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September 22, 2017: All Newsclips | Early Morning Clips | Mid Morning Clips

All - September 22, 2017

Lead Stories

Texas Tribune - September 21, 2017

Attorneys for embattled state Rep. Dawnna Dukes allege unethical behavior by prosecutors

After prosecutors publicized information showing embattled state Rep. Dawnna Dukes, D-Austin, had spent more than $51,000 on an online psychic, Dukes’ attorneys fired back Thursday, accusing Travis County prosecutors of behaving inappropriately and trying to manipulate witnesses in the state representatives’ high-profile corruption case. Lawyers for Dukes argued in a response to prosecutors that Margaret Moore, the district attorney leading the charges against Dukes, had “attempted to pressure” key witnesses familiar with Dukes’ on-the-job spending into giving false statements. Attorney Shaun Clarke also called the charges publicized by Moore’s office Wednesday about Dukes’ personal spending and irregular attendance at the Texas Legislature a “smear job.”

Vox - September 21, 2017

What every major health group has said about Graham-Cassidy

Senate Republicans are teeing up what appears to be one final vote on Obamacare repeal next week. Notably, health care groups — from the American Medical Association to health insurance companies like Blue Cross Blue Shield — are beginning to release statements about the bill sponsored by Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Bill Cassidy (R-SC). Avalere Health, a health care consulting firm, predicted Wednesday that the bill would reduce federal funding to states by $215 billion through 2026 and by more than $4 trillion over a 20-year period. Put simply, the bill would redistribute money allotted for Obamacare and Medicaid expansion to states that have resisted Obamacare implementation. Thirty-four states would lose funding they previously received from the federal government for health care, according to Avalere.

Dallas Morning News - September 21, 2017

Hensarling to flood victims: 'At some point, God’s telling you to move'

House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling said Thursday that for victims of repeat flooding, “at some point, God’s telling you to move.” The Dallas Republican said on a CNBC segment on flood insurance in the wake of Hurricane Harvey that on a recent trip to Houston, he met flood victims whose homes had flooded multiple times over the past decade. “We would be better off, they would be better off, if frankly we bought out a lot of these properties and returned it to moisture-absorbing soil and made it part of a flood control plan,” he said. “Maybe we pay for your home once, maybe we even pay for it twice, but at some point the taxpayer's got to quit paying, and you’ve got to move.”

The Hill - September 20, 2017

GOP takes heavy fire over pre-existing conditions

The new ObamaCare repeal measure from Senate Republicans would give states a way to repeal protections for people with pre-existing conditions, a controversial move that opponents of the bill are denouncing. The provision attracted widespread attention on Wednesday after late-night host Jimmy Kimmel blasted Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), a lead author of the legislation. Kimmel said the senator is violating the “Jimmy Kimmel test,” which Cassidy coined as a way of saying that no one should be denied care because they can’t afford it. “This guy Bill Cassidy just lied right to my face,” Kimmel said. Cassidy denies that his bill would hurt people with health problems. Before getting a waiver from ObamaCare regulations, he notes, states would have to tell the government how they would provide “adequate and affordable” coverage to people with pre-existing conditions.

FiveThirtyEight - September 21, 2017

Silver: The Media Has A Probability Problem

As I’ve documented throughout this series, polls and other data did not support the exceptionally high degree of confidence that news organizations such as The New York Times regularly expressed about Hillary Clinton’s chances. (We’ve been using the Times as our case study throughout this series, both because they’re such an important journalistic institution and because their 2016 coverage had so many problems.) On the contrary, the more carefully one looked at the polling, the more reason there was to think that Clinton might not close the deal. In contrast to President Obama, who overperformed in the Electoral College relative to the popular vote in 2012, Clinton’s coalition (which relied heavily on urban, college-educated voters) was poorly configured for the Electoral College. In contrast to 2012, when hardly any voters were undecided between Obama and Mitt Romney, about 14 percent of voters went into the final week of the 2016 campaign undecided about their vote or saying they planned to vote for a third-party candidate. And in contrast to 2012, when polls were exceptionally stable, they were fairly volatile in 2016, with several swings back and forth between Clinton and Trump — including the final major swing of the campaign (after former FBI Director James Comey’s letter to Congress), which favored Trump.

State Stories

Austin American-Statesman - September 21, 2017

Rep. Dukes’ attorneys tell DA to drop ‘baseless’ felony charges

State Rep. Dawnna Dukes’ lawyers say the felony charges in her corruption case are “legally and factually baseless” and that prosecutors should cut their losses and dismiss them, according to a court document filed Thursday. The filing criticizes District Attorney Margaret Moore and her office for failing to interview a House official about Dukes’ submission of reimbursement travel vouchers that are at the heart of the 13-felony indictment against the Austin Democrat. Steven Adrian, executive director of the House Business Office, informed prosecutors two weeks ago that he told Dukes’ attorneys in January the vouchers complied with House rules.

Austin American-Statesman - September 21, 2017

3 discharged from hospital after caravan crash as Sid Miller, top U.S. agriculture official make Harvey trip

Three people was hospitalized on Thursday afternoon when a vehicle that was part a caravan carrying U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue and Texas Agricultural Commissioner Sid Miller crashed during a survey of Hurricane Harvey damage. Neither Perdue nor Miller was injured in the crash that happened shortly before 1 p.m. near El Campo, Texas Department of Agriculture spokesman Mark Loefller said. Police dispatchers in El Campo said they received reports of the crash in the 29700 block of U.S. 59 near County Road 375 around 1:10 p.m.

Austin American-Statesman - September 21, 2017

Digging out with fewer hands - Hurricane Harvey in Texas: Overlooked victims in small towns face unique challenges

For many Americans, the lasting images of Hurricane Harvey will come from Houston: towering highway interchanges flooded to impossible heights and rows of roofs poking out of the water in city neighborhoods turned into swamps — all with the Bayou City skyline in the background. But as the nation turned its attention to the damage Hurricane Harvey wrought on the Texas’ largest city, small town officials and residents from the Colorado River to the Texas coast were beginning to grapple with the unique challenges they face as disaster victims outside the metropolis.

Austin American-Statesman - September 21, 2017

Driver accused in immigrants’ deaths won’t face death penalty, feds say

Federal prosecutors will not seek the death penalty against a truck driver facing human trafficking charges in the deaths of 10 unauthorized immigrants found inside a sweltering tractor-trailer in San Antonio in July. According to a statement from the U.S. Justice Department on Wednesday, a superseding indictment in the case adds new charges against 60-year-old James Matthew Bradley Jr., of Clearwater, Fla., who already faces a sentence of up to life in prison if convicted. The indictment also names a second suspect, 47-year-old Pedro Silva Segura, an unauthorized immigrant living in Laredo. Segura also faces a possible sentence of life in prison, but prosecutors have not ruled out the possibility of seeking the death penalty against him.

Austin American-Statesman - September 21, 2017

Herman: Paxton opines on freedom for the jennets of Fannin County

From time to time, state Attorney General Ken Paxton has to officially opine. People covet opinions from attorneys general, which makes them different from columnists. Attorney general opinions matter, and they touch on all matters of life in Texas. From way up in Almost Oklahoma came a request for the attorney general’s opinion (certified mail, return receipt requested) from Fannin County District Attorney Richard Glaser on a matter of local controversy dating back to 1918 and involving freedom. We’re talking cattle — and hogs and sheep and goats and horses and mules and jacks and jennets. At this point, you city-dweller you, you’re asking yourself this: What’s a jennet? A jennet is a female donkey. Now you know why you pay for a newspaper.

Texas Tribune - September 21, 2017

Are any Texans in Congress ready to retire in 2018? We asked them.

In recent weeks, several Republicans in the U.S. House announced they would not return to Congress for another term. There’s a sense in the air that more retirements are coming, which leads to the question: Are any more Texans thinking about hanging it up? Two out of the 38 Texans in Congress made clear months ago they weren't seeking re-election: U.S. Rep. Sam Johnson, R-Richardson, announced his retirement earlier this year, and U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke, the El Paso Democrat is challenging U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz. And another of those Texans, U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, won't face re-election again until 2020.

Texas Tribune - September 21, 2017

Texas railroad commissioner wants AG to weigh in on board chair's actions

Two days after Texas Railroad Commissioner Ryan Sitton and the board's chair, Christi Craddick, clashed publicly at a state meeting, Sitton is asking Attorney General Ken Paxton to weigh in on his colleague's actions. And Craddick is accusing Sitton of seeking "an opportunity for political gain." In a tense exchange Tuesday that was captured on camera, Sitton accused Craddick of trying to oust the agency's executive director, Kimberly Corley, without consulting him or the commission's third member. "This isn't a dictatorship," Sitton snapped at Craddick during the exchange. In a statement Thursday, Craddick acknowledged she "had a private conversation with the executive director regarding this matter."

San Antonio Express News - September 21, 2017

Evacuated inmates about to be moved due to heat issues

It’s been a busy summer for prison bus drivers in Texas. First a federal court order prompted Texas prison officials to move vulnerable inmates at a geriatric unit into air-conditioned facilities, and only weeks later an epic hurricane triggered evacuations at three prisons along the swollen Brazos River. Now, a new court order has caused the Texas Department of Criminal Justice officials to hit the roads again. Beginning Friday, officials said they’d move the majority of a Rosharon facility’s inmates who were housed during Hurricane Harvey in a non-air-conditioned facility in Navasota, to a third site in Beaumont. More than 700 heat-sensitive evacuees were expected to be transferred.

Houston Chronicle - September 21, 2017

Lawsuit challenging Texas' futile care law goes before judge Friday

The day Chris Dunn died at Houston Methodist Hospital, following an emotional battle over doctors' plan to withdraw life support, the family's attorney asked Evelyn Kelly if she was ready to call it quits. Kelly, Dunn's mother, had enlisted lawyer Joe Nixon to file the restraining order that halted Methodist's use of the Texas law that gives hospitals the authority to discontinue life-sustaining treatment doctors deem futile. Now, he wanted to know whether she wanted to try to have the law itself repealed. "I am in it to win it," the Pasadena woman told him that December 2015 day. "I don't want see any other mother put through what I went through."

Houston Chronicle - September 21, 2017

Texas prisons quietly end use of punitive solitary confinement

While reform advocates across the nation fight to end solitary confinement for breaking rules, Texas prisons quietly eliminated the practice earlier this month. "When reviewing solitary confinement as a policy and practice we determined that as a department we can effectively operate without it," said Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokesman Jason Clark. The change took place Sept. 1. The more heavily used administrative segregation - non-punitive isolation due to perceived security risks or danger to others - is still in use, though its prevalence has plummeted over the past decade.

Dallas Morning News - September 21, 2017

Senate hopeful Beto O'Rourke not worried Democrats still don't have candidate for Texas governor

U.S. Senate hopeful Beto O'Rourke said this week he isn't worried that Democrats haven't found a viable candidate to run for governor of Texas. "The only thing I can do is what I can do. I can control our campaign," O'Rourke told The Dallas Morning News during a campaign stop at the University of Texas at Dallas. "I'm not concerned. There's clearly something different in Texas right now ... folks are coming out like I've never seen before. As word gets out, as people see that, there's going to be a greater interest in getting into the race."

Dallas Morning News - September 21, 2017

Gov. Greg Abbott's dog Oreo, first dog of Texas, dies at 13

Oreo, the first dog of Texas, has died. Gov. Greg Abbott shared the news Thursday on Twitter. Border collie Oreo is survived by golden retriever Pancake, who joined the Abbott family — and Twitter — in 2015.

Dallas Morning News - September 21, 2017

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

No one in the criminal justice system is responsible for the safety of children whose mothers go to jail, an investigation by The Dallas Morning News has found. Not in North Texas, and not in most communities across the country. While the moms may have committed crimes, the kids are innocent. Most were born and raised in tough circumstances they didn’t choose. When their mothers get locked up, the children often suffer. No agency tracks or monitors the children of people who are arrested, not even of women who are solo caretakers. So no one knows how many kids are home alone because of a parent’s arrest. No one knows how many go to foster care. Or get handed off to inappropriate guardians. Or end up on the streets.

Dallas Morning News - September 21, 2017

DMN: How to keep Texans from texting behind the wheel (yes, even you)

Benjamin Franklin is right: "It is easier to prevent bad habits than to break them." That's the dilemma Texas now faces in its campaign to pry cellphones out of the hands of texting motorists. As of Sept. 1, a statewide law made it illegal to text while driving. That ended a decade-old push by safety advocates to cut down on distracted driving in Texas, among the last states to embrace a no-texting ban. But what exactly do we expect to happen when a well-intentioned new law runs into well-entrenched old habits in a state as stubborn as ours? Well, with less than a month under our belts, that remains to be seen. No one has a firm grip on the numbers yet.

County Stories

Dallas Morning News - September 21, 2017

Foreclosures on the rise in Houston's housing market after Harvey's floods

Houston's housing market will be in recovery mode for a while following epic floods from Hurricane Harvey. But the Bayou City's residential market was already sinking before Harvey hit. Foreclosure postings in the Houston area were up by a staggering 67 percent before the storm blew in, according to a new report by Attom Data Solutions. Nationwide, foreclosures were 21 percent below where they were a year earlier in August. Economists and real estate agents predict that Houston foreclosures will rise as some owners walk away from mortgages on properties that were heavily damaged by flooding and had no insurance.

