risk to public safety or national security." The memo gives few specifics on each of these criteria will be determined.

Dallas Morning News - February 20, 2017

Dallas lawmaker proposes major bump in payments for ‘kinship care’ of abused kids

A Dallas County lawmaker wants to put more of the state's wallet behind efforts to persuade relatives to take in abused and neglected children. Sunnyvale GOP Rep. Cindy Burkett has proposed a major bump in state payments for "kinship care." The fast-growing program gives modest financial assistance to grandparents, aunts and uncles who agree to take in children whom Child Protective Services has removed from their birth families. For relatives of modest means, the program provides a one-time "integration payment" of $1,000 per child and an annual reimbursement of about $500 per child.

Texas Tribune - February 20, 2017

Most Texans in Congress not planning in-person town halls over recess

Most members of the Texas congressional delegation will not hold in-person town halls in their districts during the week-long recess that started Monday, according to a Tribune search of lawmakers' websites and social media. Though several lawmakers plan to engage with their constituents in different ways, including phone conferences and office hours, only one Congress member from Texas, U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-El Paso, had publicly announced plans to hold a public town hall in the state as of Monday. Although town halls used to be held regularly by members of Congress across the country, the practice has dwindled since 2009, when constituents angry with then-President Barack Obama’s proposed healthcare overhaul protested Democratic town halls.

San Antonio Express News - February 20, 2017

Oil industry leaves the bust behind

A year seems long ago and far away for the oil and gas industry, which enters 2017 upbeat — a mood as different from last year’s doldrums as oil and water. This time in 2016, the price of oil hit its dismal bottom of $26 per barrel as companies shed more workers and parked idle equipment in storage yards. Since May, companies have been hauling that equipment from the storage yards and putting it back to work, nearly doubling the number of active drilling rigs that punctuate the sky like exclamation marks. Oil has been recovering too, and since early December has stayed above $50 per barrel — a price that while not robust, is enough to send more crews back to work in the oil field.

Houston Chronicle - February 20, 2017

Local Jewish center one of 11 targeted nationwide with bomb threats

A bomb threat phoned into Houston's Jewish Community Center was one of 11 similar hoaxes that jolted JCCs across the nation Monday morning. The calls - targeting centers from Milwaukee to Albuquerque to Tampa - were part of the year's fourth wave of threats directed at Jewish schools and gathering places, a disturbing national trend that coincides with a local rash of incidents of anti-Semitism. In the past month in the greater Houston area, swastikas appeared on a fence in Sienna Plantation, white nationalist flyers popped up on Rice University campus and students at Cypress Ranch High School were caught giving a Nazi salute.

Daily Caller - February 20, 2017

EXCLUSIVE: RNC Sets Record With $19.8 Million January

The Republican National Committee filed a record setting $19.8 million January FEC report on Monday, The Daily Caller has learned. The $19.8 million makes January the best post-election fundraising month in RNC history. “I am encouraged by the historic support shown by Americans across this country as our Party unites under President Trump,” said RNC chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel. “It is clear our message of bringing change to all people is resonating, and I am committed to harnessing this momentum as we continue to build on the successes we earned in 2016. The RNC has never been better equipped to champion the Republican agenda and use these resources to grow our majorities in 2018.”

Bloomberg - February 20, 2017

Trump Team Fosters Fears He'll Adopt Alternative Economic Facts

President Donald Trump complains regularly about what he calls “fake news.” What’s got some statisticians worried, though, is the risk of doctored economic data coming from the administration itself. While there are government directives in place to prevent that from happening, the number crunchers worry that the president’s occasionally cavalier comments on the economy and economic statistics, and his apparent disdain for economists in general, could mean trouble ahead. One month into his presidency, Trump has yet to nominate anyone to the Council of Economic Advisers, established in 1946 to provide presidents with objective economic analysis and advice.

Dallas Morning News - February 21, 2017

Hundreds sign up to protest bathroom bill at 'queer dance freakout' outside Texas governor's mansion

Forget Oilcan Harry's or the Round-Up. This week, the hottest queer dance party in Texas likely won't be on Fourth Street or in Oak Lawn, but outside Gov. Greg Abbott's window. More than 350 people have signed up to "ride the beat" outside the governor's mansion in Austin to protest the transgender bathroom bill and other legislation activists say is harmful to LGBT Texans. "We say NO to marriage equality limitations. We say NO to old men saying what we can and cannot do," according to the Facebook event description. "We say NO to anti-transgender bathroom bills. We say YES to shaking our asses. We say YES to the freedoms of the body."

State Stories

Houston Chronicle - February 20, 2017

Lawmakers, clerks want to slow move to statewide court records system

Dozens of state lawmakers are piling on to a bill that would thwart efforts to post court records from across Texas in a centralized online database accessible to the public. They are not alone. County and district clerks from across the state are opposing efforts by the Texas Supreme Court to make court records available to the public via an online database, arguing the move would take money, control and accountability out of the hands of locally elected officials and their agencies. "Sometimes haste can make waste," said Rep. Travis Clardy, R-Nacogdoches, who is sponsoring a bill that would slow the implementation of plans to shift court records online to a statewide database.

Houston Chronicle - February 21, 2017

HC: Astrodome bill -- Whitmire should check his priorities.

Fix Child Protective Services. Overhaul public school funding. Reform Texas mental health services. Fight with Harris County about the Astrodome. One of these things is not like the others. At the beginning of this legislative session we expected state Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, to be a contentious voice in the Austin wilderness, calling for his peers and coworkers to keep their focus on the big challenges facing our state. Instead, he's using his 44 years of experience in Austin to stoke a battle with Harris County Judge Ed Emmett, a Republican, on the future of the Astrodome. This is the sort of scheme you'd expect from some a legislator desperate for free publicity. But when it comes to Whitmire, expect the unexpected. The Democratic senator has a track record of directing his state authority at all manner of local issues. He even picked a fight with the University of Houston over a change to on-campus housing rules back in 2014.

Houston Chronicle - February 20, 2017

Professors to protest 'sanctuary cities' bill Wednesday

Houston professors plan to protest the so-called “sanctuary cities” bill, which passed the state Senate earlier this month, at the University of Houston-Downtown on Wednesday. The bill would require local law enforcement – including campus police departments – to honor every request from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to keep immigrants here illegally until officials take them into custody or give further instructions. Gov. Greg Abbott named passing the bill an emergency item for this session. Supporters say the bill is important because it standardizes how local agencies handle illegal immigration. If departments adopt a policy that violates the bill, they could lose state funding.

Houston Chronicle - February 20, 2017

Five Texas schools land in top 25 of the best 100 public schools in America ranking

Texas made a strong showing in a recent ranking of the best public high schools in America, with five Lone Star State campuses landing in the top 25. Website The Best Schools compiled the ranking, which features campuses from Houston, Dallas and Austin. Houston's Eastwood Academy and Carnegie Vanguard High School, Dallas' School for the Talented and Gifted and School of Science and Engineering, and Austin's Liberal Arts and Science Academy High School are all on the list. To see where they stand in the ranking and the other schools in the top 25, click through the gallery above.

Houston Chronicle - February 20, 2017

Bill would create 'Amber Alerts' for chemical emergencies

If there's a tornado warning or a kidnapped child, your phone might wake you at 3 a.m. But if there's a cloud of chlorine gas descending on your neighborhood, it's anybody's guess who will let you know, and when. A state lawmaker has filed a bill to bridge the gap in emergency notification. It would create a system to push alerts to mobile phones during any chemical mishap that would "substantially endanger human health or the environment." Chemical fires and releases across Houston in the last year, and the Houston Chronicle's Chemical Breakdown series, have shed light on problems with toxic stockpiles and emergency response. The bill's backers hope the added attention will drive the legislation forward.

Houston Chronicle - February 20, 2017

Zand: Why our mental health matters, too

Millie Yager, a lively and outgoing 65-year-old Houstonian, loved working for the Astros and the Rockets. For 20 years, she worked in guest relations at every home game. Her job was fun and exciting, and being around the fans, players and her co-workers gave her so much energy. On a typical day, she walked 5 miles. But by the end of the summer in 2015, a CT scan her doctor ordered after worsening fatigue, back and abdominal pain gave her the shocking news of her life. There was widespread metastatic cancer in her abdomen and large tumors on her ovaries. She had advanced-stage ovarian cancer, one of the most lethal cancers in women.

Dallas Morning News - February 21, 2017

DMN: Texas' shortsighted rules put trans athletes in no-win spot

We wish we could say we didn't see this coming. It was easy to predict that the UIL's insensitive rules regarding transgender student-athletes would create an environment of confusion and dismay, with gut-wrenching consequences. Mack Beggs, a 17-year-old junior who wrestles at Euless Trinity, is taking testosterone while transitioning from female to male. He wants to wrestle boys, but UIL policies say he must compete against girls. In a meet Saturday, he won the girls 110-pound Class 6A Region II championship after Coppell wrestler Madeline Rocha forfeited the final. Dallas Morning News reporter Michael Florek described an emotional scene, with Beggs pulling the tearful runner-up onto the victory stand.

Dallas Morning News - February 20, 2017

Potential Dallas police and fire pension fix emerging in Texas Legislature

Texas House Pensions Committee Chairman Dan Flynn has the makings of a plan he thinks can save the failing Dallas Police and Fire Pension System without cutting back on benefits members have already earned. But one big hurdle still exists: nobody really likes the plan. Not yet, at least. "All these plans are terrible," said council member Philip Kingston, a pension board trustee. "I just think Flynn's is the best of the bad options." Flynn's plan isn't in writing yet, but the pension board was briefed Monday on the highlights of a bill he intends to file in Austin soon.

Dallas Morning News - February 20, 2017

Why is Texas so afraid to talk about sex at school?

Here are some alarming numbers capable of keeping any parent up at night: Half of the nearly 20 million new cases of sexually transmitted diseases reported in the U.S. each year are among people ages 15 to 24. Nearly a third of the Texas high schoolers surveyed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention admitted being sexually active. Of those, 47 percent didn't protect themselves by using condoms, and 86 percent didn't use birth control pills. About 15 percent acknowledged having had sex with four or more partners.

Dallas Morning News - February 20, 2017

'I pee with LGBT': Oscar-nominated director Richard Linklater directs ad against Texas bathroom bill

LGBT advocates are deploying one more weapon in their fight against Texas' controversial bathroom bill: potty humor. Not just any potty humor. The ACLU of Texas and nonprofit Legacy Community Health recruited Academy Award-nominated director Richard Linklater of Boyhood fame to make an ad titled "Taking a Seat, Making a Stand." There's only one way to stop the bill, one man in the ad says. Another follows: "You've got to roll up your sleeves. Pull down your pants. And pee with LGBT." Yet another man pipes up: "You've gotta spray it to say it."

Dallas Morning News - February 20, 2017

Dallas nonprofit sues Texas over law that lets landlords refuse housing vouchers

In late October, the Dallas City Council debated an ordinance that would have forced landlords citywide to accept federal housing vouchers. But the discussion could never get beyond one insurmountable hurdle: a Texas law that prohibits cities from passing the very law Dallas was considering. As council member Jennifer Staubach Gates said at the time, if the council voted in favor of the "source of income discrimination" ordinance — and, ultimately, it did not — "it's going to go against state law and get tied up in courts." Four months later, that's just where the state law finds itself.

Austin American-Statesman - February 20, 2017

Lawmakers consider privatizing Texas foster care system

Poised to be one of the more controversial proposals to overhaul the state’s foster care system, legislation being discussed in a House committee on Monday would hand control of the system over to private contractors. The House committee on health services discussed three high-priority bills on Monday that would make major changes in the foster care system. During the morning, State Rep. James Frank, R-Wichita Falls, laid out his bill that would make the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, which oversees the foster care system and Child Protective Services, its own agency. Currently, the department is under the Health and Human Services Commission.

Texas Tribune - February 20, 2017

House committee hears bills on child welfare

Mercedes Bristol threw up some prayers Sunday night as thunderstorms went through San Antonio. She worried that she and her five grandchildren would be unable to make it to Austin to testify at the House Human Services Committee hearing on Monday morning. She wanted to tell legislators why they need to pass House Bill 4, which would provide payments for grandparents and other relatives who take care of abused and neglected children in their families, a practice known as kinship care. With the weather clear on Monday morning, she drove up to the Capitol.

Texas Tribune - February 21, 2017

UT/TT Poll: Texans want a health care program that’s not called Obamacare

Texans want to dump the previous president’s signature health care program, but only a small minority want to move on without replacing it, according to the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll. If the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare, were to be repealed and replaced, 68 percent of Texans said lawmakers should wait until they have a replacement plan worked out before they repeal the current law. A smaller group — 23 percent — would repeal Obamacare immediately and figure out the details of a replacement plan later.

Texas Tribune - February 21, 2017

UT/TT Poll: Support for marijuana growing like a weed in Texas

Opposition to legal marijuana is dropping in Texas, with fewer than one in five respondents to the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll saying they are against legalization in any form. Support for marijuana only for medical use has dropped over the last two years, but support for legalization for private use — both in small amounts or in amounts of any size — has grown since the pollsters asked in February 2015. “We’ve seen this movie before on a couple of social issues,” said Daron Shaw, a professor of government at the University of Texas at Austin and co-director of the poll. He thinks the changes in Texas have more to do with shifting attitudes than with news of legalization in other states.

Austin American-Statesman - February 20, 2017

We may be getting a Texas flag emoji soon, but it might not be because of the Legislature

Last week, state Rep. Tom Oliverson, R-Cypress submitted a resolution to the Texas Legislature that called for “Texans not to use the flag emoji of the Republic of Chile when referring to the Texas flag.” HCR 75 would “hereby reject the notion that the Chilean flag, although it is a nice flag, can in any way compare to or be substituted for the official state flag of Texas and urge all Texans not to use the Republic of Chile flag emoji in digital forums when referring to the Lone Star Flag of the great State of Texas.” The two flags do look a lot alike (hence the inevitable substitution of one for the other). But according to a Dec. 9, 2016 blog post from Emojipedia, Emoji 5.0 is now available for public review, and a Texas flag emoji is on its list of upcoming features. A release date for the update has not been set, but it will most likely be in the first half of 2017.

Texas Tribune - February 21, 2017

Texas leaders won't commit to more resources for sex-trafficking victims

A week after the Texas Tribune’s Sold Out series examined how the state’s crusade against sex trafficking has largely failed to help victims, lawmakers have called the issue “heartbreaking,” “surprising” and “very problematic.” But when it comes to providing more resources for those victims, they were mostly noncommittal. The state’s top leaders have remained silent on whether that will translate into more money for sex-trafficking victims — or more resources for the crippled child welfare system that’s supposed to protect vulnerable kids.

Austin American-Statesman - February 20, 2017

Sid Miller to approve new technique for killing feral hogs: poison

The man who gained fame for successfully allowing hunters to shoot hogs from helicopters is now championing another strategy to hasten what he calls “the feral hog apocalypse”: poison. Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller will announce Tuesday that he is approving a pesticide, “Kaput Feral Hog Lure,” for statewide use. He says the product, poisoned bait food, is the first specifically designed to control the feral hog population, now estimated at more than 2.5 million in Texas. Feral hogs cause at least $50 million in damage annually to Texas agriculture, destroying crops and livestock tanks, as well as causing untold damage in suburban areas, where they dig up homeowners’ yards and dine on cable and internet lines.

Texas Tribune - February 20, 2017

Anderson: When It Comes to Fantasy Sports, Let Texans Play

Texas is a national leader in business growth and economic freedom chiefly because of the hospitable regulatory environment it has provided for businesses and consumers. With the swift emergence of new technologies and innovation, we now commonly face the challenge of ensuring old regulations do not create unintentional barriers to growth and investment regulators may have never contemplated. For example, a favorite Texas pastime has taken on a new form thanks to technological advancements in recent years. Fantasy sports is a hobby born by a writer with Texas ties in 1979. Since then, the game has grown to encompass virtually every popular sport and can be played against small groups of family or friends as well as competitors around the country or across the globe. Some competitions span a single day, while others require a week or an entire season.

Austin American-Statesman - February 20, 2017

Tilove: Texas Republicans think Trump will make the presidency great again

Texas Republicans are more likely to think Donald Trump could make the presidency great — or at the very least good again — than they were before he was elected, according to a University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll released Monday. ... Jim Henson, director of the Texas Politics Project at UT, which conducts the poll, said the results suggest that Trump’s dominance on the presidential stage and the intense political polarization of the electorate are buttressing his support even in a state like Texas, which he didn’t win in the presidential primary, and in which his 9-point margin of victory over Hillary Clinton in the general election was well below Republican Mitt Romney’s 16-point victory over Barack Obama in 2012. “One thing is for sure,” Henson said. “If Trump’s opponents are waiting for Republicans to somehow be turned off by what (opponents) see as the chaos of the transition, or concerns about the temperament of the president so far, they are going to be disappointed.”

Texas Tribune - February 21, 2017

UT/TT Poll: Texans take a hard line on immigration and refugees

A majority of Texans support banning Syrian refugees and blocking individuals from seven countries from entering the United States, according to the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll. They balk, but only a bit, at banning Muslims who are not U.S. citizens from entering the country, the poll found. Asked about banning Syrian refugees, 54 percent they support that policy — 37 percent of them “strongly” so. Republicans are with President Trump on the issue: 65 percent strongly support a ban, and another 17 percent “somewhat” support a ban. Democrats are on the other side, with 51 percent “strongly” opposing the ban and 18 percent “somewhat” opposing it. White Texans support a ban (63 percent), while a plurality of black (49 percent) and a slight majority of Hispanic Texans (51 percent) oppose one.

Austin American-Statesman - February 20, 2017

Herman: Wrestling with gender identity

As we navigate the brave and befuddling new world of gender identity, Mack Beggs was inevitable. And so was Madeline Rocha. Both are accomplished high school athletes to be celebrated for the time and sweat it takes to become such, especially in their grueling sport of choice. Beggs, 17, of Euless Trinity High School, heads to Cypress this week to wrestle for a state title in the 110-pound class. Dallas Morning News sportswriter Michael Florek (in a story in our sports section today) captured the emotional scene after Beggs recently won the regional title at a meet in Allen.

Austin American-Statesman - February 20, 2017

UT President calls for town hall after anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim flyers found on campus

University of Texas President Gregory Fenves has called for a town hall meeting to discuss the overall mood and social climate on campus following the appearance of anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant posters on and near university grounds last week. The town hall meeting is scheduled for Wednesday at 2 p.m. in the Student Activity Center, one of the buildings in which a flyer was posted on. Sonica Reagns-Lily, vice president for student affairs and dean of students, Maurie McInnis, provost, Vincent, and Fenves will all be at the meeting to answer questions and listen to the UT community. Last Monday, flyers were found posted on several campus buildings and on a utility pole, some of which said: “Imagine a Muslim-free America” and “A notice to all citizens of the United States of America, it is your civic duty to report and and all illegal aliens to U.S. Immigration Customs and Enforcement—they have broken the law.”

San Antonio Express News - February 19, 2017

Loyd: Courts gutting real value of property insurance

A Texas Senate bill advances Gov. Greg Abbott’s agenda by seeking to prevent “hailstorm lawsuit abuse.” By pitting trial lawyers against insurance companies, Senate Bill 10 ignores the most alarming perpetrator of hailstorm lawsuit abuse: the courts themselves. San Antonio’s 4th Court of Appeals recently joined a growing number of Texas courts that are using mandatory property appraisals to gut the true value of property insurance policies held by millions of Texas businesses and homeowners. Traditionally, Texas law protected policyholders from the unequal bargaining power of insurance companies. Insurers who failed to settle claims fairly and promptly were subject to penalties for bad faith, delays, attorney fees and interest. These penalties to discourage big insurers from cheating consumers now are under judicial siege.

San Antonio Express News - February 16, 2017

SAEN: R.I.P voter ID — we should all be hoping

The U.S. Supreme Court last month rejected an appeal from Texas, which sought reinstatement of the state’s plainly discriminatory voter ID law. That, however, might not be the end of the story. Chief Judge John Roberts said this denial didn’t preclude the high court from taking up the case once it has been completely reviewed by a lower court. And such review is underway — though the Trump administration sought and got a 30-day delay. This delay is important because it could signal a change in position by the U.S. Justice Department, now headed by former Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, who is on record supporting or being tolerant of voter ID laws.

San Antonio Express News - February 14, 2017

SAEN: Toll roads are necessary — deal with it

Those who find tolls unpalatable will undoubtedly voice their frustrations and concerns — as they have in the past. But rather than railing against the prospect of toll roads here, ignoring the dire state of congestion, toll opponents should really advocate for an increase in the gas tax. It hasn’t been raised since 1991, when it went to 20 cents a gallon. Ann Richards was governor. The minimum wage was $4.25 an hour. Thanks to inflation, that 20 cents doesn’t go near as far as it used to, even though Texas’ population has surged from 17.4 million to 26 million. The gas tax isn’t a perfect vehicle to fund transportation. Improved fuel economy creates diminishing returns, and electric vehicles don’t pay anything. But it is a proven funding option, sorely in need of an increase. It would certainly help mitigate the need for toll roads.

San Antonio Express News - February 20, 2017

State lawmakers considering cuts to prison system

State lawmakers may consider shuttering another prison and paroling some older, infirm inmates to nursing homes in a bid to shift more than $400 million in funding toward rising health care costs and much-needed repairs and upgrades to Texas’ aging corrections facilities. The state already is poised to spend more than $6.7 billion over the next two years for prisons and corrections programs. But with the legislature looking at the tightest state budget in years, lawmakers quietly are looking for ways to save $421 million in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice operations to cover surging costs associated with overseeing the state’s 147,000 convicts. Topping the list is $247 million to pay the costs of convicts’ health care during the next two years, including facilities, doctors, equipment and medicines.

Ft. Worth Star-Telegram - February 20, 2017

Texas lawmaker wants to send ‘zombie debt’ to the grave

State Rep. Nicole Collier is trying to root out zombies in Texas. Zombie debt, that is. The Fort Worth Democrat has filed a bill geared to stop third-party debt collectors from tricking Texans into reviving debts so old they no longer legally have to be paid. “Whenever there’s a debt, (creditors) have an opportunity to sue debtors for unpaid bills,” Collier said. “If (debtors) don’t pay, they can go after that person and sue” to collect what is owed. “But there’s a statute of limitations, which is typically four years from the date of the last payment.” Many businesses write off the debt and sell it to third parties, generally for pennies on the dollar. Then those companies try to collect the unpaid debt.

Ft. Worth Star-Telegram - February 20, 2017

FWST: UIL must revamp transgender rules in athletics

And we thought the Texas Legislature’s transgender “bathroom bill” was controversial. It is, but Mack Beggs, 17, a transgender wrestler at Trinity High School in Euless, personifies an issue that could be even more controversial and more difficult to resolve. The issues surrounding Beggs demand attention and a considered policy response from the University Interscholastic League, which governs school athletic competitions in Texas. Few things in this state raise emotions so high as school athletic competitions.

Courthouse News - February 17, 2017

Texas Law Blamed for Racial Segregation

A Texas law preventing cities from banning federal housing voucher bias discriminates against black people by keeping them out of white neighborhoods, a low-income housing advocacy group claims in court. Dallas-based Inclusive Communities Project sued Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Wednesday in Dallas federal court, claiming a section of state law passed in 2015 violates minorities’ civil rights. Texas Local Government Code 250.007 states, “A municipality or county may not adopt or enforce an ordinance or regulation that prohibits an owner, lessee, sublessee, assignee, managing agent, or other person having the right to lease, sublease, or rent a housing accommodation from refusing to lease or rent the housing accommodation to a person because the person’s lawful source of income to pay rent includes funding from a federal housing assistance program.”

Austin American-Statesman - February 21, 2017

Herman: Why Texas is rescinding its convention of states requests

You’re aware, I’m sure, that our governor really, really wants our nation to convene a convention of the states to make some significant changes to the U.S. Constitution. Sounds like fun. Or chaos. And let’s not forget that chaos can be fun. Greg Abbott wants the convention limited to the topics he wants it limited to, mostly about reining in federal powers he thinks need reining in. Concerned about a runaway convention should it happen — two-thirds of the states would need to call for it — some current Texas lawmakers are working to rescind previous calls by previous Texas lawmakers for constitutional conventions on a variety of topics.

Ft. Worth Star-Telegram - February 18, 2017

Engel: Texas should not jeopardize major events over potty law

Greg Abbott has heard from the NFL, and The Gov of the Great State a’ Texas is not having any. Greg’s message to the NFL is you don’t tell us Texans how to live. Davy Crockett told Mr. Santa Ana something similar at the Alamo, which didn’t go exactly the way it was drawn on the iPad. At least Mr. Crockett and the gang in the Misión San Antonio de Valero were fighting over something worth fighting for; Abbott’s finger-waving moment at the NFL reeks of empty political grandstanding over a hill that is not worth the price.

Dallas Morning News - February 21, 2017

Texas' state and local budgets got $26M a day from oil industry in 2016 — and that's low

The Texas oil and gas industry gives, and it takes away. A report released this morning from the Texas Oil and Gas Association calculated the extraordinary amount of government money generated by the industry. Oil and gas pumped $9.4 billion into government budgets through taxes and royalties in 2016. That adds up to $26 million each day, according to Todd Staples, TXOGA's president. But Staples also pointed out that these numbers are lower than in past years because of the prolonged slump in oil and gas prices. The prices are up now but haven't recovered to earlier levels.

San Antonio Express News - February 21, 2017

Funding request for restoration of the Alamo may run into reality of tight state revenue picture

An ambitious effort to restore the Alamo and redevelop the surrounding area is running into the reality of a tight Texas budget, as some lawmakers ask if there might be an alternative to using state general revenue for the project. “Every dollar we take in GR (general revenue) to go to this is a dollar that we don’t have for something else. So if there are mechanisms that work as well for you all, then I think we should take a hard look at them,” Rep. Ron Simmons, R-Carrollton, told Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush at a Tuesday budget hearing. The questions are significant coming from budget-writers in the House, whose starting-point spending plan would give Bush all the millions he’s seeking in state general revenue to “re-imagine” the Alamo.

Texas Observer - February 20, 2017

Brockman: ‘Sermon Safeguard’ Bill is All About Preaching to the Choir

In 2014, amid a bruising fight over the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO), the city of Houston subpoenaed sermons from five pastors opposed to the nondiscrimination proposal. City attorneys were responding to a suit brought by the pastors after the city rejected their petition to put HERO to a vote. The city wanted to know what instructions the pastor gave their congregants about the petition drive. However, the subpoenas went well beyond that reasonable request. They also demanded sermons and other communications about Mayor Annise Parker, homosexuality and gender identity. HERO opponents accused the city of conducting a “witch-hunt,” and then-Attorney General Greg Abbott called the subpoenas “a direct assault” on “religious liberty.”

Washington Post - February 20, 2017

Trump energizes the anti-vaccine movement in Texas

The group of 40 people gathered at a popular burger and fish taco restaurant in San Antonio listened eagerly to the latest news about the anti-vaccine fight taking place in the Texas legislature. Some mothers in the group had stopped immunizing their young children because of doubts about vaccine safety. Heads nodded as the woman giving the statehouse update warned that vaccine advocates wanted to “chip away” at parents’ right to choose. But she also had encouraging news. “We have 30 champions in that statehouse,” boasted Jackie Schlegel, executive director of Texans for Vaccine Choice. “Last session, we had two.” Now they also have one in the White House.

Texas Observer - February 20, 2017

Hooks: Dan Patrick Offers Vouchers as Solution to Special Ed Failures that He Helped Create

You might say the true test of a politician’s character is what they do when there aren’t any investigative reporters around, but, failing that, what they do after one does show up. With that in mind, let’s check in again with Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick’s office for another fun chapter in Accountability and the Texas Legislature, a growing tome that serves as the opposite of a self-help book. One of the most striking stories in the run-up to this year’s legislative session was the Houston Chronicle’s look into how the state treats special ed students.

County Stories

Dallas Morning News - February 21, 2017

DMN: John Wiley Price will finally get his day in court, and Dallas is ready for answers

It feels like an eternity since FBI agents raided the home and office of one our city's most prominent public figures, Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price. But those raids, on June 27, 2011, set in play a years-long legal and political drama that cast Price at the center of what is among the biggest, most anticipated political corruption case in Dallas history. And now, with jury selection set to begin today, Price and his longtime executive assistant, Dapheny Fain, finally will get their day of reckoning. The stakes are obviously high for Price, Fain and another co-defendant, veteran political consultant Kathy Nealy, who will face trial later. But Dallas also has a lot riding on the outcome of this trial.

Dallas Morning News - February 20, 2017

Maricopa County, once a deportation powerhouse, reverses course over Dallas County lawsuit

A lawsuit filed by immigrants against Dallas County has prompted an about-face in Maricopa County, once known as a deportation powerhouse under former Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Arpaio's successor, Paul Penzone, a newly elected Democrat, has announced that he will no longer hold unauthorized immigrants in his jail for federal authorities after the arrestees would otherwise have been released. The Maricopa County attorney, Bill Montgomery, an elected Republican, said the change came because of "legal issues" that "may be best illustrated by the case of Mercado v. Dallas County, Texas." In that case, the news release said, a judge found that county officials without certain federal authority may not rely on a civil immigration detainer to jail someone beyond the time it reasonably takes to release that person.

Austin American-Statesman - February 20, 2017

Traffic report ranks Austin as 13th most congested city in the country

Ever wonder how much time you waste sitting in traffic? According to a new report, Austin drivers spent on average 47 hours in congestion during peak traveling times last year. The report was done by transportation analysis firm INRIX, which said it looked at congestion rates and collected data from millions of vehicles and traffic devices in more than 1,000 cities around the globe. Austin was ranked as the 13th worst city in the U.S. and 42nd worst in the world when it comes to traffic congestion. According to the report, Austin drivers spent 12 percent of their driving time stuck in traffic in 2016.

Houston Chronicle - February 21, 2017

Houston falls in new congestion ranking

Of the 25 worst U.S. cities for congestion, Houston was the only one where congestion decreased from 2015 to 2016. Officials with the Houston-Galveston Area Council have cited job losses as one reason traffic along some routes is easing. Losses in the energy sector have also been blamed for deep reductions in commuter bus use, according to Metropolitan Transit Authority officials. Other factors might have also decreased average commute times in the area by affecting the math, said Nick Cohn, senior traffic expert at TomTom. "In 2015, Houston had so many days that were affected by flooding," Cohn said. "I know you had days in 2016 affected as well, but it appears more days were affected by flooding in 2015."

San Antonio Express News - February 17, 2017

TxDOT receives mixed feedback for $57M Texas 75 widening project

Some concerns are rising over a proposed $57 million Texas 75 widening project between Conroe and Willis. While those concern are not about the project specifically, residents were curious about funding, noise and safety along the potentially widened road. About 20 people attended a two-hour long come and go public hearing Thursday evening at the Willis High School cafeteria for the Texas Department of Transportation project that would change the rural two-lane road from FM 3083 to FM 2432 (4.9 miles) to a four-lane road with a raised curb, raised median, and dedicated left turn lanes at select intersections and cross streets.

City Stories

Houston Chronicle - February 21, 2017

After refusing to watch LGBT diversity video, judge in Houston sues to avoid being fired

Citing his First Amendment rights and religious protections under the Civil Rights Act, a Social Security Administration judge in Texas who refused to watch an LGBT diversity training video is suing his superiors to avoid being fired, saying he was subject to a "religiously hostile work environment." Judge Gary Suttles said in a complaint filed Thursday in federal court in Texas that the Social Security Administration, or SSA, should be barred from taking any disciplinary action against him at least until his religious discrimination claims are heard by a federal employment panel. "The agency has wholly failed to work in good faith to reasonably accommodate Judge Suttles' sincerely held religious belief against watching" the video, the complaint says.

Houston Chronicle - February 21, 2017

Vandals destroy historic Terlingua ghost town ruins

When employees of a nearby restaurant left for the evening, everything was as it should be in the small town of Terlingua. When they arrived the morning of Sunday, Feb, 19, four historic, 125-year-old stone ruins had been reduced to rubble. Built in the 1880s, these ruins were what was left of the homes of quicksilver miners, according to an article on Texas Hill Country. They — along with a few abandoned and capped mines — are what's left of the town's mining days and are located on "private property and a designated historic site" making this a criminal act.

Austin American-Statesman - February 20, 2017

Austin ISD board weighs declaration in support of immigrant students

Austin district trustees tonight will weigh whether to pass a resolution or declaration regarding support for undocumented students. The meeting begins at 6 p.m. at the district’s headquarters, 1111 W. Sixth St., but the discussion regarding immigration issues, including an update from the superintendent and possible action on a declaration, isn’t expected to occur until nearly 9 p.m. Superintendent Paul Cruz also will hold a news conference prior to the board meeting and is expected to discuss the district’s action plan to address recent concerns, as well as provide information on the services the district offers to assist students, families and staff.

Austin American-Statesman - February 20, 2017

Trump protested at ‘Not My President’s Day’ rally in Austin

A Monday afternoon “Not My President’s Day” rally drew several hundred to the Texas Capitol to protest President Donald Trump and his policies. The Facebook-fueled event was organized by Amanda Barta, a San Antonio resident who wanted to make sure the Capitol was included among similar protests in other cities. “Donald Trump does not represent our values,” a nervous Barta yelled into a white plastic megaphone from the Capitol’s south steps. “The president of the United States is supposed to represent everyone in the United States, and that’s obviously not the case right now.”

San Antonio Express News - February 20, 2017

Two District 9 candidates support bathroom bill

Last month in Austin, Councilman Joe Krier slipped Texas House Speaker Joe Straus a document that strengthened the resistance to the so-called bathroom bill: a memo by Police Chief William McManus confirming that San Antonio has had no complaints of sexual assaults in public restrooms. When I asked the councilman’s office to confirm the meeting, his director of communications texted back: “Declined to comment from Joe.” Krier’s refusal to acknowledge the exchange was understandable; the issue of whether to restrict bathroom use by transgender people is extremely divisive in his North Side district. His quiet effort to undermine the bill also was unsurprising; Krier is entrenched in the local business community, and the legislation is widely seen as damaging to the economy.

Houston Chronicle - February 19, 2017

Austin bars provide gun-free haven for UT grad students and platform for protest

Mark Sheridan says he can't shake the scenario in his head: a student, anxious or angry, suddenly waving a gun in his office. "It's not a moment-to-moment terror, but there is a lingering cloud," said Sheridan, an English doctoral student who also teaches at the University of Texas at Austin. After Texas began allowing concealed carry license holders to bring handguns on campus last summer, Sheridan and several other UT graduate students moved their office hours with students to local bars including the Cactus Cafe, a quiet bar tucked in the university student center. The reason is simple: It's illegal to bring a concelaed firearm into a venue that primarily serves alcohol.

National Stories

Dallas Morning News - February 20, 2017

Suri: Trump is repeating the isolationism that led to the Great Depression and WWII

President Donald Trump is unlike any American president in personality, but his policies are old and tired. They do not reflect an innovative effort to make America great. Playing upon fears of economic and cultural change, Trump's executive orders point to a mix of isolationism and intolerance -- the precise policies that contributed to the Great Depression and the Second World War. The history of Trump's policies matters because it helps us to understand his motivations and the likely outcomes for our nation. He is promoting policies that are attractive to some but have proved to be disastrous failures in the past, and they will have similar effects today. This cautionary history should encourage us to seek alternatives to what we have seen so far.