City Stories

Dallas Morning News - September 21, 2017

How Dallas helps low-level offenders get their lives back on track

When the governor appointed me to serve as the Dallas County district attorney, one of my key initiatives was making criminal justice reform a priority. As the district attorney, it is my duty to put the bad guys away, but it is also my duty to do my part to make sure that justice is fair to all involved. In 2016, the DA's office disposed of more than 50,000 cases. Many of those people received probation while hundreds of others were referred to one of our 14 diversion programs. For the most part, people who are sent to these diversion programs have simply made mistakes and we can help these low-level offenders get their lives back on track.

National Stories

Dallas Morning News - September 21, 2017

Murdock: Excoriate the left for Trump-white-supremacy lie

If Trump is a white supremacist, he's a pretty bad one. He repeatedly says and does things that must aggravate true white supremacists. Consider Trump's inaugural address, which made Clinton's skin crawl. "When you open your heart to patriotism, there is no room for prejudice," Trump said. "It is time to remember that old wisdom our soldiers will never forget: that whether we are black or brown or white, we all bleed the same red blood of patriots, we all enjoy the same glorious freedoms, and we all salute the same great American flag." How many Klansmen think such things as they set crosses ablaze?

New York Times - September 20, 2017

Markell: Let’s Stop Government Giveaways to Corporations

Amazon recently sent state and city officials across the country scrambling to respond to its announcement that it was seeking enticements to build a second headquarters, promising 50,000 new jobs and $5 billion in investment to the winning location. Governments are mobilizing to devise lucrative incentive packages. I know how this works, because I spent eight years supporting these types of incentives as the governor of Delaware. Amazon’s public encouragement of a bidding war highlights a competition that state and local governments engage in every day. I became very familiar with this process: A big business promises thousands, hundreds or even dozens of jobs and waits for offers from mayors and governors eager to demonstrate to voters that they are bringing them jobs. In Delaware, our economic development office, with my full approval, was busy calculating direct subsidies to corporations through grants and tax breaks. I was as guilty as any elected official at playing this game. But it’s a game that should stop. There’s a better way to compete for business.

Houston Chronicle - September 21, 2017

Sen. Ted Cruz says flood control will be a priority in Congress

Sen. Ted Cruz said Thursday that Congress will make flood control and mitigation a focal point of efforts to rebuild after Hurricane Harvey, citing the Addicks and Barker reservoirs as potential projects that could be targeted for upgrades. Meanwhile, House Speaker Paul Ryan, who toured the Houston area with Texas Sens. Cruz and John Cornyn and other lawmakers, said the next round of funding for disaster relief could come as soon as next month. But Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican, did not commit to funding a long-sought coastal barrier that area officials say would protect the region from massive storm surges.

New York Times - September 20, 2017

Insurers Come Out Swinging Against New Republican Health Care Bill

The health insurance industry, after cautiously watching Republican health care efforts for months, came out forcefully on Wednesday against the Senate’s latest bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act, suggesting that its state-by-state block grants could create health care chaos in the short term and a Balkanized, uncertain insurance market. In the face of the industry opposition, Senate Republican leaders nevertheless said they would push for a showdown vote next week on the legislation, drafted by Senators Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Bill Cassidy of Louisiana.

Dallas Morning News - September 21, 2017

Seoul media say North Korea might test hydrogen bomb in the Pacific Ocean

South Korean media report North Korea's top diplomat says his country may test a hydrogen bomb in the Pacific Ocean to fulfill leader Kim Jong Un's vow to take the "highest-level" action against the United States. Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho comments Thursday on the sidelines of a United Nations gathering followed an extraordinary direct statement by Kim in response to President Donald Trump's threat to "totally destroy" the North. Mocking 'rocket man,' Trump at U.N. threatens to 'destroy' South Korea's Yonhap news agency reports that Ri told reporters in New York that a response "could be the most powerful detonation of an H-bomb in the Pacific."

Ft. Worth Star-Telegram - September 20, 2017

Cruz praises end of DACA but has no solution for Dreamers

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s tough stance on immigration has put him at odds with fellow Republicans in his own state as he prepares for a re-election run next year. Cruz, R-Texas, has wholeheartedly praised President Donald Trump’s decision to end the Obama-era DACA program in six months. Trump also asked Congress to consider a replacement for the program, which protects undocumented immigrants brought here as children by their parents from deportation. But as Cruz gets ready to seek a second Senate term in a state with the nation’s second largest such population, a state where even staunch conservatives routinely reject hard-line immigration proposals, he has yet to offer any solution for the fate of the approximately 125,000 people affected in Texas.

Associated Press - September 20, 2017

Prospects for air traffic control privatization appear slim

President Donald Trump has made airlines' longtime goal of privatizing air traffic control a key part of his agenda to boost America's infrastructure. But his prospects for closing the deal with Congress appear slim. A House bill that would put the aviation industry in charge of air traffic control has repeatedly stalled and prospects appear even worse in the Senate, where there has been no effort to take up the issue. While the White House and airline lobbyists have pushed for privatization, there has been fierce opposition from private pilots, corporate aircraft owners and others who fear they will have to pay more to use the system and would lose access to busy airports.

This article appeared in the San Antonio Express News

San Antonio Express News - September 20, 2017

Federal task force to probe targeting of veterans to refinance

Air Force veteran Roy Ledesma moved into his new home on the far West Side in February and hadn’t finished unpacking when he got his first call from a lender. He started getting one, two, and then dozens of calls asking him if he wanted to refinance his home. Since moving in, he said he’s received almost 100 solicitations in the mail and has spent around 120 hours on the phone or in meetings with lenders and salesman. “I’m thinking of changing my phone number,” said Ledesma, who lives in Kallison Ranch. “If you’re a veteran, they really go after you.”

Dallas Morning News - September 21, 2017

A Texas professor explains why your favorite living president was a failure

Jeremi Suri calls Donald Trump "the final fall of the Founders' presidency," a man "elected to promote raw power above all," but this is not primarily a book about Trump. And while our government today spends vastly more than the governments of George Washington, Andrew Jackson, Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt and Franklin D. Roosevelt — the five "transformational presidents" whom Suri examines — this is not a simplistic harangue against government spending. Indeed, the burgeoning federal budget is only one force that has brought about the paradox ably explored by Suri, a professor of history at the University of Texas at Austin whose previous books include Liberty's Surest Guardian: Rebuilding Nations After War From the Founders to Obama.

Dallas Morning News - September 20, 2017

DMN: Another quake, another hurricane -- evidence not of end-times but of steely human resolve

If only these disturbing scenes of natural disaster's fury were clips from last week or the week before. But no, the hits just keep coming: Brigades of volunteer rescuers continue to claw through the rubble of Mexico City and surrounding towns in desperate hope of denting the growing death toll of Tuesday's powerful earthquake. The 7.1 magnitude killer rocked central Mexico just a week after an even bigger one struck to the south and just hours after the capital commemorated the anniversary of the 1985 quake that killed thousands.

All - September 21, 2017

Lead Stories

Houston Chronicle - September 21, 2017

Houston foreclosure postings soared pre-Harvey

Scheduled foreclosure auctions on Houston-area homes were up 67 percent in August compared to last year, a new report shows. Counter to national data, which show so-called foreclosure starts declining, nearly 5,000 Houston-area homes have started the foreclosure process, up 28 percent so far this year. Overall foreclosure activity, including starts and completions, was up 44 percent in Houston.

Austin American-Statesman - September 20, 2017

State Rep. Dukes’ $51k bill for psychic is exhibit in corruption trial

As they prepare for state Rep. Dawnna Dukes’ corruption trial next month, Travis County prosecutors are prepared to present evidence that she showed up to work at the Capitol impaired, hid a cellphone from investigators and spent more than $51,000 on an online psychic. Those accusations are among 19 “extraneous acts” contained in a court document prosecutors had to file this week to reveal to Dukes’ attorneys matters they intend to bring up in her misdemeanor trial, scheduled for Oct. 16. It is not clear how many of the details outlined in the court records relate to the charge that Dukes faces. The Austin Democrat is accused of giving a taxpayer-funded raise to a legislative aide to cover gas money for driving Dukes’ daughter to and from school.

Dallas Morning News - September 20, 2017

Jeffers: Joe Straus, riding high after special session, could still choose to hang up his spurs as Texas House speaker

On the Friday before the end of the regular legislative session, just as he's done in the past, Joe Straus filed for re-election as House speaker. But there's a good chance the San Antonio Republican won't return for an unprecedented sixth term as leader of the House. His candidate filing was before the summer special session convened, and it would have been disastrous for him to be a lame duck when his supporters needed him to ride tall in the saddle when confronting Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick. Let me be clear: Only Straus knows his plans for 2019 and beyond. He has said little about returning as speaker since filing for re-election. But several Texas Republican House members are positioning themselves to replace him if Straus gives up the gavel.

Washington Post - September 21, 2017

Pence just settled it: Republicans’ Obamacare repeal bill can’t guarantee protections for preexisting conditions

A major public flash point in Republicans' efforts to repeal Obamacare is whether it will protect people with preexisting conditions. It's become a flash point for two reasons: 1. Jimmy Kimmel 2. What the bill says it would do on paper for people with preexisting conditions and what it would do in practice for people with preexisting conditions are very different. Technically, this bill says health insurers can't refuse sick people insurance like they could pre-Obamacare. If states ask the federal government to let insurers stop charging sick and healthy people the same amount, they have to explain how they'll provide affordable coverage to sick people.

Houston Chronicle - September 20, 2017

DePillis: Harvey created Texas' biggest unemployment spike in decades

Last week, we learned that the Texas Workforce Commission had received a huge number of claims for Hurricane Harvey-related unemployment insurance, causing delays in processing that have created some hardship for people left short on cash. To put that in perspective, the Dallas Federal Reserve produced this chart — to which I added pink labels — showing just how dramatic that spike in the two weeks following the storm really was: As of today, the TWC reports that it has received 136,000 claims and paid out $9.4 million in assistance. In order to handle the influx, the deadline for applying has been extended to October 31, for all 39 counties in Texas' disaster zone.

Washington Post - September 20, 2017

Manafort offered to give Russian billionaire ‘private briefings’ on 2016 campaign

Less than two weeks before Donald Trump accepted the Republican presidential nomination, his campaign chairman offered to provide briefings on the race to a Russian billionaire closely aligned with the Kremlin, according to people familiar with the discussions. Paul Manafort made the offer in an email to an overseas intermediary, asking that a message be sent to Oleg Deripaska, an aluminum magnate with whom Manafort had done business in the past, these people said. “If he needs private briefings we can accommodate,” Manafort wrote in the July 7, 2016, email, portions of which were read to The Washington Post along with other Manafort correspondence from that time.

Dallas Morning News - September 20, 2017

DMN: Government agencies are holding our records and trying to keep us from seeing them; that's not right

Here's an alarming new threat to the public's right to know: More and more government agencies around the country are suing private citizens who request access to public information, in order to keep them from seeing the records. Outrageous. There's no better protection to our democracy than our ability to hold the people we elect to public office accountable for how they're spending our tax dollars and conducting our business. These are our records, after all, and these agencies are stomping on citizens' right to keep track of what government is doing.

Texas Tribune - September 21, 2017

New law seeks to prevent surprise medical bills from freestanding ERs

Patients who visit freestanding emergency rooms in Texas should now have a better idea of whether their health insurance will cover the bill. A new state law that took effect Sept. 1 requires the facilities — which resemble urgent care clinics but often charge hospital emergency room prices — to post notice of what, if any, insurance networks they're in. The new law is about “protecting consumers,” said Jamie Dudensing, chief executive officer of the Texas Association of Health Plans. Meant to prevent patients from surprising — and often debilitating — medical bills, freestanding ERs can comply with the new rules by posting the insurance information on their websites, as long as written confirmation is also provided to patients.

Buzzfeed - September 18, 2017

Latino Republicans Say They Aren't Getting Their Calls Returned By The White House

Latino Republicans are increasingly frustrated with their limited access to the White House, telling BuzzFeed News the White House's Hispanic outreach has been ineffective and laying blame on the official who is running point on coalition building. Their issue is with Jennifer Korn, the deputy director in the Office of the Public Liaison and a special assistant to the president, and they feel that the timing is particularly poor for limited communication between the White House and Latino groups. After announcing an end to the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which protected young undocumented immigrants brought to the US as children from deportation, President Trump is now weighing policy that would implement those protections legislatively.

New York Times - September 19, 2017

Democrats Mount Effort to Recruit Women as State Attorneys General

Hillary Clinton’s defeat last year ignited an intense debate about the role of gender in American politics, but the presidential race overshadowed a deeper structural challenge for Democrats: They have a scarcity of female officeholders in state capitals. Only two governors and five state attorneys general are Democratic women, an acute problem for a party that counts women as a pillar of its base and trumpets the value of diverse representation. Moving to address the disparity, the Democratic Attorneys General Association gathered here last week and created a committee of current and former attorneys general and other partners to recruit, train and raise money for female candidates. The project is called the 1881 Initiative, named for the first year that a woman sought, unsuccessfully, the office of state attorney general. (Two did, in California and Illinois.) The goal is to ensure that in five years, at least half of the party’s attorneys general will be women.

State Stories

Houston Chronicle - September 20, 2017

Post-Harvey tax increases 'huge mistake,' key state senator declares

One of the top Republicans leaders in the Texas Legislature is slamming the city of Houston and other local governments for trying to raise taxes on homeowners in the name of hurricane recovery. And he's certain the increase will provoke a response of some sort from the Legislature. "I don't understand this mindset," state Sen. Paul Bettencourt, a Republican from Houston, said. "It's callous." He said homes have been flooded and damaged, and local governments' first reaction appears to be raise taxes on those same people even though local officials have emergency funds and federal aid is on the way.