Dallas Morning News - February 19, 2017

Boston: Washington and Eisenhower warned their successors against partisanship

The farewell addresses of two great presidents offer three pieces of sage advice for President Donald Trump this President's Day weekend, if he would take it. George Washington and Dwight Eisenhower, who modeled his farewell address on Washington, gave carefully crafted warnings not just to their presidential successors, but to future generations about the toxic problems of partisanship, debt and military spending. So far in President Donald Trump's term, the country is witnessing a level of political warfare the likes of which has not been seen since Abraham Lincoln's election in 1860 brought on secession. Since Trump campaigned on reducing the national debt and changing the way the U.S. military approaches the world, there's hope he will heed the advice of Washington and Eisenhower in ways that could make him a very successful president.

Dallas Morning News - February 21, 2017

Latinos face 'incoming tsunami' of Alzheimer's cases among elders

Florence Marquez liked to describe herself as a cannery worker, even though she was best known in her heavily Latino East San Jose neighborhood as a community activist. She strode alongside Cesar Chavez in the farmworker movement during the 1960s and '70s. She helped build affordable housing for poor families near her local church. But eight years ago, Florence, now 86, couldn't find her way to the house she had lived in for 50 years. "That's when we knew she needed 24-hour care," said her oldest daughter, Barbara Marquez, 61.

San Antonio Express News - February 21, 2017

Supreme Court to consider border patrol shooting

The day he was shot dead by a U.S. Border Patrol agent, Sergio Hernandez was either horsing around with friends or trying to sneak through a border fence between El Paso and Ciudad Juarez. Accounts vary about the circumstances surrounding the death of the unarmed Mexican teenager, which happened in broad daylight on June 7, 2010, as a gathering crowd looked on from south of the border. One thing, however, is not in dispute: The spot where the 15-year-old crumpled and died was at the foot of a railroad trestle on the Mexican side of the Rio Grande.

Dallas Morning News - February 20, 2017

Whitfield: We could learn from Norma McCorvey's rare ability to change her mind after Roe vs. Wade

Norma McCorvey died last week at the age of 69. You knew her, everyone did. Known to most and to history as "Jane Roe," she was the plaintiff in Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court case which brought about that epochal decision to legalize abortion; a decision for ill or for good depending of course upon whom you ask. A divisive decision at least and to say the least, it divides us still today. Norma's life was hard by any measure. A broken family, little education, petty crime, drugs, reform school and teenage pregnancy: this was but some of the context of her upbringing. In later years, she wore all this with a sort of weathered wisdom and gritty smoky joy. She had become a woman who suffered fools little because she had suffered them enough.

Dallas Morning News - February 20, 2017

Dallas lawmaker accuses Democrats of pushing 'tyranny' in fight over consumer protection bureau

Rep. Jeb Hensarling figures not one in a thousand Americans has heard of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. And so the Dallas Republican wants to leave a first impression for the unacquainted. "It is the single-most unaccountable and powerful agency in the history of our republic, running afoul of every tenet of separation of powers and checks and balances," he said. That saber-rattling tone marks the latest tactic from the chairman of the House Financial Services Committee as he and others in the GOP consider sundry ways to claw back components of a major law that tightened financial-sector regulations after the 2008 crisis.

Associated Press - February 21, 2017

Court considers constitutionality of Ohio execution process

A federal appeals plans to consider arguments over the constitutionality of Ohio's lethal injection process as the state tries to start carrying out executions once again. At issue is whether a contested sedative, midazolam, is powerful enough to put inmates into a deep state of unconsciousness before two subsequent drugs paralyze them and stop their hearts. A related issue is whether Ohio has a realistic chance of finding an alternative drug — a barbiturate called pentobarbital — that once was widely used in executions but has become difficult or, in Ohio's case, impossible to obtain.

This article appeared in the San Antonio Express News

Dallas Morning News - February 20, 2017

Alternative economic facts? Fears rise about Trump team doctoring data

President Donald Trump complains regularly about what he calls "fake news." What's got some statisticians worried, though, is the risk of doctored economic data coming from the administration itself. While there are government directives in place to prevent that from happening, the number crunchers worry that the president's occasionally cavalier comments on the economy and economic statistics, and his apparent disdain for economists in general, could mean trouble ahead. One month into his presidency, Trump has yet to nominate anyone to the Council of Economic Advisers, established in 1946 to provide presidents with objective economic analysis and advice.

Politico - February 20, 2017

Trump's new warrior-scholar

President Donald Trump has picked one of the military’s leading warrior-scholars to restore order to the National Security Council -- but also one who has staked out a decidedly more hawkish position on Russia and gone out of his way to assert that the war against terrorism must not morph into a war against Islam. Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, Trump's newly named replacement for ousted National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, is considered one of the Army’s top intellectuals. When he was a young major he published a best-selling book about failed military leadership during the Vietnam War and later went on to help pioneer counterinsurgency operations in Iraq. The first active-duty officer to hold the post since Colin Powell under President Ronald Reagan, he has also attained legendary status in military circles for his willingness to buck conventional wisdom.

Dallas Morning News - February 21, 2017

Grigsby: Where is this 73 percent of Americans who want Democrats to work with Trump?

A new poll commissioned for The Hill website found that 73 percent of voters want to see Democrats work with President Trump, versus only 27 percent who said Dems should resist Trump's every move. Looking just at the Democratic voters polled, 52 percent say their party should work with the president and 48 percent say they shouldn't. ... It's probably no surprise that we aren't hearing those voices. Not only are the members of the most liberal and conservative bases the ones who suck most of the oxygen out of the room, but in today's take-no-prisoners war, if you say anything that resembles bipartisanship, you're likely to get your head chopped off. Still, it's worth noting that American voters want something more productive than the gridlock and anger that grips our country. It will be interesting to see if their voices are heeded.

New York Times - February 19, 2017

In Trump’s Volleys, Echoes of Alex Jones’s Conspiracy Theories

Way back on Friday, President Trump declared that several news organizations — ABC, CBS, CNN, NBC, The New York Times — were “the enemy of the American people.” You know who’s not the enemy, in his book? Alex Jones. Mr. Jones, in case you aren’t aware, is the conspiracy-theorizing, flame-throwing nationalistic radio and internet star who’s best known for suggesting that Sept. 11 was an inside job, that the Sandy Hook school shooting was “completely fake” and that the phony Clinton child-sex trafficking scandal known as Pizzagate warranted serious investigation (which one Facebook fan took upon himself to do, armed with an AR-15).

Associated Press - February 20, 2017

AP source: Trump's revised travel ban targets same countries

A draft of President Donald Trump's revised immigration ban targets the same seven countries listed in his original executive order and exempts travelers who already have a visa to travel to the U.S., even if they haven't used it yet. A senior administration official said the order, which Trump revised after federal courts held up his original immigration and refugee ban, will target only those same seven Muslim-majority countries — Iran, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Sudan and Libya. The official said that green-card holders and dual citizens of the U.S. and any of those countries are exempt. The new draft also no longer directs authorities to single out — and reject — Syrian refugees when processing new visa applications.

The Hill - February 19, 2017

Rand Paul: We’re very lucky John McCain’s not in charge

Sen. Rand Paul (Ky.) ripped fellow Republican Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) on Sunday after McCain criticized President Trump’s escalating war of words with the media. He argued that the nation is “very lucky” that Trump is president and not McCain, who won the 2008 GOP nomination but lost to Barack Obama in the general election. Paul said that McCain’s recent criticisms of Trump are driven by his “personal dispute” with the president over foreign policy. ... “Everything that he says about the president is colored by his own personal dispute he’s got running with President Trump, and it should be taken with a grain of salt, because John McCain’s the guy who’s advocated for war everywhere,” Paul said on ABC’s “This Week.”

Dallas Morning News - February 20, 2017

Klaas: Gerrymandering is the biggest obstacle to genuine democracy in the U.S., so why is no one protesting?

There is an enormous paradox at the heart of American democracy. Congress is deeply and stubbornly unpopular. On average, between 10 and 15 percent of Americans approve of Congress - on a par with public support for traffic jams and cockroaches. And yet, in the 2016 election, only eight incumbents -- eight out of a body of 435 representatives -- were defeated at the polls. If there is one silver bullet that could fix American democracy, it's getting rid of gerrymandering, the now commonplace practice of drawing electoral districts in a distorted way for partisan gain. It's also one of a dwindling number of issues that principled citizens, Democrat and Republican, should be able to agree on. Indeed, polls confirm that an overwhelming majority of Americans oppose gerrymandering.

The Hill - February 20, 2017

Angst in GOP over Trump's trade agenda

Republican lawmakers are concerned about where President Trump is headed on trade and are asking who in the administration is in charge of policies that could affect their home-state economies. Their biggest worries are what will replace the Trans-Pacific Partnership — the largest trade deal in U.S. history until it was scrapped by President Trump — and the future of NAFTA, which the president has called “the single worst trade deal in history.” Trump talked tough on trade during the campaign, pledging to renegotiate deals that he said have ripped off American workers. But many lawmakers on Capitol Hill are confused about what comes next amid crosstalk from different voices in the administration.

The Hill - February 20, 2017

7 key players in the GOP's border tax fight

Republicans are fiercely divided over a key proposal in the House GOP tax reform plan, a measure that would hit imports with U.S. taxes while exempting exports. The border-adjusted tax was included in a tax blueprint House Republicans released in June, which is a starting point for upcoming legislation. Supporters say the border tax is a critical way to raise revenue to pay for tax rate cuts in the package and to boost American manufacturers.

Politico - February 20, 2017

Trump takes new immigration fight to 9th Circuit

The Trump administration is taking another immigration policy fight to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, less than two weeks after that court delivered a stinging rebuff to President Donald Trump's travel ban executive order. The latest battle is over the rights of detained immigrant children and teenagers to immigration court hearings to determine suitability for release on bond. Los Angeles-based U.S. District Court Judge Dolly Gee ruled on Inauguration Day that such "unaccompanied" minors are entitled to go before an immigration judge in accordance with the terms of a 20-year-old legal settlement. On Friday night, the Justice Department filed an emergency motion with the 9th Circuit asking it to block Gee's order while an appeal goes forward.

Politico - February 21, 2017

Uber hires former AG Holder for sexual harassment investigation

ide-hailing service Uber has hired Eric Holder, the former U.S. attorney general, to head the company’s investigation into allegations of sexual harassment and discrimination by a former female employee. The hire comes after a blog post by the former employee, Susan Fowler Rigetti, went viral last week. Rigetti wrote that complaints by her and other female employees were mishandled by Uber’s human resources department. In the post, she describes how she was sexually harassed on her first official day with the team she was working with. She went to HR with her complaint, but was told it was the man’s first offense and they wouldn’t want to punish him for it. However, amid conversations with other female engineers, she realized this was not the case.

Austin American-Statesman - February 21, 2017

Justices reject appeal of tea party groups over IRS review

The Supreme Court has rejected an appeal from a nonprofit group that wanted to sue individual IRS officials for targeting tea party groups that applied for tax-exempt status. The justices on Tuesday left in place an appeals court ruling that said the group could not sue former IRS official Lois Lerner and others for their roles in singling out certain applications for extra, sometimes burdensome scrutiny. An inspector general's had report found no evidence of a political conspiracy, but blamed the agency for poor management.

Austin American-Statesman - February 21, 2017

Rove to Trump: Lose the pettiness, stop whining, think big

For a full hour Monday night, Karl Rove regaled some 450 people at the Williamson Country Republican Party Reagan Dinner at the Sheraton Georgetown with tales of William McKinley and his extraordinary but little-remembered success as a Republican candidate for president and occupant of the White House. And then Rove brought the lessons of the 25th president of the United States home for his party today, and particularly for the 45th president of the United States, Donald Trump: Lose the pettiness. Stop whining. Think big. “Be concerned with the big things, not little things,” Rove said. “Be concerned with prosperity and paychecks and jobs, not the size of your inaugural crowds or the skill of Meryl Streep as an actress.”

Houston Chronicle - February 21, 2017

Rising inmate health costs have lawmakers weighing another prison closure

State lawmakers may consider shuttering another prison and paroling some older, infirm inmates to nursing homes in a bid to shift more than $400 million in funding toward rising health care costs and much-needed repairs and upgrades to Texas' aging corrections facilities. The state already is poised to spend more than $6.7 billion over the next two years for prisons and corrections programs. But with the Legislature looking at the tightest state budget in years, lawmakers quietly are looking for ways to save $421 million in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice operations to cover surging costs associated with overseeing the state's 147,000 convicts.

Associated Press - February 21, 2017

In Trump's future looms a familiar shutdown threat

Add a potential government shutdown to President Donald Trump's growing roster of headaches. Beneath the capital's radar looms a vexing problem — a catchall spending package that's likely to top $1 trillion and could get embroiled in the politics of building Trump's wall at the U.S.-Mexico border and a budget-busting Pentagon request. While a shutdown deadline has a few weeks to go, the huge measure looms as an unpleasant reality check for Trump and Republicans controlling Congress. Despite the big power shift in Washington, the path to success — and averting a shuttering of the government — goes directly through Senate Democrats, whose votes are required to pass the measure.

This article appeared in the Houston Chronicle

New York Times - February 21, 2017

Congressional Town Hall: Of Tums, Death Panels and ‘Shut Your Hole’

Representative Dennis A. Ross of Florida was holding a meeting at 5:30 p.m. west of Orlando. The angry placards were everywhere inside the raucous meeting hosted by Mr. Ross, one of the most conservative members of Congress and an enthusiastic defender of Mr. Trump: “Disagree,” “Nyet My President,” “No Pipeline” — even some fans with signs bearing sad-face emoticons. It was not a happy crowd. “Liar,” people shouted. “Boo.” “Let him speak,” said someone in the crowd. “We have to be respectful.” There was little that Mr. Ross could or would say to placate this crowd of mostly Democrats who packed the room here in this small, rural Central Florida town that was known for its plentiful citrus fields not so long ago.

USA Today - February 20, 2017

No honeymoon: One month in, Trump's approval ratings are lagging

One month after his inauguration, President Trump has seen his approval ratings sag and the political divisions of his election deepen. A new president's traditional honeymoon? It's nowhere in sight. Trump retains overwhelming support among Republicans. In the latest Pew Research Center poll, 84% of Republicans said they approved of the job Trump was doing as president, comparable to the ratings other newly elected presidents have gotten at this point among their own partisans.

Washington Post - February 21, 2017

Trump decries anti-Semitic acts as ‘horrible’ amid calls for stronger White House denunciations

President Trump called anti-Semitic violence “horrible” and vowed Tuesday to take steps to counter extremism in comments that followed criticism that the White House had not clearly denounced vandalism and threats targeting Jewish institutions. Hours before Trump’s remarks, Hillary Clinton called on her former presidential rival to speak out against anti-Semitic acts after more than 170 Jewish graves were found toppled at a cemetery in Missouri. “The anti-Semitic threats targeting our Jewish community at community centers are horrible and are painful and a very sad reminder of the work that still must be done to root out hate and prejudice and evil,” Trump said following a visit to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture.

Washington Post - February 21, 2017

Riots erupt in Sweden’s capital just days after Trump comments

Just two days after President Trump provoked widespread consternation by seeming to imply, incorrectly, that immigrants had perpetrated a recent spate of violence in Sweden, riots broke out in a predominantly immigrant neighborhood in the northern suburbs of Sweden's capital, Stockholm. The neighborhood, Rinkeby, was the scene of riots in 2010 and 2013, too. And in most ways, what happened late Monday night was reminiscent of those earlier bouts of anger. Swedish police apparently made an arrest around 8 p.m. near the Rinkeby station. For reasons not yet disclosed by the police, word of the arrest prompted a crowd of youths to gather. Over four hours, the crowd burned about half a dozen cars, vandalized several shopfronts and threw rocks at police.

Houston Chronicle - February 21, 2017

New Trump guidelines expand deportations of immigrants here illegally

The Department of Homeland Security released new guidelines on its immigration policy Tuesday, in essence putting any immigrant here illegally at risk of deportation in what is a major shift in government strategy. The Obama administration, which deported a record number of more than 2 million immigrants, had focused the government's limited resources on removing immigrants in the country illegally who had been convicted of serious crimes or those who had recently arrived. Under the new memorandums, immigration agents are instructed to deport anyone convicted of a criminal offense, including those driving without a license, a common predicament for many of the more than half a million immigrants here illegally in Harris County who are unable to secure such a document because of their immigration status. Parents who seek to send their children here illegally could also be prosecuted for smuggling if they are identified by federal agents.

New York Times - February 17, 2017

Kristof: How Can We Get Rid of Trump?

My take is that unless things get much worse, removal may be a liberal fantasy. Progressives thought that Trump would never win the nomination or the election. He survived the “Access Hollywood” tape and countless crises that pundits thought would doom him, so it’s not clear why Republicans would desert him now that he’s president. Some people believe that the 2018 midterm elections will be so catastrophic for the G.O.P. that everyone will be ready to get rid of him. I’m skeptical. In the Senate, the map is disastrous for Democrats in 2018: The Republicans will be defending only eight Senate seats, while Democrats will in effect be defending 25. So while Democrats can gnash their teeth, it’ll be up to Republicans to decide whether to force Trump out.

All - February 20, 2017

Lead Stories

Texas Tribune - February 20, 2017

UT/TT Poll: A new president, popular with Texas Republicans

In his second month in office, President Donald Trump is getting overwhelmingly good grades on his job performance from the state’s Republicans, according to the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll. Trump is popular enough to cast positive light on Russian President Vladimir Putin, a world figure who turns out to be markedly more unpopular with Texas Democrats than with Texas Republicans. Overall, 46 percent of Texans approve of the job Trump been doing and 44 percent disapprove. But Republicans are crazy about him: 81 percent approve of Trump’s work so far, and only 10 percent disapprove. Moreover, 60 percent of Republicans said they “strongly” approve; another 21 percent approve “somewhat” of the president.

Austin American-Statesman - February 19, 2017

Hundreds seek audience with U.S. Rep. Roger Williams at Dripping Springs restaurant

About 240 constituents from U.S. Rep. Roger Williams’ 25th District piled into Flores Mexican Restaurant in Dripping Springs for a town hall meeting, hoping the Central Texas congressman would show up. Williams did not attend. The gathering, organized by the group Indivisible Austin, drew residents who are challenging Williams and other area congressional members to answer their concerns about the policies being proposed and enacted by the Trump administration and the Republican-led Congress. The constituents say they are concerned about changes to the Affordable Care Act, cuts in Medicare, regulations on big banks and immigration policies, among others.

New York Times - February 19, 2017

Rutenberg: In Trump Era, Censorship May Start in the Newsroom

This is how the muzzling starts: not with a boot on your neck, but with the fear of one that runs so deep that you muzzle yourself. Maybe it’s the story you decide against doing because it’s liable to provoke a press-bullying president to put the power of his office behind his attempt to destroy your reputation by falsely calling your journalism “fake.” Maybe it’s the line you hold back from your script or your article because it could trigger a federal leak investigation into you and your sources (so, yeah, jail). In that last case, your fear would be existential — a matter of your very survival — and your motivation to self-censor could prove overwhelming. We no longer have to imagine it. We got a real-life example last week in San Antonio, where a PBS station sat atop the slippery slope toward censorship and then promptly started down it.

San Antonio Express News - February 10, 2017

Garcia: KLRN spikes Rick Casey commentary about Lamar Smith

Rick Casey ends every episode of his “Texas Week” talk show with a four-minute commentary on something that’s happening in the news. Last Friday, loyal “Texas Week” viewers noticed something odd. Although the episode aired by KLRN that night was a new one, Casey’s commentary was an old clip that had been inserted into the show. The next morning, fans of the “Texas Week” host saw the print version of a new Casey commentary in the San Antonio Express-News (where it appears every Saturday), and realized that it didn’t match the one KLRN aired the night before. There’s a story behind that discrepancy.

The Hill - February 17, 2017

Poll: Americans want Democrats to work with Trump

A strong majority of Americans say Democrats should look to cooperate with President Trump to strike deals, according to the inaugural Harvard-Harris poll provided exclusively by The Hill. The survey found that 73 percent of voters want to see Democrats work with the president, against only 27 percent who said Democrats should resist Trump’s every move. The findings are significant as Democratic leaders in Congress are under growing pressure by their liberal base to obstruct the president's agenda. The poll shows the party is divided on how to deal with Trump: 52 percent of Democrats polled say they should cooperate with him on areas of agreement and 48 percent saying they shouldn't.

New York Times - February 17, 2017

Popular Domestic Programs Face Ax Under First Trump Budget

The White House budget office has drafted a hit list of programs that President Trump could eliminate to trim domestic spending, including longstanding conservative targets like the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the Legal Services Corporation, AmeriCorps and the National Endowments for the Arts and the Humanities. Work on the first Trump administration budget has been delayed as the budget office awaited Senate confirmation of former Representative Mick Mulvaney, a spending hard-liner, as budget director. Now that he is in place, his office is ready to move ahead with a list of nine programs to eliminate, an opening salvo in the Trump administration’s effort to reorder the government and increase spending on defense and infrastructure.

San Antonio Express News - February 18, 2017

Chasnoff: Trump’s war on reality

President Donald Trump’s administration has already deemed the media the “opposition party,” so perhaps it’s instructive now to distingush between dueling parties. Here’s a distinction: When the president provides information to the public, he doesn’t care whether it’s true or false. Journalists do. Take the last 48 hours. On Thursday, Trump held a White House press conference at which he harangued the “dishonest” press for more than an hour while peppering his diatribe with falsehoods. The next day, the Associated Press reported that his administration is considering a proposal to mobilize National Guard troops to enforce immigration law.

Abilene Reporter-News - February 19, 2017

Moritz: Abbott to NFL: Texas politics a rougher contact sport

Even before the Legislature officially returned to work last month, Gov. Greg Abbott has been playing coy about whether he’ll take sides on the so-called bathroom bill that has divided the leaders of the two chambers in the Capitol. Meeting with reporters during the holidays, a full month before the session started, the Republican governor gave no hint as whether he thinks Texas needs a law governing where members of the transgender community can take care of their personal business. At one point in the wide-ranging discussion, he said the issue was “something that needed to be looked at,” but also noted that “we are in a situation where there are more unknowns than there are knowns.”

State Stories

Ft. Worth Star-Telegram - February 19, 2017

Condoms, tampons, diapers, taxes — what will the Texas Legislature do?

Hygiene may be a big topic in the Texas Legislature this year. There are proposals on the table to give Texans a tax-break year-round on several items relating to bodily functions — condoms, diapers and feminine hygiene products such as tampons and sanitary napkins. “These are not luxury items,” said state Rep. Donna Howard, D-Austin, who filed measures to eliminate state taxes on these products. “These are required items … that are medical necessities. “This is about being fair with consumers,” she said. “This is a little bit of a break for everyday Texans.”

Ft. Worth Star-Telegram - February 17, 2017

FWST: Criminal justice needs age adjustment

Should a 17-year-old who is arrested for a crime be automatically be classified as an adult? It might not seem like a big issue. One year isn’t that big of a difference. How much can a teenager change from one year to the next? Does it really change anything? Yes. It really does. A Texas 17-year-old isn’t considered an adult anywhere but the criminal system, which creates an institutional problem. We treat them like kids, but when they get arrested for a crime, that goes out the window.

Austin American-Statesman - February 18, 2017

Texas sinks the Kraken to help build new reefs in the Gulf

Late last month, contractors hired by the state of Texas steered the Kraken from a Brownsville port to its final resting place, 67 miles from Galveston. There, they sank the stripped-down hulk of the shipping vessel to the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico. The next day, a red snapper swam down its watery halls — possibly the first resident of the latest addition to a huge Texas recycling program: a system of vessels-turned-reefs scattered throughout the Gulf. In a few years, the state hopes, the Kraken will have developed an ecosystem that recreational divers can explore. “It looks like we’ve already got a school of small fish living off the bow,” said Chris Ledford, a Texas Parks and Wildlife Department employee and diver who inspected the Kraken the day after it was sunk.

Austin American-Statesman - February 19, 2017

Bill would crack down on bad nursing homes

State lawmakers are trying to crack down on bad nursing homes after data has shown that the state government gives many troubled facilities a free pass each year. In fiscal 2015, state officials cited nursing homes for 17,466 state violations, but officials took just 40 enforcement actions, according to a report released by AARP Texas last month. Most of the serious violations occurred in 328 of the state’s 1,200 facilities, but the state collected fines from only 22 of them, letting others escape accountability when vulnerable residents are hurt, the organization said.

Austin American-Statesman - February 19, 2017

Texas Digest: Hunters who blamed immigrants are charged in shooting

Two hunters accused in a shooting on a remote Texas ranch near the Mexican border had told authorities that they were attacked by immigrants who had entered the country illegally. Presidio County Sheriff Danny Dominguez told Odessa television station KOSA that a grand jury indicted Michael Bryant and Walker Daugherty last week on charges of using deadly conduct by discharging firearms in the direction of others. The charges stem from a Jan. 6 incident in which police responding to call about a shooting on a ranch near Candelaria found Daugherty and another man in the hunting party, Edwin Roberts, with gunshot wounds.

Texas Tribune - February 20, 2017

UT/TT Poll: A change in party control prompts a change in Texans’ moods

The moods of voters in the red state of Texas brightened considerably after the election of President Donald Trump, according to the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll. Asked about the course of the country, 39 percent said it’s going in the right direction and 49 percent said it’s on the wrong track. That’s negative, but it’s a considerable improvement over the answers to the same question in last October’s UT/TT Poll, when 22 percent said the country was moving in the right direction and 67 percent said it was on the wrong track. The underlying numbers reveal the partisan mechanics at work here: 68 percent of Republicans said the country is going in the right direction, while 82 percent of Democrats said it’s on the wrong track.

Texas Tribune - February 20, 2017

Solutions: What Texas can do to help child sex-trafficking victims

1. Spend some actual state dollars on victims’ services The missing $10 million: Dozens of nonprofits across the state provide health care, counseling and other services to sex-trafficking victims like Jean — but get hardly any state money to do so. A 2009 state law called for distributing up to $10 million in grants to such organizations; Texas lawmakers never appropriated the money. Fund treatment beds: The state doesn’t offer money to build facilities that treat child sex-trafficking victims; it relies on the private sector to do that. Texas has only one such facility, which can only afford to treat 20 children at a time — all girls like Sarah, not boys. Advocates say they shouldn’t have to raise millions of dollars, with no help from the state, to build places like this.

Dallas Morning News - February 18, 2017

Wilonsky: Why Dallas' Sarah Jaffe and St. Vincent joined the chorus singing out against Texas' proposed 'bathroom bill'

The Texas Legislature has plenty of Very Important Issues on its very full plate, among them rescuing sexually exploited teens by not imprisoning them, fixing a Child Protective Services that imperils the lives of those it's supposed to protect and overhauling school finance without sinking public schools. For starters. But, because this is the terrified and divided world in which we now live, we're still talking about that proposed state law telling people where they can and can't go to the bathroom. And we have been for years, around the time Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick discovered that Dallas' long-on-the-books anti-bias ordinance, which prohibits discrimination when it comes to public accommodations, includes the words "gender identity." The man gives new definition to the phrase "scared straight."

Dallas Morning News - February 18, 2017

With Trump's new 'America first' focus, visas that bring tech workers, teachers to Texas become a target

At the two-story Frisco home of Parag Bakde, rainbow-colored letters spell out a message that clings to the front window: Dream big. It is a mantra that Bakde has taught his 9-year-old daughter, who stuck the letters and tiny yellow stars on her bedroom window. It is also one that the 38-year-old information technology consultant is trying to live by. Bakde is among tens of thousands of H-1B visa holders who have come to Texas from across the world. The federal visa program, which dates to the 1990s, allows employers to bring high-skilled or specialized foreign workers to the U.S. It's been used to hire foreign tech and IT professionals for companies, including some of the biggest tech names like Google, Amazon and Microsoft.

Houston Chronicle - February 20, 2017

No easy fight: Group wants title insurance biz opened to competition

While much of the attention in the state capitol this session has revolved around bills involving bathrooms, so-called sanctuary cities, school vouchers and union dues, Doug Deason has taken up a decidedly less headline-grabbing cause: title insurance reform. It may not have the sex appeal, but it certainly has the passion of the Texas title insurance industry, which has poured money into campaign coffers and lobbyists in a bid to halt Deason's quest. The Dallas businessman and philanthropist says he simply wants to bring competition to the little-known title insurance industry. The argument he offers - more competition means better service and better prices for consumers - is the kind Republican politicians live on.

Houston Chronicle - February 20, 2017

Texas disaster housing idea may get done in Louisiana first

An idea for quickly rebuilding housing after disasters like Hurricane Ike was born in Texas, but it could be used for the first time in neighboring Louisiana, still reeling from catastrophic flooding last year. Louisiana officials briefed at a recent meeting are enthusiastic about the housing concept, the subject of a 2014 pilot project in the Brownsville area dubbed RAPIDO, Spanish for quick. The concept was recently embraced by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. "We have the buy-in of everybody that was at the meeting," said Nicole Sweazy, executive director of the Louisiana Housing Authority. The meeting included officials from the state as well as from parishes that suffered damage during floods in March and August last year.

Austin American-Statesman - February 20, 2017

Lawmakers consider privatizing Texas foster care system

Poised to be one of the more controversial proposals to overhaul the state’s foster care system, legislation being discussed in a House committee on Monday would hand control of the system over to private contractors. The House committee on health services discussed three high-priority bills on Monday that would make major changes in the foster care system. During the morning, State Rep. James Frank, R-Wichita Falls, laid out his bill that would make the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, which oversees the foster care system and Child Protective Services, its own agency. Currently, the department is under the Health and Human Services Commission.

Dallas Morning News - February 20, 2017

Dallas lawmaker proposes major bump in payments for ‘kinship care’ of abused kids

A Dallas County lawmaker wants to put more of the state's wallet behind efforts to persuade relatives to take in abused and neglected children. Sunnyvale GOP Rep. Cindy Burkett has proposed a major bump in state payments for "kinship care." The fast-growing program gives modest financial assistance to grandparents, aunts and uncles who agree to take in children whom Child Protective Services has removed from their birth families. For relatives of modest means, the program provides a one-time "integration payment" of $1,000 per child and an annual reimbursement of about $500 per child.

Texas Observer - February 20, 2017

Brockman: ‘Sermon Safeguard’ Bill is All About Preaching to the Choir

In 2014, amid a bruising fight over the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO), the city of Houston subpoenaed sermons from five pastors opposed to the nondiscrimination proposal. City attorneys were responding to a suit brought by the pastors after the city rejected their petition to put HERO to a vote. The city wanted to know what instructions the pastor gave their congregants about the petition drive. However, the subpoenas went well beyond that reasonable request. They also demanded sermons and other communications about Mayor Annise Parker, homosexuality and gender identity. HERO opponents accused the city of conducting a “witch-hunt,” and then-Attorney General Greg Abbott called the subpoenas “a direct assault” on “religious liberty.”

San Antonio Express News - February 19, 2017

Fikac: Parents fight for services for medically fragile kids

Hannah Mehta wheels her 9-year-old son, Aiden, through the long halls of the Texas Capitol and into one legislator’s office after another, maneuvering his special stroller through tight spaces with a smile on her face as she hands out information and makes her case for ensuring he and other medically fragile children don’t fall through the cracks of changes in Texas’ health care system. She is fighting for Aiden and about 6,000 other children like him with profound disabilities, some of whose parents, she says, have faced a battle to get medications or supplies essential to their home care since changes took effect. She cites children who have ended up in the hospital, the last place their parents want to take them because they’re likely to pick up whatever bug is circulating, extending their stay and putting more pressure on their health.

Corpus Christi Caller Times - February 17, 2017

Garcia: Unique opportunity to bring economic growth to the Texas coast

As an organization, STEER (the South Texas Energy and Economic Roundtable) works to ensure that the Eagle Ford Shale’s energy resources are developed in a manner that is mutually beneficial to the oil and gas industry as well as the communities of South Texas. The Texas Gulf Coast has an opportunity for this type of successful partnership today. ExxonMobil and SABIC are in the final site selection stage to build a multibillion-dollar plastics manufacturing facility along the Texas Gulf Coast. This project is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the region to create high-paying jobs and increase the tax base for local communities and school districts.

KLTV - February 16, 2017

Sulphur Springs native files to run for state senate

Sulphur Springs native Kendall Scudder has announced he will be seeking a spot in the Texas State Senate. Scudder, a Democrat who now resides in Dallas, made the announcement Thursday on Twitter. In a statement announcing his candidacy for the seat, Scudder said the legislature "hasn't focused on vital issues important to you, and most Texans." “We deserve better than the failed priorities of the Texas Legislature; it’s time to fight for the honest, responsible, and accountable government that northeast Texas deserves,” the statement said.

Dallas Observer - February 17, 2017

Texas State Rep Rolls Out Marijuana Decriminalization Bill With Help From Dallas Cop

Thursday morning, Texas state Representative Joe Moody, surrounded by police officers and a retired judge, took a lectern at the Texas Capitol to argue for something he’s pushed hard for over the last two legislative sessions — the decriminalization of marijuana possession. “This discussion about marijuana policy in Texas has come a very long way in the last couple of years,” Moody said Thursday. “I think that our constituents and the people we represent want to see a reform in our policy, and slowly but surely, the people in this building are coming to the same conclusion.”

County Stories

Dallas Morning News - February 17, 2017

Steady growth has local Republicans sounding the alarm over 'possible Californization' of Collin County

Conservatives are still king in Collin County — for now — but a steady influx of new residents from traditionally Democratic states has local Republicans sounding the alarm about a "possible Californization" of the area. Local GOP leaders are issuing a call to arms to their party brethren as major corporations continue to move to the area, including Collin County, bringing with them employees who may not be intimidated by Republicans' long-held dominance at the ballot box here. Political observers say Republicans' stranglehold on Collin County politics isn't likely to change anytime soon. But it's clear that Democrats are gaining ground as new residents arrive daily from Democratic bastions in the Northeast as well as California and elsewhere in Texas.

Austin American-Statesman - February 19, 2017

Abbott fight with Travis County may hurt program to curb prostitution

One woman has a good idea of where she would be if she hadn’t gone through the Phoenix Court, Travis County’s diversion program for people charged with prostitution. “I probably wouldn’t be alive, to be honest,” said Mary, who says the program not only kept her out of jail but helped her kick the heroin addiction that drove her to prostitution. She asked the American-Statesman not to use her real name to keep her safe from pimps who might attempt to track her down. “Arresting me was my only way out,” she said. “I think that was God’s hand in my life.” The program, which provides resources for those who want to leave the sex trade, could become another casualty in the political war between Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Travis County over immigration because Abbott said he would deny state grants to the Phoenix Court and 12 other social programs.

Houston Chronicle - February 18, 2017

Harris County eyes overhaul of residential treatment

It has been more than a decade since Harris County offenders on probation worked out at a military-style compound in Atascosita as part of a defunct program that emphasized exercise and discipline. Instead of dropping to do push-ups, violators now take life-skills and education classes - strategies viewed as better-suited for keeping probationers with substance abuse and mental disorders from cycling back into jail. But the 24-acre complex itself is still a relic of the boot-camp era, complete with unused ropes and obstacles course languishing in the back and a series of corrugated metal buildings and white tents serving as dorms.