Houston Chronicle - September 21, 2017

Trump administration resumes immigrant arrests in Houston after Harvey

President Donald Trump's administration announced Wednesday that it had resumed the apprehension of immigrants here illegally following a pause in enforcement during Hurricane Harvey rescue and recovery efforts. The change is effective immediately, Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials said in a statement. "(ICE) officers have resumed regular, targeted immigration enforcement operations in the area — with the exception of immediate relief operations like shelters and food banks," the agency said.

Houston Chronicle - September 21, 2017

Texas woman upset over Hobby Lobby's cotton stems receives death threats

The Killeen woman who criticized Hobby Lobby for selling cotton home arrangements says she has received death threats online after her Facebook post went viral. Daniell Rider has also been insulted racially after she called Hobby Lobby's cotton stalks "WRONG on SO many levels." She added that cotton is a "commodity which was gained at the expense of African-American slaves" and should not be used in a decorative manner. In an interview with KCEN-TV, Rider explained that cotton "represents a time of oppression for my people."

Houston Chronicle - September 20, 2017

Texas' Castro again says he's not planning gubernatorial run

U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro is repeating that he has no plans to run for Texas governor despite the state's Democratic Party chairman insisting last week that the congressman's still considering it. Castro, a San Antonio Democrat, said Tuesday at the state Capitol, "My plan is to run for re-election." But he also called Texas Democratic Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa a "great friend" and simply laughed when asked if would definitively rule out a gubernatorial run.

Dallas Morning News - September 20, 2017

Trump judicial nominee, top Texas AG official, called transgender kids part of 'Satan's plan'

Jeff Mateer, a top lawyer for the state of Texas and recent pick for a federal judgeship, described transgender children as evidence of "Satan's plan" in a 2015 speech, first reported by CNN on Wednesday. In a pair of speeches that year, Mateer complained that states were banning conversion therapy and said same-sex marriage would lead to polygamy and bestiality and other "disgusting" forms of wedlock. Advocacy groups called Mateer — the first assistant to Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton — an extremist and an example of the Trump administration's antagonism toward gay, lesbian and transgender people.

Dallas Morning News - September 21, 2017

Texas GOPers spending campaign cash at Trump's D.C. hotel not illegal, but 'not ideal', ethics expert says

Five Texas Republicans have used campaign cash to rack up hundreds of dollars in expenses at Trump International Hotel in Washington, giving pause to ethics experts who’ve raised concerns about President Donald Trump’s continued ownership of his business empire. The expenditures by Reps. Jodey Arrington of Lubbock, Kevin Brady of The Woodlands, Blake Farenthold of Corpus Christi, Michael McCaul of Austin and Roger Williams of Austin — detailed in campaign finance data reviewed by The Dallas Morning News — are perfectly legal. But the bills highlight the hotel’s rise as the new epicenter of political Washington — and the potential pitfalls that come from Trump’s refusal to divest from his iconic real estate operation.

Dallas Morning News - September 20, 2017

Texas' bridges aren't bad, but roads and other infrastructure need serious work, engineers say

When it comes to the state's bridges, roads and other infrastructure, Texas has work to do, according to a national engineering group. The American Society of Civil Engineers gave Texas a C-minus in its 2017 report card released Thursday, noting that Hurricane Harvey serves as a reminder of the value of infrastructure. “Life grinds to a halt when our bridges, wastewater treatment plants, and utility lines are out of service,” Travis Attanasio, the vice president for professional affairs for the Texas section, said in a news release.

Dallas Morning News - September 20, 2017

Snitch testimony sent innocent man to prison for 18 years. Texas lawmakers hope he's the last

John O’Brien worked in the Tarrant County Jail library in 1997 and befriended a fellow inmate who asked for his advice. One day as they chatted about John Nolley’s legal woes, the pet store clerk and small-time pot dealer confessed to savagely stabbing to death Sharon McLane in her Bedford apartment. That’s the story O’Brien told jurors at Nolley’s 1998 trial, anyway. He also assured them that prosecutors hadn’t promised him anything in exchange for his testimony and that he had never before snitched on a fellow inmate. Almost none of O’Brien’s story was true, particularly the bit about Nolley’s confession. But the jurors didn’t know that, and they sentenced Nolley to life in prison for the crime. He spent 18 years in prison before investigators uncovered new evidence pointing to his innocence.

Dallas Morning News - September 20, 2017

Endowment that supports UT and A&M backs off new investments in buyout funds

The University of Texas Investment Management Co. is assessing its allocation to buyout and other private equity funds after the asset class increased to 40 percent of the $29 billion endowment, chief executive officer Britt Harris said in a phone interview. The nonprofit oversees assets for the University of Texas and Texas A&M University. Bruce Zimmerman, who resigned in October after nine years as UTIMCO's CEO, oversaw an expansion of the endowment's investments in buyout, venture capital, real estate and other private funds, increasing them from about 12 percent of the portfolio.

Austin American-Statesman - September 20, 2017

Emergency grants available to preserve cultural materials damaged by hurricanes

Some museums, libraries, colleges and other cultural institutions in Texas and other states and territories sustained damage to their collections from recent hurricanes. It’s not widely known, but the National Endowment for the Humanities can help. Emergency grants of up to $30,000 are available from the federal agency to preserve documents, books, photographs, art works, historical objects, sculptures and structures damaged by the hurricanes and subsequent flooding. The endowment will award up to $1 million in such grants, according to acting Chairman Jon Parrish Peede.

Austin American-Statesman - September 20, 2017

Arreaza, Martinez: Fix up the Gulf Coast — but not at the expense of safety

The Gulf Coast is an industrial powerhouse, home to nearly a quarter of U.S. oil refining capacity and half of the nation’s chemical manufacturing. In the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, dozens of these refineries and factories have been sidelined. Companies will move quickly to get their facilities up and running. Fair enough: An idle business means lost paychecks, lost profits and lost tax revenue. Consumers may face long wait times and higher prices for gasoline and other essential products. We all want our tanks full — and as little interruption as possible in the flow of consumer goods. But let’s not forget the impact on workers. Employers will want to move fast to ramp up production – but if they move too fast, workers will face unnecessary risks.

Austin American-Statesman - September 20, 2017

Abbott asks Trump to extend Hurricane Harvey assistance to churches

Gov. Greg Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton asked President Donald Trump in a letter Wednesday to change a Federal Emergency Management Agency policy that bars disaster assistance from going to places “primarily used for religious activities.” Churches from the Coastal Bend to the Houston area sustained damage from Hurricane Harvey, which struck the Texas coast near Port Aransas on Aug. 25 with sustained winds of 132 mph. The storm devastated numerous coastal and rural communities, and left large portions of Houston and Beaumont under several feet of water. At least 70 deaths were reported.

Austin American-Statesman - September 21, 2017

First Reading: Austin-bound, Al Franken talks Trump, Schumer, LBJ, Perry, Cornyn and, of course, Ted Cruz

On Tuesday evening I interviewed Minnesota Sen. Al Franken in advance of his coming to Austin to deliver the keynoter at the Texas Tribune Festival Friday night. Franken will be talking about his book, Al Franken: Giant of the Senate, which devotes a long chapter to his loathing of Ted Cruz, which I have written about before. I wrote in today’s Statesman about how: Franken and Cruz will bookend the Texas Tribune Festival this weekend. Franken will be interviewed by Texas Tribune CEO Evan Smith on Friday night. On Sunday, Smith will moderate a discussion with Cruz and his Texas Republican Senate colleague, John Cornyn. Smith said that he didn’t know Cruz would figure so importantly in Franken’s book when he arranged for Franken’s prime spot at the conference, but said, “It’s the cherry on the sundae.”

Austin American-Statesman - September 20, 2017

UT’s 4-year graduation rate rises, but still falls short of 70% goal

The University of Texas has made considerable progress in raising its four-year graduation rate — especially among minority students, those from low-income families and students who are the first generation in their families to attend college — but nonetheless fell short of achieving its 70 percent goal this year. Among freshmen who enrolled in 2013, 65.7 percent graduated in 2017, according to figures compiled by UT. That is up from last year’s 60.9 percent graduation rate and the highest for the Austin flagship “in modern memory,” officials said. A goal of 70 percent for the Class of 2016 was set in 2011, when the graduation rate stood at 50.9 percent, by Bill Powers, who was then UT president. The target date was later adjusted to 2017.

Austin American-Statesman - September 20, 2017

New Texas 130 owners to make $60 million in repairs to bumpy road

The southern, privately built section of Texas 130, which has been an obstacle course of bumps and cracks since shortly after its October 2012 opening, will see $60 million of pavement repairs over the next year in 35 spots between Mustang Ridge and Seguin. Crews in many cases will be removing five feet or more of the road’s “sub-base,” the treated and compacted soil layers that underlie the highway’s asphalt driving surface, replacing it with soil with different, stronger properties, and then repaving those rehabilitated sections.

Texas Tribune - September 21, 2017

Along the Texas coast, food banks brace for post-Harvey need

Dan Maher is watching the inconvenience of disaster settling in as Hurricane Harvey victims trickle back into Beaumont. As residents make their first visits to lost homes and begin the daunting Federal Emergency Management Assistance application process, Maher, executive director of the Southeast Texas Food Bank, is preparing his staff for the coming onslaught of people turning to them for meals. Since the storm, they've given out more than 1.5 million pounds of food.

San Antonio Express News - September 20, 2017

Abbott names San Antonian chairman of Texas Transportation Commission

San Antonio businessman J. Bruce Bugg Jr. will continue efforts to reduce congestion around the state’s biggest cities as the newly named chairman of the five-member Texas Transportation Commission, he said Wednesday. “I am honored and absolutely ecstatic and ready to go,” Bugg said. Bugg is chairman and chief executive officer of Argyle Investment Co. LLC and chairman of the board of the Bank of San Antonio, among other titles, according to Gov. Greg Abbott’s office. Abbott, who first appointed Bugg in 2015 to the powerful commission overseeing the Texas Department of Transportation, announced the leadership change Tuesday.

San Antonio Express News - September 20, 2017

Cleanup crews have removed '8 football fields' worth of debris after Harvey

State workers are busy removing signs of Harvey's devastation across Texas. So far, 432,000 cubic feet or eight football fields worth of debris have been cleared from Texas roadways, according to Gov. Greg Abbott. That's almost enough to fill up five Olympic-sized swimming pools with debris. "Removing debris from the areas affected by Hurricane Harvey continues to be a top priority for the state," said Governor Abbott in a prepared statement. "TxDOT's efforts are having a meaningful impact and are helping Texans get back to normalcy as quickly as possible."

San Antonio Express News - September 20, 2017

Appeals court to review Texas’ sanctuary cities law

Texas’ law banning so-called sanctuary cities will get its first appellate review this week during a court hearing Friday in New Orleans. The law, known as SB 4, was supposed to have taken effect Sept. 1, but in a ruling two days before that, Chief U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia of San Antonio questioned its constitutionality and issued an order that temporarily blocked most of its provisions from being implemented. The state appealed to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and asked for an emergency stay of Garcia's temporary restraining order. The New Orleans-based appeals court took the unusual step of setting “special” oral arguments this Friday on the request.

Dallas Morning News - September 21, 2017

A federal decision threatens thousands of jobs in Texas' fast-growing solar industry

A trade decision out of Washington D.C. on Friday could derail Texas’ momentum as one of the nation’s fastest growing solar energy markets and eliminate thousands of new jobs in the state, industry leaders say. The U.S. International Trade Commission is scheduled to decide whether the domestic solar cell and solar panel industry needs protection from cheap imports. The federal agency is responding to a complaint from Georgia-based Suniva and others that the domestic panel and cell manufacturing industry face an “existential threat” as imports have “unexpectedly exploded and prices have collapsed.”

Ft. Worth Star-Telegram - September 20, 2017

Unlike his opponent, Beto O’Rourke says he’s the ‘only one who tweets’ on his account

Just in case you were wondering, Beto O’Rourke — the El Paso Democrat challenging Republican Ted Cruz for his U.S. Senate seat next year — staffs his own Twitter account. And he even drew some “well-deserved” criticism for it during a Wednesday campaign event at TCU, he told the Star-Telegram’s Editorial Board. A student told O’Rourke that he isn’t on Twitter enough.

Texas Observer - September 20, 2017

Where do Texas Democrats Stand on Single-Payer Health Care?

About 4.5 million Texans would get coverage under the single-payer health care legislation that’s gaining traction in Congress. Texas, with the highest uninsured rate in the country — nearly twice the national rate — has a lot of catching up to do. But many Democrats still see single-payer health care as a risky political move, especially as Republicans continue attempts to dismantle the Affordable Care Act. Only six of the 11 Texas Democrats in Congress have signed on as co-sponsors. The legislation won’t pass anytime soon. But growing support, in part thanks to Senator Bernie Sanders’ campaign, is a big shift. For Texas Democrats who are on board, single-payer health care is a way to bridge the insurance gap with other states and sidestep Texas Republicans’ decision to decline Medicaid expansion and otherwise limit health care access. But others are more wary.

Vice - September 20, 2017

Trump could help these energy-fueled local economies bounce back

Cities and towns that depend on the energy business had a pretty ugly 2016, but their fortunes could be turning under Trump. New government data shows local economies relying on the energy industry suffered steep declines in output last year, as weakness in the price of oil, natural gas, and coal cut down on drilling and mining activity. Like Odessa, Texas, for instance. The key city near the heart of the West Texas shale oil fields known as the Permian Basin felt the steepest year-on-year drop in economic growth, with total economic output from the Odessa metro falling 13.3 percent. Caspar, Wyoming, at the epicenter of Wyoming’s important coal, petroleum, and natural gas industries, slid hard as well, seeing its gross domestic product drop 11.6 percent.