San Antonio Express News - February 18, 2017

Perryman sees growing economic opportunities in Midland, Odessa

Looking ahead to 2021, Economist Ray Perryman sees numerous economic opportunities for Midland-Odessa, the state and the nation. Perryman, president of The Perryman Group, discussed his five-year economic outlook with the media before offering it to local business, government and civic representatives. “Midland and Odessa will continue to improve” as the region’s dominant oil and gas industry continues to recover from a two-year drop in commodity prices and activity, he said. “We won’t see $100 oil anytime soon, but with current price levels, rising global demand and low costs, the industry should do well,” he said.

City Stories

Austin American-Statesman - February 18, 2017

Don’t get mad, get active: A list of several large protests planned in Austin for coming weeks

Since President Donald Trump’s election and the start of the 85th Texas Legislature, Austin has seen several protests, rallies and lobbying days at or near the Texas State Capitol. On Nov. 9, the day after the presidential election, multiple protests occurred on the streets of downtown Austin, expressing disapproval of the new commander-in-chief. In January, after Trump’s inauguration there were several protests around the Texas Capitol and University of Texas with thousands of demonstrators. The Women’s March on Jan. 21 saw close to 50,000 people gathered at the Capitol.

Houston Chronicle - February 17, 2017

Dallas councilman plans to renew push for cite-and-release for marijuana

Just days after the Harris County district attorney unveiled a new diversion plan for low-level marijuana cases, Dallas City Councilman Philip Kingston said he plans to renew efforts for a cite-and-release program for possession of small amounts of marijuana. This time, he said, he anticipates it will easily pass. Kingston has been working on the issue since his election to the council in 2013, he said. It was discussed by the city leaders as recently as last year, but gained opposition -- including from the police chief, who has since retired, and a vocal council member, who argued that it would be unfair to her constituents who lived in an outlying county that would not support the change.

Dallas Morning News - February 19, 2017

Grand Prairie-UTA partnership takes aim at teacher shortage

Attracting qualified instructors is difficult — and not just because there's a shortage of teachers, University of Texas at Arlington President Vistasp Karbhari said Friday. "What we really have is a shortage of students who want to be teachers," Karbhari said as his university unveiled a partnership Friday with the Grand Prairie school district to produce more teachers — especially those with bilingual and English as a second language, or ESL, training. UTA officials, Grand Prairie educators and students were on hand at Grand Prairie's Young Women's Leadership Academy to unveil the Education & Leadership Preparatory Program, which aims to train students beginning in their junior year of high school to become teachers — with the pledge of returning to Grand Prairie for jobs.

Dallas Morning News - February 20, 2017

End the double-billing of Dallas and its taxpayers by fixing land bank

Even if you're sure you'll never buy property from the City of Dallas Land Bank, here's why you should care that it operates as efficiently and effectively as possible: Your tax dollars are paying for the city to mow and maintain the thousands of vacant and abandoned properties in the land bank. And as long as those lots sit idle, they aren't contributing a penny toward reducing your own tax bill. It's as if these derelict lots -- the vast majority of them in the southern half of the city and acquired through a lengthy tax-lien process -- are double-billing Dallas and its taxpayers.

National Stories

Houston Chronicle - February 18, 2017

Tomlinson: Don't bring back jobs, create new ones

The best way to boost the number of manufacturing jobs in the United States is to create new, high-paying jobs, not to bring back jobs from poor countries. That may sound like a subtle difference from what President Donald Trump promised on the campaign trail, but it is a distinction that makes a big difference. The United States shouldn't want low-paying, low-skilled jobs using 20th century technology. To boost the economy we need the latest technology operated by the most highly-skilled workers. "Manufacturing today is very different from manufacturing that existed 10,20 or 30 years ago. It is technology-driven, it is efficient, it is very focused on a different type of production," said Jay Timmons, president of the National Association of Manufacturers, which represents 14,000 companies.

New York Times - February 19, 2017

Trump Proposal Would Deport More Immigrants Immediately

Federal authorities would be empowered to immediately deport vastly more undocumented immigrants as part of a broad crackdown being developed by the Trump administration that would significantly change the way federal agencies enforce immigration laws. Two draft memos signed on Friday by John F. Kelly, the retired Marine general who is now secretary of homeland security, outline an aggressive mission for the immigration authorities that would rescind policies put in place by President Barack Obama that focused mainly on removing serious criminals. The directives appear to spare many younger immigrants brought to the country illegally as children, known as Dreamers.

Dallas Morning News - February 20, 2017

GOP’s Obamacare plan could cost middle class billions in taxes on coverage from employers

President Donald Trump campaigned on a promise to repeal the Affordable Care Act and help America’s workers. But some of the GOP proposals to replace Obamacare would hit middle-class Americans right in the wallet, according to several health care experts, employer groups and even a few Republican lawmakers. At issue is the longstanding tax exclusion for employer-sponsored health insurance, more than $250 billion that Americans who receive insurance from their jobs don’t pay in federal income or payroll taxes annually, according to 2016 figures from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.

Houston Chronicle - February 19, 2017

Marek: Trump's immigration action underscore need for reform

President Trump's hastily arranged ban on foreigners traveling to the United States from select countries sparked protests, invited a court fight, and helped make the case for large-scale immigration reform - even if that last result was not a consequence he intended. During the campaign and in defending his most recent immigration actions, Trump repeatedly has made the argument that we need to know who is here and what their intentions are toward the United States. On that, he could not be more correct. But instead of governing in precisely the way that Republicans for years criticized President Obama - issuing executive orders only to have them quickly and aggressively challenged in federal court - President Trump could seize the moment of a unified GOP government in Washington and work with leaders in his own party to enact a meaningful and lasting solution. Without giving anyone a free pass, the time is right to identify and tax those who are now living in the shadows.

Associated Press - February 20, 2017

AP Exclusive: Drugs vanish at some VA hospitals

Federal authorities are stepping up investigations at Department of Veterans Affairs medical centers due to a sharp increase in opioid theft, missing prescriptions or unauthorized drug use by VA employees since 2009, according to government data obtained by The Associated Press. Doctors, nurses or pharmacy staff at federal hospitals — the vast majority within the VA system — siphoned away controlled substances for their own use or street sales, or drugs intended for patients simply disappeared. Aggravating the problem is that some VA hospitals have been lax in tracking drug supplies. Congressional auditors said spot checks found four VA hospitals skipped monthly inspections of drug stocks or missed other requirements.

This article appeared in the Houston Chronicle

Austin American-Statesman - February 19, 2017

Smith: Serving up lies to 'Intimidation and Customs Enforcement' raids

Remember when Gov. Greg Abbott and other Republican state officials hated the federal government? Why, a few years ago former Gov. Rick Perry even tossed the word “secession” into his poisonous mix of anti-President Obama rhetoric. He was, we were told, just kidding. Think back to 2015, when Abbott and others feared that run-of-the-mill U.S. military maneuvers known as Jade Helm were suspected of being part of President Obama’s plot to invade Texas and other red states. Abbott even ordered the Texas State Guard to “monitor” the federal operation, just in case. The panic, it appears now, was situational pandering to the paranoid right. Because today, the federal government actually is invading Texas and other states — and Abbott and Co. are applauding the invasion.

Ft. Worth Star-Telegram - February 17, 2017

Replace Obamacare? Website lets public create its own reform bill

As Congress considers options for repealing and replacing Obamacare, what kind of healthcare system would you like to see in its place? A North Richland Hills-based insurance company has pioneered a crowdsourcing technology to give ordinary Americans a voice in the healthcare debate. If it catches on, the acronym BYOB may become synonymous with “Build Your Own Bill” — rather than the more traditional “Bring Your Own Beer.” Michael Stahl, senior vice president at HealthMarkets, led the development of the OurCareBill.org tool. Michael Stahl, senior vice president at HealthMarkets, led the development of the OurCareBill.org tool. Heirloom Portrait Art by R. Jeff Smith HealthMarkets OurCareBill.org allows participants to create their own “bill,” formed by answering a series of questions, and then crowdsources the answers to create “America’s bill” with the most popular provisions.

Washington Post - February 20, 2017

Amid Russia scrutiny, Trump associates received informal Ukraine policy proposal

President Trump’s personal lawyer and a former business associate met privately in New York City last month with a member of the Ukrainian parliament to discuss a peace plan for that country that could give Russia long-term control over territory it seized in 2014 and lead to the lifting of sanctions against Moscow. The meeting with Andrii V. Artemenko, the Ukrainian politician, involved Michael Cohen, a Trump Organization lawyer since 2007, and Felix Sater, a former business partner who worked on real estate projects with Trump’s company. The occurrence of the meeting, first reported Sunday by the New York Times, suggests that some in the region aligned with Russia have been seeking to use Trump business associates as an informal conduit to a new president who has signaled a desire to forge warmer relations with Russia.

Washington Post - February 20, 2017

Can Trump win over African Americans? This survey suggests there’s little chance.

As February began, President Trump made a seemingly routine political gesture by convening in the White House with African American allies to mark Black History Month. Initially started as “Negro History Week” by famed African American historian Carter G. Woodson, Black History Month has been recognized by every U.S. president dating to Gerald R. Ford. The observance has become a period in which the country acknowledges the wide-ranging contributions of a group of Americans whose story in the United States began with bondage and chains. [Is the U.S. more divided by race or by class?] Trump’s “listening session,” however, was quickly overshadowed by a set of rambling remarks in which he complained about the news media and described abolitionist Frederick Douglass — who died in 1895 — as “an example of somebody who’s done an amazing job and is being recognized more and more, I notice.”

Wall St. Journal - February 17, 2017

WSJ: Repeal and Replace Panic

In the 2009 ObamaCare debate, White House aide David Plouffe told nervous Democrats “no bed-wetting,” meaning keep calm and all will be well. House Democrats went on lose 63 seats in 2010, but the double irony is that Mr. Plouffe’s advice now applies to those reporters and liberals who seem to be invested in the failure of the GOP’s version of health-care reform. Every day brings a new story about Republicans in disarray, the “mirage” of the GOP’s reform and the impossibility of change. Donald Trump hasn’t been President for even a month, folks. The reality is that Congress is on schedule, progress is underway, and the many potential problems are avoidable.

New York Times - February 17, 2017

Kristof: How Can We Get Rid of Trump?

Trump still has significant political support, so the obstacles are gargantuan. But the cleanest and quickest way to remove a president involves Section 4 of the 25th Amendment and has never been attempted. It provides that the cabinet can, by a simple majority vote, strip the president of his powers and immediately hand power to the vice president. The catch is that the ousted president can object, and in that case Congress must approve the ouster by a two-thirds vote in each chamber, or the president regains office. The 25th Amendment route is to be used when a president is “unable” to carry out his duties. I asked Laurence Tribe, the Harvard professor of constitutional law, whether that could mean not just physical incapacity, but also mental instability. Or, say, the taint of having secretly colluded with Russia to steal an election? Tribe said that he believed Section 4 could be used in such a situation.

Dallas Morning News - February 18, 2017

Betsy DeVos’ educational marketplace concept is absurd

The U.S. secretary of education has vowed in speeches, in writings and in millions of dollars of campaign contributions to destroy America's public schools. The public's schools. This is not an accusation; it is her source of pride. Betsy DeVos wants to create a "market" of "choice" in which schools are no longer public goods, democratically governed of, by, and for the people and their children, but instead, private organizations funded by our tax dollars but not governed by us, the public. Her stated "long game" is to use tax dollars to fund religious schools, specifically Christian schools. As a steppingstone to that goal, she advocates that tax dollars in the form of "vouchers" be shifted from the public's schools to private schools and charter companies. She calls this "choice," putting children and their education out for bid.

Dallas Morning News - February 18, 2017

Lindenberger: John Cornyn is no climate denier, but with votes like his, does that even matter?

Back in 2014 when I was still fairly new to Washington as The News' business correspondent, I took part in a call between Sen. John Cornyn and Texas reporters, something the senator, to his credit, does regularly. I came away from that talk disheartened over the issue of climate change, and said so in a blog post that afternoon. I wrote that if we want to understand why Congress is doing nothing to combat climate change, we should focus not on the fire-breathing climate deniers, like Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla. Rather it's the so-called moderate voices, like Cornyn's, who are most to blame for what was then, and still is, a stark refusal on part of the Republicans in Congress to take climate change as the threat it is.

Associated Press - February 19, 2017

As Trump makes foreign moves, Tillerson avoids the spotlight

When North Korea fired a ballistic missile into waters between South Korea and Japan, President Donald Trump moved quickly to show U.S. resolve. He appeared within hours alongside visiting Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and said the U.S. "stands behind Japan, its great ally, 100 percent." Trump happened to be hosting Abe that day in Florida. Yet his lack of any mention of U.S. treaty ally South Korea didn't go unnoticed by new Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. So, while on his first official trip, Tillerson arranged a three-way meeting in Germany with the Japanese and South Korean foreign ministers to show the U.S. wasn't picking favorites, according to a senior State Department official.

This article appeared in the Houston Chronicle

Daily Beast - February 19, 2017

Leaked Emails: Dem State Leaders Think Obama’s New Organizing Army is ‘Grade A Bullshit’

It is difficult to overstate just how enraged state Democratic activists and leaders are with Organizing for Action (OFA), the political and community-organizing army that grew out of Barack Obama’s presidential campaigns. The nonprofit, which functions as a sort of parallel-Democratic National Committee, was founded to mobilize Democratic voters and supporters in defense of President Obama’s, and the Democratic Party’s, agenda. Instead, the organization has drawn the intense ire, both public and private, of grassroots organizers and state parties that are convinced that OFA inadvertently helped decimate Democrats at the state and local level, while Republicans cemented historic levels of power and Donald J. Trump actually became leader of the free world. These intra-party tensions aren’t going away, especially now that OFA “relaunched” itself last week to protect the Affordable Care Act, boost turnout at congressional townhalls, and train grassroots organizers gearing up for the Trump era.

Politico - February 19, 2017

Democrats seek to quell Trump impeachment talk

They call it the ‘I’ word. Just a month into Donald Trump’s presidency, Democratic Party leaders are trying to rein in the talk of impeachment that’s animating the grass roots, the product of a restive base demanding deeper and more aggressive investigations into Trump’s ties to Russia. Democratic officials in Republican-dominated Washington view the entire subject as a trap, a premature discussion that could backfire in spectacular fashion by making the party appear too overzealous in its opposition to Trump. Worse, they fear, it could harden Republican support for the president by handing his party significant fundraising and political ammunition when the chances of success for an early impeachment push are remote, at best.

Politico - February 19, 2017

Russian hacks loom over race to lead Democratic Party

The candidates vying to lead the Democratic National Committee into the midterm elections are doling out cybersecurity promises like never before. They’re vowing to hire a senior cyber point-person, rebuild the party’s computer defenses, expand relationships with law enforcement and instill a culture of digital security in a party rattled by the cyberattacks that helped keep Hillary Clinton out of the White House. “We have lived the consequences of a catastrophic breakdown in systems and a reaction which was obviously substandard,” said former Labor Secretary Tom Perez, one of the leading contenders in the race for the DNC chairmanship. “We can safely assume that cyber warfare is going to be a tactic of the future, and we must prepare for it.”

Washington Post - February 19, 2017

As U.S.-Mexico border cities celebrate unity, worries of a wall and tighter immigration rules loom

The young children, two American, two Mexican, walked toward one another, nearing the center of the Juarez-Lincoln International Bridge. The short stretch of road over the Rio Grande has long connected this Texas border town with its sister city, Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, and about 15,000 vehicles enter the United States on it each day. But traffic came to a halt on this holiday weekend for this moment. The children, ages 7 to 9 and dressed in colonial regalia, wrapped their arms around one another. Their “abrazo” — Spanish for “embrace” — marked the 120th time in the cities’ history that the pair celebrated George Washington’s Birthday, part of a month-long party that includes parades, an air show, a debutante ball and a carnival, drawing about 400,000 people. It is a celebration of Americanness that began half a century after Laredo joined the United States following the Mexican-American War, but it is now a show of North American unity.

Washington Post - February 19, 2017

Trump supporters see a successful president — and are frustrated with critics who don’t

Many of President Trump’s most dedicated supporters — the sort who waited for hours in the Florida sun this weekend for his first post-inauguration campaign rally — say their lives changed on election night. Suddenly they felt like their views were actually respected and in the majority. But less than one month into Trump’s term, many of his supporters say they once again feel under attack — perhaps even more so than before. Those who journeyed to Trump’s Saturday evening event on Florida’s Space Coast said that since the election, they have unfriended some of their liberal relatives or friends on Facebook. They don’t understand why major media outlets don’t see the same successful administration they have been cheering on. And they’re increasingly frustrated that Democrats — and some Republicans — are too slow to approve some of the president’s nominees and too quick to protest his every utterance.

Washington Post - February 19, 2017

FEC commissioner’s departure sets up test of how Trump will approach money in politics

Ann Ravel, one of the three Democratic appointees on the deeply divided Federal Election Commission, announced Sunday that she will leave her post March 1, setting up one of the first tests of how President Trump will approach campaign finance regulation. The departure of Ravel, whose term was set to expire this spring, puts the three Republican commissioners in the majority until her replacement is selected and confirmed by the Senate. But since federal law requires at least four votes on the six-member commission to take official action, there is little the FEC can accomplish until Trump names her successor. “They can’t do anything significant with a 3-2 vote,” said campaign finance lawyer Daniel Petalas, who served as the FEC’s acting general counsel and head of enforcement.

CNN - February 19, 2017

Trump interviews candidates to fill national security slot

President Donald Trump widened his search for a new national security adviser this weekend amid concerns in Washington that the forced resignation of Michael Flynn leaves the White House unprepared to face any sudden foreign policy crisis. Flynn's short tenure ended when he was asked to resign after misleading Vice President Mike Pence about his pre-inauguration calls with the Russian ambassador. Trump interviewed several candidates to replace Flynn on Sunday, according to White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders. ... On Saturday, White House spokesman Sean Spicer told reporters that Trump planned to speak to former US ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton, acting national security adviser Gen. Keith Kellogg, West Point Superintendent Lt. Gen. Robert Caslen, Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, who directs the Army Capabilities Integration Center, and "potentially more" candidates.

The Hill - February 17, 2017

Borelli: News flash: America isn't crying over the plight of the White House press corps

When you catch a member of the corps in a television interview, it’s becoming more common that their interaction with the president is the story, rather than the subject they were sent to cover. This is not a knock on the credibility of their work. The Trump administration has and will likely continue to fill that role and confront the press when they feel a story is inaccurately reported. (I actually happen to like many members of the press corps and folks at mainstream outlets) But while the facts of any given story can be argued, the bias is clear, and the Flynn episode is the latest proof.

Wall St. Journal - February 19, 2017

Trump Agenda Is Beset by Opposition on Many Fronts

President Donald Trump is confronting more opposition than any he faced in his campaign, or anything seen in the first weeks of a modern presidency, with protests, legal challenges, congressional opposition and parts of the federal bureaucracy mobilizing to resist. After issuing a blizzard of executive orders that fueled expectations he would be a dominant force in Washington, Mr. Trump risks seeming more like Gulliver, the giant tied down by an army of resilient, if smaller, adversaries. The anti-Trump resistance has helped block his immigration policy, slow his health-care agenda and cabinet nominees, force out a top adviser and a cabinet choice, and make many of his public appearances occasions for raucous protests.

The Hill - February 20, 2017

Priebus: Top levels of the intel community assured me no collusion between Trump camp and Russia

White House chief of staff Reince Priebus on Sunday denied that members of President Trump's campaign had contact with Russia before Trump's victory. "The New York Times last week put out an article with no direct sources that said that the Trump campaign had constant contacts with Russian spies," Priebus said on "Fox News Sunday." "I can assure you, and I've been approved to say this, that the top levels of the intelligence community have assured me that that story is not only inaccurate but it's grossly overstated."

The Hill - February 19, 2017

Americans brimming with optimism on the economy

A strong majority of Americans say the U.S. economy is running strong, and most believe the upward trend will continue under President Trump, according to a Harvard-Harris poll provided exclusively to The Hill. The survey found that 61 percent view the economy as strong, against 39 percent who say it is weak. A plurality, 42 percent, said they believe the economy is on the right track, versus 39 percent who said it is on the wrong track. Trump and congressional Republicans have claimed credit for the turnaround, noting numerous polls in 2016 that showed that many Americans wanted change in the nation's capital.

New York Times - February 18, 2017

Gessen: In Praise of Hypocrisy

Everybody lies. But American politics has long rested on a shared understanding of what it is acceptable to lie about, how and to whom. One of the many norms that Donald J. Trump has assaulted since taking office is this tradition of aspirational hypocrisy, of striving, at least rhetorically, to act in accordance with moral values — to be better. This tradition has set the standard of behavior for government officials and has shaped Americans’ understanding of what their government and their country represent. Over the last four weeks, Mr. Trump has lashed out against any criticism of his behavior, because, as he never tires of pointing out, “We won.” In requesting the resignation of his national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn, however, Mr. Trump made his first public concession to political expectations. Hypocrisy has scored a minor victory in America. This is a good thing.

Reuters - February 13, 2017

Across the U.S., police contracts shield officers from scrutiny and discipline

In late 2013, a San Antonio police officer stood accused of handcuffing a woman in the rear of his police car and then raping her. The same officer had remained on the force despite prior sexual misconduct complaints and other brushes with the law. So early in 2014, backed by the city council, City Manager Sheryl Sculley proposed reforms to the police union contract in the Texas city. She wanted to eliminate a clause that erased prior misconduct complaints from cops' records, increase citizen participation in the complaint process, and end officers’ ability to forfeit vacation time rather than serve suspensions.

All - February 19, 2017

Lead Stories

Austin American-Statesman - February 18, 2017

As legislative session heats up, rift deepens between Straus, Patrick

The differences in ideology and style between hard-line conservative Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and traditional Republican House Speaker Joe Straus are nothing new. This legislative session, however, the divide has widened to include disagreements over some of the basic mechanics of managing state finances. Texas, for instance, has been without a state auditor for more than a year because Patrick and Straus haven’t agreed on a replacement. For the first time, the Texas House and the Senate have used different starting points to calculate their proposed state budgets, meaning they cannot agree on how to view the current budget, much less how to shape the next one. Patrick and Straus have even sparred over whether to release a routine report on government efficiency.

Texas Tribune - February 17, 2017

Federal judge sanctions Texas in voter registration lawsuit

A federal judge has ordered sanctions against the state of Texas for blowing past deadlines and ignoring a court order to hand over thousands of pages of documents in a lawsuit challenging its voter registration practices. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s office’s “months-long delay” in producing the documents “has been disruptive, time consuming, cost consuming” and has burdened plaintiffs in the lawsuit, U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia of San Antonio wrote in an order signed Thursday. Garcia ordered the state to pay some of the plaintiffs’ legal fees, including those tied to the sanctions request.

Dallas Morning News - February 17, 2017

Jeffers: Rep. Eric Johnson asks Texas secretary of state to back up GOP voter fraud claims

Rep. Eric Johnson has asked Texas Secretary of State Rolando Pablos to provide him with the number of voter fraud cases in Texas during the 2016 presidential election. "[Donald] Trump's accusations and the fact that, to my knowledge, the Texas secretary of state has not stood up publicly to refute Trump's accusations and declare our voting system secure suggests that maybe he doesn't think that it is secure," Johnson, D-Dallas, said Friday. "If he doesn't think that it is secure, I want him to share with me what evidence, including any 'confidential' info he has, for thinking it is not secure."

Dallas Morning News - February 18, 2017

Could Gov. Greg Abbott really force NFL players to stand for the national anthem?

Gov. Greg Abbott, a lawyer, former judge and lover of the U.S. Constitution, suggested that if the NFL doesn't butt out of Texas' bathroom banning business, turnabout is fair play: the state could force football players to stand for the national anthem. The governor's spokesman said he wasn't serious. Just in case you were wondering if that's something Abbott could really do, we asked a constitutional law expert. The short answer is the U.S. Supreme Court said "no' more than 70 years ago. But there's a little more to it. A finger-wagging Abbott told FOX News on Thursday that the NFL has enough problems of its own to worry about and should stay out of Texas politics.

San Antonio Express News - February 19, 2017

Garcia: Uresti’s troubles could open the door for Gutierrez

The most obvious contender for his Senate seat would be state Rep. Roland Gutierrez, D-San Antonio, a former South Side councilman who was rewarded last week by House Speaker Joe Straus with the chairmanship of the Committee on Defense and Veterans’ Affairs. That’s important because a 2010-14 survey of Uresti’s winding Senate district — which covers 400 miles along the Texas-Mexico border — determined that there are 60,121 veterans and 12,412 active-duty military personnel living in the district. The Defense and Veterans’ Affairs chairmanship proved to be a helpful springboard for José Menéndez, a fellow San Antonio Democrat who won a 2015 special-election to the state Senate, two years after securing the committee assignment.

State Stories

San Antonio Express News - February 18, 2017

Patrick’s office deluged with emails, calls, letters against bathroom bill

As Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick relentlessly pushes a bill that would restrict the public restrooms that transgender people can use, opposition to the measure is pouring into his office. Patrick’s office had received more than 10,000 calls, emails or letters opposing the Texas Privacy Act and just over 200 cheering it on within two weeks after it was filed, according to a tally provided to the San Antonio Express-News in response to a Texas Public Information Act request. His spokesman attributed the lopsided communications to an “orchestrated phone and email campaign organized by the left wing.”

Houston Chronicle - February 19, 2017

Adam Silver says NBA will monitor state legislation in determining All-Star game locales

NEW ORLEANS – While lauding the work of New Orleans to take on the NBA All-Star game after the league pulled its events from Charlotte because of House Bill 2, which limited anti-discrimination protections for lesbian, gay and transgender people in the state, NBA commissioner Adam Silver did not sound eager to take those steps again. Silver said the NBA will closely monitor similar legislation pending in Texas and other states when considering bids to host future All-Star weekends and its many related events. ... "In terms of laws in other jurisdictions, it's something we continue to monitor very closely," Silver said. "You know, I'm not ready to draw bright lines. Clearly, though, the laws of the state, ordinances, and cities are a factor we look at in deciding where to play our All-Star Games."

Houston Chronicle - February 18, 2017

The Raid on Mount Carmel: ATF agents keep Branch Davidian raid close to the vest

Bullet holes mark the vest’s dark blue fabric, still caked with red earth and sand. Blood has eaten through the nylon, leaving a spot of Kevlar visible through a small hole ringed by a maroon stain. Nearly 25 years after the standoff at the Branch Davidian compound near Waco, Eric Evers doesn’t know what to do with the armor he once wore. His wife can’t bear to see it. The government doesn’t want it. For now, he keeps it at the office, wrapped in gray plastic. He might give it to a museum someday. “What do you do with it?” said Evers, a special agent in Houston with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. “It’s not like I’m going to frame it and hang it on the wall.”

Houston Chronicle - February 18, 2017

Refugees in Texas face another challenge

Elizabeth Reyes awoke early on Feb. 1 to make the cross-town trek from her home in north Houston to Asiatown so she could be at the clinic just after the doors opened at 7:30 a.m. The 5-foot-2 Cuban grandmother peered over the tall reception counter, straining for the familiar in a city she does not know, in a country where she had arrived only 45 days before. "¿No hay alguna manera que podria ayudarme?" she asked. Is there any way you can help me? Reyes just wanted to see a doctor. But behind her simple question lies a deeper one as America grapples with who should be allowed in and how much is owed to them once they get here.

Dallas Morning News - February 18, 2017

Olivera: Critics of Abbott’s proposed sanctuary city ban gear up for a fight

Many critics of Gov. Greg Abbott's push for a ban on sanctuary cities say he is following in President Donald Trump's footsteps to instill fear and uncertainty in the state's immigrant communities. Abbott's push for a ban in this legislative session has been denounced by most immigrants' rights and Latino organizations, as well as business and workers' rights groups. Latinos in the state House are now "gearing up for a fight," said Rafael Anchía, chairman of the Mexican American Legislative Caucus, whose 42 members represent Latino-majority constituencies.

Dallas Morning News - February 18, 2017

Brown: Without asset forfeiture, a lot of bad guys will get to keep their crime money

A known cartel member, not long out of prison for a drug offense, is stopped for a traffic violation traveling south toward Mexico. The smell of marijuana smoke is strong. Based on the smell, the officer legally searches the vehicle. She finds no illegal drugs but discovers a hidden compartment stacked with cash. The driver has no legitimate employment and can't explain the cash. The officer writes the driver a ticket, hands back the cash and watches taillights disappear. As wrong as it sounds, this would be how Texas officers would have to handle this situation if recent efforts to change asset forfeiture procedures in Texas are successful. Proponents of reform allege rights are being trampled by cash-hungry authorities and we can be saved from this affront to liberty only by requiring that someone be convicted of a criminal offense before property could be forfeited.

Dallas Morning News - February 18, 2017

Dr. Charles LeMaistre, who helped write 1964 surgeon general's cancer report, dead at 92

Dr. Charles Aubrey "Mickey" LeMaistre specialized in epidemiology, pulmonary disease and university administration. During his tenure at Dallas' UT Southwestern Medical Center he was a member of the surgeon general's advisory committee that drafted the 1964 landmark report linking smoking to lung and laryngeal cancer in men. LeMaistre died Jan. 28 of natural causes at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, where he was past president. Services were Friday at St. John the Divine Episcopal Church in Houston.

Dallas Morning News - February 18, 2017

Hansen: Texas has much to lose with NAFTA renegotiation

President Donald Trump wants to "kick-start" the process to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement, which he has called the "worst deal ever." Should Texans be concerned? The answer is unequivocally yes. Texas consumers have a huge stake in NAFTA, which currently lowers the price we pay for many goods. One-third of goods imported from Mexico by the U.S. are imported by Texas — more than any other state. The president has proposed new taxes on imports from Mexico. But these taxes would not be paid by Mexico. They would be paid by Texas consumers. They would also exact a heavy price from Texas companies and the Texans who work for them.

Dallas Morning News - February 18, 2017

North Texas hospitals engaged in bidding war to lure surgeons with kickbacks, witness says

Court documents in an illegal healthcare kickback case describe a corrupt system in which North Texas hospitals competed with each other for patients by handing out money, and surgeons brought their patients to the highest bidder. The allegations were described in a plea agreement for one of the alleged ringleaders in the Forest Park Medical Center kickback case. Dr. Richard Toussaint agreed on Thursday to plead guilty to one count of conspiracy to pay and receive health care bribes and kickbacks and one count of commercial bribery. He faces a maximum of 10 years in prison for the two counts. A judge will have to approve the deal before it becomes official. He had been facing 20 counts.

Dallas Morning News - February 18, 2017

National Guard proposal on immigration? Disgust, fear, rage

Jane Bryant is a 52-year-old registered Republican and a world traveler. When President Donald Trump inked an executive order for extreme vetting for people from seven Muslim-majority nations, it didn’t faze her. She said she has been detained plenty of times as a business consultant in Russia and a World Bank consultant in other venues. Then came the Department of Homeland Security draft proposal leaked to The Associated Press to beef up the National Guard to round up unauthorized immigrants. The AP reported it could be up to 100,000 troops. The White House said the proposal was rejected and would not be put into Trump immigration policy. But lawmakers said the document offers insights into the Trump administration's internal efforts for a crackdown, AP reported.

Dallas Morning News - February 18, 2017

Gov. Greg Abbott wants Supreme Court to block California gun limits

Gov. Greg Abbott on Friday asked the U.S. Supreme Court to block California's limits on concealed carry permit holders in a brief filed with eight other governors. "The question presented is whether the State of California can single out one group of disfavored citizens--namely, gun owners--and impose unique burdens on their fundamental rights," the brief reads. "Indeed, no other group of private citizens has to prove--to the satisfaction of a government official vested with unreviewable and boundless discretion--that they really need to exercise their fundamental constitutional freedoms."

Dallas Morning News - February 18, 2017

Norma McCorvey, Jane Roe of Roe vs. Wade decision legalizing abortion, dies outside Houston

Norma McCorvey, the Jane Roe of the landmark Roe vs. Wade decision legalizing abortion, died Saturday outside Houston at age 69. McCorvey was 22 when she sought a way out of an unwanted pregnancy, becoming Jane Roe, the pseudonymous plaintiff of the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Roe vs. Wade that established a constitutional right to an abortion. She died at an assisted-living facility in Katy from a heart ailment, journalist Joshua Prager, who is working on a book about the case, confirmed.

Dallas Morning News - February 18, 2017

Jalonick, Cuellar-Rojas: Texas must fully fund pre-K for low-income kids

There is broad consensus among Texas philanthropists, business leaders, educators, economists, and others that high quality early childhood education is a powerful tool for ensuring more children start school with the skills to succeed in elementary school and beyond. That's why we were so pleased in 2015 when the governor and Texas Legislature created the new pre-K grant program that directs the Texas Education Agency to establish a program that distributes $118 million per year over the biennium to eligible school districts across Texas. This session, lawmakers must fully fund the program again.

Texas Tribune - February 19, 2017

Here’s how the “bathroom bills” in North Carolina and Texas measure up

Since Texas Republicans unveiled their so-called “bathroom bill” in early January, supporters have described the bill as similar to a law passed by North Carolina yet different in important ways. "We're doing what North Carolina did — we're fighting back," Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said Wednesday at an event hosted by the Family Research Council that also featured North Carolina Lt. Gov. Dan Forest. "Our bill is a little bit different than their bill, but our objective is the same. That's to provide common sense, common decency, privacy and public safety to women."

Texas Tribune - February 19, 2017

Hensarling ready to make final term as House Financial Services chairman count

U.S. Rep. Jeb Hensarling has one more term left as House Financial Services chairman. With a Republican in the White House, he is ready to make it count. The Dallas Republican is heading the GOP effort to gut Obama-era financial reforms as the head of the U.S. House Committee on Financial Services. And in a city where relationships mean everything, his best friends are two of the most powerful people in the government: Vice President Mike Pence and House Speaker Paul Ryan. “I pick the best friends,” he said, smiling.

Texas Tribune - February 19, 2017

Ramsey: A window into who Texas legislators’ favorite employees are

The union dues bill is a great example of the difference between an ideological piece of legislation and a case of lawmakers just picking favorites. Texas allows state and government employees to deduct the dues for their unions and employee association from their paychecks — an automatic payment that improves collections and retains members for those groups and that saves the employees the trouble of writing checks or sending payments every month. It doesn’t cost the state anything; the groups that benefit pay the processing costs.

Austin American-Statesman - February 18, 2017

Buckler: Legislators should reform age of responsibility in Texas

The time has come for Texas to recognize the burgeoning body of evidence that points to the negative effects on youth who are exposed to the adult criminal justice system. It is time for the state to not only recognize the evidence but to take action. Texas lawmakers can take an important step in this direction by increasing the age of criminal responsibility from 17 to 18. This change will mean that 17-year-olds accused of a crime enter the juvenile justice system rather than the adult criminal justice system. During the 2015 legislative session, lawmakers held hearings on the issue. Despite strong support from juvenile justice advocates, time was granted to juvenile justice agencies to study and plan for the financial impact of the shift.