Buzzfeed - September 20, 2017

Political Drama In Texas Has Left Trump Struggling To Fill Court Seats

The White House has been at odds with Texas’ Republican senators and governor for months over two judicial vacancies, showing how tricky it can be for President Donald Trump to shape the judiciary even in seemingly friendly states. The Trump administration announced the president’s seventh wave of judicial nominees earlier this month, but to the surprise of lawyers in Texas, there was yet again no mention of nominees for the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. There are three vacancies on the Fifth Circuit, which covers Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi. Two of those open seats are for nominees from Texas, and they’ve been open since 2012 and 2013.

County Stories

Houston Chronicle - September 20, 2017

Le: Harvey gave Houstonians a refugee experience

As Hurricane Harvey stalled around us at 5 a.m. on Sunday, Aug. 27, , a text message from my neighbor woke me up. "Can we come over?" The water was rising and they needed to get their family out. They brought their belongings over in black trash bags, their kids on their backs, the rain coming down in sheets. By mid-morning, we had 23 people, 11 dogs, and two cats in our house in Braeswood. We watched helicopters do laps above us as they did air rescues just blocks away. We wondered where they were taking the rescued. Homes across Houston became refuge to those who evacuated. Shelters rushed to open as thousands flooded in. After that Sunday morning, many Houstonians experienced the horror of fleeing their homes, making rushed decisions for their safety, painstakingly selecting their most important belongings, all the while, not knowing what would happen to them. For many Houstonians, returning home is not an option.

Houston Press - September 20, 2017

Millions of Gallons of Raw Sewage Released During Hurricane Harvey

Diving into the floodwaters of Hurricane Harvey may have seemed like a cute idea at the time, but there are reasons why parents are always telling kids to stay out of that water, and they include feces and urine. Harvey dumped more than 50 inches of rain in parts of the Houston area after it slammed into the Texas Gulf Coast at the end of August, but it wasn't just rainwater rushing out of the bayous and over the streets during the historic storm. On top of the trash, snakes, alligators and other critters, and the chemicals from the plants and refineries, the floodwaters also unleashed a whole lot of untreated sewage.

Dallas Morning News - September 20, 2017

Flooded Houston-area homeowners might have been spared ruin — but only if they read the fine print

They sat tucked away in a Fort Bend county clerk's file for the past two decades: 25 words on a public document that could have spared thousands of homeowners from losing everything. If only the homeowners had seen them. In the finest of fine print, the county warned in 1997: "This subdivision is adjacent to the Barker Reservoir and is subject to extended controlled inundation under the management of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers." In other words, during a major storm, the corps could choose to flood the subdivision in an effort to protect greater Houston. Which is exactly what happened during Hurricane Harvey.

Dallas Morning News - September 20, 2017

Dallas nonprofit that provides Obamacare help relieved after smaller-than-expected budget cut

A North Texas nonprofit that provides specially trained assisters to help consumers enroll in health insurance plans on healthcare.gov is breathing a sigh of relief this week. Sort of. The Community Council of Greater Dallas says it has been approved for about $1.8 million to continue the program. That’s a 14 percent cut over the $2.3 million it got in 2016. The CCGD is one of 12 Texas nonprofits that collectively received more than $9.2 million from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to do marketing and education campaigns and pay navigators to help Texans enroll into federally qualified and other plans.

Texas Tribune - September 20, 2017

Homeowners join lawsuit against Crosby chemical plant that burned after Hurricane Harvey

Eleven plaintiffs and a new defendant were added Wednesday to a lawsuit against Arkema Inc., an international chemical company whose plant near Houston spewed clouds of smoke from a series of chemical fires earlier this month after it was inundated by six feet of floodwaters from Hurricane Harvey. The updated lawsuit alleges that Arkema and the new defendant, Bureau Veritas — an air quality monitoring company that Arkema contracted to conduct testing in the vicinity of the plant — failed to properly advise first responders and neighbors about the dangers of fumes from the fires, which spewed black smoke high above the plant in Crosby.

Houston Chronicle - September 20, 2017

What lurks in the sludge that Harvey left behind?

All over the Houston area, as Harvey's floodwaters receded, they left behind sludge – a mix of grit and debris picked up from streets and sewers and eroded bayou banks. Though that sediment sometimes appears to be as clean as sand — the large deposits in Buffalo Bayou Park are being described as "beaches" or "dunes" — it's definitely dirty, say experts. How dirty, though — and whether the sediment is contaminated and poses environmental and health hazards — is still being determined. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality is testing the sediment only near known hazardous sites or industrial facilities, not in homes or in parks, said Andrew Keese, a media spokesperson.

Houston Chronicle - September 21, 2017

Bunch says The Woodlands could be home -- in a museum -- for removed statues

Monuments and statues of Confederate soldiers that are being taken down in Texas and elsewhere could find a new home in The Woodlands under an offer by The Woodlands Township Board Chairman Gordy Bunch. During a meeting of the Texas Patriots PAC Tuesday night in The Woodlands, Bunch, in response to comments made by state Sen. Brandon Creighton, R-Conroe, during a talk to the group reiterating his opposition to a move to have the statues and at least one plaque removed, stood up and announced The Woodlands might be a place to relocate the statues.

City Stories

Waco Tribune-Herald - September 20, 2017

Plan Commission questions Baylor effort to restrict short-term rentals

The Waco Plan Commission cast a wary eye Wednesday on Baylor University’s request to outlaw short-term rentals in multifamily properties around campus. Baylor officials have said the restriction would protect off-campus student residents from any dangers of transient visitors who book apartments or condominiums through online platforms such as Airbnb and Homeaway. In a work session, commission members said they would need to hear more from Baylor about those concerns, but several said the proposal would cast too wide a net.

Houston Chronicle - September 20, 2017

Housing authority charges tenants rent for flooded units

Residents of at least one Houston public housing complex have been asked to pay September rent for flooded units deemed uninhabitable, even as Mayor Sylvester Turner has publicly condemned private landlords for similar practices. Half a dozen tenants of Clayton Homes, which is owned by the Houston Housing Authority, said property management asked them about rent earlier this month, even though Hurricane Harvey had rendered their units unlivable. Most paid after being told they otherwise would lose their spot at the complex, one of the city's few subsidized developments.

Houston Chronicle - September 20, 2017

Houston FEMA flood map missed 75 percent of flood damages, says new study

FEMA's 100-year flood plain map doesn't have the best reputation in Bayou City – just ask any Houstonian whose home was outside the flood risk zone yet still filled with water during one if the city's many and recent flooding events. Still, a new study by Rice University and Texas A&M-Galveston suggests FEMA's hazard mapping may be even less accurate than most people think. Researchers examined flood damage claims from several southeast Houston suburbs between 1999 to 2009 and found that FEMA's flood predictive maps failed to show 75 percent of flood damage.

Austin American-Statesman - September 21, 2017

Cornyn to give bravery medal to Austin police officer in Omni hotel shooting

An Austin police officer who shot and killed a gunman who opened fire in the lobby of a downtown hotel in 2015 will be awarded for bravery by Congress on Friday. Officer Carlos Lopez fatally wounded 35-year-old Michael McGregor Holt in the July 5, 2015, incident. Holt had entered the lobby of the Omni Austin Hotel armed with a rifle and killed 60-year-old taxi cab driver Conrado Contreras.

San Antonio Express News - September 20, 2017

Tricentennial fundraising not even at the halfway mark

The nonprofit organization charged with overseeing San Antonio’s yearlong Tricentennial celebration has secured less than half of its $10.3 million goal. SA 300, the organization overseeing the planning, has secured $3.25 million in contributions and another $1.06 million in pledges. But the nonprofit’s CEO, Edward Benavides, told the City Council’s Arts, Culture and Heritage Committee that the organization will not ask for a bailout with taxpayer dollars and instead will continue to raise funds into 2018.

Houston Chronicle - September 21, 2017

Mayor, council clash over Harvey debris removal questions

City Council members under pressure from constituents to remove the thousands of piles of Hurricane Harvey wreckage on Houston curbs spent Wednesday morning shouting over each other about the topic before delaying a proposal Mayor Sylvester Turner said is needed to meet the city's goal of trucking 150,000 cubic yards of that debris to landfills each day. Houston had removed a total of 400,000 cubic yards of debris by Tuesday night, the mayor said, noting the ongoing struggle to draw enough trucks into service. The difficulty is partly because the region is competing with a similar cleanup in Florida and partly because the debris removal rate the city had received through competitive bidding before Harvey proved too low to attract subcontractors.

National Stories

New York Times - September 20, 2017

Mueller Seeks White House Documents Related to Trump’s Actions as President

Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel, has asked the White House for documents about some of President Trump’s most scrutinized actions since taking office, including the firing of his national security adviser and F.B.I. director, according to White House officials. Mr. Mueller is also interested in an Oval Office meeting Mr. Trump had with Russian officials in which he said the dismissal of the F.B.I. director had relieved “great pressure” on him. The document requests provide the most details to date about the breadth of Mr. Mueller’s investigation, and show that several aspects of his inquiry are focused squarely on Mr. Trump’s behavior in the White House.

Associated Press - September 20, 2017

Big US detention center sued for paying detainees $1 a day

Washington state on Wednesday sued the operator of one of the largest private immigration detention centers in the United States, claiming thousands of detainees were paid $1 per day for the work they performed but should have received the state's much higher minimum wage. State Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed the lawsuit claiming The GEO Group made millions of dollars and profits by illegally exploiting the workers. The Florida-based company owns and operates the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma under a contract with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Detainees since 2005 did laundry, cooked, cleaned and performed other work but were only paid $1 per day and in some cases did not receive that much because they were paid in food or snacks, the lawsuit said.

This article appeared in the San Antonio Express News

Politico - September 20, 2017

Left on ‘full war footing’ to stop Obamacare repeal

The liberal activists roused into the streets by President Donald Trump are revving up for one last campaign to save Obamacare. The sudden resurgence of Republicans’ repeal push appeared to catch Democrats and their base by surprise. But ahead of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s plans to vote next week on a new bill to dismantle the health law, the Democratic grass roots is on what one leading activist called “full war footing.”

Washington Post - September 20, 2017

Weigel: Republicans tweak Sanders over health care, but Cassidy-Graham could open a path for his bill

One short week ago, 16 Senate Democrats and dozens of progressive groups rallied with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) to celebrate the release of his Universal Medicare for All bill — a moonshot that they hoped would reset the national conversation on health care. Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) sounded downright giddy. His own legislation to curtail the Affordable Care Act, and block grant Medicaid, was released just a few hours before Sanders’s, to a smaller but just as skeptical group of reporters. “You’re skipping Bernie for this?” he joked. Before he got to the substance of the Cassidy-Graham bill, the senator framed it as an alternative to the Sanders bill, a way to stop an inevitable lurch toward European-style universal coverage: “Hell no to Berniecare!”

Washington Post - September 20, 2017

Trump team’s battle with North Korea has a glaring omission on the front lines

President Trump and his top aides say they’re doing everything in their power to pursue a diplomatic and peaceful resolution to the North Korea nuclear threat. But eight months into Trump’s tenure, he has yet to nominate a U.S. ambassador to South Korea, a glaring omission as the White House tries to formulate a coherent policy to confront Pyongyang. The vacancy has left President Moon Jae-in’s new government without a prestigious and powerful partner from the Trump administration on the ground in Seoul at a time of escalating anxiety in East Asia — and without someone to help decode the president’s rhetorical bombast. On Tuesday, Trump threatened during a speech at the United Nations to “totally destroy” North Korea if necessary.

Wall St. Journal - September 20, 2017

Equifax Hackers Roamed Its System Undetected for Months

Hackers roamed undetected in Equifax Inc.’s EFX 1.19% computer network for more than four months before its security team uncovered the massive data breach, the security firm FireEye Inc. FEYE -0.93% said this week in a confidential note Equifax sent to some of its customers. FireEye’s Mandiant group, which has been hired by Equifax to investigate the breach, said the first evidence of hackers’ “interaction” with the company occurred on March 10, according to the Mandiant report, which was reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. Equifax had previously disclosed that data belonging to approximately 143 million Americans was potentially accessed in May. It isn’t known when Equifax learned from Mandiant that the hacking activity began in March, not May. Equifax wasn’t available for comment.

Dallas Morning News - September 21, 2017

Trump and Congress have best chance in 30 years to reform the tax code

It's been more than 30 years since the United States tax code saw any reform. There is an opportunity for Congress to do that now. We hope they do and in a way that is fair to all taxpayers. The 1986 Tax Reform Act simplified the tax code, creating two brackets (15 and 28 percent) while eliminating many deductions. Over the last 30 years, the number of tax brackets has grown from two to seven. Umpteen credits and deductions increased the tax code from approximately 26,000 pages in 1984 to more than 74,000 pages today. Taxpayers spend 6 billion hours each year preparing individual tax returns.

Wall St. Journal - September 20, 2017

WSJ: All Mr. Comey’s Wiretaps

When Donald Trump claimed in March that he’d had his “wires tapped” prior to the election, the press and Obama officials dismissed the accusation as a fantasy. We were among the skeptics, but with former director James Comey’s politicized FBI the story is getting more complicated. CNN reported Monday that the FBI obtained a warrant last year to eavesdrop on Paul Manafort, Mr. Trump’s campaign manager from May to August in 2016. The story claims the FBI first wiretapped Mr. Manafort in 2014 while investigating his work as a lobbyist for Ukraine’s ruling party. That warrant lapsed, but the FBI convinced the court that administers the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) to issue a second order as part of its probe into Russian meddling in the election. Guess who has lived in a condo in Trump Tower since 2006? Paul Manafort.