Austin American-Statesman - February 18, 2017

Stevenson: Here we go again — fighting vouchers at the Texas Capitol

In a commentary I wrote for the Texas Tribune in 2015, I complained that vouchers — or their euphemism, educational savings accounts — are zombie bills that come up every session and refuse to die. Each session, they are defeated because the majority of Texans support their public schools and want to improve them, not siphon decreased funds to private schools with little or no oversight. Last time around a bill by state Sen. Donna Campbell, R-New Braunfels, was only six pages long. This year I had to study at 39-page document. What follows is a discussion of some of its more alarming points. Senate Bill 3, Article 1 states that the purpose of the bill is to “improve public schools and overall academic performance, promote efficiency, promote and preserve the liberties and rights of the people, and to increase parental options.”

Austin American-Statesman - February 18, 2017

Cruz, Cornyn slow-play Texas judicial vacancies after Trump election

Last fall, when Donald Trump was flagging in the presidential polls and conventional Washington wisdom had Hillary Clinton headed to the White House, U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz and John Cornyn were pushing five judges to fill vacancies in Texas. The Texas senators recommended the judges to the White House and supported their nominations at a September hearing — unusual for its timing, two months before a presidential election — set to fill positions that, along with eight other Texas judgeships, have been vacant so long they had been dubbed judicial emergencies. But the Senate Judiciary Committee never held a vote on the nominations. Nearly six months later, the positions are still vacant.

Austin American-Statesman - February 18, 2017

Herman: In Texas politics, often it’s God’s people vs. God’s people

In something I hope He or She will clear up, by tweet or otherwise, God again finds Himself or Herself on both sides of emotional battles at the Texas Capitol. This time it’s in the year’s hottest-button issues. It’s happened before. It’ll happen again. I’ve heard it on topics as troubling as terminating a pregnancy and as trivial as what you should be allowed to buy on Sundays. Through the mouths of lawmakers and others, we’re now hearing it in the current Capitol battles over how we enforce immigration law and who uses which bathroom. Some on both sides of each issue claim God is on their side. Or more precisely, they’re on God’s side.

Austin American-Statesman - February 19, 2017

Mackowiak: Abbott, Patrick seek to protect public with SB4

In near record time, the Texas Senate passed Senate Bill 4, legislation authored by state Sen. Charles Perry (R-Lubbock), which seeks to end so-called sanctuary city policies in our state. To date, only Travis County has put such policies in place, while Dallas County has reserved the right to do so on a case-by-case basis. The other 252 county sheriffs in Texas have not done so. A sanctuary city is generally understood to be a place where local law enforcement refuses the request of the federal government to have the immigration status reviewed of someone charged with a crime.

Austin American-Statesman - February 18, 2017

Mayors fear impact of transgender bathroom bill

Arguing that Texas cities are essential to the state’s continued prosperity, a group of mayors on Friday urged the Legislature to avoid enacting laws that could harm their success, including proposals to crack down on transgender-friendly bathroom policies. As cities brace for continued, explosive population growth, fear of an economic backlash over the transgender bathroom bill is a growing concern, the mayors said after a downtown Austin lunch meeting to discuss legislative priorities. Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings said a major corporation, while he was making a relocation pitch in a meeting last year that included Gov. Greg Abbott, raised concerns about a potential crackdown on transgender bathrooms.

Austin American-Statesman - February 18, 2017

After initial delay, agencies report 10 officer-involved shootings

In the past two weeks, 10 Texas police departments rushed to belatedly file reports on fatal officer-involved shootings as required by a ground-breaking 2015 state law. Law enforcement agencies are supposed to submit the reports to the Texas attorney general’s office within 30 days of an officer being shot or shooting someone else. But two weeks ago, the American-Statesman and the Houston Chronicle published stories about how those reports had not been filed by a dozen departments in accordance with state law. Most of those agencies responded by filing belated reports. Just two reports on fatal shootings remained missing as of Thursday. All the shootings occurred since Sept. 1, 2015, when the reporting requirement took effect.

Ft. Worth Star-Telegram - February 18, 2017

The battle for 2018 starts now — and in Tarrant County

Make no mistake, the target is 2018. Both Republicans and Democrats say the political climate has become so intense that they must look ahead — now — to the mid-term elections two years away. “We are at a crossroads in this country,” Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick told a crowd of more than 600 gathered Saturday night at the Omni Hotel for the Tarrant County Republican Party’s Lincoln Day Dinner. “We are at a crossroads in Texas. “We are going to have to battle in ’18.” As Republicans rallied inside, raising money to fund the local Republican Party over the next year, hundreds of Democrats protested outside, carrying signs that stated: “Nobody paid me to be here,” “Do your job,” “Yes, we vote” and “We want a leader, not a creepy tweeter.”

Ft. Worth Star-Telegram - February 17, 2017

The Trump effect: Are Texas Democrats now following Tea Party blueprint?

Jill Fox admits it: she tuned out of politics for a while. Barack Obama was in the White House and she agreed with much of what the Democrat did while he was there. But that all changed when Republican Donald Trump won the race to replace Obama as president. Fox — who was stunned that Hillary Clinton didn’t win — said she felt an immediate need to do something. She started attending local meetings for Democrats, volunteering with groups such as Planned Parenthood and getting involved with the Texas Equal Access Fund. And she joined in last month’s Women’s March.

Associated Press - February 18, 2017

Hundreds of Texans may have voted improperly, AP reports

Texas election officials have acknowledged that hundreds of people were allowed to bypass the state's toughest-in-the-nation voter ID law and improperly cast ballots in the November presidential election by signing a sworn statement instead of showing a photo ID. The chief election officers in two of the state's largest counties are now considering whether to refer cases to local prosecutors for potential perjury charges or violations of election law. Officials in many other areas say they will simply let the mistakes go, citing widespread confusion among poll workers and voters. The Texas law requires voters to show one of seven approved forms of identification to cast ballots. It was softened in August to allow people without a driver's license or other photo ID to sign an affidavit declaring that they have an impediment to obtaining required identification.

This article appeared in the Dallas Morning News

County Stories

Dallas Morning News - February 18, 2017

Ragland: Your Dallas County DA wants you to know she's ready to talk — and to run again

One thing you can say about Faith Johnson is that she's ready to fight for her job. It wasn't long after Dallas County's new district attorney read my column about a Democratic challenger — former state District Judge John Creuzot — lining up to run against her that she had her staff contact me. She wanted to talk. Hang on. This isn't inside baseball. This is evidence of an entirely different ballgame than we've been exposed to in recent years from a DA's office embroiled in one controversy after another, from Democrat Craig Watkins' tumultuous final days through Republican Susan Hawk's rocky 20 months at the helm.

Austin American-Statesman - February 18, 2017

In ‘sanctuary’ fight, a new question of justice emerges

When Travis County District Attorney Margaret Moore was alerted to the case against Hugo Gallardo-Gonzalez, accused of repeatedly sexually assaulting a young girl and targeted by federal immigration agents, she had a clear vision for his future. She wanted to take him to trial on the most serious felony charge possible. Then see him do time. And then — and only then — possibly see him expelled from the country. As the battle over so-called sanctuary cities continues, Moore’s pursuit exposes what has been a largely unexamined dimension of whether Texas sheriffs should be bound to hold inmates for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement for possible deportation: What happens to the original cases that landed those suspects in jail?

City Stories

Dallas Morning News - February 18, 2017

Thousands march in downtown Dallas to support immigrants, refugees

Megan Karimi, who came from Iran 30 years ago, took to the streets Saturday to support other immigrants. ... She was among about 1,700 people who rallied in downtown Dallas on behalf of refugees and immigrants. Religious and civic leaders joined activists to speak out against President Donald Trump's handling of immigration and recent ICE raids on immigrant communities. The march began at Dallas City Hall and ended with a rally at JFK Memorial Plaza. Along the route, marchers chanted, "Say it loud, say it clear, refugees are welcome here."

Houston Chronicle - February 17, 2017

Metro drawing up long-term Houston regional transit plan

What's clear, transit officials acknowledged on Feb. 15 during their first in-depth discussion of the transit plan's focus, is many solutions to traffic congestion will sit on transit agency shelves for years to come. "We know we will never have enough resources to build everything," Metro board member Christof Spieler said. "How do we choose which projects are most worthwhile?" Board members during the discussion said a host of factors will influence transit project priorities, though the critical litmus test will be whether a project can reliably and quickly serve a large number of riders and solve a congestion challenge. Officials predict as the region grows freeways will clog even more with cars and trucks for more hours of the day.

National Stories

Houston Chronicle - February 19, 2017

HC: ICE raids and more -- What's infuriating is that Trump's war against the undocumented is unnecessary.

So this is what America has come to? Apparently, we're now a nation where: In Seattle, agents with Immigration and Customs Enforcement take a 23-year-old Mexican man into custody despite his paperwork proving that he had been granted work authorization under the deferred-deportation program. Daniel Ramirez Medina was brought to this country at age 7 and twice qualified for the deferral program, known as DACA. "It doesn't matter, because you weren't born in this country," one of the agents told Ramirez. An El Paso transgender woman goes to an El Paso courthouse seeking protection from an alleged abuser and is arrested by a half-dozen ICE agents in the courthouse and taken to a detention center. "In all our years, none of us can recall an incident where immigration authorities made their presence known inside a courtroom in this courthouse, and especially not in a courtroom that is reserved for victims of domestic violence," El Paso County Attorney Jo Anne Bernal told the El Paso Times.

Houston Chronicle - February 18, 2017

Pitts: The education gap between left and right

It's time we talked about the most consequential political divide in this country. That divide is not between liberals and conservatives. Rather, it is between the ignorant and the informed, between those who have information and can extrapolate from it and those who do not and cannot. There is an education gap between left and right, and it poses a grave threat to our national future. This gap has been empirically proven. A 2015 Pew Research Center study, for instance, found that only 24 percent of Americans with post-graduate degrees and 29 percent of those with college degrees identify as consistently or mostly conservative. The corresponding numbers for liberals were 54 and 44, with the rest not identifying strongly with either ideology.

Dallas Morning News - February 17, 2017

Senate confirms Oklahoma AG Scott Pruitt as environment chief under Trump

The Environmental Protection Agency is now on a collision course with itself. The impending clash comes after the Senate on Friday voted 52-46, along mostly party lines, to confirm Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt — a climate change skeptic who's long battled the agency in court — as the department's new administrator. His stated mission is simple: Rein in an agency that many Republicans feel has far overstepped its bounds in pursuing a robust regulatory agenda.

Dallas Morning News - February 18, 2017

Wilson: What you need to know about the enemies of the American people the president warned you about

An enemy of the American people came into my office Friday night to talk about a story he was working on. The story was about a 17-year-old kid involved in a controversy at his school. The enemy of the people was concerned because the kid is going through a difficult time. Telling the story could make things worse. In the end, the enemy of the people decided to keep gathering information but not rush to publication. Just before that conversation, I had spent a couple of hours talking to aspiring enemies of the people from the University of Texas Enemies of the People School. A half-dozen of them had come from Austin to interview for the one-year fellowships we award to young enemies who are interested in working in our Washington, D.C., and Austin bureaus.

Dallas Morning News - February 18, 2017

Rose": President Trump's 'new normal' sets a bad example

The esteem of the American presidency recently hit another low point when President Donald Trump tweeted his displeasure with Nordstrom Department Stores because of the decision to stop carrying merchandise from the company bearing daughter Ivanka Trump's name. A few days later, Kellyanne Conway compounded the problem by explicitly urging Fox News viewers to buy Ivanka's products. Although the president's initial outburst seems to have had only a brief dampening effect on Nordstrom stock's value, the collateral harm from all these events is more worrying, more widespread and longer-term than market price concerns.

Fox News - February 18, 2017

Authorities 'strongly encourage' House members to review security plans before week of town halls

House lawmakers are being told by law enforcement to maintain “enhanced security awareness” as they return to their home districts for a week -- following several raucous town hall meetings in which congressional Republicans were ripped over plans to dismantle ObamaCare and other GOP initiatives. The advisory issued Thursday by the House Sergeant at Arms “strongly encouraged” the chamber’s roughly 435 members to review security protocols as they leave Capitol Hill for a “District Work Period,” which historically includes town hall-style events and other interactions with constituents. “This is important if your district office becomes a potential demonstration site,” the advisory reads. “If your home address and phone number are publicly available, you should remain particularly alert regarding your surroundings.”

The Telegraph - February 18, 2017

Peters: The student Left’s culture of intolerance is creating a new generation of conservatives

tudent demands for censorship get a lot of coverage. Spiked Online’s Free Speech University Rankings, now in its third annual edition, argues that there is a “crisis of free speech on campus”. By analysing the censorious policies and actions that have taken place on British campuses, Spiked concluded that 63.5 per cent of universities actively censor speech and 30.5 per cent stifle speech through excessive regulation. You can barely go a few days without encountering a new op-ed covering censorship on campus. ... With all of this book-burning and platform-denying madness sweeping up much of the media’s interest in campus culture, the gradual rise of another group of students has gone under-reported. British and American millennials and post-millennials – also known as ‘Gen Z’ – are warming to conservatism.

Washington Examiner - February 17, 2017

ICE: Raid reports fake news, Obama grabbed 350% more

In a series of tweets, ICE called the reports, in the Washington Post and elsewhere, "dangerous and irresponsible." The agency this week said that had made 683 arrests of mostly criminal illegal immigrants, or those with multiple cases against them beyond illegally crossing the border. The agency this week said that had made 683 arrests of mostly criminal illegal immigrants, or those with multiple cases against them beyond illegally crossing the border. To make its point, ICE tweeted out a "Throwback Thursday" story from 2012 during which 3,168 illegals were rounded up in a sweep that drew little media complaints and coverage.

Austin American-Statesman - February 19, 2017

Like Democrats before them, GOP dismisses town hall threat

Ask Republican lawmakers about the specter of protests in their districts next week, and they'll likely shrug off constituent outbursts as "manufactured" or "scripted." The GOP is largely adopting the Democratic posture from the summer of 2009 that angry voices at town halls don't represent a political threat. That may be true. The question is how Republicans now, and Democrats back then, arrived at that conclusion. Even as some GOP lawmakers move to hold their constituent forums online or over the phone instead of in-person, they insist they're not worried. In a Wednesday letter to Republican chiefs of staff, Matt Gorman, communications director at the National Republican Congressional Committee, dismissed recent protests that have erupted at town halls across the country.

Austin American-Statesman - February 19, 2017

Rand Paul in 2020? He's showing that independent streak again

Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul is quickly positioning himself again as a starkly independent Republican, the sort of political branding that fueled his presidential campaign last year. Paul has a clearly conservative voting record. But just six weeks into the new Congress, he's taken some high-profile steps away from party orthodoxy. He didn't get very far in his bid for the Republican presidential nomination last year. But he stood out then, and is trying to stand out now, by breaking with the party on the same issues where he attracted a following, particularly among the GOP's libertarian wing.

Dallas Morning News - February 18, 2017

Explainer: Is the president allowed to mobilize National Guard for immigration raids?

Have members of the National Guard been involved in immigration before? Yes. In 2006, President George W. Bush ordered 6,000 National Guard members to help secure the U.S.-Mexico border by providing additional surveillance and training full-time border patrol officers. That order was carried out as Operation Jump Start. The governors of the four states involved in the operation — Arizona, California, New Mexico and Texas — all signed off on the plan. The members focused on surveillance and some construction, but they all operated under extremely limited rules of engagement and did not generally carry out any duties in the realm of apprehending or arresting individuals crossing the border. Former President Barack Obama also deployed National Guard troops to serve along the border in 2010.

Washington Post - February 18, 2017

Memos signed by DHS secretary describe sweeping new guidelines for deporting illegal immigrants

Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly has signed sweeping new guidelines that empower federal authorities to more aggressively detain and deport illegal immigrants inside the United States and at the border. In a pair of memos, Kelly offered more detail on plans for the agency to hire thousands of additional enforcement agents, expand the pool of immigrants who are prioritized for removal, speed up deportation hearings and enlist local law enforcement to help make arrests. The new directives would supersede nearly all of those issued under previous administrations, Kelly said, including measures from President Barack Obama aimed at focusing deportations exclusively on hardened criminals and those with terrorist ties.

Washington Post - February 19, 2017

Weigel: Why John McCain’s #resistance is bad for Democrats

As Democrats (finally) finish the race for DNC chair, there's already angst about the possible defeat of Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), who is backed by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). “Electing Tom Perez — which, insanely, is still very plausible — would be a grave misreading of the national mood,” Hamilton Nolan said this past week in Deadspin. “Worse, it would send a big flashing signal to not only Democrats but to everyone out there who is pissed that the Democratic Party is not taking this situation seriously.” Perez, like Ellison, has opposed every move Trump has made. But right now, progressives view the Democratic Party warily. They can ill afford a story line in which Republicans like McCain, (or Evan McMullin, or Joe Scarborough) are the real leaders of the opposition.

Washington Post - February 19, 2017

That draft order targeting 11 states would miss more than half of undocumented immigrants

There are any number of hard-to-understand components to the draft memo that reportedly circulated in the White House, mobilizing 100,000 National Guard members to act as a deportation force for immigrants in the country illegally in 11 southwestern states. But one issue is that the proposal — which the White House says isn’t on the table — targets states that are home to less than half of the estimated undocumented immigrant population. Pew Research tracks data on that population. People often wonder how accurate numbers can be compiled on a group that almost by definition seeks to avoid notice — but there’s a simple answer. As a Pew demographer explained to me last year, nearly all of those born in Mexico now live in either Mexico or the United States.

Politico - February 18, 2017

Leaked Trump tape: 'You are the special people'

President Donald Trump, living alone inside the White House, often hungers for friendly interaction as he adjusts to the difficult work of governance. At his clubs, he finds what’s missing. That showed last November at a cocktail and dinner reception celebrating longtime members of his Bedminster, New Jersey golf club. Deep into the process of meeting potential Cabinet nominees, the president-elect invited partygoers to stop by the next day to join the excitement. “We’re doing a lot of interviews tomorrow — generals, dictators, we have everything,” Trump told the crowd, according to an audio tape of his closed-press remarks obtained by POLITICO from a source in the room. “You may wanna come around. It’ll be fun. We’re really working tomorrow. We have meetings every 15, 20 minutes with different people that will form our government."

All - February 17, 2017

Lead Stories

Dallas Morning News - February 16, 2017

At Ken Paxton pretrial hearing, prosecutors say they'll hold two separate trials

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton appeared Thursday in court, where his lawyers argued against a request to move his upcoming criminal trials out of Collin County. Judge George Gallagher, who is presiding over the case, said he intended to "at least try to choose a jury here." But he did not formally rule on whether to move the trials elsewhere. In another development, the three prosecutors pursuing charges against Paxton said they will hold two separate, back-to-back trials, on Paxton's separate charges. Paxton's trial attorney fumed over this development, saying he was unaware there wouldn't be just one trial.

Houston Chronicle - February 16, 2017

Concerns linger as panel OKs convention of states resolution

A long-awaited proposal to prepare Texas in the event of a constitutional convention passed its first legislative hurdle Thursday when a state Senate committee approved a trio of bills assigning instructions to potential delegates and restricting their powers. In a party-line vote, with the panel's two Democrats opposed, the Senate Committee on State Affairs approved Senate Joint Resolution 2, the official charge to add Texas to the list of states that support a so-called convention of states. The resolution limits proposed constitutional changes to three categories: putting term limits on federal lawmakers, curbing the power and jurisdiction of the federal government, and imposing fiscal restraints on Washington.

Houston Business Journal - February 14, 2017

Texas bullet train could cost taxpayers $21.5 billion, new report concludes

A new report estimates the Texas bullet train could cost taxpayers $21.5 billion and concludes that privately funded high-speed rail is not a feasible mode of transit outside of the Northeastern U.S. The report from the Los Angeles-based Reason Foundation estimates that the proposed project by Texas Central Partners between Dallas and Houston will operate at a $537 million annual operating deficit over its first 40 years

Texas Tribune - February 15, 2017

Menéndez failed to report $50,000 in donations

A Texas Tribune investigation found that two state senators failed to report almost $60,000 in donations from two PACs. Sens. Jose Menendez and Carlos Uresti, both San Antonio Democrats, vowed to file amended reports. ... State Sen. José Menéndez acknowledged Wednesday that he failed to report a combined $50,000 in donations from two groups that are considered arch enemies at the state Capitol — the Texas Trial Lawyers Association and Texans for Lawsuit Reform. The unreported contributions from the groups' political action committees to the San Antonio Democrat, each totaling $25,000, were discovered in an ongoing Texas Tribune investigation of contribution and expenditure filings at the Texas Ethics Commission. Menéndez, who could face both civil and criminal fines for the disclosure failures, said he would quickly amend his campaign finance reports and accept any punishment regulators decide on.

The Hill - February 17, 2017

Democrats raise questions about Trump’s mental health

A growing number of Democrats are openly questioning President Trump’s mental health. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) in a floor speech this week called for a review of the Constitution's procedures for removing a president. He warned the 25th Amendment of the Constitution falls short when it comes to mental or emotional fitness for office. Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) during a weekend interview with CNN’s “State of the Union” said that “a few” Republican colleagues have expressed concern to him about Trump's mental health. And Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) plans to introduce legislation that would require the presence of a psychiatrist or psychologist in the White House.

Washington Post - February 16, 2017

Flynn in FBI interview denied discussing sanctions with Russian ambassador

Former national security adviser Michael Flynn denied to FBI agents in an interview last month that he had discussed U.S. sanctions against Russia with that country’s ambassador to the United States before President Trump took office, contradicting the contents of intercepted communications collected by intelligence agencies, current and former U.S. officials said. The Jan. 24 interview potentially puts Flynn in legal jeopardy. Lying to the FBI is a felony offense. But several officials said it is unclear whether prosecutors would attempt to bring a case, in part because Flynn may parse the definition of the word “sanctions.” He also followed his denial to the FBI by saying he couldn’t recall all of the conversation, officials said.

Associated Press - February 17, 2017

GOP leaders unveil new health law outline, divisions remain

Top House Republicans unveiled a rough sketch of a massive health care overhaul to rank-and-file lawmakers Thursday, but a lack of detail, cost estimates and GOP unity left unresolved the problem that's plagued them for years: What's the party's plan and can Congress pass it? At a closed-door meeting in the Capitol basement, House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and other party leaders described a broad vision for voiding much of President Barack Obama's 2010 statute and replacing it with conservative policies. It features a revamped Medicaid program for the poor, tax breaks to help people pay doctors' bills and federally subsidized state pools to assist those with costly medical conditions in buying insurance.

This article appeared in the Houston Chronicle

Texas Public Radio - February 15, 2017

Feeling Way More Stressed Out? You're Not Alone

Americans say they're feeling more stress, according to a survey released Wednesday by the American Psychological Association. Americans rated their stress higher in January compared to last August, increasing from 4.8 to 5.1 on a 10-point scale. That's the first significant increase in the 10 years that the association has been doing these polls. What's more, 57 percent of people polled in January said they were stressed about the current political climate; 66 percent were stressed about the future of our nation; and 49 percent were stressed about the outcome of the presidential election.

Texas Observer - February 16, 2017

Guarecuco: Texas Republicans No Longer Hiding Behind Claim of Women’s Health in Effort To Criminalize Abortion

At a Senate hearing Wednesday, three Republicans carrying anti-abortion bills — all men — agreed on one thing: The proposals are not about protecting women’s health and safety, a motive conservatives have previously cited for limiting access to abortion. State Senator Kirk Watson, a Democrat from Austin, asked each GOP senator the same question: “Can you point me to anything in this bill that enhances the pregnant women’s health and safety?” “The health of the woman is not the target of Senate Bill 415,” said Senator Charles Perry, R-Lubbock. The proposal would criminalize what experts say is one of the safest and most common methods of abortion in the second trimester of a pregnancy.

State Stories

Texas Tribune - February 16, 2017

Critics: arrest of alleged abuse victim in El Paso could deter immigrants from reporting crimes

After an alleged domestic abuse victim's arrest by immigration agents in El Paso gained national attention, advocates and attorneys said the case could set a dangerous precedent for immigrants who might decide against reporting crimes if faced with the possibility of deportation. On Feb. 9, an undocumented, transgender woman was detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials shortly after receiving protection from an alleged abuser in an El Paso courthouse. The woman, initially referred to only by her initials but later identified in an ICE statement as 33-year-old Irvin Gonzalez, was taken to a detention center.

Texas Tribune - February 17, 2017

Despite state budget woes, Republican lawmaker wants funds for death penalty attorneys

In a tight budget year, a Republican Texas lawmaker is trying to pass a bill that would create and fund a statewide office of appellate attorneys to represent death row inmates. Last week, Rep. James White, R-Hillister, filed House Bill 1676 to create the Office of Capital Appellate Defender. The state-funded office would represent inmates sentenced to death who can’t afford their own lawyer in their direct appeals to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals — the time when convicts can raise issues from their trial. Currently, the convicting court appoints an approved lawyer for this step of the appeals process and the prosecuting county pays the bill.

Texas Tribune - February 16, 2017

Senate State Affairs greenlights bill to end most union payroll deductions

After nearly four hours of public testimony earlier this week, the Senate State Affairs Committee recommended a bill to the full Senate Thursday that would end the state's practice of collecting public employee membership dues for certain labor unions and other organizations through automatic payroll deductions. Senate Bill 13 by Sen. Joan Huffman, R-Houston, would apply to state and government employees such as teachers, corrections officers and child protective service workers, while exempting police officers, firefighters and emergency first responders as well as charitable organizations. The exemptions, Huffman said, were due to those groups serving communities with "great honor and distinction."

Texas Tribune - February 16, 2017

Wolf: “Don’t want school choice” #SaidNoKidEver

Americans demand customization and choices among service providers in most aspects of their lives but, strangely, are stuck with a one-size-fits-all model of public education. A Choice Media parody on YouTube called “We Don’t Want School Choice (`Options are Bad)” advertised on Twitter with the hashtag “#SaidNoKidEver” to make the point: Things are changing. Forty-three states and the District of Columbia permit charter schools to operate as independent public schools. Texas was one of the first states to allow charters; today, 718 charters educate over a quarter million Texan students. Although charter schools are popular and the latest rigorous research from Stanford University indicates they tend to produce outcomes that are better than traditional public schools, nearly half of parents tell pollsters that they want their children to attend private schools.

Texas Tribune - February 16, 2017

Moody: Texas needs a fresh look at marijuana laws

This is an article about marijuana. Reading that, I’m sure you just thought of half a dozen slang terms for it and at least a few stereotypes about weed, stoners, and munchies you might’ve chuckled at. While those stereotypes are sometimes true, they’re a dead-wrong way of thinking about marijuana policy. There are four ways we can deal with marijuana. The first is our current system, which makes possessing it a crime at all levels — the greater the weight, the greater the punishment, but even the lowest levels are go-to-jail serious. The second is the complete opposite: legalization and a Colorado-style retail market where we can buy marijuana products like we buy alcohol, cigarettes, and other heavily regulated products today. The third is medical marijuana, where marijuana possession is legal only with a doctor’s recommendation.

Texas Tribune - February 16, 2017

Burton: On civil asset forfeiture, the time for serious reform has arrived

In Texas, we don't take our property rights for granted. Whether it's our response to the egregious U.S. Supreme Court decision in Kelo vs. New London or our unapologetic adherence to the castle doctrine, no other state has persistently defended and championed the foundational right to own and protect property quite like Texas. But what if I told you that the government could seize and keep your home, your vehicle, your cash, or any other property it wanted without convicting you of a crime, or worse yet, without even charging you with a crime? Unbeknownst to many people, a great threat to those essential property rights exists right here in Texas. It's called civil asset forfeiture, and the time for serious reform has arrived.

Texas Tribune - February 17, 2017

When it comes to helping sex-trafficking victims, success is elusive

It's close to midnight, more than five hours since police officers came through the door of Sarah's motel room. She is just starting to pick french fries out of a fast food bag that has sat untouched in front of her. "We want you to feel safe," a female police officer is telling her. "That's why Detective Watts came and found you the first time, and that's why he came right back in and got you the second time." Sarah nods. She's small, even in her puffy winter jacket with the fur-lined hood. Her hair is tied in a top-knot; tracks of smudged mascara darken her eyes.

Texas Tribune - February 16, 2017

Senator aims to open legislators' pension records to public

A bill filed Thursday would let Texas taxpayers find out if their money subsidizes the retirement benefits of politicians who have committed felonies. On Thursday, Sen. Van Taylor, R-Plano, filed Senate Bill 930, which would declassify the retirement benefits records of state lawmakers. A Texas Tribune investigation revealed that more than two dozen former Texas government employees who have been convicted of felonies could be collecting state-funded pensions. But there is no way to confirm the exact number or find out which convicted felons are receiving retirement pay because current Texas code conceals all government employees’ retirement records.

Texas Tribune - February 16, 2017

A week after Austin ICE raids, immigrants and their supporters march in protest

On Thursday Briseida Figueroa enjoyed a brief respite from the self-described nightmare she said she’s been living for more than a week. The Texas State University student and U.S. citizen spent part of the day outside in the balmy Austin weather, taking in the sun while surrounded by friends and family. But she wasn’t at Barton Springs Pool or Zilker Park. She was one of hundreds marching down Congress Avenue, hoping to draw attention to an atmosphere where she fears her parents will be snatched up by immigration agents and deported back to Mexico.

Texas Tribune - February 16, 2017

Texas may still be giving state-funded pension to convicted elected officials

Numerous former government officials convicted on corruption charges, ranging from a former Texas attorney general to local mayors and district clerks, are still eligible to collect lucrative public pensions, a Texas Tribune investigation has found. The Tribune identified more than two dozen former elected officials with prior felony convictions who are potentially collecting retirement payouts. They include former Attorney General Dan Morales, former state Rep. Joe Driver and the former sheriff of Hidalgo County, Lupe Treviño. State Rep. Dawnna Dukes, D-Austin, is facing felony abuse-of-office charges and could soon join the list. But a veil of secrecy over the state and local pension systems in charge of the retirement payments makes it impossible to find out whether individual government employees-turned-convicts are receiving them or how much they receive.

Texas Tribune - February 16, 2017

She was a sex-trafficking victim, but Texas law labeled her a pimp

The day after her 23rd birthday, Yvette sat in in a Bexar County courtroom, facing up to 99 years in prison for exploiting a 16-year-old girl. She wasn't the ringleader of the "prostitution enterprise," the prosecutor said. But as an adult who showed a teenager the ropes while they were both being sold for sex, he said, Yvette was just as guilty the pimp. In other circumstances, Yvette would have been considered a victim. She'd had a childhood scarred by sexual abuse and instability. She'd been recruited herself to sell sex. A pimp who went by "Red Nose" wrote the online ads that listed her as a "sexy lil Latina." He decided what hours she worked, which men she had sex with and how much she cost. His brutal attacks left her covered in bite marks.

Austin American-Statesman - February 16, 2017

Abbott call for Convention of States clears first hurdle in the Senate

Gov. Greg Abbott’s emergency item, calling for a national Convention of States to amend the U.S. Constitution, cleared its first hurdle Thursday, with the Senate State Affairs Committee sending the resolution to the floor on a 6-2 party-line vote. “We are on the precipice of history we have not seen before,” said Sen. Brian Birdwell, R-Granbury, the lead Senate sponsor, arguing that the convention was needed because the “federal government has been usurping state power,” leaving the states little more than “subcontractors.” A new Convention of States to amend the U.S. Constitution under a process envisaged by Article V of the Constitution is critical to restore the states to their rightful place in the federal system, Birdwell said.

Austin American-Statesman - February 16, 2017

Panju: Require criminal conviction before forfeiture in Texas

Rockwall County Sheriff Harold Eavenson believes so strongly in his ability to seize private citizens’ property without charging them with a crime that he recently laughed with the president of the United States about destroying a Texas state senator’s career for opposing him. That senator’s offending behavior? Promoting the constitutional due process rights of hardworking, law-abiding Texans. The sheriff’s complaint centers on a bill in the Texas Legislature, Senate Bill 380, that would require law enforcement agencies to secure a criminal conviction before the government could seize somebody’s property. Under civil forfeiture, it does not matter if the owner is never charged with a crime, let alone convicted of one.

Austin American-Statesman - February 17, 2017

Herman: Texas lawmakers want to move away from mobile polling places

A Republican-led effort at the Capitol would do away with the places where 22,934 Travis County residents cast their ballots in last November’s general election. That’s just under 5 percent of all votes cast in the county. But before you knee-jerk react to Dallas state Sen. Don Huffines and blast his Senate Bill 703 as just another GOP voter suppression effort, let’s hear him out and see if this makes any sense. The bill is a bit tough to follow (at least for me), and Huffines acknowledges it might need some tweaking but his goal is clear and clearly delineated in the bill’s caption: “Relating to prohibiting movable early voting polling places.”

Austin American-Statesman - February 16, 2017

Feds to probe Central Texas school districts over special ed practices

The U.S. Department of Education will visit a dozen Texas school districts, including three in Central Texas, this month to examine practices for identifying and educating students with disabilities. The list includes the Austin, Leander and Del Valle school districts. The state has come under scrutiny after the Houston Chronicle reported in September that the Texas Education Agency had mandated that districts keep special education enrollment at or below 8.5 percent, which led school districts to deny children special education services. The newspaper found that the policy saved the state billions of dollars.

Houston Chronicle - February 15, 2017

DePillis: State lawmakers take aim at low-income housing

Two bills filed this month in the state legislature would make it harder to develop affordable housing in Texas, imposing onerous new requirements on the projects and giving neighbors broad powers to oppose them. Although the chances of passage are unclear — thousands of measures are filed during the four-month session and only a few become law — the bills would be consistent with many other restrictions the legislature has placed on affordable housing development. Meanwhile, helping low-income people access housing is a rising concern for Texas cities, as a flood of new residents has boosted the cost of both rental and for-sale units.

Houston Chronicle - February 16, 2017

Turner decries 'poison pill' added to pension reform effort

A state lawmaker carrying Houston's pension reform bill says her version of the proposal will require a public referendum on a $1 billion cash infusion central to the negotiations, an idea Mayor Sylvester Turner called a "poison pill" that could derail the reforms and force "massive" layoffs. The requirement that voters have a say on the $1 billion in pension obligation bonds is the brainchild of Sen. Paul Bettencourt, R-Houston. Fellow Houston Republican Sen. Joan Huffman, who is carrying the reforms in the higher chamber, said she understands the mayor's frustration but said her bill - which still is being drafted - will not pass without the provision.

Houston Chronicle - February 16, 2017

DA's pot program draws mixed reaction

Thousands of casual pot smokers will keep clean records and Harris County will save more than $25 million a year under the district attorney's new "pre-charge diversion" program for those caught with small amounts of marijuana. The program announced Thursday by District Attorney Kim Ogg allows most offenders with less than 4 ounces of marijuana to avoid a criminal charge by taking a drug education class. It brought sharp criticism from some state leaders but strong support from top law enforcement officers in Houston. Ogg said the county's resources would be better spent arresting serious criminals such as burglars, robbers and rapists.

Dallas Morning News - February 17, 2017

Schnurman: Who calls the shots if the country’s biggest power company scoops up Texas’ biggest utility?