Dallas Morning News - September 20, 2017

Hurd: Trump, arm Ukraine against Russia

As he meets with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko this week at the onset of the United Nations General Assembly, President Donald Trump should offer to provide lethal aid to the Ukrainian government in response to repeated Russian aggression. With this shift in strategy, President Trump has the opportunity to accomplish three important foreign policy goals: 1. Demonstrate to our allies that the U.S. has their backs; 2. Signal to the Russians that their adventurism in Eastern Europe is over; 3. Begin the long-term process of proving to North Korea that the U.S. honors its security assurances.

CBS News - September 20, 2017

These are the lawyers on Robert Mueller's special counsel team

Special Counsel Robert Mueller has surrounded himself with over a dozen top-notch lawyers since he was named to take on the investigation into Russian election meddling any any ties to Trump associates. Several of the team's lawyers came from Wilmer-Hale, where Mueller was recently a partner. Some are veteran federal prosecutors who have tried terrorism cases against al Qaeda operatives or mafia bosses. Others bring white-collar criminal expertise. The team has expanded since Mueller took over the investigation in May. Last month, CBS reported Mueller is using a grand jury in the probe, which is an indication the probe is intensifying.

The Hill - September 20, 2017

Wilson: Fury fuels the modern political climate in US

Americans are angry about everything. That’s what Rep. Steve Israel thought just months before the 2014 midterm elections. During that cycle, Israel poured over reams of data and watched hours of focus groups with voters across the country. The New York Democrat, who had been tasked with coordinating his party’s messaging strategy, saw voters deeply antipathetic about more than just the partisan political process.

Washington Post - September 20, 2017

Under latest health-care bill, red states would benefit disproportionately

The latest Republican proposal for curtailing the Affordable Care Act was assembled with such haste that it may get a vote before a full cost estimate is finished. But it is not a new idea. At its core, the bill introduced by Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) and Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) would implement a decades-old conservative concept, capping the amount that taxpayers spend on Medicaid and giving states full control over the program. As he’s sold the legislation to conservative governors and activists, Graham has described it as a possible triumph for federalism, and a way to end the progressive dream of universal health care managed from Washington.

Washington Post - September 20, 2017

Rapp-Hooper: Would Trump attack North Korea? Here’s what we learned from his ‘Rocket Man’ speech at the U.N.

Donald Trump devoted a significant portion of his United Nations General Assembly remarks to North Korea’s nuclear and missile developments. Here are four things he told us (and didn’t). 1) The Trump administration really wants us to know that it does not believe North Korea can be deterred. In recent weeks, top administration officials have suggested that they are not sure if North Korea is rational or deterrable. The link between these two concepts is important. If a leader is rational, he is capable of acting in his own self-interest. By extension, that leader is therefore deterrable, or responsive to coercive threats that instruct him not to take dangerous actions, or face punishment.

Austin American-Statesman - September 20, 2017

Withers: Sanders’ drug plan puts Texas patients, companies in peril

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders and some of his fellow lawmakers are attempting to pass a bill that would make it legal to import prescription drugs. They claim doing so would expand the free market – an interesting claim from a band of lawmakers led by a self-declared socialist. The bill is a veiled attempt to import price controls into the United States, which would undermine the free market, hurt U.S. companies and ultimately put patients at risk. In 2003, the Medicare Modernization Act included a provision that would have made it legal to import drugs from Canada — as long as the Health and Human Services Secretary could certify that importation would pose no additional risk to public health and safety and generate cost-savings for American consumers.

New York Times - September 19, 2017

Even College Doesn’t Bridge the Racial Income Gap

Education is supposed to be the nation’s great socioeconomic leveler. That belief, however, is not borne out in the data. Pay gaps between white and black workers have grown since 1979, even after controlling for education, experience and location, according to research by the Economic Policy Institute. In fact, racial pay gaps have expanded the most for college graduates, which makes it seem clear that discrimination is a leading cause. Last year, black college graduates earned about 21 percent less per hour on average than white college graduates; in 1979, the gap was 13 percent. The racial disparity in earnings is even greater for men: Last year, the average hourly earnings of black college-educated men were about 25 percent less than of white college-educated men. The gaps widen up the economic ladder. The top 5 percent of black male earners make about 47 percent less than the top-earning white men.

Houston Chronicle - September 20, 2017

The four major failures of flood insurance

Hundreds of thousands of Americans whose homes were damaged or destroyed by flooding from Hurricanes Harvey and Irma don’t know how they will pay for repairs, rebuilding or replacement. Likewise, the nation as a whole needs a plan for fixing the deeply flawed federal system for managing and financing flood risks. The National Flood Insurance Program insures almost five million homes and businesses against flood risks and handles related services such as flood risk mapping and floodplain management. It nearly ran out of funding before Congress voted to temporarily extend its authorization in early September. This reprieve means it can keep renewing and issuing new policies through December 8 – instead of being frozen at an inconvenient juncture.

Politico - September 21, 2017

Poll: Trump sees slight uptick in approval rating

President Donald Trump’s approval rating is on the upswing in a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released Thursday, matching a trend from other polls that also show the president’s ratings inching upward. Forty-three percent of respondents said they either strongly or somewhat approve of the president’s job performance, a 3 percentage point increase from the poll’s previous iteration, conducted in mid-August. Fifty-two percent said they either strongly or somewhat disapprove of Trump’s job performance, down 3 points from the August poll.

Washington Post - September 21, 2017

Newmyer: The Finance 202: What happened to the party of fiscal conservatives?

Supply-siders are winning their struggle with deficit hawks over the fiscal soul of the GOP. And it’s not even much of a struggle, as it turns out. In recent days, it has more closely resembled a pantomime, the policymaking equivalent of what the Harlem Globetrotters used to do to the Washington Generals. In this case, the Tax-Cutters are steamrolling the Budget Balancers — and making it look easy. In the Senate, Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) was primed to force a reckoning over deficit spending in the Budget Committee. Republicans on the panel need to agree on a spending blueprint to lock in special instructions allowing them to pass a tax package without Democratic support. And with a one-vote edge in the committee, the GOP can’t afford to lose Corker.

Quartz - September 16, 2017

The American left has its own Tea Party, and it’s coming for Donald Trump

The Indivisible Project is the American left’s closest equivalent to the Tea Party, the hard-line conservative movement that crashed on to the political scene in 2009. It was inspired by the Indivisible Guide, a manual written by former Democratic congressional staffers who decoded how to combat Trump’s agenda using protest tactics pioneered by the Tea Party. Following the guide’s advice, activists across the US have bombarded town halls, held sit-ins at lawmakers’ constituencies, and made phone call after phone call to their congressional offices. Their aim is to paralyse the Trump administration by pushing Republican members of Congress to vote against him. The movement says it has almost 6,000 local chapters throughout the country—at least two in every congressional district—and hundreds of thousands of active members, who run the gamut from socialists who supported Bernie Sanders to Republicans who revile Trump.

The Hill - September 20, 2017

Five things to know about the new ObamaCare repeal bill

The new ObamaCare repeal bill under consideration in the Senate includes some controversial policies that have divided Republicans in the past. Some senators haven’t taken a position on the bill from Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Bill Cassidy (R-La.), saying that they have yet to fully digest the bill and how it would work. In short: The bill ends federal funds for ObamaCare’s Medicaid expansion and the subsidies that help people afford coverage. Instead, the money would be converted into block grants and given to the states.

All - September 20, 2017

Lead Stories

Austin American-Statesman - September 19, 2017

House official blamed for crimping felony charges against Rep. Dukes

After announcing last week that they are holding off on the most serious charges in the corruption case against state Rep. Dawnna Dukes, Travis County prosecutors revealed the reason in a court filing Tuesday: A House official has given conflicting statements about rules on state travel reimbursements that are at the heart of the 13-count felony indictment against the Austin Democrat. Prosecutors say they learned Sept. 6 that Steven Adrian, executive director of the House Business Office, informed Dukes’ attorneys in January that his office does not require a House member to travel to the Capitol building in order to receive per diem payments when the Legislature is not in session. But, according to prosecutors, Adrian said the opposite in 2016 when he told an investigator with the state auditor’s office that Dukes had to travel to the Capitol to earn the reimbursement, $61.50 per day.

Politico - September 20, 2017

Poll: Plurality supports single-payer health care

While Republicans inch toward their latest attempt to roll back the Affordable Care Act, Democrats are having a different debate: whether the party should support a single-payer health care plan. Some Democratic leaders think single-payer goes further than voters might want, but a new POLITICO/Morning Consult poll shows the proposal is fairly popular — at least in principle. Nearly half of voters, 49 percent, say they support “a single-payer health care system, where all Americans would get their health insurance from one government plan” — greater than the 35 percent who oppose such a plan. Seventeen percent of voters have no opinion. Two-thirds of Democratic voters support single-payer, while 18 percent oppose it.

New York Times - September 19, 2017

Senate Republicans Embrace Plan for $1.5 Trillion Tax Cut

Senate Republicans, abandoning a key fiscal doctrine, agreed on Tuesday to move forward on a budget that would add to the federal deficit in order to pave the way for a $1.5 trillion tax cut over the next 10 years. The Republican lawmakers, under mounting pressure to score a legislative win on taxes, say a tax cut of this magnitude will stimulate economic growth enough to offset any deficit impact. Yet critics say a deficit-financed tax cut is at odds with longstanding Republican calls for fiscal discipline, including that tax cuts not add to the ballooning federal deficit. The federal debt topped $20 trillion earlier this month and is projected to grow by another $10 trillion over the next decade.

Washington Post - September 19, 2017

For the first time, Trump’s approval rating has increased for three weeks in a row

President Trump’s average weekly approval rating in Gallup polling has ticked one percentage point upward over the past four weeks. Thirty-five, then 36, then 37 and now 38 percent of the country thinks that Trump is doing a good job. Political observers would be justified in wondering why. Is this, perhaps, the effect of John F. Kelly stepping in to serve as chief of staff in the West Wing? Or is it the effect of Stephen K. Bannon moving back to his old job at Breitbart? In the week since Kelly came in, there’s been effectively no change in Trump’s approval. That week it was 38 percent, then it fell and rose back to the same point. Since Bannon was ousted, the rise has been pretty consistent.

Dallas Morning News - September 19, 2017

Family feud, 2018 edition: Republicans brace for internal struggle

With a firm hold on Texas politics, Republicans don't have to fight Democrats. How would they have time, when they're so busy fighting themselves? Elections in 2018 will feature tough primary battles with conservatives pitted against conservatives as the GOP continues its inner struggle to define itself. When the candidate filing period ends in December, at least 50 incumbents are expected to face opposition, including some of the most powerful lawmakers in the Texas Legislature. There are already 40 contested races in the House and four in the Senate, including three bellwether matchups in North Texas.

Austin American-Statesman - September 19, 2017

With no Democratic governor candidate, questions trail Joaquín Castro

Exiting a summit on citizen diplomacy Tuesday at the Texas Capitol, U.S. Rep. Joaquín Castro, D-San Antonio, was trailed by a handful of reporters. “Something tells me you didn’t come to hear a speech about international affairs,” Castro said. He was right. The reporters were there to once again ask whether he would consider running for governor in 2018. It has become a somewhat tired ritual. But with no hint of any formidable Democratic candidate ready to challenge Gov. Greg Abbott, reporters have little else to work with, and for Castro, as for his twin brother, Julián, the only day more nettlesome than the ones on which they are asked about their future political ambitions, will be the day when reporters stop asking about those ambitions.

Texas Tribune - September 19, 2017

Railroad commissioner to chair: "This isn't a dictatorship" (video)

In a livestreamed Tuesday meeting, Railroad Commissioner Ryan Sitton and the board's chair, Christi Craddick, sparred over questions about the fate of the agency's executive director, Kimberly Corley. Sitton accused Craddick of trying to oust Corely, who has been in her post since late 2015, without consulting the commission's two other members. "This isn't a dictatorship," he told Craddick at one point.

CNBC - September 13, 2017

Harvey’s hit to mortgages could be four times worse than predicted—and then there’s Irma

As homeowners in Houston struggle to dry out and rebuild, they may also struggle to make payments on their mortgages. New estimates suggest as many as 300,000 borrowers could become delinquent on their loans and 160,000 could become seriously delinquent, that is, more than 90 days past due, when banks initiate foreclosure proceedings. This from Black Knight Financial Services, which compared mortgaged properties in the FEMA-designated disaster areas in Houston to those in Hurricane Katrina, and the resulting delinquencies in the four months following Katrina. That is four times the original prediction because new disaster zones were designated and more homes flooded when officials released water from reservoirs to protect dams. The total number of mortgaged properties in disaster zones is 1.18 million.

McAllen Monitor - September 19, 2017

Litigation could stall government’s plan for border wall construction

A constitutional challenge to the government’s border wall waivers in California could impact its construction in the Rio Grande Valley, according to a local environmentalist. Last week, the Center for Biological Diversity expanded its lawsuit against the federal government’s border wall and prototype projects in San Diego, challenging the Trump administration’s authority to waive environmental laws and calling for an end to the unconstitutional strategy, according to a news release. The new filing, made Sept. 6, is the second amendment and expands on the original lawsuit filed by the center in June against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

State Stories

Dallas Morning News - September 19, 2017

Blackstone: Hurricane Harvey brought out the heroes of CPS

When Hurricane Harvey hit a few weeks ago, Child Protective Services employees, like so many other Texans, went to work. Hundreds of caseworkers and other CPS employees were directly affected, and 76 lost their homes. Despite the immediate hardship, caseworkers in the Houston and Galveston area who had moved to temporary shelters spent time calling CPS families to make sure they were safe and had what they needed. Because of their selfless perseverance, all CPS children were safe and accounted for. During the past year, there have been remarkable changes at Child Protective Services. With Gov. Greg Abbott's vision of CPS becoming the best child welfare program in the country, the inspirational leadership of Commissioner Hank Whitman, and the generous support of the Texas Legislature, CPS is making real, measurable improvements.