This time, the $19 billion question is: Who gets to control Oncor Electric Delivery Co.? Last summer, NextEra Energy of Juno Beach, Fla., outbid other power companies for Oncor, the largest regulated utility in Texas and a major corporate player in downtown Dallas. Now it’s government’s turn to weigh in. On Tuesday, the Public Utility Commission in Austin starts hearings to determine if NextEra’s acquisition is in the public interest. A decision probably will come in late April and the process won’t be a rubber stamp.

Dallas Morning News - February 17, 2017

Floyd: What passes for sex ed in some Texas schools makes ignorance look pretty good

Sadly, in Texas, ignorance is sometimes bliss. In the case of plain medical information about human sexuality, absolute cluelessness may actually beat the alternative. The headlines were bad enough: This week, findings were disclosed showing that most Texas schools stubbornly resist teaching students even the most basic, no-nonsense facts about sex. The comprehensive survey was disclosed by Texas Freedom Network, a left-leaning outfit that supports the groundbreaking notion that knowledge and information can help people make intelligent choices.

Dallas Morning News - February 16, 2017

These two bills could help solve Texas' health care access crisis

Tanya Marin, a pediatric nurse practitioner, wanted to open her own clinic in El Paso. But when she looked into the requirements, Marin discovered that state law required her to shell out anywhere from $20,000 to over $100,000 to get a doctor to oversee her operation. Frustrated, Marin took matters into her own hands — over the state line. Eighteen months ago, she opened her own pediatric night clinic in Santa Teresa, N.M., less than one mile from the Texas border. She's among dozens of trained nurse practitioners that New Mexico, a state without a pay-to-play requirement, has been able to steal away from Texas. "I'm now working to my full capacity,'' she says.

Dallas Morning News - February 16, 2017

Bill would urge Texans to stop using the Chilean flag emoji for the Lone Star State

A Texas House representative from Cypress has introduced a bill urging Texans to quit using the Chilean flag emoji as a stand-in for the Lone Star. File this in the "yes, it's a real bill" category. It's an easy mistake to make. The Chilean flag looks similar, except the blue field doesn't extend all the way down the left side of the flag. The Unicode Technical Committee, the folks who are in charge of emojis, don't have state-specific flags. Many Texans, starved for emoji representation, use the Chilean banner as a substitute. That flag doesn't fly with Rep. Tom Oliverson, R-Cypress.

Dallas Morning News - February 16, 2017

Parker: The first casualties of Trump's trade wars are Texas cattle ranchers

KYLE, Tex. - If the first casualty of war is truth, then the first casualties of trade war are the working man and woman. And first among them is about to be the iconic Texas rancher. Here in the rolling pastures of bright, green spring grass at the edge of the Texas Hill Country, the handful of large spreads prosper from a wet winter. The short-horned charlois breed, imported from France via Mexico, grow thick and wide, their white coats bright in the sunshine of impending spring. The charlois makes for some of the finest grass-fed beef in the world. Now that a years-long drought has broken, ranchers can count on trucking in less of that expensive coastal grass they require in the dry months. But the Texas cattle rancher now faces a new threat: the Trump administration's blundering, blustering trade policy. By threatening a trade war with Mexico within days of inauguration, the president helped trigger a slide in cattle futures.

Dallas Morning News - February 16, 2017

DMN: How you can be heard by lawmakers without feeling like you're tweeting into the void

Say this for Donald Trump: His first month as president has left millions of Americans ready to talk, and sometimes shout, about what's on their mind. So many, in fact, that congressional phone lines have been jammed for weeks on end. The callers have been from across the ideological spectrum, some stomping mad and others jumping-up-and-down happy. Too bad, then, that so many of those conversations have been short-circuited by busy lines, full voice mail boxes, overflowing email accounts, and too few staff members to help. Many of Texas' lawmakers in Washington have pledged to do better, and they should. But in the meantime, we've been asking people in and out of government about how to increase the chances that their voices can be heard — from here in Texas all the way to the Capitol.

San Antonio Express News - February 16, 2017

UTSA President Romo “looks forward” to clearing his name

UTSA President Ricardo Romo, who was put on leave earlier this week pending a review of allegations related to his conduct, indicated Thursday that he expects to prove his innocence. “I look forward to a speedy resolution and the clearing of my name,” he said in a statement issued through his attorney Ricardo Cedillo in response to the article published by the San Antonio Express-News on Thursday. In the statement, the University of Texas at San Antonio president confirms he’s the subject of a complaint brought against him by a university employee. Romo also said he complied with university officials in removing himself from his office for the time being.

San Antonio Express News - February 16, 2017

Attorney general’s office seeks San Antonio records in general voter fraud investigation

An investigator with the Texas attorney general’s office arrived at the Bexar County Elections Office on Thursday, requesting records in connection to potential voter fraud, an issue experts have repeatedly found to not be a wide-scale problem despite claims from several politicians, including President Donald Trump. Attorney General Ken Paxton’s office seeks records “to evaluate the existence of Election Code offenses committed in connection with the 2016 primary and general elections.” Specifically, the state is looking for copies of notices of determination regarding a noncitizen or deceased voter, of the registration application for each voter that received the notice and of the affected voters’ voting history.

Texas Observer - February 16, 2017

Anti-LGBT Lawmakers Unveil Slew of ‘Religious Freedom’ Bills Despite Business Concerns

Dismissing potential economic backlash, socially conservative state lawmakers unveiled a slate of anti-LGBT “religious freedom” bills on Wednesday, including a sweeping measure known as the First Amendment Defense Act (FADA). FADA, modeled after proposed federal legislation bearing the same name, would allow individuals, businesses and other entities to refuse service to same-sex couples based on the belief that marriage should be between one man and one woman. State Representative Matt Krause, R-Fort Worth, the author of the bill, said he isn’t worried about opposition to FADA from business groups or possible boycotts.

San Antonio Current - February 15, 2017

Texas Republicans Struggle to Explain Their Own Anti-Abortion Bills

A Wednesday hearing before the Texas Senate Committee on Health and Human Services revealed just how little the Republican authors of three major anti-abortion bills actually know about their proposed legislation — or the people who'd be most affected by their bills. In their introductions, Senators Charles Schwertner, Charles Perry, and Don Huffines all used familiar but non-scientific jargon to inaccurately describe how an abortion works. Each man stressed that their bills had nothing to do with the health and safety of a pregnant woman, only the respect for the unborn fetus. The senators provided little hard data on why their bill would be beneficial to the public, some relying on faulty science (like that 16-week-old fetuses can feel pain) or discredited, politically-charged investigations to form their arguments.

Dallas Observer - February 16, 2017

Debate Over Bill Exposes Rift In Texas’ Anti-Abortion Community

Wednesday was big day in Austin for both Texas’ staunchest advocates against reproductive choice and the organizations that have fought tooth and nail at the Texas Capitol and in the courts against the advance of legislation that seeks to limit abortion to the absolute limit of what is allowed by Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that ruled abortion rights are protected by the Constitution. For nearly 10 hours on Wednesday, the Texas Senate Health and Human Services Committee heard arguments about three of the biggest abortion bills on the docket during the 2017 legislative session: Senate Bill 8, which would create a state law banning partial-birth abortion; SB 258, which would require the burial of any tissue stemming from an abortion procedure; and SB 415, which would ban dilation and evacuation, the procedure most commonly used in second trimester abortions.

Salon - February 15, 2017

Lang: The new “license to discriminate” bill in Texas may be the most extreme anti-LGBT proposal yet

Everything is bigger in Texas, even the homophobia. Last week, Lone Star lawmakers filed Senate Bill 651, which critics warn is one of the most dangerous and extreme of the so-called “religious liberty” bills debated by state legislatures in recent years. The legislation, which was co-sponsored by Republicans Charles Perry, Brian Birdwell and Bryan Hughes, would allow private individuals employed in more than 65 licensed occupations to deny services to people based on their “sincerely held religious belief.” Were a therapist, for instance, to refuse to see a gay client because of his sexual orientation, SB 651 would prevent the state from taking action against the practice. The bill, which its authors note would apply to “one-third of the members of the House of Representatives” and “one-half of the members of the Senate,” would permit broad discrimination against members of the LGBT community.

Townhall - February 16, 2017

Cruz Dares Joaquin Castro to Challenge Him in the Next Senate Race

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), whose family is Cuban, said he is "quite familiar with standing up to the Castro brothers." His comments, however, were directed toward a different pair of siblings than the communist dictators. In a radio interview on Wednesday, Cruz welcomed a potential Senate challenge from Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-TX 20th District). Castro, brother to former HUD Secretary Julian Castro, who was once considered as Hillary Clinton's vice presidential running mate, reportedly sees vulnerability in Cruz because he has shown himself to be "without principle" in the wake of the 2016 presidential campaign. “He has disappointed millions of Texans, because he went to Washington to run for president and hasn’t spent a day working for the people of Texas,” Castro said. “He’s also enabled Donald Trump and at the same time double-crossed Donald Trump."

Fox News - February 16, 2017

After NFL Warning, NBA Weighs in on Texas 'Bathroom Bill'

As Texas lawmakers mull a controversial transgender “bathroom bill” similar to North Carolina's law that outraged top sports leagues, the NBA said Thursday that making sure its fans are treated "fairly and equally" is a key factor in determining which states it chooses to host key events – including future NBA All-Star Games. Entitled “Texas Senate Bill 6,” the proposed measure would require transgender individuals to use public bathrooms in accordance with the gender listed on their birth certificates. “We consider a wide range of factors when making decisions about host locations for league-wide events like the All-Star Game – foremost among them is ensuring the environment where those who participate and attend are treated fairly and equally,” NBA spokesman Mike Bass said in a statement to FOX Business.

KIAH - February 16, 2017

Texas ‘Intoxi-carry’ Bill enforces harsher gun laws for drinking while handling firearms

Should size really matter? Whether you drive a Prius or a Hummer, getting drunk and driving in Texas is against the law. So why should size matter when it comes to getting drunk and carrying guns? It’s a misdemeanor in Texas to be intoxicated and carry a handgun in public, but it is legal to carry long gun. State Rep. Gina Hinojosa’s “Intoxi-carry” Bill that has been filed in Austin aims to change that in Texas. Hinojosa argues the current policy contains a loophole that needs to be closed so law enforcement can keep Texas residents safe. But that’s not far enough for one Crosby mom. “He took another shot of vodka, and that’s the last thing she remembered. Shelby was shot just under the right eye, and the exit wound was just under the right ear, under her right earlobe,” Donna Howard said.

Texas Observer - February 16, 2017

Border Expert Scott Nicol on How Trump’s Wall Will Hurt Texas

If President Trump follows through on his plan to build a “big, fat, beautiful” wall across the U.S.-Mexico border, Texans will feel the effects — from increased flooding to habitat loss in wildlife refuges. Scott Nicol, co-chair of the Sierra Club’s borderlands team, has been studying the environmental and social impacts of the wall for more than a decade. With a recent leaked report citing a cost of nearly $22 billion for the Trump administration to cover the entire length of the border, most of it in Texas, Nicol spoke with the Observer about why he thinks the wall is a waste of money and won’t make America safer.

KLBK - February 16, 2017

Lawmaker Wants Texas First Responders to Receive Workers Comp for PTSD

State Representative John Wray, R-Waxahachie, filed legislation Thursday morning to allow worker's compensation benefits for first reponsders who suffer post-traumatic stress disorder. “PTSD can destroy careers, family relationships, and the lives of those impacted,” Wray said. “Currently the only way that a first responder who is suffering from PTSD can receive coverage through workers compensation is to assert that he or she suffers from a mental impairment. Such an assertion can be grounds for dismissal of employment and can carry a stigma.” Wray says mental health is often under reported among officers because of the financial burden associated with missing work to get treatment. He says House bill 1983 would change that

CityLab - February 15, 2017

The Stadiums That Ate Texas

In Texas, the old hands say there are only two seasons: spring football and fall football. But lately there’s a year-round game getting played as well: the competition to build the most expensive high school football stadium in the world. Football is, of course, a civic religion in Texas, a sport so popular that taxpayers appear willing to pay almost any price to build ever-more spectacular facilities. All around the state, huge new stadiums are springing up, and each project seems to outdo the last, if not in seating capacity, in amenities, flash, and cost. Think more and better training facilities, plusher locker rooms and coaches’ offices, bigger press boxes, special booster club areas, hangar-door-wide scoreboards, and other Texas-size and -style game-day amenities. The McKinney Independent School District (ISD) stadium, which broke ground in January, topped out its budget at some $80 million (with $7 million recently added to the tally as a result of a spike in the price of concrete).

Abilene Reporter-News - February 14, 2017

House GOP sanctuary bill to differ from Senate's

A battle could be brewing between the Texas House and the Senate over sanctuary cities legislation. A week after the Texas Senate passed a hard-line bill over the objections of Democrats, a senior House Republican said he’s working on a version intended to address legal concerns raised by Democrats and objections from some law-enforcement agencies. Amendments introduced by Senate Democrats were swatted down by the GOP majority.

El Paso Times - February 15, 2017

Teen threatened ex-congressman, Sul Ross State

A New Jersey teenager pleaded guilty Wednesday after threatening to kill former U.S. Rep. Pete Gallego and his family and bomb Sul Ross State University in Alpine, Texas, the U.S. Attorney's Office said. Nicholas Kyle Martino, 17, pleaded guilty to four counts of making interstate threats at a hearing before a U.S. magistrate judge in federal court in Midland, the U.S. Attorney's Office said. Martino was certified as an adult after waiving a hearing. Martino, of Sewell in Washington Township, N.J., faces up to five years in federal prison on each charge, officials said. He is scheduled to be sentenced on May 10.

Texas Monthly - February 15, 2017

A White Supremacist Group Aims To Recruit On College Campuses

Over the weekend, the University of Texas at Austin became the latest Texas university to be hit with fliers by a white nationalist group. The state arm of the American Vanguard, a national organization, is carrying out what it calls “The Texas Offensive,” a seemingly ongoing effort to post the group’s fliers on university campuses across the state. Prior to UT Austin, the American Vanguard claims they have also posted fliers at Texas State University, Rice University, the University of North Texas, the University of Texas at Dallas, Collin College, and Abilene Christian University. According to posts from the Vanguard Texas Twitter account, the fliers at UT Austin were posted on the night of February 12. Some of the fliers posted on campus asked people to “imagine a Muslim-free America” and called for the reporting of “any and all illegal aliens.” One poster was placed on a statue of Martin Luther King Jr. and read, “Carry the torch of your people” over an image of white men.

KVUE - February 16, 2017

Texas lawmaker wants to decrease penalty for marijuana possession

Texas Representative Joe Moody (D-El Paso) filed a bill Thursday that would decrease the penalty for possession of one ounce or less of marijuana from a Class B misdemeanor to a civil offense. Moody was surrounded by current and former law enforcement officers and judges as he laid out the details of House Bill 81. It decreases the penalty for possession of an ounce or less of marijuana from a Class B misdemeanor to a civil offense punishable with a fine of up to $250.

MarketWatch - February 15, 2017

What’s the Trump trade with the border wall? Texas wins, the other 49 states lose

Clients have been asking him about the economic impact on the Lone Star State from the construction of President Trump’s proposed border wall, [South Texas Money Management’s Jim Kee] says in his latest “Kee Points” note. The impact of building the border wall will be similar to that of any large public works project, says the San Antonio-based company’s chief economist. That means it benefits the region where the construction takes place, but costs others. “So I look at it as a zero-sum affair, in which Texas gains what the other 49 states lose in payments,” he writes. “Economic benefits would likely be highest for border towns and materials/engineering firms in Texas in general, and south Texas in particular.”

Texas Observer - February 16, 2017

Report Details How Federal Agents Violate Asylum-Seekers’ Rights in West Texas

When she arrived in El Paso on February 10, 2016, Mariana Ibarra-Morán had just endured a harrowing ordeal. She’d fled Mexico after she was beaten and held against her will in a Juarez prison cell for two days at the hands of her abusive boyfriend, a Sinaloa cartel member. Ibarra-Morán was only released, bloodied and bruised, after her family went to the press. The prosecutors she turned to for help erased evidence and interrogated her for nearly 12 hours without food or water, her attorney said in court, according to documents obtained by the Observer.

County Stories

KUHF - February 16, 2017

Both Diverse, Politically Divergent

What’s diversity have to do with how people vote? In both Fort Bend and Harris counties, some nearby voting precincts with similar, diverse populations can portray very different politics at the ballot box: One going red, the other going blue. That’s according to an analysis of demographics and voting data by Houston Public Media and the University of Houston. Further interviews and analysis reveal that there are different factors behind that phenomenon, including residents moving there from other states, lured by new jobs; how districts get mapped; some residents abstaining from voting; and old-fashioned political outreach. As the demographics in Greater Houston continue to change, these voting trends could shift local politics and also impact state and national elections.

Austin American-Statesman - February 16, 2017

Richard Moya, trailblazing political activist, has died

Richard Moya, political trailblazer and the first Hispanic Travis County commissioner, has died. He was 84. Moya said he was inspired by the example of Roy Guerrero, who organized activities for Hispanic children, later doing it in an official capacity for the city of Austin. In 1970, Moya was elected to the Travis County Commissioners Court from a precinct representing the heavily Hispanic district in the southeast portion of the county, where there were large pockets of poverty. Moya was the first Hispanic in Travis County hold public office.

Texas Tribune - February 16, 2017

New Harris County policy reignites marijuana decriminalization debate

Some state officials are fuming at Harris County's forthcoming policy to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana, while others say local jurisdictions should have discretion when it comes to enforcing laws. The policy, announced Thursday by Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg and set to begin March 1, will mean that possessing fewer than 4 ounces of marijuana won't result in an arrest, ticket or court appearance if the offender agrees to take a drug education class, the Houston Chronicle reported. While the Legislature is unlikely to take any statewide action on marijuana legislation, Democrats and Republicans in the House and Senate had strong and conflicting opinions on the issue.

Dallas Morning News - February 16, 2017

Hundreds pack Mexican Consulate to get advice on immigration issues

Hundreds of people packed the Mexican Consulate on Thursday night to listen to counsel and consolation from everyone from elected officials to a Jewish leader. Many emotional immigrants were on hand just to share worries and lend each other advice. Mexican consul Francisco de la Torre greeted the crowd with a "we are with you" in a lobby where the U.S. and Mexican flags stood in prominent positions. Dallas County Commissioner Elba Garcia praised the crowd for their unity.

City Stories

Dallas Morning News - February 16, 2017

Irving Mayor Beth Van Duyne will not seek third term

Controversial Irving Mayor Beth Van Duyne said Thursday that she would not seek a third term. Her announcement comes one day before the filing deadline for May elections. Van Duyne would not say what she planned to do next. But her visit to Trump Tower in New York days after Donald Trump's surprising presidential victory has led to speculation that she might join his administration. "I'm looking at some opportunities," she told The Dallas Morning News on Thursday. "There are definitely other opportunities available for me in the near future."

Dallas Morning News - February 16, 2017

Hundreds of students protest, dozens of businesses close in Dallas for 'A Day Without Immigrants' strike

Hundreds of Dallas students staged walkouts and many Latino-owned businesses in North Texas closed Thursday as part of "Un Dia Sin Immigrantes" or "A Day Without Immigrants" demonstrations, a national strike underscoring immigrant contributions to U.S. life. More than 1,100 Dallas Independent School District students either didn't go to class or walked out, according to trustee Miguel Solis. He said that's based on talking with principals at several schools in the area he represents, which includes northwest and central Dallas.

Dallas Morning News - February 16, 2017

Jimenez: Deporting undocumented immigrants would crumble Dallas’ economy

A knock on the door. That's what Anne Frank and her family were afraid of. One knock on the door could mean the end of their safety, the end of their shot at surviving in Nazi-occupied Holland, and the end of their lives. It did. A knock on the door it was what led to the Frank family's arrest by the Gestapo, their deportation to the Auschwitz concentration camp, which led to Frank's death at the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. Today, 70 years after the Frank's death, a knock on the door is what millions of undocumented immigrants fear. In the wake of President Trump's strict immigration policies by form of executive order and a reported surge in raids by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), millions of immigrants are now living in fear that their lives in the U.S. could soon be over.

Houston Chronicle - February 16, 2017

Julian, Lott, McCain, Palay: Why Houston remains segregated

The City of Houston is in violation of the Civil Rights Act. Though the recent federal investigation and finding of noncompliance is a rare and significant event, the conditions that led Houston to this point are not unique. As fair housing and civil rights advocates, we know all too well the harms to which low-income families of color are subjected by persistent racial segregation. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's (HUD) Title VI investigation and finding against the City made clear what we have known and what many Houstonians of color have experienced for a long time: Houston, like many places across our land, suffers from a legacy of segregation in all aspects of individual and community life.

New York Times - February 17, 2017

FBI arrests SAISD trustee Olga Hernandez in bribery case

Olga Hernandez, a San Antonio Independent School District board member, was arrested Thursday, accused of taking casino vacations, jewelry and cash from insurance brokers and consultants who were trying to influence the board’s awarding of SAISD insurance contracts. A federal indictment handed down Wednesday charged Hernandez, 65, with one count of conspiracy to commit honest services wire fraud, listing a series of gifts she received and actions she took from March 2008 to May 2015. U.S. Magistrate Judge Henry Bemporad freed her on $25,000 unsecured bond and ordered her to appear at arraignment on March 2. She left court without commenting, surrounded by family and a throng of reporters.

Austin American-Statesman - February 16, 2017

Inmate at focus of Travis sanctuary battle here legally, attorney says

A man who became a focal point this week in a debate about so-called sanctuary cities and whether Travis County should hold inmates on behalf of immigration agents is legally in the United States, his attorney told the American-Statesman and KVUE Thursday night. Hugo Gallardo-Gonzalez, who is charged with continuing to sexually assault a young girl, is a “resident alien,” his court-appointed defense lawyer Raymond Espersen said. He said his client provided a registration number showing his legal status and that he verified what his client told him “with the proper authorities.” The revelation raises further questions about the process of obtaining detainers sought on inmates by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement — a complex issue that has drawn fierce arguments on both sides.

The Eagle - February 16, 2017

Bryan-College Station citizens battle ‘bathroom bill’ with letter-writing campaign

Thirty-five Brazos Valley residents hunched over greeting cards, construction paper and notebooks Wednesday evening in a back room of Ozona Grill & Bar, writing 80 letters to Texas legislators expressing their opposition to Senate Bill 6. “As Americans, we have the freedom to make our voices heard, to speak up if we think there is an injustice being done. This is a peaceful way to do that,” said Kay Dennis, president of Pride Community Center in College Station, which co-hosted the event with the Human Rights Campaign.

Houston Chronicle - February 15, 2017

New Houston ISD leader urges lawmakers to 'look at public education as an investment, not an expense'

At his first State of the Schools address since becoming Houston ISD's superintendent in September, Richard Carranza told stories of students who overcame significant odds to achieve success. There was Nataly Degollado, who was accepted to Texas Southern University and the University of Houston-Downtown two years after having a baby. He mentioned Nhedrick Jabier, the fourth grader from Crespo Elementary who won this year's annual Martin Luther King Jr. Oratory competition after moving to Houston from Puerto Rico. But he said such outcomes will become more difficult to repeat if the state continues to inadequately fund public education and if the district must surrender millions to Texas through a controversial funding allocation process called "recapture."

National Stories

Corpus Christi Caller Times - February 15, 2017

Planned Parenthood funding in GOP crosshairs nationwide

Planned Parenthood chapters nationwide are fighting efforts in at least 15 states to cut them out of tens of millions of dollars they receive under the federal Medicaid program for reproductive health care. Those federal funds don’t cover abortions, but the high-stakes fights being waged in statehouses and courthouses are meant to choke off the flow of taxpayers’ dollars to the country's largest abortion provider. Planned Parenthood has been in the crosshairs of Republican officeholders for nearly a decade. But the spotlight on the organization intensified significantly in 2015, when undercover videos surfaced suggesting the organization was seeking to sell organs and tissue from aborted fetuses as a fundraising tool.

Huffington Post - February 16, 2017

Signorile: The Plot To Turn Same-Sex Marriage Into Second-Class Marriage

Since the election in November, religious conservative zealots have been giddy ? super-emboldened in their battle against LGBT rights. Through various avenues now coming into view they are hellbent on making same-sex marriage into second-class marriage. And they could very well succeed. Donald Trump courted evangelicals studiously and under the radar during the election. He wink-winked and nudge-nudged to them while being hailed as gay-supportive by the above-the-radar media, which would help keep him from alienating other voters. It worked. He won. And anti-LGBTQ hate groups like the Family Research Council, Focus on the Family and others are once again feeling as if they can accomplish anything.

USA Today - February 16, 2017

How Trump continues to dominate media in four charts

If it seems like you’re hearing more about President Trump’s first weeks in office, you’re right. Trump received $817.6 million in earned media coverage in January — nearly five times more than President Obama received at the start of his second term, according to MediaQuant, a company that tracks media mentions and their media value. Similar figures from Obama's first term are not available. “We’re all talking about immigration, and that’s because of him,” said Michael Cornfield, an associate professor of political management at George Washington University.

The Hill - February 15, 2017

President rekindles feud with intelligence agencies

President Trump is reigniting his feud with the intelligence community, criticizing it for leaks that led to his decision to oust Michael Flynn as national security adviser. Trump called Flynn a “wonderful man” and doubled down on his condemnation of the leaks from law enforcement and spy agencies that revealed Flynn misled senior officials in the White House about his conversations with Russia’s ambassador. “From intelligence, papers are being leaked, things are being leaked; it’s criminal action. It’s a criminal act, and it’s been going on for a long time before me, but now it’s really going on,” Trump said during a joint news conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “People are trying to cover up for a terrible loss that the Democrats had under Hillary Clinton,” he continued.

New York Times - February 15, 2017

White House Plans to Have Trump Ally Review Intelligence Agencies

President Trump plans to assign a New York billionaire to lead a broad review of American intelligence agencies, according to administration officials, an effort that members of the intelligence community fear could curtail their independence and reduce the flow of information that contradicts the president’s worldview. The possible role for Stephen A. Feinberg, a co-founder of Cerberus Capital Management, has met fierce resistance among intelligence officials already on edge because of the criticism the intelligence community has received from Mr. Trump during the campaign and since he became president. On Wednesday, Mr. Trump blamed leaks from the intelligence community for the departure of Michael T. Flynn, his national security adviser, whose resignation he requested.

Houston Chronicle - February 16, 2017

Tomlinson: Congress clears the way for corruption

Twenty years ago a mentor of mine in Kenya described how he mistakenly opened a closet door in the presidential palace and found dozens of miscellaneous briefcases stacked to the ceiling. Back then business people needed something to carry the gold bouillon and U.S. hundred dollar bills they used to win government contracts, and President Daniel arap Moi's staff didn't know what to do with them once the loot was removed. When President Donald Trump signed a Republican-backed bill that rolled back disclosure requirements for energy and mining companies operating in poor countries, I could only think about the Mercedes Benz sedans that rush through African capitals.

San Antonio Express News - February 15, 2017

Marini: Stop demonizing food stamp recipients

If you spend any time at all on Facebook (or Twitter, or Instagram or...) you’re going to run into posts critical of people on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (also called SNAP), commonly known as food stamps. ... But the most common way the 41 million Americans who rely on food stamps are demonized occurs when someone peeks into their shopping carts and sniffs at what they see. Too much soda, candy and other low-nutrition food; not enough healthy fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

Politico - February 16, 2017

Trump names Alexander Acosta as labor secretary nominee

President Donald Trump on Thursday announced his intent to nominate Alexander Acosta, a former Justice Department official and current dean of Florida International University College of Law, for labor secretary, just a day after his first pick, fast-food CEO Andrew Puzder, backed out. “He’s had a tremendous career,” Trump said from the White House. “I think he’ll be a tremendous secretary of Labor.” Acosta, who was born in Cuba, would become the first Hispanic member of Trump's cabinet. He has been confirmed by the Senate for three prior positions, which could help smooth his path to the Labor Department.

The Hill - February 17, 2017

Trump plans to unveil new immigration order next week

The Trump administration plans to unveil a revised executive order on immigration next week and rescind the president’s initial travel ban, which has been entrenched in legal battles throughout the country. President Trump said during a news conference on Thursday that he would unveil a more tailored travel ban “next week sometime.” "We are issuing a new executive action next week that will comprehensively protect our country," Trump said. Meanwhile, the Department of Justice (DOJ) asked a San Francisco-based appeals court not to review a decision by a three-judge panel to keep the immigration policy on hold while it moves through the legal system, citing plans to soon replace the order with a “superseding” one.

Reuters - February 17, 2017

Supreme Court to set guidelines for Trump treatment of non-citizens

The U.S. Supreme Court will decide three cases in coming months that could help or hinder President Donald Trump's efforts to ramp up border security and accelerate deportations of those in the country illegally. The three cases, which reached the court before Democratic President Barack Obama left office, all deal broadly with the degree to which non-citizens can assert rights under the U.S. Constitution. They come at a time when the court is one justice short and divided along ideological lines, with four conservatives and four liberals. The justices will issue rulings before the end of June against the backdrop of high-profile litigation challenging the lawfulness of Trump's controversial travel ban on people traveling from seven predominantly Muslim countries.

Dallas Morning News - February 17, 2017

Mansour: Locking up asylum seekers isn't just cruel, it's a waste of resources

President Donald Trump's executive order banning immigrants from seven countries included another worrisome provision that's getting significantly less attention. The order also promises to detain more asylum-seekers and turn some around at the border. Human Rights Initiative condemns such actions as violations of international law, inhumane and contrary to our country's fundamental values. The order purports to detain all people who present themselves at the border and ask for asylum. International law requires that asylum-seekers not be detained unless they present a national security or criminal risk. In the past, government officials made determinations and often released asylum-seekers on bond, with ankle monitors, or on their own recognizance.

Dallas Morning News - February 17, 2017

Trump memo proposes deploying 100,000 National Guard troops to round up immigrants

The Trump administration is considering a proposal to mobilize as many as 100,000 National Guard troops to round up unauthorized immigrants, including millions living nowhere near the Mexico border, according to a draft memo obtained by The Associated Press. The 11-page document calls for the unprecedented militarization of immigration enforcement as far north as Portland, Oregon, and as far east as New Orleans, Louisiana. Four states that border on Mexico are included in the proposal — California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas — but it also encompasses seven states contiguous to those four — Oregon, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana.

Dallas Morning News - February 17, 2017

Rovner: A how-to guide for investigating the President

For years conservative commentators have bemoaned the disappearance of old-fashioned civics classes. They have a point. Healthy political debates assume a baseline knowledge of policy and government, but it is not clear students are getting what they need. Now liberals have reason to get on board. Like their counterparts on the right, they are shocked at Trump's attacks on American norms and institutions, and deeply troubled that his attacks were popular among millions of voters. Reversing this trend requires a generational effort. Let's not be naïve: the allegations against the Trump team are potentially scandalous, and we are in for a vicious political fight. But a careful investigation, and a renewed focus on our collective education, may limit the damage.

New York Times - February 17, 2017

Mexican Consulates Flooded With Fearful Immigrants

First came the anxious calls in the days after the election of President Trump. Now, people begin lining up before 8 a.m. and crowd the waiting rooms inside the Mexican Consulate here. Mexican citizens come to renew passports that have been unused for more than a decade. They desperately ask lawyers if they can do anything to help them stay in the United States. They register their children for Mexican citizenship, just in case they are sent back and decide to move their whole family with them. When the consulate began to get reports of dozens of Mexicans being arrested by immigration officials last week, they immediately dispatched lawyers to the federal detention center downtown. Officers closely monitored social media, simultaneously trying to get information and quash unfounded rumors.

Dallas Morning News - February 16, 2017

Gillman: How Trump 'rants and raves' and flashes political genius

No one gets to be president by accident, and Thursday's combative news conference showed how Donald Trump got the job — and his capacity to hang onto it. Detractors watched in horror, gnashing at his denial of turmoil and accusing him of an outrageous indifference to reality. Plenty has been said and written along those lines, so let's assess his performance another way — as the 48 percent of Americans who put him in power might assess it. The voters who admired Trump for "telling it like it is" didn't send him to Washington to observe traditional norms of presidential discourse. For that target audience, there was much to see here that was effective and strategic.

Dallas Morning News - February 16, 2017

Hispanic Democrats barred from meeting with ICE director amid increased raids

Simmering tensions in the Capitol about President Donald Trump’s immigration executive orders boiled over Thursday, as several members of the Hispanic Caucus were kicked out of a meeting with a top immigration official by staffers of Speaker Paul Ryan. Those who were allowed in described a combative encounter with promises of many more arrests and deportations to come. “There’s never been a meeting like this,” said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”

New York Times - February 12, 2017

N.S.A. Gets More Latitude to Share Intercepted Communications

In its final days, the Obama administration has expanded the power of the National Security Agency to share globally intercepted personal communications with the government’s 16 other intelligence agencies before applying privacy protections. The new rules significantly relax longstanding limits on what the N.S.A. may do with the information gathered by its most powerful surveillance operations, which are largely unregulated by American wiretapping laws. These include collecting satellite transmissions, phone calls and emails that cross network switches abroad, and messages between people abroad that cross domestic network switches. The change means that far more officials will be searching through raw data. Essentially, the government is reducing the risk that the N.S.A. will fail to recognize that a piece of information would be valuable to another agency, but increasing the risk that officials will see private information about innocent people.

Associated Press - February 16, 2017

Trump supporters cheer his combative stance with the media

Critics of President Donald Trump saw in his Thursday news conference a combative, thin-skinned chief executive who continues to blame the media for the controversies roiling his administration. His supporters saw something else: A champion of Middle America who is taking on the establishment and making good on his campaign promises to put the country first. The Associated Press contacted Trump supporters across the country to see how they viewed a news conference in which the president said his administration was running like "a fine-tuned machine" despite the resignation of his top national security adviser, a court setback on his immigration order, a defeat for his nominee as labor secretary and reports of internal divisions.

This article appeared in the San Antonio Express News

Washington Post - February 17, 2017

Robert Michel, longest-serving minority leader in U.S. House, dies at 93

Robert H. Michel of Illinois, a conservative Republican and genial politician who served as House minority leader for 14 years — a tenure marked, toward the end, by partisan rancor and intraparty warfare stoked by his firebrand successor, Newt Gingrich — died Feb. 17 at a hospital in Arlington, Va. He was 93. The cause was pneumonia, said Mike Johnson, his former chief of staff. The former U.S. congressman was an Arlington resident. Mr. Michel served as minority leader for seven terms, longer than anyone in House history, aided in large part by his courtly, nonconfrontational leadership style.

Washington Post - February 17, 2017

Trump family’s elaborate lifestyle is a ‘logistical nightmare’ — at taxpayer expense

On Friday, President Trump and his entourage will jet for the third straight weekend to a working getaway at his oceanfront Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Fla. On Saturday, Trump’s sons Eric and Don Jr., with their Secret Service details in tow, will be nearly 8,000 miles away in the United Arab Emirates, attending the grand opening of a Trump-brand golf resort in the “Beverly Hills of Dubai.” Meanwhile, New York police will keep watch outside Trump Tower in Manhattan, the chosen home of first lady Melania Trump and son Barron. And the tiny township of Bedminster, N.J., is preparing for the daunting prospect that the local Trump golf course will serve as a sort of northern White House for as many as 10 weekends a year.