Dallas Morning News - September 19, 2017

Texas lets storm victims apply for food stamps far from home, adds 7 counties to program

State social services officials are dropping their requirement that Hurricane Harvey victims return to their home counties to apply for federally provided disaster food relief. On Friday, social services czar Charles Smith announced Texas will give people affected by the storm greater flexibility to apply in counties that are not their counties of residence. "We're trying to help people where they are," said Carrie Williams, spokeswoman for the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, which administers federally provided food stamps. "If we see an issue, we're going to fix it. Getting people the food they need is the most important thing we're doing right now." Also on Friday, Smith added seven counties to the 11 where the "D-SNAP" program launched Wednesday. D-SNAP stands for Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

Dallas Morning News - September 19, 2017

Ken Paxton prosecutors take fight over back pay to state's top court

The prosecutors pursuing criminal charges against Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton have asked the state's highest court to overturn a recent ruling that voided their last paycheck. In a 62-page writ filed Tuesday, the prosecutors argued the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals should vacate a decision by the 5th Court of Appeals in Dallas that cost them more than $205,000 in back pay. The lower court's ruling, which said a local judge overstepped his authority in guaranteeing the prosecutors $300-an-hour for their work on the case, would have a "chilling effect" on the state's ability to find competent attorneys to investigate potential wrongdoing by the state's top elected officials, they argued.

Dallas Morning News - September 20, 2017

Six Texans score spots among Forbes' 100 greatest living business minds

How else would you expect one of the nation's premier business news magazines to celebrate its 100th birthday? If you're Forbes, you put a list together. And that's exactly what it has done. To mark its centennial, Forbes identified what it considers to be the 100 greatest living business minds. It had each share a lesson they've learned from their successful careers. Six Texans are represented: Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, who the magazine described as "oil wildcatter, football revolutionary." It left off newly inducted NFL Hall of Famer and maestro of the most valuable franchise in sports. Jones relates a lesson learned in his 30s about the importance of operating lean. Dallas oil magnate T. Boone Pickens. He shares his philosophy on being bullish.

Dallas Morning News - September 19, 2017

What the latest GOP health care plan could mean for Texans

Texas could see billions in new but temporary federal aid under a GOP health care proposal gaining steam in the Senate, part of a last-ditch effort to dismantle the Affordable Care Act. Republican supporters say the measure — led by South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham and Louisiana Sen. Bill Cassidy — gives states greater flexibility in devising their own health care systems and overhauls a bloated federal safety net. But critics — including Democrats and health care advocacy groups — say the short-term boost for states like Texas isn't worth the long-term effects of the bill. It would make steep reductions in Medicaid spending, end ACA subsidies that help low- and middle-income Americans buy insurance, and roll back key health care protections for people with pre-existing conditions.

Dallas Morning News - September 19, 2017

Meet the Dallas urban planner behind Texas' pursuit of the hyperloop

Flat geography. A booming population. And a business-friendly environment. Those are just three reasons why Dallas urban planner Steven Duong says Texas is an ideal place for the hyperloop, a futuristic mode of travel that would use levitating pods to shuttle people and goods across hundreds of miles in minutes. Duong is a senior urban designer for the Dallas office of AECOM, a Fortune 500 engineering, design and construction company. He led the Texas proposal that made it onto the short list of possible routes for Hyperloop One, a Los Angeles company that wants to have at least one operational route somewhere in the world by 2021. Now, the hyperloop company will explore other factors, such as economic conditions and customer demand.

Austin American-Statesman - September 19, 2017

Immigrant taken by ICE from Austin courthouse was killed in Mexico

Juan Coronilla-Guerrero’s wife warned a federal judge this spring that her husband would be killed if the U.S. government followed through with his deportation. Her prediction came true last week. Three months after the former Austin resident was taken back to Central Mexico by federal authorities, his body was found on the side of a road in San Luis de la Paz, Guanajuato, near where he had been living with his wife’s family. Coronilla-Guerrero’s death comes six months after federal immigration agents took the rare step of entering the Travis County criminal courthouse to detain him on charges of illegal reentry — a move that escalated fears about ICE’s crackdown on unauthorized immigrants.

Austin American-Statesman - September 19, 2017

Some question decision to keep Texas nuclear plant open during Harvey

Days before Hurricane Harvey made landfall, workers at the South Texas Project nuclear power plant ensured the backup generators had fuel in case the power went out. They obtained enough food and supplies to board the 250-person storm crew for three days. They cleared the site of any potential “missiles,” equipment that might be picked up by the wind and hurled at the two reactors. But they didn’t prepare for Harvey — which made a slow, drenching loop around the plant near Bay City — to keep them sequestered at the site for nine days. “We went from, ‘We’re going to be here for a couple days,’ to, ‘Guys, we need to start thinking like we’re going to be here for a week on an island,’” said Mike Schaefer, the plant’s general manager.

Austin American-Statesman - September 19, 2017

State to hand over foster care services in Bexar County, Abilene areas

State officials announced Tuesday that they will relinquish major foster care services in Bexar County as well as 30 counties in the Abilene area to a nonprofit or local governmental entity. The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services will issue a request for applications in the Abilene area this month and for Bexar County in November. Until then, it’s unclear when the formal transition will take place in those areas, according to agency spokesman Patrick Crimmins. Senate Bill 11 signed into law by Gov. Greg Abbott in May decentralizes foster care case management, including caseworker visits, court-related duties and decision-making on where children live, learn and receive services.

Austin American-Statesman - September 19, 2017

Herman: Gov. Greg Abbott’s one-word answer to my two-part question

It was a moment. A fleeting one, yes. And probably not the kind that, 20 years from now, you’re going to remember where you were when it happened. That kind of moment is reserved for huge moments, like remembering where you were when you got married. The event was Gov. Greg Abbott’s Monday announcement of what he called “probably the worst-kept secret in Austin, Texas,” the wholesale shakeup (less serious than a retail shakeup) of his top staff. No hint of scandal or turmoil here. Gubernatorial staffs often get shaken when governors think shaking is indicated or when gubernatorial staffers figure they can leverage their Capitol experience to shake out some hefty fees from clients in the private sector.

Austin American-Statesman - September 19, 2017

Clarification sought on release of police body cam videos in Texas

Trying to make sense of an emerging area of law, a state senator has asked Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton to determine whether certain footage from police body cameras could be withheld — not just from the public, but from civilian supervisors of a law enforcement agency as well. Specifically, Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr., D-Brownsville, wanted to know if state open record laws give a police chief or sheriff the discretion to withhold body camera footage if they determine that viewing the video could interfere with the “detection, investigation or prosecution of crime.” Lucio’s request for an attorney general’s opinion, made public Tuesday, also asked whether a city manager, city council member or a civilian with police oversight has an “inherent right of access” to body camera footage as part of their official duties.

Austin American-Statesman - September 19, 2017

In familiar ritual, Joaquín Castro fields questions about governor run

Exiting a summit on citizen diplomacy Tuesday at the Texas Capitol, U.S. Rep. Joaquín Castro, D-San Antonio, was trailed by a handful of reporters. “Something tells me you didn’t come to hear a speech about international affairs,” Castro said. He was right. The reporters were there to once again ask whether he would consider running for governor in 2018. It has become a somewhat tired ritual. But with no hint of any formidable Democratic candidate ready to challenge Gov. Greg Abbott, reporters have little else to work with, and for Castro, as for his twin brother, Julián, the only day more nettlesome than the ones on which they are asked about their future political ambitions, will be the day when reporters stop asking about those ambitions.

Austin American-Statesman - September 19, 2017

House speaker: Remove ‘incorrect’ Confederate plaque from Capitol

House Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, asked the State Preservation Board, of which he is a member, to remove a plaque in the Capitol that honors the Confederacy and distorts the history of the Civil War. The plaque, titled “Children of the Confederacy Creed” and erected in 1959 by the Texas division of the Children of the Confederacy, honors “the heroic deeds of those who enlisted in the Confederate Army.” It states: “We, therefore, pledge ourselves to preserve pure ideals, to honor our veterans, to study and teach the truths of history (one of the most important of which is that the war between the States was not a rebellion, nor was its underlying cause to sustain slavery) and to always act in a manner that will reflect honor upon our noble and patriotic ancestors.”

Austin American-Statesman - September 19, 2017

Abbott makes mid-term shift in TxDOT leadership

San Antonio banker J. Bruce Bugg, Jr., appointed by Gov. Greg Abbott to the Texas Transportation Commission in 2015, has been named chairman of the five-member panel that oversees the Texas Department of Transportation. Bugg succeeds Tryon Lewis, a former state representative and district judge from Odessa. The switch is unusual in that it comes in the middle of both of their six-year terms, and because Abbott appointed both men to the commission. It was not immediately clear Tuesday why Abbott made the switch. The Abbott news release announcing it had just two sentences, along with a short bio of Bugg. Abbott’s office did not provide further comment.

Texas Tribune - September 19, 2017

Amid opioid investigation, Texas and other states demand drug company documents

As communities nationwide grapple with opioid addiction, Texas and a coalition of 40 other states have served investigative subpoenas and other requests to eight companies that manufacture or distribute prescription painkillers, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton announced Tuesday. It’s the latest development in an investigation unveiled in June. Paxton and his counterparts are trying to determine whether opioid manufacturers played a role in creating or prolonging what has become a national epidemic. The attorneys general served investigative subpoenas to drugmakers Endo Pharmaceuticals, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Teva Pharmaceuticals' Cephalon, Allergan and their related entities, and they served a supplemental subpoena to Purdue Pharma, Paxton’s office said.

Texas Tribune - September 20, 2017

For some transgender Texans, bathroom bill fight spurs bids for office

The first time Dani Pellett tackled the bathroom question was years before the issue of transgender access to restrooms would become a matter of political debate — and more than a decade before Pellett would enter the political realm herself. Pellett was in her early twenties then, a University of North Texas student just two months shy of seeking a commission as an Air Force pilot. But “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” was still in effect, and she knew that to receive a commission she’d have to hide her gender dysphoria. Pellett ultimately dropped out of air force training, transitioned, founded a support group and began to advocate for gender-neutral bathrooms on campus. Eventually, the group was successful.

Texas Tribune - September 20, 2017

UT fell short of its lofty graduation goal but lifted up its minority students in the process

On paper, Alisandra Sada’s chances of graduating on time were slim when she showed up as a freshman at the University of Texas at Austin in 2014. She came from Dilley, a town south of San Antonio with one-twelfth the population of UT-Austin’s student body. Neither of her parents went to college. And she graduated from a high school where just 13 percent of students finish ready for college-level English and math courses. But if all goes as expected over the next eight months, she’ll beat the odds and earn her diploma on time. And compared to just a few years earlier, far more of her peers will do the same.

Texas Tribune - September 20, 2017

How some see Texas as the "gold standard" against wrongful convictions

Every day for more than 12 years, Christopher Scott woke up in a Texas prison cell an innocent man. He was arrested in 1997 after he and another man, Claude Simmons, were seen in Scott’s car near the home of a robbery-turned-murder in Dallas. Police were looking for two black men in connection with the crime, and Scott and Simmons fit the description. Both men were convicted of capital murder based on faulty eyewitness testimony and sent to live the rest of their lives in prison while the true criminals went free. The two men had been in the wrong place at the wrong time, and it cost them their freedom. But not forever.

Texas Tribune - September 20, 2017

Ramsey: In politics, you must be present to win

When this year’s regular legislative session was beginning, House Speaker Joe Straus was out telling business groups he needed their support. They were slow about it — their lassitude cost Texas business leaders their long-held position as persuasive voices on what to do (and what not to do) about undocumented immigrants, for example — but a late push from the private sector helped Straus and others kill the "bathroom bill," an attempt to regulate use of public restrooms by transgender Texans that dominated public conversation about the legislative session.

San Antonio Express News - September 19, 2017

Seguin-to-Austin toll highway to get $60 million repair

The new company that has taken over the management of the southern end of Texas 130, a lightly-traveled tollway, has announced a $60 million road improvement project to begin in October. SH 130 Concession Company, the private entity that now operates the 41-mile southern section, said the year-long project will “fix pavement problems and improve the ride quality along the roadway,” and will not use taxpayer funds. The Texas Department of Transportation actually owns Texas 130, but has leased it to SH 130 Concession for 50 years. The company said in a Tuesday press release that its renovation project would only impact about five percent of those 41 miles of pavement and would not require closing the tollway.

Houston Chronicle - September 19, 2017

Two Texas cities rank among the most fun in the U.S.

Texas was one of only three states to have multiple cities rank among the most fun in the U.S. Houston and Austin both made WalletHub's 2017 Most Fun Cities in America ranking. The ranking looked at the 150 largest U.S. cities based on 58 key metrics. Those metrics included the number of attractions, beer gardens per capita, and sports venues per capita. Houston ranked fourth on a separate WalletHub list of most restaurants per capita (New York was first).

Houston Chronicle - September 20, 2017

Falkenberg: Confederate Texans' own words reveal plaque's falsehoods

Today, I'm turning my column over to the Confederacy. Given the lack of trust in the media, and in experts, and in institutions, it's probably the only prudent thing to do. You see, if I wrote in my own words about how Texas House Speaker Joe Straus is right to call for the removal of the Children of the Confederacy Creed plaque at the state Capitol, many of you would dismiss it. If I tried to argue that the San Antonio Republican has facts and history on his side when he says the plaque is inaccurate and that Texans are not well-served by distortions of our history, some might laugh it off.

Ft. Worth Star-Telegram - September 18, 2017

Kids with disabilities need therapy but the state cut the funding

Jenny remembers the joy of bringing her newborn son, Paxton, home from the hospital – and vividly remembers six months later when he was diagnosed with hydrocephalus and white matter deficiency in his brain. It was nerve-wracking news for the Frisco mom, but she felt better once therapists in the local Early Childhood Intervention (ECI) program started working with the family. Thanks in part to those ECI therapists, three-year-old Paxton is now walking and talking — and Jenny says he’s the happiest kid she’s ever been around. We hear similar success stories across Texas, but our new report on ECI in the DFW region shows that many children have missed out on these services due to state cuts.

Waco Tribune - September 16, 2017

Attas: State deserves some blame for ire over rising property values, tax rates

Few are the people who take delight in paying property taxes. Yet when we understand where our dollars go and have confidence they are being spent wisely on services and infrastructure of benefit to us all, the sting is lessened and, in fact, we may appreciate the quality of life and services they provide. Nevertheless, when the growth of our tax burden outpaces the growth in our income, it can cause a strain that is more intimately felt. The same is true in the commercial sector. Businesses may be reluctant to make new hires (i.e., create jobs) or otherwise expand their business (which oftentimes includes a capital investment that boosts our tax rolls) if they face uncertainty on how their property taxes may increase from one year to the next.

KENS - September 18, 2017

U.S. Air Force joins mosquito relief effort post Harvey

If Hurricane Harvey's massive flooding and devastation wasn't enough, the Houston area and many other Texas communities are now dealing with the problem of mosquitoes. "The mosquito is the most dangerous animal on the planet," Lt. Col. Mark Breidenbaugh said. "It kills one million people in Africa each year. We don't have malaria in the U.S., but other diseases we are concerned about." Breidenbaugh is an entomologist for the 910th Air Wing based out of Youngstown, Ohio. He says that one female mosquito can lay 100 eggs which can develop in a week and a half.

County Stories

San Antonio Express News - September 19, 2017

Get ready to dial 10 numbers instead of 7 for local calls in San Antonio

Beginning Saturday, anyone making a local call within the 210 area code will be required to dial that code along with the seven-digit phone number. Since March, callers dialing the seven-digit phone numbers were met with an error message telling them to hang up and try again with a 10-digit number, said Terry Hadley, a Public Utility Commission of Texas spokesman. Saturday marks the end of the so-called "grace period." This is the penultimate step in implementing an overlay area code for most of Bexar County and parts of Atascosa, Comal, Guadalupe, Medina and Wilson counties. People with a current 210 area code will not see a change, but new phone numbers assigned in the area could be given the 726 code beginning Oct. 23. Area codes are assigned by the North American Numbering Plan Administration.

Houston Chronicle - September 19, 2017

Raw sewage spilled in Houston area after wastewater plants damaged by Harvey

Nearly 31.6 million gallons of raw sewage spilled across southeast Texas in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, pouring into neighboring communities and waterways as dozens of wastewater treatment plants were hit by high winds and flooding, according to state records. Most of the sewage spilled in Harris and Fort Bend counties, with 65 separate releases dumping 20.7 million gallons of sewage in Harris County and 11 spills dumping 9.5 million gallons in Fort Bend. Weeks after the storm hit, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality says 10 sewage treatment plants — including six in the Houston area — are inoperable or destroyed, and more than 40 others were operating as of Monday with problems as minor as broken-down pumps or as serious as structural damage.

Houston Chronicle - September 20, 2017

More than 80 percent of Houston-area schools have lead in the drinking water, study finds

Lead has been found in the drinking water of 293 schools in the Houston, Humble, and Alief school districts, according to new tests. The data was gleaned from hundreds of tests taken since March by Environment Texas, a citizen-based environmental advocacy project out of Austin. "Our kids deserve safe drinking water at school," said Luke Metzger, director of Environment Texas, in a news release. "We want to give parents, teachers, and school administrators the tools they need to 'get the lead out.'"

Houston Chronicle - September 19, 2017

Jackson Lee calls for replacement of Addicks and Barker dams

U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, a Houston Democrat, is calling for the replacement of the aging Addicks and Barker dams that spilled over during Hurricane Harvey. "As we recover and rebuild from the devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey, it is crucial that we also learn from this catastrophic storm and prepare for the next one," she said in a statement. "A critical takeaway is that our infrastructure is ill-prepared for the ferocity of thousand-year weather events and record-breaking rainfall." The Addicks and Barker reservoirs exceeded their water containment capacity during the storm, raising questions about their structural integrity. Jackson Lee said that as a result the Army Corps of Engineers was forced into the "untenable position" of having to decide which homes should suffer more flood damage than others.

City Stories

Houston Chronicle - September 20, 2017

Turner says federal reimbursement means tax rate hike could be cut in half

Mayor Sylvester Turner said the property tax rate increase he has proposed this fall will be cut in half, thanks to increased federal reimbursements for Hurricane Harvey recovery efforts. The mayor had proposed an 8.9 percent increase in the tax rate, the first in two decades, which would have returned the rate to where it was in 2013. That's when a 13-year-old voter-imposed limit on Houston's property tax collections first began forcing City Council to cut the rate each year to avoid bringing in more revenue than was allowed.

Associated Press - September 20, 2017

El Paso Times editor resigns in effort to save newsroom jobs

The executive editor of the El Paso Times is leaving the paper after being directed by its parent company to cut newsroom staff. The Times reports that Robert Moore plans to step aside Oct. 6 in an effort to preserve reporting positions at the paper. His resignation coincides with the departure of Lilia Castillo Jones, the president of the Times and several sister properties in New Mexico, whose position was eliminated by the USA Today Network, a division of Gannett.

This article appeared in the San Antonio Express News

Dallas Morning News - September 19, 2017

Politically controversial figures Donna Brazile, Charles Murray to speak in Dallas next month

Two public figures who have sparked controversy in actions and words will speak be in Dallas on the same day next month to speak at different venues. Liberal political strategist Donna Brazile and conservative political scientist Charles Murray both will each speak here Oct. 20. Murray will speak at noon at the Institute for Policy Innovation's Hatton W. Sumners Distinguished Lecture Series at Hotel Intercontinental Dallas, 15201 Dallas Pkwy. in Addison. Sumners was a Democratic congressman from Garland from 1913 to 1947.

National Stories

The Hill - September 19, 2017

Another health funding cliff puts care for millions at risk

There’s another health deadline at the end of the month that has nothing to do with ObamaCare — but which puts millions of the nation’s most vulnerable patients at risk. Billions of federal dollars for community health centers, which provide care for some 26 million patients, is on the line with a Sept. 30 funding deadline looming. The funding path is murky, with an agreement not yet reached and the House in session for only a week until the program expires. In the Senate, Republicans are examining a last-ditch effort to repeal ObamaCare, which could make time on the legislative calendar tricky. A lapse in funding could have huge implications.

Associated Press - September 19, 2017

How Trump’s advisers schooled him on globalism

On a sweltering Washington summer day, President Donald Trump’s motorcade pulled up to the Pentagon for a meeting largely billed as a briefing on the Afghanistan conflict and the fight against the Islamic State group. There, in the windowless meeting room known as “The Tank”, Trump was to be briefed on the state of America’s longest-running war as he and his top aides plotted ways ahead. But, according to current and former U.S. officials familiar with the meeting, it was, in reality, about much more. Trump’s national security team had become alarmed by the president’s frequent questioning about the value of a robust American presence around the world. When briefed on the diplomatic, military and intelligence posts, the new president would often cast doubt on the need for all the resources.

Dallas Morning News - September 20, 2017

AT&T chief: Republicans' 'political survival' may hinge on tax reform

AT&T chief executive Randall Stephenson said on Wednesday Republicans' "political survival" may hinge on their ability to produce a major overhaul of the tax code that features lower corporate rate. The boss of the Dallas-based telecom giant offered that prod at a Business Roundtable panel discussion featuring several high-profile chief executives. And Stephenson, who issued a broad call to action, applied the most direct challenge to the GOP, which controls the White House and both chambers of Congress. He said a failure to overhaul the tax system would "literally be a bad indictment" of the party's effectiveness.

The Hill - September 18, 2017

CBO to release limited analysis of ObamaCare repeal bill next week

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) said Monday it's aiming to provide a "preliminary assessment" of a repeal bill sponsored by Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Bill Cassidy (R-La.) by early next week. The score will include information on whether the legislation would reduce deficits by at least as much as was estimated for the House repeal bill passed earlier this year. It will also assess if the bill would save at least $1 billion and whether it would increase on-budget deficits in the long term.

Dallas Morning News - September 18, 2017

McArdle: What's really being normalized is leftist bad behavior

Last week, conservative Ben Shapiro gave a speech. At Berkeley. And all across America, people watched their screens to see what sort of violence would erupt. Reality was anticlimactic. Law enforcement was out in force, at an estimated price tag of $600,000. Concrete barriers were erected to hold back the liberal "antifa," and police obtained permission in advance to use pepper spray. Much of the campus was locked down and cleared out. Nine people were arrested. And so, Shapiro arrived, gave his speech and departed without the mayhem we've become accustomed to seeing at such appearances. This is what it takes to maintain order in the face of a speech. On the one hand, it shows that even in the heart of antifa territory, police and authorities who are determined to control them can do so.

Washington Post - September 19, 2017

There’s one Obamacare repeal bill left standing. Here’s what’s in it.

After a dramatic series of failed Senate votes in July, there’s one repeal-and-replace plan for the Affordable Care Act left standing. Trump is pushing for a vote, per Politico, and John McCain has announced his support, but the bill has yet to gain significant traction. The proposal, crafted by Sens. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) and Dean Heller (R-Nev.), essentially turns control of the health-care markets over to the states. Rather than funding Medicaid and subsidies directly, that money would be put into a block grant that a state could use to develop any health-care system it wants. It also allows states to opt out of many ACA regulations. “If you like Obamacare, you can keep it,” Graham has said, using a common nickname for the health-care law. “If you want to replace it, you can.”

Politico - September 19, 2017

Backlash throws last-ditch Obamacare repeal effort into doubt

Republicans hoping to jam a last-minute Obamacare repeal plan through the Senate are confronting a rising tide of opposition as health care groups, patient advocates and even some red-state governors join forces against a bill they worry would upend the nation’s health care system. The wide-ranging backlash threw the GOP’s repeal push into fresh doubt on Tuesday, even as White House officials and Senate Republican leaders insist they are on the verge of winning the 50 votes needed to dismantle Obamacare under a reconciliation bill that expires in two weeks.

Politico - September 19, 2017

Republicans consider paring tax breaks for rich, corporations

Senior White House and congressional officials are thinking about ways to make tax reform less generous to the wealthy and are considering a smaller corporate tax cut, people familiar with the negotiations said Tuesday. Removing some benefits for the rich and backing off a proposed 15 percent corporate tax rate would help Republicans in two ways: by broadening the political appeal of tax reform and reducing its cost.

Associated Press - September 19, 2017

Sessions: Sanctuary cities undermine law's moral authority

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Tuesday criticized sanctuary cities that try to protect immigrants in the country illegally as places that "undermine the moral authority of the law." He made the comments a day after the Trump administration appealed a judge's ruling blocking its efforts to withhold money from the cities. Sessions, speaking to law enforcement officers in a sanctuary city in the sanctuary state of Oregon, urged officials who have decided that local police should not cooperate with federal immigration agents to reconsider those policies.

This article appeared in the San Antonio Express News

Politico - September 19, 2017

Political campaigns prep for battle with hackers

Candidates are quizzing prospective campaign managers on anti-hacking plans. Democratic committees like the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which was breached last year, have switched internally from email to encrypted messaging apps. And both parties are feverishly trying to spread advice and best practices to new campaigns before they become targets. The political world is officially obsessed with cybersecurity in 2017 — especially the Democrats burned by the hacking of their committees and operatives during the 2016 election. Much of the Democratic Party’s permanent apparatus has already changed its day-to-day operations as a result, while beginning the slow process of persuading its decentralized, startup-like campaign ecosystem to follow suit.

Dallas Morning News - September 18, 2017

DMN: Lawmakers are finding creative ways to shut down Trump administration's asset forfeiture program

In a welcome move, Democratic and Republican House members have passed five amendments to an appropriations bill that would effectively block Attorney General Jeff Sessions recently revived civil asset forfeiture program known as "federal adoption." Federal adoption — a program shut down by Sessions' predecessor, Eric Holder — allows local and state police departments to seize assets and property under federal law rather than state laws, many of which have more restrictive rules governing civil asset forfeiture. The strongest amendment of the five, Amendment 67, was co-sponsored by Reps. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), and John Conyers (D-Mich.). It prohibits funds appropriated by the bill from being used to implement Sessions' directive.

Associated Press - September 17, 2017

Holding federal institutions accountable becoming harder

There are cracks in the curtains President Donald Trump tried to draw around the government early in his presidency, but the slivers of light aren’t making it easier to hold federal officials accountable for their actions. Trump still refuses to divest from his real estate and hotel empire or release virtually any of his tax returns. His administration is vigorously pursuing whistleblowers. Among scores of vacant senior jobs in the government is an inspector general for the Department of Energy — led by Secretary Rick Perry, former governor of Texas — as it helps drive the region’s recovery from Hurricane Harvey.