The Hill - February 16, 2017

Senate confirms Mulvaney to be Trump’s budget chief

The Senate on Thursday confirmed Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.) to lead the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). The chamber voted 51-49 to approve Mulvaney. He needed a simple majority to be confirmed. With a 52-seat majority, Republicans had little room for error to confirm Mulvaney after Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) announced he would vote against him. The Senate Armed Services Committee chairman on Wednesday stressed that his opposition wasn't personal, but he accused Mulvaney of working to "torpedo" the Senate's efforts to increase defense spending.

CityLab - February 15, 2017

Young Millennials Take the Award for 'Worst-Behaved U.S. Drivers'

When it comes to American drivers who blow red lights, shred the speed limit, or text behind the wheel, Millennials really are the worst. A full 88 percent of motorists aged 19 to 24 have committed one of these road sins in the last month, according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. The foundation has called out the age group as the “worst-behaved U.S. drivers” in the midst of a startling rise in driver mortality. Traffic deaths surged to 35,092 in 2015—about 2,400 more than the year prior—and while 2016’s numbers are preliminary, deaths were already up 10 percent by mid-year. The trend had the director of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration fretting in October: “We have an immediate crisis on our hands, and we also have a long-term challenge.”

All - February 16, 2017

Lead Stories

Houston Chronicle - February 16, 2017

FBI, IRS raid state Sen. Carlos Uresti's San Antonio law office

Agents with the FBI and IRS are raiding the law offices of state Sen. Carlos Uresti, a San Antonio Democrat, Thursday morning. Agents arrived before 8 a.m. and have been confiscating documents and other items from the office. FBI spokeswoman Michelle Lee said, "I can confirm the FBI and IRS are lawfully present and conducting a lawful law enforcement activity." When asked if Uresti had been arrested, Lee responded that no arrests have been made.

Wall St. Journal - February 15, 2017

Spies Keep Intelligence From Donald Trump on Leak Concerns

U.S. intelligence officials have withheld sensitive intelligence from President Donald Trump because they are concerned it could be leaked or compromised, according to current and former officials familiar with the matter. The officials’ decision to keep information from Mr. Trump underscores the deep mistrust that has developed between the intelligence community and the president over his team’s contacts with the Russian government, as well as the enmity he has shown toward U.S. spy agencies. On Wednesday, Mr. Trump accused the agencies of leaking information to undermine him. In some of these cases of withheld information, officials have decided not to show Mr. Trump the sources and methods that the intelligence agencies use to collect information, the current and former officials said. ... A spokesman for the Office of Director of National Intelligence said: “Any suggestion that the U.S. intelligence community is withholding information and not providing the best possible intelligence to the president and his national security team is not true.”

Dallas Morning News - February 15, 2017

Paxton case prompts Collin County to consider challenging special prosecution law

Collin County officials think investigating and prosecuting elected officials like Attorney General Ken Paxton can be too costly, a complaint that could take them into the courtroom or even the state Legislature this year. On Monday, the Commissioners Court voted to hire lawyers who'll look into whether the county can challenge the constitutionality of the Texas Fair Defense Act, a state law that sets rules for paying court-appointed attorneys like public defenders and special prosecutors who investigate and pursue charges against officials accused of wrongdoing. The law lets a group of local judges set these rates, which County Judge Keith Self said could violate the separation of powers that should exist between him and his colleagues on the commissioners court and the legal powers of the judiciary.

Texas Monthly - February 15, 2017

Ratcliffe: Are Your Property Taxes Too High? Thank a Legislator.

If your property taxes are too high, blame the Legislature and the shell game it plays with public school finance. First, let’s back up. The property tax/school finance intersection is a complicated beast and one that deserves a little unpacking. To start, property taxes are not a state tax; property taxes are paid annually by homeowners and collected by local school districts instead of the state. Even if you don’t own a house, you pay property taxes; a portion of your rent goes toward taxes paid either by landlord or your apartment complex, which is on the hook for the property taxes collected on commercial real estate.

Dallas Morning News - February 15, 2017

Abbott's hiring freeze could violate agreement on disabilities overhaul, feds say

The Justice Department has reported warned that Texas Gov. Greg Abbott's hiring freeze could jeopardize those with intellectual disabilities, attributing the support staff's high turnover to a dangerous gap in patient care. The Austin American-Statesman reports that a Feb. 7 letter warned the state attorney general's office that "there is no doubt that understaffing is dangerous" to individuals at the state supported living centers and that the department would assess its impact on the state's pending review of the centers. Last month, Abbott ordered a hiring freeze until Aug. 31 to leave $200 million in state coffers as lawmakers consider budget cuts.

Texas Tribune - February 15, 2017

Menéndez failed to report $50,000 in donations

State Sen. José Menéndez acknowledged Wednesday that he failed to report a combined $50,000 in donations from two groups that are considered arch enemies at the state Capitol — the Texas Trial Lawyers Association and Texans for Lawsuit Reform. The unreported contributions from the groups' political action committees to the San Antonio Democrat, each totaling $25,000, were discovered in an ongoing Texas Tribune investigation of contribution and expenditure filings at the Texas Ethics Commission.

Houston Chronicle - February 15, 2017

Ogg under fire for new marijuana plan

Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg - who campaigned on promises to go easier on low-level drug offenders - is under fire for plans to change the way her office handles misdemeanor marijuana cases. Ogg, who took office Jan. 1, is expected to announce her plan Thursday at a press conference with Mayor Sylvester Turner, Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo and Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez. Even before her plan was officially rolled out, however, news of the change prompted Montgomery County District Attorney Brett Ligon to attack Ogg, saying was trying to legalize marijuana.

Houston Chronicle - February 15, 2017

HC: A taxing issue -- Even GOP heavyweights say its time to move forward in addressing carbon emissions.

Amid the gloom in Washington for those dismayed by President Donald Trump's positions on climate change, a ray of hope appeared last week in the form of Houston's own James A. Baker III. The former secretary of state and longtime associate of former President George H.W. Bush went to the nation's capital to suggest to the new administration that a tax on carbon dioxide emissions would be a simple, effective way of reducing the heat-trapping gas that is rapidly warming our world.

Dallas Morning News - February 15, 2017

Jones, Carnahan-Metzger: Lawmakers need to fight for this part of the Affordable Care Act that helps seriously ill

In a recent CNN debate about health care, Sen. Ted Cruz claimed people confronted with life-threatening diseases who receive palliative care services were "essentially doped up with some drugs" and told "well, now is your time to go." We find these statements absurdly misrepresentative of the goals of palliative care. If Cruz has his way, caring for people with life-threatening illness or at the end of life may become much more difficult. Cruz's comments seem to reflect a basic ignorance of medical ethics and evidence-based outcomes. His insistence that unrestrained access to high-cost medical interventions is somehow equated to "better health care" is simply unsupported with regard to outcomes.

KUHF - February 15, 2017

Turner Warns Of Massive Layoffs If Legislature Doesn’t Approve City’s Pension Plan This Year

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner says he is confident the Texas Legislature will pass the bill about the City’s pension reform in the current legislative session. But, at the same time, he felt the need to tell the City Council during its Wednesday meeting that if that doesn’t happen there could be massive layoffs. “You could be looking at fifteen, eighteen hundred people,” Turner detailed at the customary press conference held after the Council’s meeting. The Mayor anticipates a shortfall of about 80 or 100 million dollars in the City’s budget for Fiscal Year 2018 but, according to his calculations, if Austin doesn’t green light the new pension system he has proposed this year, that would add about $134 million to the shortfall. Turner made clear that, in such situation, no one is “sacred.”

Politico - February 14, 2017

Texas backs Trump on travel ban executive order

Texas has become the only state to support President Donald Trump's travel ban executive order in a pending federal appeals court challenge. The Lone Star State filed a legal brief Wednesday urging the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to lift the broad restraining order issued earlier this month in a lawsuit brought by two other states, Washington and Minnesota. Last week, a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit rejected the Trump administration's request to stay a district court judge's restraining order blocking Trump's directive banning travel to the U.S. by citizens of seven majority-Muslim countries and shutting down refugee admissions.

The Hill - February 14, 2017

Koch group looks to hold GOP accountable during Trump era

Under normal circumstances, Republican control of Congress and the White House would be a dream situation for Americans for Prosperity (AFP), the conservative group that acts as the primary political arm for billionaire conservative donors Charles and David Koch. But President Trump is unconventional by almost every measure and has refused to be restrained by traditional conservative ideology. He’s even at odds with some in his own party on certain fiscal issues. That dynamic has AFP striking a more cautious tone ahead of the budget battles that will soon begin on Capitol Hill. “We’re hopeful but wary,” AFP President Tim Phillips told The Hill.

New York Times - February 16, 2017

White House Proposes New Rules to Steady Insurance Markets Under Health Law

The Trump administration proposed new rules on Wednesday to stabilize health insurance markets roiled by efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, by big increases in premiums and by the exodus of major insurers. The move came a day after Humana announced that, starting next year, it would completely withdraw from the public marketplaces created by former President Barack Obama’s signature domestic achievement. The proposed rules, backed by insurance companies, would tighten certain enrollment procedures and cut the health law’s open enrollment period in half, in hopes that a smaller but healthier consumer base will put the marketplaces on sounder financial footing and attract more insurance companies in states with limited choices.

State Stories

Dallas Morning News - February 16, 2017

Abbott makes Dallas killer the face of 'sanctuary cities,' but proposed ban wouldn't have stopped the murders

Gov. Greg Abbott has made Juan Rios the poster criminal for his campaign to eradicate so-called sanctuary cities in Texas. The unauthorized immigrant who had been deported three times went on a crime spree in Dallas last year that left two men dead. His name and acts of atrocity have repeatedly appeared in Abbott’s public comments as the governor makes his case for the need to ensure that local governments enforce federal immigration law. ... But a Dallas Morning News review of immigration information, court documents and arrest incidents shows that Senate Bill 4, the legislation Abbott and other GOP lawmakers are championing, wouldn't have made a difference in the very case that has become a symbol of efforts to ban sanctuary cities. Immigration experts say lawmakers’ insistence on requiring local officials to get into the immigration business would do little to prevent a deadly incident like the one in Dallas last year, would make Texas communities less safe and would violate the U.S. Constitution.

Dallas Morning News - February 15, 2017

Prosecutors' cowboy boots prompt sole-searching subpoena from Ken Paxton

Attorney General Ken Paxton's legal team is lacing up for a new fight with the special prosecutors pursuing charges against him — this time, over their choice of footwear. Late last week, one of Paxton's lawyers subpoenaed the Texas Rangers for information on "gifts" the prosecutors might have received, specifically "commemorative badges" and cowboy boots. Paxton's lawyers didn't respond to questions about why they wanted this information. Prosecutor Kent Schaffer said he thinks the subpoenas target him and fellow prosecutor Brian Wice, who each own a pair of Texas Rangers cowboy boots, specialty footwear made for the law enforcement agency and their friends by Fort Worth-based boot company Justin Brands.

Dallas Morning News - February 15, 2017

Yes to more Texas CPS workers but no to foster care outsourcing, Democrats and union reps say

Lawmakers should keep adding more workers at Child Protective Services and spread around a recent pay raise but avoid further privatizing of child welfare, two Democrats and a union representative urged Wednesday. "You do God's work," Democratic Houston Rep. Armando Walle told about two dozen state protective services workers at a Capitol news conference. He noted that both senators and House members pray before each floor session. Rep. Armando Walle, D-Houston Rep. Armando Walle, D-Houston "I just hope the members of the Legislature live up to their prayers and put their money where their mouth is," said Walle, who's been pressing for four sessions for lower caseloads for frontline protective services workers.

Dallas Morning News - February 15, 2017

Ken Paxton is first state AG to file brief supporting Trump's travel ban

Attorney General Ken Paxton on Wednesday filed an amicus curiae brief with the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit defending President Trump's immigration order, becoming the first state attorney general to do so. "The law makes it very clear that the president has discretion to protect the safety of the American people and our nation's institutions with respect to who can come into this country," Paxton said in a prepared statement.

Dallas Morning News - February 15, 2017

Arguments over three anti-abortion bills begin in Texas Senate

The Senate Committee on Health and Human Services took up the first abortion-related bills of the session Wednesday, three proposals that would ban certain procedures, outlaw the donation of fetal tissue from an elective abortion and require fetal tissue to be buried or cremated. Senate bills 8, 415 and 258 are the most prominent anti-abortion bills to emerge so far this year, and committee members sparred over the language and reach of the bills during the first half of Wednesday's hearing. After several hours of public testimony, they did not vote and left the bills pending in committee. Republican Sen. Charles Schwertner, chair of the Health and Human Services committee, presented Senate Bill 8, which would ban what opponents call "partial-birth" abortions and the donation of fetal tissue from an elective abortion.

Dallas Morning News - February 15, 2017

DMN: Residents should be encouraged as Texas gets tougher and better at corporate incentives

Ideally, Texas wouldn’t have to dole out big tax breaks to recruit new companies and investment. Businesses have many reasons to expand here without any public sweeteners. But in the real world, states compete for economic plums, and incentives have become a common tool. The challenge for state officials is to do incentives right and ensure that taxpayers’ money is protected. On that score, the Texas Enterprise Fund is instilling new confidence Public trust in the fund, which has awarded over $600 million since it began, was shaken after a 2014 audit revealed problems in accountability, oversight and transparency. That led to reforms in the Legislature and the governor’s office, which administers the program.

Dallas Morning News - February 15, 2017

Bipartisan coalition calls for changes to state's civil asset forfeiture sytem

A bipartisan group of Texas lawmakers Wednesday called for legislation to overhaul civil asset forfeiture in the state, touting overwhelming support for the issue in a newly released poll by a conservative think tank. In Texas, the government routinely seizes cash, cars, homes and other property from people suspected of certain crimes, especially those related to drugs. That money is often used to pay for tools police departments and other law enforcement agencies need to do their jobs. But the legislators said the government often keeps that property even if a person is not convicted or charged. When an innocent person's property, like a car, is used in a crime by another person, legislators said, the burden to prove innocence is too high and also expensive.

San Antonio Express News - February 15, 2017

SAEN: A Railroad Commission that doesn’t regulate railroads

Bad call. The Railroad Commission has not regulated railroads since 2005. It does regulate the oil and gas industry. But recent attempts to change the name have gone off the tracks again and again. In 2011, a Sunset Review, produced by staff, pushed for the “Texas Oil and Gas Commission.” That didn’t fly, so it was back to the drawing board. The most recent option? “The Texas Energy Resources Commission.” A bit vague for our tastes, but good enough. If your run-of-the-mill Texan had a question about, say, oil and gas drilling near his home, it would make sense to contact an agency called “The Texas Energy Resources Commission.” Alas, the name was rejected. No real surprise since the oil and gas industry was against the name change.

San Antonio Express News - February 15, 2017

Sources: Romo's leave could be connected to harassment complaint, firings

University of Texas at San Antonio President Ricardo Romo has been put on leave “pending a review of allegations related to his conduct,” which sources said Wednesday morning was connected to the firing of two people in the president’s office that could be viewed as retaliatory. According to the sources, who have direct knowledge of the investigation into the allegations, Romo’s leave may be related to a formal sexual harassment complaint filed against him. Pedro Reyes, special assistant to the chancellor and professor of education policy at University of Texas at Austin, is serving as the acting UTSA president during Romo's review.

San Antonio Express News - February 15, 2017

Legislators: more reforms needed to fix juvenile justice system

A decade after Texas reformed its programs for juvenile offenders, state lawmakers are poised to do it all over again. The state’s juvenile justice system is failing, some lawmakers say. Facilities still are plagued by reports of assaults and bullying. And too many kids who are released fall back into trouble as spending per teenage offender is spiraling upward. “After all the hundreds of millions of dollars we’ve spent since 2007, it’s still broken and out of control,” said state Sen. John Whitmire, an architect of many of the previous reforms and a member of the Senate Finance Committee that is now considering reforming the reforms.

San Antonio Express News - February 15, 2017

Chasnoff: On property taxes, Medina embraces politics over practical reform

This session, the Texas Senate has prioritized a bill that purports to ease the property tax burden by limiting the services a city could provide its residents, yet another instance of state lawmakers trying to usurp local control. And supporters of Senate Bill 2 have found an unlikely enabler in Manuel Medina, a candidate for mayor whose support for the legislation runs counter to the interests of a city he wants to lead. Mayor Ivy Taylor has an idea why. “The only thing that I can offer is that he has absolutely no experience at the city level … knowing what kind of services people want and need in their neighborhoods and how to manage and stretch taxpayer dollars,” she said. “He has absolutely no experience in that.”

San Antonio Express News - February 15, 2017

Abbott, Patrick team up against NFL’s bathroom bill comments

Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick are teaming up against the NFL after a league spokesman suggested that if the so-called bathroom bill becomes law, it could affect whether Texas gets future events. “The NFL is walking on thin ice right here. The NFL needs to concentrate on playing football and get the heck out of politics,” Abbott said on conservative Glenn Beck’s radio show Tuesday. A day after Abbott’s interview, Patrick echoed his sentiments on conservative Laura Ingraham’s radio program. “The NFL needs to get out of politics. They need to stick to their business,” Patrick said Wednesday.

Austin American-Statesman - February 15, 2017

TxDOT: Data breach resulted in release of some employee info

The Texas Department of Transportation confirmed Wednesday that a “security incident” last week resulted in the breach of an “automated administrative” system, which may have left some employee data altered and compromised. Agency spokesman Bob Kaufman issued a statement saying the breach, first reported by KXAN-TV, impacted only “a small number of employees,” but he was tight-lipped about other details because the investigation is ongoing.

Austin American-Statesman - February 15, 2017

Texas ranks 15th in online list for immigrants’ economic impact

California ranked first overall on the list, compiled by WalletHub and based off of qualities such as “median household income of foreign-born population” and “jobs generated by immigrant-owned businesses as a share of total jobs.” Texas ranked high in several categories, like the percentage of foreign-born STEM workers out of the entire state’s population (6th) and in the share of foreign-born population and the share of foreign-born members of the workforce (both ranked 7th).

Austin American-Statesman - February 15, 2017

Texas Senate launches latest round in abortion wars

The Legislature kicked off the latest round in the abortion wars Wednesday as state senators and the public took advantage of their first chance to address bills that seek to limit certain procedures and regulate the treatment of fetal tissue. Much of the Democratic firepower was supplied by state Sen. Kirk Watson of Austin, who repeatedly pressed the Republican authors of the three bills to justify regulations or explain how the proposals would improve women’s health. The Republicans fired back during Wednesday’s Capitol hearing, saying the changes would correct regulatory shortcomings, outlaw “barbaric” practices and ensure that fetal remains are treated with respect.

Austin American-Statesman - February 15, 2017

Texas conservatives launch next fight on religious liberty

Conservative Republican senators and representatives Wednesday unveiled a dozen bills designed to protect religious practice, including efforts to allow Christians to opt out of serving gay couples if same-sex marriage violates their beliefs. Unlike the 2015 session, when efforts to approve broad constitutional amendments to protect religious practice fell far short, the bills filed thus far focus on specific issues and were the result of a concerted effort to “make sure that religious liberty bills are at the forefront this session,” said state Rep. Matt Krause, R-Fort Worth.

Texas Tribune - February 15, 2017

Trump team's alleged Russia ties get muted response from Texas Republicans

Thunderstruck. That was many federal lawmakers' reaction to a series of news reports over the past several days alleging that members of President Donald Trump’s campaign and national security team have had inappropriate ties with Russian officials. An already charged political atmosphere in Washington escalated Monday night with the resignation of National Security Advisor Michael Flynn. A night later, a pair of reports from The New York Times and CNN asserted that members of Trump’s team frequently communicated with Russian intelligence officials during the 2016 presidential campaign.

Texas Tribune - February 15, 2017

If Texas passes anti-"sanctuary" bill, El Paso County could face lawsuits

If the Texas Legislature passes a bill to ban so-called "sanctuary cities" in Texas, El Paso County could face a legal quagmire. That's because the terms of a 2006 legal settlement expressly forbid the county's sheriff deputies from doing what Senate Bill 4 demands: enforcing federal immigration laws. The legislation state lawmakers are considering would punish local governments if their county sheriffs fail to honor "detainers" — requests from federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers to hand over immigrants in custody. SB 4 would also punish those government entities that enact policies preventing local law enforcement from asking people for their immigration status.

Texas Tribune - February 15, 2017

House budget proposal would defund Gov. Abbott's pre-K program

Gov. Greg Abbott is facing strong resistance in the Legislature to his plan to increase funding this legislative session for high-quality pre-K. The latest House budget proposal would cut all funding for a pre-K grant program that Abbott wants to see doubled in the next biennium. The House base budget publicly released in January had allocated $118 million for the program, but by the time that budget was officially filed last week, all funding for the program had been cut.

Texas Tribune - February 15, 2017

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton hangs on politically as criminal trial looms

The first slide summed it up neatly: "Attorney General Ken Paxton is the subject of a witch hunt." Inside the room, as the subsequent slides flickered by, outlining why the securities fraud charges against the state's top lawyer are all part of a political vendetta, a friendly audience nodded and murmured in agreement. "It's Joe Straus," a woman said under her breath, conjuring the Texas House speaker loathed by certain corners of the Texas GOP.

Houston Chronicle - February 15, 2017

Allmon, Colangelo: Tax credit program would boost choices for kids with alternative education needs

The introduction of school choice in Texas, by means of a tax-credit scholarship program, will give opportunities to families in need across the state to access the best education for their children. It's little wonder, then, that school choice is one of the most-discussed policy topics this legislative session. Private schools in Texas are ready and willing to participate in such a program. Here's how it would work: As proposed in Senate Bill 542 and House Bill 1184, tax-credit scholarships would provide money to parents who move their children from traditional public schools and enroll them in private schools. The legislation also calls for businesses that contribute to the program to receive tax credits, as well.

Texas Monthly - February 15, 2017

A White Supremacist Group Aims To Recruit On College Campuses

Over the weekend, the University of Texas at Austin became the latest Texas university to be hit with fliers by a white nationalist group. The state arm of the American Vanguard, a national organization, is carrying out what it calls “The Texas Offensive,” a seemingly ongoing effort to post the group’s fliers on university campuses across the state. Prior to UT Austin, the American Vanguard claims they have also posted fliers at Texas State University, Rice University, the University of North Texas, the University of Texas at Dallas, Collin College, and Abilene Christian University. According to posts from the Vanguard Texas Twitter account, the fliers at UT Austin were posted on the night of February 12. Some of the fliers posted on campus asked people to “imagine a Muslim-free America” and called for the reporting of “any and all illegal aliens.” One poster was placed on a statue of Martin Luther King Jr. and read, “Carry the torch of your people” over an image of white men.

Houston Chronicle - February 15, 2017

Johnson: Call vouchers what they are: government entitlement and state overreach

"School choice" is only the latest euphemism for programs that divert public tax dollars to subsidize private and home school education. They go by many names: education savings accounts and tuition tax credits are the two pseudonyms of Senate Bill 3 sponsored by Senate Education Chair Larry Taylor and prioritized by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick. But, Texans know how to call something by its real name: private school vouchers. Voucher policies have come before the Legislature numerous times in the past. Each time, the proposals have been defeated. Why? Because conservative Texans can smell a government entitlement and expansion program a country mile away.

Houston Chronicle - February 15, 2017

Group says majority of Texans want to limit civil asset forfeitures

A bipartisan group of lawmakers gathered Wednesday in support of legislation that would limit law enforcement's ability to confiscate property when a person has been accused of a crime. Current Texas law allows the seizure of a person's property if he has been suspected of committing a felony and if that property may have been involved in the crime. In some cases, property may be seized even if the person never never convicted or even charged. According to a recent poll by Right on Crime, more than 88 percent of Texans oppose the government taking property without a conviction. Right on Crime is a criminal justice reform group affliated with the conservative Texas Public Policy Foundation.

PolitiFact - February 15, 2017

PolitiFact: Fake news alert -- Texas congressman from Pecos wishes for another 9/11 to show up judges

Here's what the Twitter feed for a fake Texas congressman looked like before it was closed in February 2017 (screenshot, cachedview.com, Feb. 14, 2017). A newsy web post renounces a right-leaning U.S. House member from Texas for publicly wishing for another 9/11. We’re sure, though, the congressman doesn’t exist and nor does the far West Texas district the character purported to represent on his, her or its recently shuttered Twitter account. ... LiberalPlug.com says Rob McCaskill, a Republican U.S. House member from Texas, posted a message on Twitter wishing for another 9/11. There’s no such Texas congressman to wish for anything. Pants on Fire! We’re sure, though, the congressman doesn’t exist and nor does the far West Texas district the character purported to represent on his, her or its recently shuttered Twitter account.

KWES - February 15, 2017

State of Texas seeing high rates of women diagnosed with cervical cancer

The human papillomavirus, or HPV, is the most common type of a sexually transmitted infection. Most who carry the infection don't even know they have it. Although HPV causes no symptoms, some types of HPV can cause warts or even cervical cancer. Doctors say HPV infections can go away on their own between one to two years, but the virus can still linger if not treated. Before, it was recommended the HPV vaccine should be given in three doses. Now, the Center for Disease Control recommends 11 to 12-year-old girls and boys should get two doses instead. The vaccine can be given as early as nine years old.

Houston Chronicle - February 15, 2017

Lawmaker targets funding for Harris County office that serves special ed students

As federal officials continue to scrutinize Texas for apparently under-serving its special education students, a new bill could leave some Harris County independent school districts scrambling to maintain the programs these students now receive. Texas lawmakers have proposed barring county-wide education departments from collecting property taxes if a county has more than 3.3 million residents - a threshold that would only affect the Harris County Department of Education. But about one-third of the department's tax revenue is spent hiring special education workers, who provide 53 percent of all special education therapies across Harris County. The bill - SB 646 - was filed by state Sen. Paul Bettencourt, a Republican who represents a swath of northwest Harris County, including parts of Cypress-Fairbanks, Houston, Tomball and Spring.

Austin American-Statesman - February 15, 2017

Tilove: After Trump’s offer to ‘destroy’ senator, a push for forfeiture reform

Call them brave, principled, foolhardy, or maybe just unpersuaded that President Donald Trump really meant what he said when he declared at the White House last week that he would be happy to “destroy” the career of a Texas state senator who advocated civil forfeiture reform, but two senators and a half dozen members of the House did just that at a Capitol news conference Wednesday. “Texas is known as a beacon of economic and personal liberty. We take our rights seriously here, particularly our property rights,” said state Sen. Konni Burton, R-Fort Worth. “The seizing and keeping of an individual’s property without a criminal conviction is in opposition to everything this country was founded upon and it must be changed.” “It’s unbecoming to be policing for profits,” said state Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen.

Texas Tribune - February 16, 2017

Stadium exemption in "bathroom bill" won’t be enough, opponents say

As more critics are speaking out against Texas’ “bathroom bill,” concerns about the legislation have largely echoed the anxiety that fueled the economic fallout in North Carolina when it passed similar legislation. Citing any laws that are “discriminatory or inconsistent with our values,” the NFL recently raised the prospect that the legislation could impact whether Texas gets future Super Bowls. Raising concerns about the safety of fans, crews and fellow artists, more than 135 actors and singers — some of whom are set to tour in Texas — came out in opposition to the legislation.

Texas Tribune - February 16, 2017

Reports: ICE officials arrest an alleged victim of domestic violence in Texas

Immigration officials arrested an El Paso woman who alleged she was a victim of domestic abuse, according to multiple reports. And the tip that got her arrested may have come from her alleged abuser, according to the El Paso Times. The Times story also noted that a criminal complaint filed in district court indicated that someone with the same name as the alleged victim might have a history of deportation and domestic violence.

Rio Grande Guardian - February 14, 2017

Cascos: State leaders should do more to help border colonias

In an interview with News Talk 710 KURV, former Texas Secretary of State Carlos Cascos said state leaders could and should do more to help improve living conditions in border colonias. The secretary of state has responsibility for colonias and border affairs. Cascos, a Republican, served two years in the post after being appointed by Gov. Greg Abbott. He resigned last December. Cascos said that while he supports border security, he believes the state’s leadership should brainstorm solutions to improve water and wastewater infrastructure in colonias in order to maintain health for the children who live in them.

Houston Chronicle - February 16, 2017

ACA repeal could threaten treatment for addiction, mental health

More than 272,000 Texans could lose access to mental health and substance abuse treatment if one of the lesser known guarantees of the Affordable Care Act goes away with the law's repeal and is not replaced. In Texas alone, 65,559 people with the most serious types of debilitating mental illnesses, such as bipolar disorder or schizophrenia, are now covered by individual plans offered under the health care law, according to a data analysis released this week by the Harvard Medical School and New York University. Another 53,539 receive coverage for less serious mental health conditions, while 152,971 Texans have gained coverage for treatment of substance abuse, including alcoholism and opiate addiction, the study shows.

Austin American-Statesman - February 16, 2017

First Reading: Make the Constitution great again: On a Convention of States in the age of Trump

This morning, the Senate State Affairs Committee will hold a hearing on Gov. Greg Abbott’s call for a Convention of States, in which, under Article V of the United States Constitution, two-thirds of the state legislatures can call for a convention at which the Constitution could undergo some rewriting, though any proposed changes would have to then be ratified by three-quarters of the states. Governor Abbott has offered the following constitutional amendments that he would like to see. Prohibit Congress from regulating activity that occurs wholly within one State. Require Congress to balance its budget.

Austin American-Statesman - February 16, 2017

Herman: In President Donald Trump era, let’s keep pie apolitical

The things that divide us on election days now boil over into every days: What we buy, where we eat, the team we back in the Super Bowl. All of that, and more, has taken on overbaked political overtones. I guess it’s always happened to some extent. But in this odd epoch when everything seems more intense, it just seems, well, more intense. Suddenly, some shoppers with a pre-existing penchant for shopping at Nordstrom now also have a political motivation thanks to our first family that’s also our first family ever to be this kind of first family. I can’t remember presidential product placement like this. Billy Beer maybe, though I don’t remember President Jimmy Carter hawking his brother’s brew.

Houston Chronicle - February 15, 2017

Gasoline prices set to rise in the coming months

Gasoline prices are set to start rising again in the spring and summer to mark the seasonal shift to a busier driving season with more expensive summer-grade fuels. Late February typically marks the time when many of the nation’s oil refineries undergo seasonal maintenance to begin churning out the more costly, cleaner-burning gasoline types that are less prone to evaporation during the hotter summer months. “We’re likely to see some major increases at the gas pump as the seasonal transition and refinery maintenance get underway,” said Dan McTeague, senior petroleum analyst for GasBuddy, which tracks gas prices and refining activity.

CityLab - February 15, 2017

Another Front in the Texas War to Preserve Segregated Housing

Texas Representative Valoree Swanson is enjoying a banner first month in office. Since the start of the state’s legislative session in January—her first—she has proposed legislation to make it a crime for a doctor who has performed an abortion to apply for a medical license in the state. She has suggested that every Texas student pass the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services naturalization test in order to graduate from high school. She wants to make it easier for public-school teachers to throw water on scientific theories such as evolution. And she has put forward a bill to outlaw property taxes. H.B. 1792, which Swanson introduced on Monday, is a different stripe of ideological. This bill, along with H.B. 1653, would change the way affordable housing tax credits work in Texas. By the standards of affordable housing, H.B. 1792 represents a dramatic departure from the norm. The bill would all but block the construction of low-income housing in the Lone Star State—which is exactly what Swanson promised to do when she ran for office.

Texas Observer - February 15, 2017

Report: 83 Percent of Texas School Districts Offer Abstinence-Only or No Sex Ed

Condom use requires a complicated, six-step process, sexual intimacy often leads to suicide and HIV can be transmitted through mutual masturbation. These are among the fallacies being taught as part of sex education in Texas public schools — when sex education is taught at all, according to a new report from the Texas Freedom Network (TFN), a progressive statewide group. The report, titled “Conspiracy of Silence,” found that despite some improvement over the last eight years, more than 83 percent of Texas districts currently provide either abstinence-only sex education — free of accurate information about contraception — or no sex education whatsoever.

County Stories

Houston Chronicle - February 16, 2017

City, county set to decriminalize pot

Houston and Harris County are poised to decriminalize low-level possession of marijuana in a sweeping move that puts the area at the forefront of efforts in Texas to halt minor drug arrests that clog jails and courts. District Attorney Kim Ogg is set to announce the new policy Thursday with Mayor Sylvester Turner, Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo and Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez. The new policy, set to begin March 1, means that misdemeanor offenders with less than four ounces of marijuana will not be arrested, ticketed or required to appear in court if they agree to take a four-hour drug education class, officials said.

Longview News Journal - February 15, 2017

Texas Supreme Court justices to get rock-star treatment during Longview visit

The nine members of the Texas Supreme Court can be forgiven if they feel like rock stars by the time they leave Longview after holding a formal session Thursday in the Belcher Center. "In the 20 odd years that the Supreme Court has traveled outside Austin to hear arguments, no other community has responded like ours has," said John Coppedge, a Texas courts expert who persuaded the court to make Longview its next stop. "The entire Tyler court of appeals and the Texarkana court of appeals will be here and most of their staff. Right now we have 20 court of appeals justices from nine of the 14 courts of appeals around the state confirmed for at least some of the events.

KSAZ - February 15, 2017

Woman blames race, politics for voter fraud conviction

A Mexican national who was convicted of voting illegally in Dallas County says she was used as a “political example." Rosa Maria Ortega has four children who she hasn't seen since the conviction. Her worry is she won't be there for them when she gets out of jail. Ortega is currently serving an eight-year sentence for illegally voting in Dallas County and then trying to vote in Tarrant County.

Denton Record Chronicle - February 14, 2017

Commissioners vote to create new district court

Denton County commissioners have asked the Texas Legislature to create a new court and expand the jurisdiction of another. Commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday on a resolution supporting the creation of a new district court to handle an increasing number of cases as the county grows. Commissioners also voted 4-1 to support expanding the jurisdiction of County Criminal Court No. 4 to include mental health cases. The probate court currently handles mental health cases but needs assistance handling its case load, according to the resolution.

Austin American-Statesman - February 15, 2017

In ‘sanctuary’ spat, Travis sheriff likely to hold more inmates for ICE

Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez vowed Wednesday that she will more tightly review cases to determine whether she will honor requests to hold inmates on behalf of federal immigration officials, likely resulting in her department granting more detention requests by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency. She said jail staff will look beyond four offenses — capital murder, murder, aggravated sexual assault and continuous human smuggling — for which she has previously said such ICE requests, known as “detainers,” would be automatically granted. Now her staff will also review the cases of immigrants charged with other violent crimes, including kidnapping and child abuse, to determine whether they, too, should be held for federal agents.

City Stories

Dallas Morning News - February 15, 2017

California dam emergency is a reminder of scare at Lewisville Lake dam

A troubled dam. Concerns about failure. And talk of evacuation plans. That was the scare at the Lewisville Lake dam in 2015. Ultimately, the danger passed quickly. The dam wasn't compromised. And the Army Corps of Engineers continues to point out that safety systems worked as planned. Since the weekend, the Oroville Dam in Northern California has created a more serious panic as nearly 190,000 people were ordered to evacuate. There has been no disaster and some have returned to their homes. But officials have warned another evacuation is possible.

Austin American-Statesman - February 15, 2017

Refugees blocked by Trump ban arrive in Austin

The Majbal family was packed and ready two weeks ago to leave their life in Iraq and come to the U.S. as refugees when President Donald Trump’s ban on entries from their country abruptly halted their plans. They were so upset, their hearts physically hurt, they said. But the Majbals, who described their emotions through a translator, were all smiles Wednesday as a respite from the travel ban allowed them to finally set foot on Austin soil. Mohanad Majbal, his wife, Nagham Abd Alstaar, and their children Noor Majbal, 21, Amen Majbal, 17, and Ali Majbal, 14, arrived at the Austin airport following two weeks in limbo, after a federal judge blocked Trump’s travel ban.

Dallas Morning News - February 16, 2017

Why the city of Dallas fears one tax change in Congress could cost it $82 million

City leaders in Dallas and beyond are gearing up to protect tax exemptions for municipal bonds, a crucial financing provision that could be on the chopping block as Congress tries to overhaul the tax code. The longstanding carve-out saves local governments tens of millions of dollars on the bonds they issue to fund roads, bridges and other projects. In Dallas alone, officials predict that the loss of that status would add $82 million in debt service to its forthcoming $800 million bond package. “If that happens, you are turning off a spigot that is so important for America,” Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings said.

Dallas Morning News - February 16, 2017

F-35 program that sustains Fort Worth jobs set for congressional scrutiny

After a turbulent few months for the F-35 program at the hands of a skeptical President Donald Trump, Pentagon officers charged with overseeing the program will face questions from Congress on Thursday on the state of the embattled stealth fighter jet. Lt. Gen. Chris Bogdan, the program’s executive officer, and other top Pentagon officials will update a House armed services subcommittee on progress with the F-35s, looking to soothe concerns over the program’s costs. Trump sent shockwaves through the Dallas-Fort Worth area in December when he teed off on the F-35 program, complaining that costs are “out of control” for the fighter jets.

Houston Chronicle - February 15, 2017

Protesters question circumstances of jail inmate's death

In a somber gathering punctuated by tears, protesters gathered outside the Harris County Jail on Wednesday, lobbing accusations and demanding answers in the death of a 32-year-old inmate earlier this week. Vincent Young, a father of nine who would have turned 33 on Saturday, was found dead in an infirmary cell Monday evening. His death was ruled a suicide, but some who knew him are skeptical. "I know my son wouldn't take his own life," Vincent Laday said, breaking down into sobs. Ryan Sullivan, a spokesman for the Harris County Sheriff's Office, declined to comment on the case, citing an ongoing investigation.

KHOU - February 15, 2017

An update on Houston's pension plan

Mayor Sylvester Turner gave an extensive update on Houston's pension plan Wednesday. Turner said that the city's pension bill is being finalized by Houston's legislative council and he expects it to go to Rep. Flynn on the House side and Sen. Huffman on the Senate side "very, very soon". The bill must pass through the Texas Legislature to become law. Turner also added the Governor Abbott is getting an update on both Houston and Dallas' pension plans on Wednesday. If the bill fails, Turner said it will be another two years before lawmakers can consider it again. He said he would add another $130 million to the budget shortfall and "there will be massive layoffs in the city of Houston".

Austin American-Statesman - February 16, 2017

Protesters to gather outside Austin City Hall for Day Without Immigrants rally

Members of Austin’s immigrant community are shutting down their businesses, stepping away from their jobs and refusing to patronize stores and restaurants on Thursday to highlight their roles in the United States. + photo More than 20 local restaurants have confirmed they will shut down on Thursday in solidarity with the community, and others, including Torchy’s Tacos on South Lamar Boulevard, announced closures because of low staffing levels. More than 500 people have also signed up to attend a peaceful protest at the Austin City Hall at 10 a.m.

Houston Chronicle - February 16, 2017

Council OKs housing projects as mayor continues to push back against HUD

Mayor Sylvester Turner drew attention to Houston City Council's approval Wednesday of 11 subsidized housing developments - many in affluent areas - as the city continues to fight a federal accusation that its housing policies perpetuate segregation. The city routinely signs off on such projects to little fanfare, but Turner pointed to Houston's role in backing proposed projects in so-called high-opportunity neighborhoods as indicative of its commitment to providing housing opportunities citywide. "The whole intent is to bring affordable housing to the city. There are a number of people that need it, and it needs to be throughout the city of Houston," Turner said.

Dallas Morning News - February 16, 2017

Sullivan: Dallas, stand behind your police as city hall cuts our pension

To the citizens of Dallas: I know it is really confusing to read all the hoopla surrounding the Police and Fire Pension issue. What is really going on? How did this come about? Whose side are we to believe? After all, you pay taxes, you did all you were asked to do, right? I'm speaking for myself here, but there are thousands of police officers and fire fighters in the same situation I am. I, too, pay my taxes. I, too, did all I was asked to do. Our pension is like your Social Security. We pay in with the promise and commitment to have a payout when we retire. We are not eligible for Social Security from our employment with the city.

CultureMap - February 15, 2017

Trump family sets sights on Austin for brand-new hotel chain

Let the protests begin: The Trump family is eyeing Austin for one of its new Scion-branded hotels. The New York Times quotes Eric Trump, the middle son of President Donald Trump, as saying the Trump Organization hopes to build Scion hotels, a lower-price alternative to the upscale Trump International Hotel chain, in large to midsize “trendy” cities like Austin; Charlotte, North Carolina; and Nashville. After winning the race for the White House, Donald Trump turned over the reins of his real estate empire — including the hotel business — to sons Donald Jr. and Eric. The president still retains an ownership stake in the Trump family businesses.

Dallas Morning News - February 13, 2017

Could Frisco ISD soon use students as janitors? It's just one cost-cutting idea under consideration

Soon, Frisco ISD students may not be cleaning just their bedrooms. They could be sprucing up their classrooms, too. That's one of several suggestions from volunteers trying to help the nearly 60,000-student school district deal with a budget shortfall brought on by a loss of state funding combined with voters' rejection last August of a tax rate hike. Frisco ISD leaders and community members recently got their first look at the bevy of possible cost-saving strategies. In addition to having students empty trash cans to cut back on janitorial staff hours, recommendations included charging students — up to $200 in high school — to participate in athletics, establishing a minimum number of students per course and consolidating courses with small enrollments.

National Stories

Houston Chronicle - February 15, 2017

President Donald Trump has many people longing for the good old days of George W. Bush

In the CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll ending on the 22nd day of Bush's presidency, he garnered a 57 percent job approval rating. That is 16 percentage points higher than where Trump stood over the past week (41 percent), and is 23 points below the approval rating Barack Obama enjoyed at the same point (64 percent). Trump's current standing is actually close to the lowest points in Obama's presidency: 38 percent in the fall of 2014, as well as during the summer and fall of 2011. The least surprising of these results is that there is less bipartisan goodwill than early in the Bush administration, following the historical increase in partisan division. Among Democrats, Bush had a 31 percent approval rating, but Trump's is 20 points lower today (11 percent). Those two numbers are identical among liberals, who were far more approving of Bush than Trump shortly after each man entered office.

The Hill - February 15, 2017

With party in trouble, Dems hit voting laws

With their ranks decimated at statehouses and in Congress, Democrats are organizing around a redistricting push and opposition to changes to voting laws as ways to prevent Republican lawmakers from turning their party’s current power into a permanent advantage. While honing an economic message that will help Democrats reconnect with the blue-collar voters who deserted them in 2016 remains a priority, top Democrats and rising party stars are busy organizing several expensive undertakings to combat what they view as structural electoral disadvantages.

Associated Press - February 15, 2017

Investigations into Russia to continue after Flynn's exit

U.S. intelligence agencies and Congress will continue to investigate Russia's involvement in the 2016 presidential election, even after President Donald Trump fired his national security adviser for providing inaccurate accounts of his contacts with the Russian ambassador last year. Democrats said an independent investigation was the best way to answer questions about the Trump administration's ties to Russia. But Republican leaders continue to refuse to consider that option and said three congressional investigations underway were enough.

Washington Post - February 15, 2017

Andrew Puzder withdraws labor nomination, throwing White House into more turmoil

Andrew Puzder, President Trump’s labor secretary nominee, withdrew from consideration Wednesday amid growing resistance from Senate Republicans centered primarily on Puzder’s past employment of an undocumented housekeeper. The collapse of Puzder’s nomination threw the White House into further turmoil just two days after the resignation of Trump’s national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn, amid revelations that Flynn had spoken repeatedly, and possibly illegally, with the Russian ambassador last year about lifting U.S. sanctions.

Washington Post - February 15, 2017

Freedom Caucus backs ACA ‘repeal and replace’ that counts on private health care

House conservatives, frustrated by GOP leadership’s slow and tentative approach to replacing the Affordable Care Act, have gotten behind legislation by Rep. Mark Sanford (R-S.C.) and Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) that would repeal most of the law and move millions of Americans Health Savings Accounts (HSAs). “We were tired of waiting,” said Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) at a Wednesday press conference on the legislation, “and that’s why we said: Let’s go. Let’s go now.” The plan, endorsed by the House Freedom Caucus, would end the ACA’s Medicaid expansion, de-couple health insurance from employers, offer a tax credit of up to $5000 to fund HSAs, and eliminate most regulations on what health plans must cover. Insurers would be able to sell policies across state lines; regulations that mandate birth control coverage would be nixed.

Washington Post - February 15, 2017

Senate Democrats are battling every Trump nomination. Here’s how that can hurt Trump’s policies.

President Trump has faced consistent and contentious opposition to his slate of Cabinet picks. Yet while these battles break historical records, Trump’s Cabinet nominees are still winning in the end. Do these fights matter? Yes. While Democratic Party delay may not bring down a nominee, by delaying they may affect the future of the Senate — and hurt Trump’s ability to govern. The Senate has long been more deliberative and individualistic, giving each individual senator more power than members have in the House, where leadership is centralized and members are expected to fall in line. But long-standing Senate norms that respect individual positions are eroding.

Texas Lawyer - February 14, 2017

6 Candidates Trump Wants to Place on the Fifth Circuit Set for Vetting

President Donald Trump is wasting no time making a big impact on the Texas federal judiciary as a special committee is beginning the process of interviewing at least six of his candidates for two seats on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. The Federal Judicial Evaluation Committee (FJEC), a standing by bipartisan committee of lawyers named by Texas U.S. Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz, is set to meet Friday in Houston to vet Trump's candidates. According to four people who are familiar with the process but who declined to be named, the candidates being considered include: Texas Supreme Court Justice Don Willett; U.S. District Court Judge Reed O'Connor of Fort Worth; former Texas solicitor general James Ho; Andy Oldham, a deputy general counsel to Gov. Greg Abbott; Michael Massengale, a justice on Houston's First Court of Appeals; and Brett Busby, a justice on Houston's Fourteenth Court of Appeals.

Dallas Morning News - February 16, 2017

Trump's proposed tax cuts could help six U.S. banks benefit by combined $12 billion a year

The six largest U.S. banks could see annual profit jump by an average of 14 percent if President Donald Trump delivers on his promise to cut corporate taxes. The lenders, which stand to benefit more than other industries because they typically have fewer deductions, could save a combined $12 billion a year, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Trump has called for cutting the corporate tax rate to 15 percent from 35 percent. While investors have focused on Trump's campaign pledge to relax bank regulations, tax cuts could happen faster and their impact could be greater. The effective federal tax rate for the biggest banks averaged 28 percent for the three years ending in 2015, data compiled by Bloomberg show, twice the 14 percent rate paid by all large companies.

Politico - February 16, 2017

Tillerson warns Russia to respect Ukraine commitments

Russia must respect its international commitments toward Ukraine, new U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov Thursday during the first meeting between the two sides since Donald Trump took office. “As we search for new common ground we expect Russia to honor its commitment to the Minsk agreements and work to de-escalate violence in Ukraine,” Tillerson told reporters after meeting with his Russian counterpart in Bonn. “The U.S. will consider working with Russia when we can find areas of practical cooperation that will benefit the American people,” Tillerson said, but added that “where we do not see eye to eye the U.S will stand up for the interests and values of America and her allies.”

Politico - February 16, 2017

Aetna CEO: Obamacare markets are in a 'death spiral'

Obamacare is in a “death spiral,” the influential CEO of Aetna, Mark Bertolini, declared Wednesday morning. Bertolini’s doomsday prophesy: More insurers will pull out of the government-run marketplaces in the coming weeks and many areas will have no insurers to provide Affordable Care Act coverage in 2018. “It’s not going to get any better; it’s getting worse,” Bertolini said in an interview at a Wall Street Journal event. But he declined to say whether Aetna would completely pull out of Obamacare markets next year, though he said the population of covered people in the marketplaces has skewed older and sicker than expected.

Dallas Morning News - February 15, 2017

Trump's Russia problem imperils his presidency, and undermines faith in America

The Trump era has only just begun, but already this week's resignation of Michael Flynn as national security adviser is a watershed moment for Washington. President Donald Trump's credibility, certainly, is very much at stake. But so too is the credibility of America itself, which stands accused of extending a welcoming hand to Russia, despite its many provocations, because of our new president's personal, business or political ties to Vladimir Putin. It is imperative that Trump affirmatively dispel those questions. Until he does, questions about the very legitimacy of his presidency will deepen. These doubts will soon spread, if they haven't already, beyond the confines of liberal circles where obstructionism has dominated since Jan. 20. This newspaper has urged Americans to accept the fact that Trump was elected our president, and to support him whenever he is right.

Dallas Morning News - February 15, 2017

Lindenberger: Do students have the right to literacy?

Mark Rosenbaum is a director at the nation's largest pro bono law firm, Public Counsel, and a lifelong civil rights litigator. For 40 years he worked at the American Civil Liberties Union and has argued three cases before the Supreme Court. In September, he led a team of lawyers in suing the state of Michigan, alleging that schools in Detroit area are so bad they violate students' right to literacy as guaranteed by the U.S. Constitutional. ... Q: Why have you sued the state of Michigan? A: The case arose in a number of different contexts. Where I work ?? and before I was here, I worked for 40 years at the ACLU ?? we looked at litigation as part of community efforts to make a difference in children's lives. Not surprisingly, the issue that kept coming back was education.

Dallas Morning News - February 15, 2017

Pejovich: We rigorously vetted asylum seekers during the Cold War and nobody protested

Protests against President Donald Trump, some peaceful and others destructive, continue to be exuberated by the media. The most recent ones are protests against Trump's travel restrictions on several countries dominated or infiltrated by radical Islam. The courts ruled that Trump's travel restrictions do not meet legal requirements. However, street protesters claim that Trump's travel restrictions are anti-Islam, or racist, or pro-fascist or pro-Nazi, or all of above. For analysis of such claims let's go to recent history. Throughout the Cold War (1946-1988) the United States had entry restrictions on the refugees from the communist countries. Refugees were white, Christians, anti-socialists, and politically incorrect. The vetting process of issuing visas was time intensive and averaged about two years.

Dallas Morning News - February 15, 2017

Whitfield: Trump executive order takes aim at immigrants and those who have a conscience about all this

"Removable aliens" and how to remove them. That's the question, the problem, the thin end of the wedge, the slippery slope and just the beginning. It's what's in the second of President Donald Trump's three executive orders on immigration, the one meant to "enhance" the "interior security" of the country, that's caused all the concern, confusion and panic. And understandably so. The order sets "Enforcement Priorities," a prioritized list of the sorts of "removable aliens" the government wishes to remove. At the top of the list, very reasonably, are convicted criminals. But after that, things get a whole lot murkier.

Texas Public Radio - February 15, 2017

Shorter Enrollment Period For Obamacare Proposed By Administration

President Trump has promised to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act without taking insurance away from the millions of people who gained coverage under the law. On Wednesday his Department of Health and Human Services made its first substantive proposals to change the marketplaces for individual coverage, commonly known as Obamacare. The proposed rules aim to keep insurers in the market during a transition to a new system. One way is to tighten up when people can sign up for coverage. Insurers like Aetna. The company's CEO, Mark Bertolini, said Wednesday that Obamacare is failing.

The Hill - February 15, 2017

GOP senators unnerved by Trump-Russia relationship

Senate Republicans are expressing growing concerns about the relationship between the Trump administration and Russia. While Republicans aren’t yet willing to endorse a special investigative committee, GOP senators have indicated that could change. “Everybody is unnerved by what they read, but [they’re] not going to make decisions based on headlines,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.). Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) acknowledged that calls for a wide-ranging investigation have “gained momentum over the last 48 hours.”

Politico - February 15, 2017

Trump's military build-up to spark GOP civil war

President Donald Trump is about to blow up the uneasy détente between GOP defense and fiscal hawks. The Pentagon is set to seek tens of billions of dollars from Congress to implement Trump’s vow to rebuild the military — “to load it up” with “beautiful new equipment,” as he said at the U.S. Central Command in Florida last week. And Republicans are already drawing battle lines over whether the extra defense dollars should be added to the deficit or, as many in the party have long insisted, be matched with equal cuts elsewhere.

New York Times - February 16, 2017

NYT: Congress Says, Let the Mentally Ill Buy Guns

For all their dysfunction, the Republican Senate and House have managed to act with lightning speed in striking down a sensible Obama administration rule designed to stop people with severe mental problems from buying guns. President Trump, who championed the National Rifle Association agenda as a candidate, is expected to sign the regressive measure. This, despite the Republican mantra that tighter control of mentally troubled individuals — not stronger gun control — is the better way to deal with the mass shootings and gun carnage that regularly afflict the nation. The Senate voted Wednesday to join the House in revoking the rule. It would have required the Social Security Administration to add about 75,000 people, currently on disability support, to the national background check database and deny them gun purchases.

New York Times - February 16, 2017

Edsall: The Democrats’ Immigration Problem

Why is immigration such a problem for the Democratic Party? The issue splits traditional Democratic constituencies. It pits groups with competing material interests against each other, but it also brings those with vested psychological interests into conflict as Hispanics, African-Americans, labor and liberal advocacy groups clash over their conception of territoriality, political ownership and cultural identity. In the fall of 2015, as the presidential campaign began to heat up, Hillary Clinton broke with the Obama administration over its ongoing deportation of undocumented immigrants.

CNN - February 15, 2017

The many reasons Republicans are stuck on Obamacare repeal

The days of swift and decisive Obamacare repeal are long gone. Not a month into Donald Trump's presidency, Republican leaders in Congress have run up against just about every speed bump imaginable in their quest to dismantle the Affordable Care Act. Deep ideological divisions have burst into the open over how much of the health care law to roll back and how quickly, as well as the fate of Medicaid expansion and federal funding for Planned Parenthood -- all as angry constituents who support Obamacare are hounding GOP lawmakers at town halls across the country.

The Hill - February 15, 2017

Priebus, Bannon trash reports of division

In a joint phone call with The Hill on Wednesday, White House chief of staff Reince Priebus and chief strategist Stephen Bannon furiously pushed back at reports of division, saying there is no friction between them. Trump aides are particularly angry with a story published Tuesday by the conservative outlet Bannon once ran, Breitbart News, in which anonymous sources blamed Priebus for tumult at the White House and suggested that the chief of staff’s job was in immediate jeopardy. But Bannon and Priebus insisted that they’re working closely and amicably together and that reports to the contrary are false.

Houston Chronicle - February 15, 2017

Barrouquere: If Trump dies, how long before Rick Perry is President?

While Energy Secretary-in-waiting and former Texas Gov. Rick Perry would be in the line of succession to become President once he's confirmed, it could take him a while to get there. There are 16 people in the order of Presidential succession and Perry isn't close to the top. The law creating the order is, relatively speaking, new, having been passed at the dawn of the Cold War in 1947. It created an orderly transition of power should the President and Vice President should be incapable of holding office.

Dallas Morning News - February 15, 2017

Cass: Why a carbon tax is bad for the country

This week, a self-described "who's-who of conservative elder statesmen" launched a new organization, the Climate Leadership Council, to make their "Conservative Case for Carbon Dividends." Lest one be confused, the proposal is yet another carbon tax. Lest one be optimistic, it manages only to weaken an already flawed policy. Carbon-tax proposals have circulated for years with a straightforward rationale: if carbon dioxide emissions are causing harm, taxing them could achieve emissions reductions while generating government revenue. By raising the tax over time, more and more emissions would eventually be eliminated. For those on the right, the concept of a "revenue-neutral" tax has held particular appeal. If the tax revenue goes toward other tax cuts or cash payments to households, government does not grow. The CLC proposal adopts a pure cash-to-households approach, thus the "dividend."

Politico - February 15, 2017

How Puzder fell

Steve Bannon and Stephen Miller, two of the most powerful voices in President Donald Trump’s inner circle, were never strongly behind Andy Puzder as labor secretary, believing he was too soft on immigration. So when Puzder’s nomination was teetering on the brink of implosion in recent weeks, that lack of support from the president’s top aides left Puzder, whose backing was already eroding in the Senate, with little choice but to withdraw his name, according to two sources close to Puzder.

Politico - February 15, 2017

A bleak week for Obamacare

Obamacare’s health insurance markets are flirting with financial disaster — and that’s before Republicans have had a chance to lay their hands on the law they’ve vowed for seven years to repeal. The insurance markets, which have been bleeding money, have taken one hit after another this week, beginning with news that Humana would become the first major insurer to pull out of the market completely next year. Molina — which had expected a $60 million profit on the exchanges for 2016 — reported a $110 million loss on Wednesday, and will assess ongoing participation at a later date. “There are simply too many unknowns with the marketplace program to commit to our participation beyond 2017,” said CEO Mario Molina.

Washington Post - February 15, 2017

Labor unions take victory lap after Puzder withdrawal

The ink wasn’t dry on Andrew Puzder’s withdrawal as secretary of labor nominee, but union leaders were celebrating. AFSCME President Lee Saunders said Puzder had “nothing but contempt for everything the Labor Department stands for.” AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said “the power of collective action” had taken Puzder down. Thomas Perez, the former secretary of labor now running to lead the Democratic National Committee, hopped on a conference call with reporters to celebrate. “When you call your workers the ‘the worst of the worst,’ that’s no way to earn or command respect,” Perez said. “He was a frequent flyer defendant. He was someone for whom we had a steady diet of wage and hour cases.”

Dallas Morning News - February 15, 2017

Trump administration proposes big changes, tightens rules for future Obamacare enrollees

The Trump administration took steps Wednesday intended to help calm jittery insurance companies and make tax compliance with former President Barack Obama's health law less burdensome for some people. The moves announced separately by the Health and Human Services Department and the IRS don't amount to sweeping changes to the Affordable Care Act. That would fall to Congress, where Republicans are struggling to reach consensus over how to deliver on their promise to repeal and replace the health law. But the administration's actions do signal a change in direction.

Dallas Morning News - February 15, 2017

Austin among U.S. cities targeted for 'Day Without Immigrants' protest

Organizers in cities across the U.S. are telling immigrants to miss class, miss work and not shop on Thursday as a way to show the country how important they are to America's economy and way of life. "A Day Without Immigrants" actions are planned in cities including Philadelphia, Washington, Boston and Austin, Texas. The protest comes in response to President Donald Trump and his 1-month-old administration. The Republican president has pledged to increase deportation of immigrants living in the country illegally, build a wall along the Mexican border, and ban people from certain majority-Muslim countries from coming into the U.S. He also has blamed high unemployment on immigration.

Dallas Morning News - February 15, 2017

Spending on health care reached $3.4 trillion in 2016 and is expected to rise, report says

Americans spent nearly $3.4 trillion on health care in 2016 and those costs are outpacing the average projected increases in the gross domestic product, according to data published Wednesday. Health spending grew 4.8 percent in 2016, slightly less than the year before when it rose 5.8 percent. However, don't expect the expenditures to stall for long, the report found. They could account for nearly 20 percent of U.S. spending by 2025. The new data from the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services was published online in the policy journal Health Affairs.

All - February 15, 2017

Lead Stories

Politico - February 15, 2017

GOP back to open combat over Obamacare

Republicans are back to open warfare over Obamacare. Disparate factions of the GOP are drawing hard lines on what they're willing to support — or not — when it comes to repealing the health care law. And the sparring raises the question of what, if anything, can pass Congress over the next few weeks. The more centrist wing of the party wants to slow the entire process down. They say Republicans need to act deliberately to avoid public panic over millions potentially losing their insurance. The party, they argue, needs to put forward a replacement plan — or at least as much of one that can pass using a special, majority-vote mechanism — before it ditches the law. Forget the 2015 repeal bill that Barack Obama vetoed, they add: It's not relevant now that Republicans own the problem.

Austin American-Statesman - February 15, 2017

Rodriguez: Abbott wrong to put politics before the needs of people

Every Texan should feel threatened by Gov. Greg Abbott’s promise to “hammer” Texas communities. The governor already escalated what started as a disagreement over local policing policies into a war against Travis County, terminating over $1 million in state funding for several victim services, criminal diversion and rehabilitation programs earlier this month. The governor’s intervention is especially egregious because the Criminal Justice Division grant funds cut off by his office were not allocated to or administered by the Travis County sheriff’s office.

Austin American-Statesman - February 14, 2017

Herman: When a news conference isn’t a news conference

I bothered you a while back with my concerns about new restrictions on journalists in the Texas Senate chamber. Quick recap: Now, unless journalists are in one of the 13 seats at the press table they have to be upstairs in the spectator gallery, no longer allowed to stand along the perimeter of the chamber floor. The workaround is that anybody carrying a camera can still troll the behind-the-brass rail sidelines. There’s also a new policy restricting where we can approach senators. All of this was done in the name of improved decorum, and the rules also apply to Senate staffers in the chamber. We’ve lived under the new order for a few weeks now and I can say the chamber does seem a bit more decorous and, thanks to the fact that many senators are good about talking to reporters, our access has yet to be unduly hampered. We’ll see what happens as the legislative session continues.

Texas Tribune - February 14, 2017

Greg Abbott blasts NFL for wading into "bathroom bill" debate

Gov. Greg Abbott is blasting the NFL for raising the prospect that Texas' so-called "bathroom bill" could impact future events in the state — wading into a debate he has so far mostly steered clear of. "The NFL is walking on thin ice right here," Abbott told conservative radio host Glenn Beck on Tuesday. "The NFL needs to concentrate on playing football and get the heck out of politics." Almost a week after Houston hosted Super Bowl LI, NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said in a statement that proposals that are "discriminatory or inconsistent with our values" would "certainly be a factor" for considering future events in Texas. to use bathrooms in public schools, government buildings and public universities based on their “biological sex."

The Hill - February 14, 2017

Right set to fight back on town hall protests

FreedomWorks, the Tea Party-aligned outside group, beginning next month will be organizing rallies and urging its nearly 6 million activists to turn out at town hall events to ensure members of Congress are also getting an earful from ObamaCare detractors. “There will be more grassroots hand-to-hand combat than we’ve seen in Washington for a long time,” FreedomWorks President and CEO Adam Brandon said Monday during an interview in his office near the Capitol. “The conservative [lawmakers], they need to see us out there pushing. And if they see that, they’ll be bold,” he continued. “If they don’t see grassroots there on the ground, they’ll start slipping.”

Washington Post - February 15, 2017

Do voter identification laws suppress minority voting? Yes. We did the research.

The Justice Department just got a new boss: Jeff Sessions. He is raising alarms in the civil rights community. The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights is concerned about his “record of hostility” toward the Voting Rights Act and the enforcement of civil rights. The NAACP-Legal Defense Fund lamented that it is “unimaginable that he could be entrusted to serve as the chief law enforcement officer for this nation’s civil rights laws.” No one knows for sure how Sessions will perform as attorney general — the former Republican senator from Alabama did, after all, once vote to renew the Voting Rights Act, in 2006 — but for many his record is deeply troubling. What we do know is that voter identification laws are spreading rapidly around the country. Before 2006, no state required photo identification to vote on Election Day. Today 10 states have this requirement. All told, a total of 33 states — representing more than half the nation’s population — have some version of voter identification rules on the books.

New York Times - February 14, 2017

Trump Campaign Aides Had Repeated Contacts With Russian Intelligence

Phone records and intercepted calls show that members of Donald J. Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and other Trump associates had repeated contacts with senior Russian intelligence officials in the year before the election, according to four current and former American officials. American law enforcement and intelligence agencies intercepted the communications around the same time that they were discovering evidence that Russia was trying to disrupt the presidential election by hacking into the Democratic National Committee, three of the officials said. The intelligence agencies then sought to learn whether the Trump campaign was colluding with the Russians on the hacking or other efforts to influence the election. The officials interviewed in recent weeks said that, so far, they had seen no evidence of such cooperation.

Associated Press - February 14, 2017

Republicans block Dem effort to get Trump's tax returns

House Republicans on Tuesday blocked an attempt by Democrats to use an obscure law to obtain President Donald Trump's tax returns from the IRS. Democrats on the House Ways and Means Committee tried to frame the issue as a matter of national security. They questioned whether Trump has any investments in Russia. Trump has said he has no investments in Russia, and Democrats acknowledged that have no evidence otherwise. That's why they want Trump's returns, said Rep. Joseph Crowley, R-N.Y.

This article appeared in the Houston Chronicle

McAllen Monitor - February 12, 2017

Sanchez: 'divisive' anti-sanctuary legislation by Gov. Abbott

I first met Gov. Greg Abbott more than 20 years ago, shortly after then-Gov. George W. Bush appointed him to the Texas Supreme Court. I have since watched him climb the political ladder to an unprecedented position of power as governor over a Texas Legislature that stands firmly and numerically behind him. I would tell anyone who asks that I believe he is a friend of the Rio Grande Valley. I’ve joked that he’s even introduced me to his dog, Pancake, and, in Texas, that means something. So it has been hard for me to rectify the Greg Abbott that I have known and admired for two decades with the Greg Abbott who seems obsessed with this very divisive, anti-sanctuary city legislation.

KUHF - February 14, 2017

Landowner Groups Encouraged By Eminent Domain Reform Bills

In Texas, pipelines and highways can often be built on your property whether you like it or not. But a statewide group wants farmers, ranchers and other landowners to have a bigger seat at the negotiating table when that happens. Now, there’s a new push in the state senate to reform “eminent domain” laws. These laws are based on the idea that some projects are in the public interest and deserve some leeway. But as the state grows, and pipelines move into new areas, that power has become more controversial. “You have a lot of landowners who have never experienced this before,” says Jason Skaggs with the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association, part of a broader “Texans for Property Rights” group.

State Stories

Dallas Morning News - February 15, 2017

Collin County again challenges cost of Paxton case ahead of fraud hearing this week

Collin County may soon challenge the constitutionality of Texas law, its latest attempt to push back against the growing cost of prosecuting Attorney General Ken Paxton. On Monday, the Commissioners Court voted to hire lawyers to look into whether the county can challenge a state law that sets rules for how to pay court-appointed attorneys, including public defenders and special prosecutors who investigate official wrongdoing. The Texas Fair Defense Act gives power to local judges to set "reasonable" wages for these attorneys, a power that County Judge Keith Self said should be in the hands of commissioners.

Austin American-Statesman - February 14, 2017

Travis to review jail policies after suspect nearly released

Travis County sheriff’s officials Tuesday are explaining why a man charged with sexually assaulting a 9-year-old girl was not initially held for an immigration check by ICE. Led by state Sen. Dawn Buckingham of Lakeway, Republicans have pounced on the case of Hugo Gallardo-Gonzalez, 31, who was charged in January with “continuous sexual abuse of a young child,” a first-degree felony for which he faces life in prison. They criticized Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez for her policy of limiting the county’s cooperation with federal immigration authorities following reports that Gallardo-Gonzalez, whom ICE had requested be held in the county jail so immigration officials could seize him, was slated to go on free on bail. ... Update: Travis County sheriff’s officials said they will review their internal policies to ensure they are aware of all possible charges against an inmate before declining federal immigration detainers. “We intend to review the matter and consider possible policy modifications,” Maj. Wes Priddy said.

Austin American-Statesman - February 15, 2017

Texas Senate opens debate on abortion-related bills

The Texas Legislature wades back into the abortion wars this morning with this session’s first public hearing on Republican bills to further regulate the procedure. The Senate Health and Human Services Committee meeting, which begins at 8:30 a.m. in the Senate chamber, will seek public comment on three bills: Senate Bill 415 by Sen. Charles Perry, R-Lubbock, would outlaw “dismemberment abortions” in which forceps or other non-suction instruments are used to remove a fetus in pieces. The restriction would apply only while the fetal heart is beating, according to a statement of intent accompanying Perry’s bill.

Texas Tribune - February 14, 2017

Juvenile justice agency pushes back on claims of ineffectiveness

The Texas Juvenile Justice Department is battling the image that its state lockups are under the control of its young offenders and that staff are afraid to go to work. State Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, painted that picture at a Feb. 8 Senate Finance Committee hearing that included testimony from the agency. "We only send felons. Very violent felons," Whitmire said. "You don't go there as a truant. You don't go there as a car thief. You go there as an armed robber. And the problem is, literally, they lead all state agencies in [workers' compensation] claims, and it's because of assaults by students on employees."

Texas Tribune - February 15, 2017

Ramsey: Lawmakers can turn to a bag of tricks to balance state budget

The Texas legislators writing the next two-year state budget are scrounging for dollars — looking for ways to cover the rising costs of current programs without raising your taxes. And respecting the fine tradition of political rhetoric, they might soon be pulling the same kinds of tricks Texans use to balance their family budgets when they don’t want to or cannot cut spending: Delaying monthly payments, hitting the savings account or taking money set aside for other uses. The possibilities range from the familiar to the unexpected and are generally unattractive — except in the face of budget cuts or tax increases.

Texas Tribune - February 15, 2017

For Dawnna Dukes, a lukewarm welcome from Travis County delegation

Rep. Dawnna Dukes is the elephant in the corner of the Texas House, and she knows it. Dukes’ presence in the House is a sensitive topic for her colleagues in the Travis County delegation because of the 12-term Democrat’s legal issues. Most of them said they have not had full conversations with Dukes since the session started Jan. 10. Dukes is facing a grand jury indictment and a shadow campaign for her seat after she announced she was resigning, then abruptly changed her mind. She’s been demoted to a smaller office and hasn’t filed any bills so far this legislative session.

Texas Tribune - February 15, 2017

Texas couldn’t help this sex-trafficked teen, so authorities sent her to jail

For three months in the fall of 2016, Lena was one of the youngest inmates in the Harris County Jail. The 17-year-old lived with two dozen women in a single room. She slept on a metal bunk and wore an oversized orange jumpsuit every day. She went to the bathroom with no privacy, using a toilet attached to the wall. Yet compared to what she'd endured, it didn't seem half bad. Lena had felt trapped her whole life.

Texas Tribune - February 14, 2017

Study: A quarter of Texas public schools no longer teach sex ed

A quarter of Texas public school districts offered no sex education at all during the 2015-2016 school year, according to a new study released Tuesday by the Texas Freedom Network. Nearly 60 percent of districts used abstinence-only education programs over the same period. “Our state has become the poster child for abstinence-only-until-marriage sex education,” said Kathy Miller, president of Texas Freedom Network at a Capitol press conference. “[At the Legislature], it sometimes seems that sex education is a four-letter word to only be muttered in adult company."

Houston Chronicle - February 15, 2017

State lawmakers take aim at low-income housing

Two bills filed this month in the state legislature would make it harder to develop affordable housing in Texas, imposing onerous new requirements on the projects and giving neighbors broad powers to oppose them. Although the chances of passage are unclear — thousands of measures are filed during the four-month session and only a few become law — the bills would be consistent with many other restrictions the legislature has placed on affordable housing development. Meanwhile, helping low-income people access housing is a rising concern for Texas cities, as a flood of new residents has boosted the cost of both rental and for-sale units.

Houston Chronicle - February 14, 2017

Texas senators split on probe into Flynn talks with Russian ambassador

Texas U.S. Sen. John Cornyn joined other Republican lawmakers Tuesday in calling for an investigation into the resignation of retired Army Gen. Michael Flynn as President Donald Trump's national security adviser. Cornyn, the Senate's No. 2 Republican, said he expected the Senate Intelligence Committee to take up the matter, which has led to a firestorm in Congress since allegations surfaced that Flynn discussed sanctions relief with the Russian ambassador to Washington. "I think there's an orderly process to make sure we get accurate information and we can get the appropriate oversight, and that's what we ought to do," Cornyn told reporters on Capitol Hill.

Houston Chronicle - February 14, 2017

Celebrities, artists tell Texas to drop 'bathroom bill,' other anti-LGBTQ proposals

More than 140 artists, including Lady Gaga and Britney Spears, have signed a letter asking the Texas Legislature to end the "needless targeting of LGBTQ people in Texas." The celebrities range from actor Jennifer Lawrence to late night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel and comedian Amy Schumer, vowing to "commit to doing everything within our power to make sure all of our fans, crews, and fellow artists feel safe and welcome, wherever we go." The letter comes as lawmakers brace this legislative session for debate on the so-called "bathroom bill" that would require transgender people to use the bathroom that corresponds with the sex on his or her birth certificate in government buildings. The bill, SB6, enjoys some support in the Senate but is expected to hit turbulence in the Texas House.

Houston Chronicle - February 14, 2017

Lawmaker's bill reopens debate over $105M Astrodome parking plan

Harris County Judge Ed Emmett voiced concern Tuesday that a bill filed by a veteran state senator jeopardizes the county's plan to revitalize the Astrodome, adding that county representatives would continue to try to persuade legislators to support the $105 million project. Emmett said state Sen. John Whitmire's bill, the Harris County Taxpayer Protection Act, was misleading and that Whitmire's statements that some Astrodome renovation funds could be spent on Minute Maid Park or the Toyota Center were "demonstrably incorrect." "This bill is an example of state government making it more difficult for local government to do its job," Emmett said.

Houston Chronicle - February 14, 2017

Lawmaker's bill would require accurate, age-appropriate sex ed

A Democratic state lawmaker is looking to bolster high school sex education requirements in hopes that Texas can lower its teen birth rates. Rep. Mary González, D-Clint, filed House Bill 1547 to require sex education classes to include "medically accurate, age-appropriate" human sexuality education. The bill would allow students to be excused from the course with the written request of a parent or guardian. "It's deeply troubling that Texas has one of the highest teen birth rates in the nation," González said Tuesday. "Our young people deserve to have correct, accurate information."

Houston Chronicle - February 14, 2017

Abbott's pre-K push not reflected in early House, Senate budgets

Under the pink Capitol dome with hundreds of eyes upon him, Gov. Greg Abbott issued an ultimatum to lawmakers mulling over how much to invest in the next two years on high-quality early education. "Do it right," he implored, raising his voice as lawmakers sat silent, "or don't do it at all." Those words rang out in his State of the State speech last month, accenting criticism of the state's legislative branch whose budget gurus minimized funding for one of his most prized priorities to increase quality learning inside pre-kindergarten classrooms across Texas.

Dallas Morning News - February 13, 2017

Severely disabled kids' lives at risk, parents say, as Texas enacts Medicaid cost-savings plan

Amy Pratt drove her severely disabled son, Quinten, four-plus hours to Children’s Medical Center Dallas only to learn the insurance company that Texas hired to care for him had suddenly denied payment for an important procedure, one that could potentially save the 9-year-old's life. In El Paso, 11-year-old Rudy Smith lost most of the therapy services that helped him cope with cerebral palsy and a severe form of epilepsy, which plagues him with 50 to 100 seizures a day. His mother says she’s having trouble getting prescriptions filled, and the insurance company keeps sending her incorrect or faulty medical supplies.

Dallas Morning News - February 14, 2017

Study: Growing number of Texas school districts aren't teaching sex ed

More than 25 percent of Texas school districts didn't teach sex education last year, and more than 58 percent offered abstinence-only curriculum, according to a study from the Texas Freedom Network Education Fund released Tuesday. The study highlights gaps in the state's sex education offerings and shows a growing number of districts moving away from teaching students anything about sex. "What I've learned in over 30 years in public education is that a lot of school board members are afraid to address this issue, a lot of school administrators are afraid to address this issue and teachers certainly are afraid to address this issue.

Dallas Morning News - February 15, 2017

Providers unclear what 2 Texas abortion bills — using terms like 'dismemberment' — seek to ban

The Senate Committee on Health and Human Services will hear public comments Wednesday on two bills lauded by abortion foes. They would ban what abortion opponents call "partial-birth" and "dismemberment" abortions. The phrases aren't used in textbooks to define medical procedures. So what exactly are lawmakers trying to block?

Dallas Morning News - February 14, 2017

DMN: Eight years in prison for voting illegally is a gross injustice

We all must respect the sanctity of the right to vote. To that end, we have no bone to pick with the criminal justice system holding anyone accountable for voting illegally, whether the person cast a fraudulent ballot mistakenly or deliberately. But we do take issue with the way Tarrant County District Attorney Sharen Wilson and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton are treating Rosa Maria Ortega. She was sentenced last week to eight years in prison and fined $5,000 on each of two counts of illegal voting.

Dallas Morning News - February 15, 2017

Grigsby: Why it's our fault that drunken drivers who kill get away with light punishment

Was your first reaction red-hot outrage when you saw yesterday's headline, "Drunken driver gets 120 days in plea deal for killing woman in Uptown crash"? Outrage sure sums up how I felt. Especially reading word of this seemingly light punishment alongside headlines of a Grand Prairie woman sentenced to eight years in prison for voter fraud and a Mesquite teacher's aide sentenced to six months for misappropriating government funds after lying about having cancer.

Dallas Morning News - February 14, 2017

Advocates for kids, the poor urge Texas Senate to abandon plan to cut spending across the board

Advocates for children, the poor and low-income working Texans urged key senators Tuesday to abandon a main element of their chamber's starting-point budget — a 1.5 percent across-the-board cut in all programs except basic state aid to public schools. The haircut would save $1.06 billion in general-purpose state money over the next two years. Critics of the plan warned that at the Health and Human Services Commission alone, curtailed spending on Medicaid and other programs would take down an additional $560 million in funds that the federal government matches.

Dallas Morning News - February 14, 2017

Survey would aim to settle Red River families' land fight with federal government

Legislation that would order a survey of contested land along Texas' Red River cleared the House on Tuesday. The legislation, sponsored by U.S. Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Clarendon, seeks to end a long-running dispute between seven Texas families and the Bureau of Land Management over tens of thousands of acres along the Texas-Oklahoma border. The federal agency contends the land is public, citing a 1923 ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court that assigned land in between the state boundary to the federal government. The families, who filed a lawsuit against the agency in 2015, argue that they have deeds for the land and have paid taxes on it for years.

Dallas Morning News - February 14, 2017

Tech firms powered Texas’ office market last year

The Dallas-Fort Worth area is known as a financial and service sector hub. But in 2016, it was tech companies that took the largest share of office lease deals in the D-FW area, according to commercial property firm CBRE. Dallas/Fort Worth is known for its diverse economy that is largely tied to national economic movement rather than one sector in particular. "As an expanding tech market, it was technology that topped the industry list for large leases in 2016," CBRE researcher Robert Kramp said in a just released report.

Ft. Worth Star-Telegram - February 13, 2017

Texas transportation funds will be protected, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick says

Texas’ new pot of transportation funds will be protected, even though the state faces a funding shortage in many other areas, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick recently told a large gathering. “Last session we put billions into transportation and locked it away,” Patrick told about 1,000 people during a gathering known as the Texas Transportation Forum last week in Austin. The comments are especially interesting today, after a Texas Tribune story reports that lawmakers are now looking at dipping into the transportation funding to help with other needs. Patrick acknowledged to the crowd that there are provisions to use some of the transportation funds — estimated to be an extra $38 billion over 10 years — for other needs, if absolutely necessary. But he also said he didn’t expect to take such steps.

San Antonio Express News - February 14, 2017

UTSA’s Romo put on leave pending review of ‘allegations related to his conduct’

University of Texas at San Antonio President Ricardo Romo has been put on leave “pending a review of allegations related to his conduct,” according to an email sent to university staff and faculty Tuesday afternoon. Pedro Reyes, special assistant to the chancellor and professor of education policy at University of Texas at Austin, is serving as the acting UTSA president during Romo's review. University officials declined to specify the conduct that is under review and Romo said in a text message that he couldn’t comment.

San Antonio Express News - February 15, 2017

Judge rebukes state over heat-related inmate deaths

A federal judge has ruled the Texas prison system and its top leaders must stand trial in a civil rights lawsuit over the heat-related death of an inmate, a sharp rebuke that focused new attention on the deaths of more than 20 other inmates in prison units that lack air-conditioning. The 83-page order by U.S. District Judge Keith Ellison — who personally visited a prison in the summer heat — cites the state’s own records documenting a heat index of about 150 degrees inside the Hutchins State Jail near Dallas where inmate Larry Gene McCollum, 58, a cab driver from Bellmead near Waco, died during a heat wave in 2011. Evidence indicates the heat inside the facility was exacerbated by sealed prison windows, sparse fans, an insufficient supply of cool water and inadequate medical care, the judge ruled.

San Antonio Express News - February 15, 2017

Border bishops reaffirm commitment to immigrants, offer legal and spiritual assistance

A group of Roman Catholic Bishops from across the U.S.-Mexico border on Tuesday pledged their spiritual, legal and material assistance to immigrants in the face of President Trump’s crackdown on illegal immigration. “We have seen the pain, the fear, and the anguish suffered by the persons who have come to us, who may be facing having to live among us in the periphery of our society,” said Daniel E. Flores, the bishop of Brownsville. “They have lived under the constant threat of deportation and have suffered the fear of the possible separation from their families.”

Public News Service - February 13, 2017

TX Coalition Aims to Turn Protesters into Political Movement

A coalition of justice and reproductive rights groups aims to organize into a cohesive political movement the hundreds of thousands of Texans who protested at rallies last month. The groups have formed a campaign called Trust. Respect. Access. to pursue a reproductive health, women's rights and justice policy agenda aimed at Texas lawmakers. Lucy Stein, advocacy director of coalition member Progress Texas, says the group is advocating the issues backed by those who took to the streets after the inauguration of President Donald Trump.

San Antonio Express News - February 14, 2017

Garcia: Why Joaquin Castro thinks Cruz might be vulnerable

Ted Cruz should have been strengthened by his 2016 presidential campaign. After all, he finished second in a GOP field of 17 candidates, and made himself nationally known for something other than once reading “Green Eggs and Ham” on the Senate floor. But Cruz bungled his moment in the spotlight. First, he kissed up to Donald Trump, then he blasted Trump as a “narcissist” and “pathological liar.” He refused to endorse Trump at the Republican National Convention, and got booed in the process. Two months later, Cruz bowed to political pressure and decided the “pathological liar” was okay after all. Then, he almost took back his endorsement when Trump got busted for making lewd comments on a 2005 “Access Hollywood” video.

Associated Press - February 14, 2017

Texas anti-abortion efforts renew after Supreme Court defeat

Undeterred by a U.S. Supreme Court decision striking down sweeping abortion restrictions that were sold as protecting women's health, Texas Republicans are pushing new measures pitched as protecting fetuses, with a hopeful eye toward Washington. New anti-abortion measures are moving through the Legislature — where Democrats are virtually powerless to stop them — and opponents see a shift in GOP strategy after last year's 5-3 Supreme Court ruling that rejected the state's claims of trying to safeguard women and dismantled a 2013 law that prompted many of the state's abortion clinics to close. A state Senate committee on Wednesday will begin hearing three anti-abortion measures, none of which claim to be aimed at protecting women's health.

This article appeared in the Houston Chronicle

Wichita Falls Times Record - February 14, 2017

Bill may finally remove penalty for tiny districts

If life were fair, Superintendent Kevin Dyes' school district in Holliday would be $20 million richer. But he'd settle for the $672,000 more per year the district will get if State Rep. James Frank's (R-Wichita Falls) House Bill 1710 makes its way through the Texas Legislature. "The bill would finally provide fair and equitable funding," Dyes said. HB 1710, along with mirror bills in the House and Senate, are attempts to right a 30-year wrong that carved out especially small districts - landwise - from the funding they would normally be entitled to based on low student numbers. All districts with fewer than 1,600 students receive an extra bump in state funding to cover additional costs related to small class sizes and economies of scale.

KUHF - February 14, 2017

Senator Whitmire Files Bill To Force An Election About Latest Plan For The Astrodome

A Houston lawmaker filed a bill Tuesday that could derail the solution for one of the city’s ultimate dilemmas. Texas State Senator John Whitmire (Democrat-District 15) wants voters to decide what happens to the Astrodome. Senator Whitmire’s bill (SB 884) calls for Texas counties with at least 3.3 million residents to obtain voter approval to redevelop sports facilities older than 50 years if the project costs 10 million dollars or more. All those conditions apply to Harris County’s latest plan for building a garage under the Astrodome and repurpose it to host different kinds of events.

New York Times - February 14, 2017

Even in Texas, Mass Imprisonment Is Going Out of Style

It promises to be a bleak four years for liberals, who will spend it trying — and, most likely, failing — to defend health care, women’s rights, climate change action and other good things. But on one serious problem, continued progress is not only possible, it’s probable. That is reducing incarceration. In an era of what seems like unprecedented polarization and rancor, this idea has bipartisan support. The Koch brothers and Black Lives Matter agree. The American Civil Liberties Union and the American Conservative Union Foundation agree. Bernie Sanders and Newt Gingrich agree.

TechDirt - February 13, 2017

Cyberbullying Bill Would Grant Power To Strip Online Anonymity Before Legal Proceedings Begin

The Texas legislature's proposed cyberbullying bill is gathering more opposition. As we covered here last month, the "for the children" bill was meeting resistance from groups actually concerned about the welfare of the state's children. According to the Texas branch of the National Association of Social Workers, the bill would put more students in harm's way by trimming back counseling and other resources in favor of dumping the problem in the lap of law enforcement. Not only that, but the bill would expand the jurisdiction of school disciplinary procedures to cover actions taken by students off-campus. The bill has additional problems that need to be addressed before it's passed, as the EFF points out.

Midland Reporter Telegram - February 14, 2017

Midlanders don’t need a law to inform about taxes, just a newspaper

The Texas Association of Realtors wants the Texas Legislature to address a “hidden property tax.” A mailer the association is sending to Texans says property values seem to be increasing every year, which is “good for building personal wealth.” The mailer then attacks local elected officials that the mailer claims “vilify increased appraisal values” but don’t lower tax rates to offset higher property values. ... In our view, the mailer attempts to call for unnecessary government, because the only thing Midlanders need to understand their tax situation is a subscription to the Reporter-Telegram -- print or our e-edition -- or have an interest in our website, mrt.com, around the time budget season is in full effect.

KFDA - February 9, 2017

New bill proposed to help injured TX first responders

Some area law enforcement officers have played a big role in the filing of a new state bill meant to better assist first responders who are hurt while on duty. House Bill 1688 proposes a state liaison be established for first responders who need help with medical care and worker's compensation if they're harmed doing their jobs. St. Rep. Dustin Burrows (R-Lubbock) reached out to lots of officers and their family members for input. He believes a state liaison for injured law enforcement would help them through the insurance and medic

County Stories

KFDX - February 14, 2017

County Commissioners Oppose Texas Senate Bill Suporting Property Tax Relief

Also at this morning's county commission meeting, leaders adopted a resolution, opposing a Texas Senate bill relating to property tax relief. Senate Bill 2 (SB-2) would limit annual property tax increases. The bill, if passed, would reduce the 8 percent limit to four percent or lower to call a rollback election. Many local government officials say this puts a restriction on their revenues to finance different needs. ... 100 other counties in the state are voting on their disapproval of the legislation as well according to County Judge Woody Gossom.

Austin American-Statesman - February 15, 2017

Travis County DA seeks to raise bail for man in ‘sanctuary’ battle

Travis County District Attorney Margaret Moore is asking a state district judge this morning to raise the bail of a man accused of sexually assaulting a 9-year-old girl, and who was nearly released on bail before jail staff agreed to hold him for federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents. Moore told the American-Statesman and KVUE-TV that she wants Hugo Gallardo-Gonzalez to remain in the Travis County Jail – and not be immediately deported – until the charge against him can be resolved. “I don’t want him returned to Mexico until we have had a chance to hold him accountable on this offense,” she said.

City Stories

Austin American-Statesman - February 15, 2017

Mayor Adler in open letter to Austin: ICE raids harming community

Austin Mayor Steve Adler on Tuesday released an open letter to Austin, condemning a recent operation by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency in the area that led to the arrests of 51 people. Adler reaffirmed that Austin is a “welcoming, inclusive” community and that “we need ever more to visibly express and reaffirm our values.” Federal immigration officials have said their operation has focused on people with criminal convictions and violent offenders. Here’s Adler’s letter: "Austin is a welcoming, inclusive community where we prioritize everyone’s safety. With the current immigration enforcement action, we need ever more to visibly express and reaffirm our values, individually and collectively.

Houston Chronicle - February 15, 2017

Stradley: Stop Dome dreaming: Upgrade NRG now

"Houston did super job, but stadium needs to be upgraded for game to return." That was the headline of John McClain's column last week about the Super Bowl. And by most reasonable accounts, Houston did a remarkable job for what turned out to be a remarkable game. But wait. To get more events, he writes, we need to spend more? What could make NRG Stadium competitive with the NFL trend of overbuilding stadiums? Can NRG be expanded to hold 105,000 fans like the Cowboys' big television that happens to have a football field under it? What could be added to make it competitive with the $2.5 billion facility in Los Angeles?

Denton Record Chronicle - February 13, 2017

Dad joins push for custody reform

A Shady Shores father has joined a renewed push for legislative reform that would give children equal time with their parents after divorce. Currently, Bret Hohenberger has custody of his two young boys, now 3 and 5 years old. But a year ago, the boys’ mother took custody and wouldn’t let Hohenberger see them. Texas House Bill 453 aims to give children equal time with both parents after they separate. The reform follows similar legislative reforms in other states. For years, custody arrangements favored children growing up primarily in their mother’s care. A growing body of research shows children grow up healthier mentally and physically when they spend more time with their fathers.

Austin American-Statesman - February 14, 2017

City Council considers expanding Capitol view corridors in East Austin

A proposal from Austin City Council Member Ora Houston could dramatically affect the redevelopment of East Austin by imposing new height restrictions on future projects to protect certain views of the state Capitol. Houston’s proposal for five new Capitol view corridors comes as developers increasingly eye East Austin for high-rise development, fueling fears about further change in this once-working class part of town. “This whole conversation, this whole wanting to have some visual history of the relationship between black East Austin and the Capitol started back in 2015,” said Houston, who was inspired by the fight over the once-proposed One Two East development, which would have built a pair of apartment towers on the east side of Interstate I-35 at 12th Street.

Austin American-Statesman - February 14, 2017

Some Austin teachers warned not to give students information on ICE

A handful of Austin district principals, after receiving an email from legal counsel, on Tuesday prohibited teachers or other campus staff from distributing materials to students detailing what to do if immigration enforcement officials show up at their homes or try to question them. In a memo sent to principals Monday night, the district’s attorney spelled out limitations for educators: “An employee, staff member, teacher, or administrator may not speak to political affiliation, views, protests, advocacy or other controversial issues or topics that may arise while on district property, whether that is in a classroom or in an administrative building, working as a district employee, or using district resources.”

Austin American-Statesman - February 14, 2017

Bills would let Cap Metro build more rail without public vote

The “green line,” a proposed 25-mile-long commuter rail line from Austin to Elgin on existing Capital Metro track, has been languishing as an untested and unfunded concept for about a decade now. Not least among the obstacles preventing Capital Metro from building the project, now estimated to cost as much as $460 million: a requirement in state law that voters in Capital Metro’s Austin-dominated service area approve any passenger rail project. That law further stipulates that no rail extension can be longer than 12 miles, a distance that would get the green line only as far as Manor. But two Austin Democrats in recent days have filed identical bills that could give the project something of a pulse. House Bill 1762, authored by state Rep. Celia Israel, and Senate Bill 858, from state Sen. Kirk Watson, would require a rail election only for Capital Metro passenger rail projects that exceed 30 miles in length.

Austin American-Statesman - February 14, 2017

Judge’s order is latest hurdle in Austin’s effort to buy body cameras

The city of Austin’s attempts to buy body cameras for its police officers were halted once again Tuesday after a judge characterized the latest effort as an end-run around a previous order barring the city from moving forward with a contract with Taser International. The Austin City Council remains set Thursday to vote on a $4 million contract with Taser that would buy more than 750 body cameras for Austin’s police. The City Council can approve the contract, but the city cannot sign any contract until at least Feb. 23, when the city and Taser competitor Utility Associates are back in court.

National Stories

Washington Post - February 14, 2017

Ryan faces major test in selling Obamacare repeal and replacement

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) spent Tuesday on a door-to-door tour of the Capitol in hopes of salvaging his plan to repeal and largely replace the Affordable Care Act by spring. The day-long blitz comes as Republicans in Congress have made virtually no visible progress in recent weeks on overhauling the health-care system, according to interviews with several senior GOP aides. That is largely because the party remains sharply divided over how much of the ACA should be repealed and how much — if any of it — should be replaced. The stalemate has lawmakers questioning whether the law known as Obamacare can be effectively gutted by Ryan’s self-imposed deadline of the end of March.

Washington Post - February 14, 2017

Democrats bracing for town hall protests directed at them ask Bernie Sanders for help

Over the past two weeks, crowds — and conflict-hungry media crews — have swarmed town halls and protested at congressional offices. Republicans have gotten the brunt of it, with several members escorted by police through lines of shouting protesters, and some caught scrapping or rescheduling public events or leaving out back doors to dodge angry activists. But protesters have also gathered in blue states, marching to Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer’s home in Brooklyn to demand the obstruction of Trump nominees, and showing up at the offices of safe-seat Democrats to demand that they filibuster Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch. Such episodes spurred Democrats to ask Sanders for help, according to Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.), who attended the meeting on Tuesday.

Politico - February 14, 2017

Doubts grow that GOP can repeal Obamacare

Republicans have reached a gut check moment: After spending more than six years vowing to fix the flagging patient that is Obamacare, it’s the GOP’s own repeal effort that’s on life support. Undoing the health care law despised by conservatives seemed to be a straightforward proposition for the party after it won the White House and retained control of both chambers of Congress. Instead, Republicans are sniping over how much of the law to scrap, what to replace it with and when. At this moment, it's far from a sure thing any plan could get through Congress.

Politico - February 14, 2017

Trump signs bill killing SEC rule on foreign payments

President Donald Trump Tuesday signed the first in a series of congressional regulatory rollback bills, revoking an Obama-era regulation that required oil and mining companies to disclose their payments to foreign governments. That regulation, part of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street reforms, was strongly opposed by the oil and gas industry — including Trump's Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, who as head of Exxon Mobil personally lobbied to kill the Securities and Exchange Commission's rule that he said would make it difficult to do business in Russia.

Politico - February 14, 2017

Humana becomes first major insurer to quit Obamacare exchanges

Health insurance giant Humana on Tuesday said it will quit Obamacare's insurance markets altogether, announcing it will stop selling individual coverage in 2018. The decision makes Humana the first major insurer to fully exit Obamacare amid uncertainty about the GOP's undefined health care plans. Other major insurers said they could also withdraw from Obamacare marketplaces next year if Republicans don't take immediate steps to shore up the law before replacing it. President Donald Trump, whose administration is soon expected to issue rules meant to stabilize Obamacare's marketplaces, cited Humana's decision as the latest sign of the law's struggles.

Washington Post - February 14, 2017

Flynn departure erupts into a full-blown crisis for the Trump White House

President Trump’s ouster of national security adviser Michael T. Flynn, and the circumstances leading up to it, have quickly become a major crisis for the fledgling administration, forcing the White House on the defensive and precipitating the first significant breach in relations between Trump and an increasingly restive Republican Congress. Even as the White House described Trump’s “immediate, decisive” action in demanding ­Flynn’s resignation late Monday as the end of an unfortunate episode, senior GOP lawmakers were buckling under growing pressure to investigate it. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Tuesday that it was “highly likely” that the events leading to Flynn’s departure would be added to a broader probe into Russian meddling in the U.S. presidential election. Intercepts showed that Flynn discussed U.S. sanctions in a phone call with the Russian ambassador — a conversation topic that Flynn first denied and then later said he could not recall.

Austin American-Statesman - February 14, 2017

Republicans reject Doggett bid to force release of Trump’s tax returns

Republicans on the House Ways and Means Committee on Tuesday defeated an amendment by U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin, that would have used a little-known authority of the committee to secure and review in closed session President Donald Trump’s income tax returns. As a candidate and now as president, Trump has broken with precedent by not releasing his tax returns. ‘I am particularly concerned about conflicts with and entanglements with foreign governments and potential violations of the Emoluments Clause,” said Doggett, the ranking Democrat on the Ways and Means Subcommittee on Tax Policy.

Washington Examiner - February 14, 2017

Cruz in push to revoke citizenship from Americans who join Islamic State

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, is renewing a push for Congress to pass legislation that would revoke the citizenship of any American who tries to join the Islamic State or other terrorist groups. Cruz thinks that banning people from terrorist-stricken countries from entering the U.S. only deals with half of the problem, and that the federal government also needs to worry about U.S. citizens who may try the same thing. "If an American citizen travels abroad and joins a terrorist group waging jihad on America, attempting to murder innocent Americans, this legislation would strip that individual of their U.S. citizenship, so that we would not have terrorists returning to America using U.S. passports," Cruz told the Washington Examiner.

Washington Post - February 14, 2017

The partisan split in presidential approval overlaps with the split along racial lines

Since he took office, President Trump’s weekly approval ratings as tracked by Gallup have consistently slipped lower. The first week, he was at a record low 45 percent approval. After week two, 43 percent. After week three, ending on Sunday, 41 percent. We’ve noted before that this is largely a function of party. Trump is far more popular with Republicans than he is with Democrats or independents. His approval rating among Republicans is 46 points higher than his approval rating overall, while it’s 30 points lower among Democrats. For his first three weeks, Obama saw a similar split, though in the other direction. His overall approval rating was substantially higher, with his approval rating from Democrats only 24 points higher than his approval overall.

Dallas Morning News - February 15, 2017

Energy Transfer executive blasts Dakota Access 'half-truths' for damaging company's reputation

A top executive at Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners will lash out on Wednesday at what he calls a "series of politically motivated actions" heaped upon its contentious Dakota Access pipeline by the Obama administration. Joey Mahmoud, an ETP executive vice president, will tell a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee that a "host of half-truths and misrepresentations" about the project have "inflicted significant financial and reputational damage on our company." "We came to realize that even a company as large as Energy Transfer is helpless in the face of a government which will neither obey nor enforce the law," he will say, according to prepared remarks. "We came to realize that playing by the rules can count for little."

The Hill - February 14, 2017

Hispanics are split in DNC race

Latino Democrats are splitting their vote for Democratic National Committee chair, with 10 days to go until the election. While former Labor Secretary Tom Perez is a leading contender for the race, many liberal Latinos are backing his main rival, Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.). “Obviously, as a Latina I’m interested in creating greater opportunities of representation for all people of color,” said Melissa Mark-Viverito, the New York City Council speaker who is backing Ellison. “I do promote Latino candidates, but there should never be the assumption that one automatically supports a Latino candidate,” she added.

The Hill - February 14, 2017

GOP chairman: Oversight won't investigate Flynn

House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) said Tuesday that his panel won't investigate the circumstances that led to Michael Flynn stepping down Monday as President Trump's national security adviser. Instead, Chaffetz deferred to the House Intelligence Committee, which is already investigating Russia's attempt to influence the presidential elections, a scope that includes campaign communications with the Russian government. "I think that situation has taken care of itself. I know that the Intel committee is looking into the hacking issue," Chaffetz told reporters.

Washington Post - February 14, 2017

Top Republican senators say Congress should probe Flynn situation

Top Republican senators said Tuesday that they expect Congress to investigate the circumstances leading up to the resignation of Michael Flynn as President Trump’s national security adviser, opening a new and potentially uncomfortable chapter in the uneasy relationship between Trump and congressional Republicans. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told reporters it is “highly likely” the Senate Intelligence Committee will want to examine the matter as part of a broader probe into Russian meddling in the United States political system — a sensitive topic that has lingered over Republicans since Trump’s election victory.

Associated Press - February 15, 2017

US retail sales rise in January, led by gas and restaurants

Americans increased their spending at gasoline stations and restaurants in January, boosting retail sales even though auto buying fell. Retail sales rose a seasonally adjusted 0.4 percent, down from a solid 1 percent gain in December, the Commerce Department said Wednesday. Overall sales pulled back from a December bump in holiday shopping online and at auto dealers. But Americans spent more than normally expected last month at clothiers, department stores, electronics outlets and sporting goods retailers. The gains point to continued economic growth.

This article appeared in the Houston Chronicle

Fox News - February 14, 2017

Trump's border wall could face a geology problem

President Trump is setting an ambitious timetable for the construction of his promised “big, beautiful border wall.” But aside from potential funding and political complications, geologists and law enforcement officials are pointing to what could be a bigger challenge: the terrain. Citing everything from bedrock depth to soil chemistry, experts say building a wall spanning the 2,000-mile border will be much tougher than erecting one of Trump's trademark skyscrapers. “Earth doesn’t forgive sloppy,” field geologist Mika McKinnon warned in a tweet following Trump’s directive last month to design and construct the wall.

New York Times - February 15, 2017

NYT: Who’d Want to Limit Retirement Plans? House Republicans

There is no overstating how unprepared Americans are to retire. Nearly half of private-sector employees — some 55 million people — do not have an employer-provided retirement plan. Most of them are low- to middle-income earners who will end up relying on Social Security for between half and all of their income in retirement. And yet, as early as Wednesday, House Republicans are expected to pass a measure to thwart efforts by California, Illinois and other states to establish basic retirement savings plans for employees at companies that do not offer such coverage.

Bloomberg - February 15, 2017

Lake: The Political Assassination of Michael Flynn

In normal times, the idea that U.S. officials entrusted with our most sensitive secrets would selectively disclose them to undermine the White House would alarm those worried about creeping authoritarianism. Imagine if intercepts of a call between Obama's incoming national security adviser and Iran's foreign minister leaked to the press before the nuclear negotiations began? The howls of indignation would be deafening. In the end, it was Trump's decision to cut Flynn loose. In doing this he caved in to his political and bureaucratic opposition. Nunes told me Monday night that this will not end well. "First it's Flynn, next it will be Kellyanne Conway, then it will be Steve Bannon, then it will be Reince Priebus," he said. Put another way, Flynn is only the appetizer. Trump is the entree.

Washington Post - February 15, 2017

Borchers: Two explosive reports on Trump and Russia. Zero on-the-record sources.

There's very little good news for President Trump these days. His White House is dealing with not one but two (!) explosive reports that his aides and associates were in contact with Russian intelligence officials during the campaign. But there is one bright spot for Trump: Both of the stories use zero on-the-record sources to back up their claims. CNN, which produced one of the reports, cited "multiple current and former intelligence, law enforcement and administration officials." The New York Times, which published the other, was a bit more specific: "four current and former American officials." Predictably, the use of anonymous sources opened the door for Trump to call the reports "nonsense" and "fake news," though he might have inadvertently lent credence to the stories by tweeting that "information is being illegally given ... by the intelligence community."

Washington Post - February 15, 2017

Republicans believe these 10 House incumbents will face the toughest campaigns of 2018

The Republican Party’s House campaign arm announced its 10 highest-priority incumbents Wednesday, naming the members who will get special attention from party leaders as the GOP tries to fend off a fierce push by Democrats to retake the House in 2018. The 10 House members will participate in the National Republican Congressional Committee’s Patriot Program, which offers fundraising and organizational assistance beyond what’s available to rank-and-file GOP members. Four of them are veterans of Patriot Program, having participated in the 2016 cycle: Reps. Barbara Comstock (Va.), Will Hurd (Tex.), Steve Knight (Calif.) and David Valadao (Calif.). Five others are freshmen who prevailed last year in swing districts: Reps. John Faso (N.Y.), Brian Fitzpatrick (Pa.), Jason Lewis (Minn.), Brian Mast (Fla.) and Claudia Tenney (N.Y.). The tenth is a House veteran, Rep. Darrell Issa (Calif.), who barely eked out a victory in an increasingly competitive San Diego-area district.

Politico - February 15, 2017

Trump attacks claims of ties between his team and Russia as ‘nonsense’

President Donald Trump on Wednesday dismissed reports that his campaign was in frequent touch with senior Russian officials as “nonsense,” but his White House is facing a very real threat of growing calls for investigations into numerous controversies. Trump has struggled to contain metastasizing crises, including sloppy executive orders, vicious infighting among his aides, combative calls with foreign allies, apparent ethics violations and a pile-up of evidence that Trump’s team has extensive ties with Russia that may have aided his victory. The president, however, is on the offensive, blaming the media and the intelligence community for what he continues to call “fake news.”

Politico - February 15, 2017

Trump likens intel community to Russia in renewed barrage against agencies

President Donald Trump renewed his war of words with his own intelligence community on Wednesday morning, blaming it for leaks that have proven damaging to his administration and likening it to Russia. Trump’s lashing out at the intelligence community comes as ties between his presidential campaign and the Russian government have come under renewed scrutiny following the resignation of national security adviser Michael Flynn. That resignation, which came less than a month after Trump took office, came with an admission from Flynn that he had misled Vice President Mike Pence about a telephone conversation he had with Russia’s ambassador to the U.S. regarding sanctions.

Politico - February 15, 2017

Poll: Trump trails generic Democrat, but not Warren, in 2020

Donald Trump begins his presidency facing unprecedented polling headwinds: Roughly a quarter of voters think Donald Trump is the worst president in the past century. Forty-three percent of voters are ready to vote for a nameless Democrat in 2020, while just over a third say they'll vote for Trump. But, in the fourth week of Trump's presidency, a new POLITICO/Morning Consult poll shows that Democrats could be in trouble — and Trump could triumph — if they continue their lurch to the left. Despite the public's increasing misgivings about Trump's behavior and tactics in the White House, he still beats Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) in a hypothetical matchup, 42 percent to 36 percent — a fairly impressive margin for a less-than-popular president against the prominent senator.

New York Times - February 15, 2017

Rahman, Steinberg: Sanctuary Cities in Name Only

President Trump’s plan to deport millions of people appears to be underway. Last week, federal immigration officials arrested more than 600 people at their homes and workplaces in at least 11 states, sending terror through immigrant communities. The abruptness of the raids provoked criticism from local officials, including Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York, who vowed to “stand with” immigrant communities. But mass deportation under President Trump will also happen through a more routine policy that is in the mayor’s control: endless, unnecessary arrests for low-level offenses, which end up feeding immigrants into the federal government’s deportation machine.