Houston Chronicle - September 18, 2017

Trump lawyers clash over how much to cooperate with Russia inquiry

President Donald Trump's legal team is wrestling with how much to cooperate with the special counsel looking into Russian election interference, an internal debate that led to an angry confrontation last week between two White House lawyers and that could shape the course of the investigation. At the heart of the clash is an issue that has challenged multiple presidents during high-stakes Washington investigations: how to handle the demands of investigators without surrendering the institutional prerogatives of the office of the presidency. Similar conflicts during the Watergate and Monica Lewinsky scandals resulted in court rulings that limited a president's right to confidentiality. The debate in Trump's West Wing has pitted Donald McGahn, the White House counsel, against Ty Cobb, a lawyer brought in to manage the response to the investigation.

Associated Press - September 19, 2017

GOP governors launch fake 'news' site critics call propaganda

Republican governors are getting into the "news" business. The Republican Governors Association has quietly launched an online publication that looks like a media outlet and is branded as such on social media. The Free Telegraph blares headlines about the virtues of GOP governors, while framing Democrats negatively. It asks readers to sign up for breaking news alerts. It launched in the summer bearing no acknowledgement that it was a product of an official party committee whose sole purpose is to get more Republicans elected. Only after The Associated Press inquired about the site last week was a disclosure added to The Free Telegraph's pages identifying the publication's partisan source.

This article appeared in the Houston Chronicle

Politico - September 19, 2017

Meet the Leader of the Vast Left-Wing Conspiracy

Almost no one knows who he is, but Jeff Merkley is wondering if there could be a spot for him on the left flank of the 2020 Democratic primary—whether or not Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren run. He’s already beaten Warren to Iowa, and he spent more time in Des Moines this month than Sanders has since last year’s caucuses. A senator from Oregon for nearly nine years, Merkley is probably best known for being the only colleague of Sanders to endorse the Vermont senator last year. Most people could walk by him on the street, or even on the Senate subway, and not know who he is—a POLITICO/Morning Consult poll this week showed that 73 percent of Americans had never heard his name.

The Hill - September 19, 2017

Williams: Momentum builds against gerrymandering

Former Attorney General Eric Holder joked over the summer that he plans to “make redistricting sexy” as head of the new National Democratic Redistricting Committee. I don’t know if drawing congressional district lines will ever be “sexy.” Let’s just say that for the first time the issue is smoking hot. In the past month some Republicans have broken ranks — from Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) to former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger — to speak out about the breakdown in national politics mostly caused by GOP gerrymandering of congressional districts. The facts tell a damning story about the damage being done by partisan state legislatures drawing congressional maps with one goal — to grab power for themselves.

Politico - September 20, 2017

Ryan, White House reject bipartisan health fix

House Speaker Paul Ryan and the White House have informed Senate Republican leaders that they oppose a bipartisan plan to stabilize Obamacare being written in the Senate, according to Trump administration and congressional sources, in a clear bid to boost the Senate's prospects of repealing the health law. After Senate Republicans failed to repeal Obamacare in July, talks began on fixing the law rather than dismantling it. The dose of cold water from senior GOP officials will put pressure on Republican senators to back a last-ditch bill to gut Obamacare before a Sept. 30 deadline. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell backed that approach publicly on Tuesday.

Wall St. Journal - September 20, 2017

States Need $645 Billion to Pay Full Health-Care Costs

When Aurora, Ill., closed its books in December, about $150 million disappeared from the city’s bottom line. The Chicago suburb of 200,000 people hadn’t become poorer. Instead, for the first time it recorded on its balance sheet the full cost of health care promised to public employees once they retire. States and cities around the country will soon book similar losses because of new, widely followed accounting guidelines that apply to most governments starting in fiscal 2018. The new Governmental Accounting Standards Board principles urge officials to record all health care liabilities on their balance sheets instead of pushing a portion of the debt to footnotes.

Politico - September 20, 2017

Republicans rip Rand for rejecting Obamacare repeal

Rand Paul might soon go down as the Republican who saved Obamacare — and he couldn’t care less. "I'm actually happy to be out there as the leading advocate for repealing Obamacare, not keeping it," the Kentucky Republican said in an interview. Of his GOP colleagues, Paul added: "These people, they so totally do not get it." Despite being one of the Senate’s most conservative members, Paul has been the loudest GOP critic of legislation to repeal the health care law that Republicans are desperate to jam through before a Sept. 30 deadline. His recalcitrant opposition left GOP leaders with virtually no breathing room as their whipping got underway, since they can lose only two votes and still pass the bill.

Houston Chronicle - September 19, 2017

After hurricanes, climate change resurfaces in Washington

Hurricanes Harvey and Irma are revving up a debate that had gone quiet in Washington recently as the sheer scale of the destruction in Texas, Florida and the U.S. Virgin Islands forces political leaders to again confront the question of climate change, its role in the increasing frequency of violent storms and its impact on health, safety and the economy. In the immediate aftermath, Republicans and Democrats are falling into familiar positions around an issue on which no immediate policy is expected any time soon, particularly under a president in Donald Trump who has consistently questioned the severity of climate change's threat. But the one-two punch of the storms, which cost more than 100 lives and well over $100 billion in estimated damage, are at least prompting rethinking of the issue and what Washington can or should do to address climate change, political observers said.

Houston Chronicle - September 20, 2017

Speaker Ryan to tour Texas and Florida hurricane damage

U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan will lead a bipartisan delegation Wednesday to Houston and other areas of Texas and Florida hardest hit by Hurricane Harvey and Irma. On his way to Texas, he will visit Jacksonville, Miami, and the Florida Keys to survey damage and meet with FEMA, Coast Guard and local officials. He is expected to arrive in Houston in the evening and meet with Gov. Greg Abbott.

All - September 19, 2017

Lead Stories

Austin American-Statesman - September 18, 2017

Abbott remakes top staff ahead of re-election campaign

With two regular legislative sessions and a special session behind him and what looks to be an easy run for a second term in 2018, Gov. Greg Abbott refreshed his administration Monday with a mostly new team at the top that seems crafted to play a more hands-on role when the Legislature returns in 2019. Luis Saenz, a low-key former top aide to then-Gov. Rick Perry with deep experience in Texas politics and government, will be Abbott’s chief of staff, succeeding Daniel Hodge, who has been by Abbott’s side since he wrangled a job sorting Abbott’s mail in his first campaign for attorney general in 2001.

The Hill - September 18, 2017

GOP state lawmakers meet to plan possible constitutional convention

A group of GOP state legislators spent four days last week in Phoenix outlining how to run a constitutional convention that would pave the way for new amendments mandating a balanced budget and possibly congressional term limits. Nineteen states including Arizona, Iowa and New Hampshire had representation at the meeting, according to The Associated Press, though no Democrats were present. Thirty-four states would need to sign on to the movement to call a new constitutional convention, which would be the first since the one that drafted the U.S. Constitution in 1787. All 27 amendments since adopted have been proposed by Congress.

San Antonio Express News - September 18, 2017

Abbott campaign brings in nearly $700,000 during special session

House Speaker Joe Straus and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick upheld promises not to accept campaign cash during the recent special session, as Republican Gov. Greg Abbott raked in nearly $700,000 for his re-election effort, recently filed finance reports show. Political candidates aren’t allowed to accept campaign contributions during the regular legislative session, but that ban lifts when a special session starts. Straus, R-San Antonio, and Patrick said beforehand they wouldn’t accept campaign dollars during the four-week summer session, which began July 18 and ended in mid-August. Abbott, however, made no such promise and continued to pad his campaign war chest that now boasts over $41 million.

San Antonio Express News - September 18, 2017

Kansas company sues former FourWinds CEO Bates

Legal troubles continue to dog Stan Bates, who next month is scheduled to stand trial with State Sen. Carlos Uresti on criminal fraud charges relating to a bankrupt oil field services company. Bates and his latest venture, Bates Energy Oil & Gas, are accused by a Kansas company of backing out of a deal to lease 170 rail cars to transport frac sand — used in hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, to produce oil and gas. On May 18, the day after Bates and Uresti were arrested for their involvement in defunct frac sand company FourWinds Logistics, Bates informed Caldwell-Baker Co. of Gardner, Kansas that he was scrubbing the deal for the rail cars.

Houston Chronicle - September 16, 2017

FEMA auctioned disaster trailers before Harvey made landfall

The federal government auctioned off disaster-response trailers at fire-sale prices just before Harvey devastated southeast Texas, reducing an already diminished supply of mobile homes ahead of what could become the nation's largest-ever housing mission. More than 100 2017-model Federal Emergency Management Agency trailers were sold over the two days before the Category 4 hurricane landed in the Gulf Coast, an analysis of government data by The Associated Press found. Harvey was already projected to be a monster storm that would inflict unprecedented damage. The trailers were designated to be sold through Aug. 28, after floodwaters sent thousands of Texans onto rooftops and into shelters.

Dallas Morning News - September 19, 2017

The Republican Speaker of the Texas House just called for the removal of a Confederate plaque from the Capitol

Joe Straus, the Republican speaker of the Texas House of Representatives, on Tuesday called for an increasingly divisive Confederate plaque to be removed from the state Capitol building. In a letter to the state board that oversees historical monuments at markers at the Texas Capitol, Straus requested the plaque be removed as soon as possible. "The plaque says that the Civil War was not an act of rebellion and was not primarily about slavery. This is not accurate, and Texans are not well-served by incorrect information about our history," Straus, R-San Antonio, wrote to the State Preservation Board. "Those of us who serve on the State Preservation Board should direct staff to identify the steps necessary to remove this plaque as soon as practicable."

New York Times - September 17, 2017

The Rare, Potent Fuel Powering North Korea’s Weapons

When North Korea launched long-range missiles this summer, and again on Friday, demonstrating its ability to strike Guam and perhaps the United States mainland, it powered the weapons with a rare, potent rocket fuel that American intelligence agencies believe initially came from China and Russia. The United States government is scrambling to determine whether those two countries are still providing the ingredients for the highly volatile fuel and, if so, whether North Korea’s supply can be interrupted, either through sanctions or sabotage. Among those who study the issue, there is a growing belief that the United States should focus on the fuel, either to halt it, if possible, or to take advantage of its volatile properties to slow the North’s program.

Washington Post - September 18, 2017

Could Democrats take the Senate? The odds are against them, but they have a shot.

Strange things are afoot in Alabama, where there’s a special election underway to fill the Senate seat that Attorney General Jeff Sessions vacated when he joined the Trump administration. Luther Strange, who was appointed by the governor to fill the seat, came in second in the primary behind controversial former judge Roy Moore — although calling Moore “controversial” is like calling President Trump “colorful” (it’s true, but it doesn’t begin to capture it). Now the two are headed for a runoff next week. And whatever the outcome of the Alabama race, it looks like a positive harbinger for Democrats’ chances of taking back the Senate next year. The likelihood that Moore will win the runoff has raised the possibility that the race could actually be competitive in the general election in December.

Politico - September 18, 2017

Obamacare repeal plan won’t get full CBO analysis by key deadline

If Senate Republicans vote to repeal Obamacare before the end of the month, they'll be flying blind — not knowing the impact their plan will have on insurance coverage or premium costs, budget scorekeepers said Monday. The Congressional Budget Office will only have a bare-bones assessment of the latest GOP bill ready before Sept. 30, the deadline for Senate Republicans to pass health care legislation on a party-line vote. The CBO analysis, which the agency aims to release early next week, will include some basic budgetary estimates required by reconciliation rules. But it will not have details about the practical implications of the bill, including how many people could lose coverage and the impact on insurance premiums.

KHOU - September 18, 2017

Harvey Recovery Czar Faces Limits To ‘Future-Proofing’ Texas

The man tasked with overseeing Texas’ Hurricane Harvey rebuilding efforts sees his job as “future-proofing” before the next disaster, but he isn’t empowered on his own to reshape flood-prone Houston or the state’s vulnerable coastline, which has been walloped by three major hurricanes since 2006. Texas A&M Chancellor John Sharp will face the same political and bureaucratic challenges that have long stalled meaningful improvements in storm protections, and some doubt that even Harvey’s record flooding and huge price tag will bring about real change. ... Sharp, who was appointed by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, follows a line of fix-it men charged with picking up the pieces following major storms in recent years, including Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and Superstorm Sandy in 2012. He has won early bipartisan praise as a practical choice to preside over the efforts to recover from Harvey, which killed more than 70 people and damaged or destroyed more than 200,000 homes.

State Stories

Waco Tribune-Herald - September 15, 2017

Waco archaeologist to challenge Anderson for Texas House seat in 2018

State Rep. Charles “Doc” Anderson, R-Waco, will face a Democratic challenger in Katherine Turner-Pearson, a Waco archaeologist, as he runs next year for an eighth, two-year term representing Texas House District 56. Turner-Pearson, who has never run for political office, sits on the McLennan County Tax Appraisal Review Board and the Waco-based Community Race Relations Coalition Board. “I see myself as going down to the state and representing my district here in McLennan County, not looking at what’s going to be the national thing to do for the party, not looking at what is trending across the nation,” Turner-Pearson, 59, said.

Austin American-Statesman - September 18, 2017

Austin ad agency lands $13 million Texas Tourism account

An Austin advertising agency is taking over marketing responsibilities for Texas Tourism, the state’s Economic Development and Tourism division. Proof Advertising said Monday it had secured the account, which has a budget of $13 million for fiscal 2018. That’s down significantly from the $34 million the state budgeted in fiscal 2017. “We’ve had a lot of travel clients over the years, but nothing could make us prouder than to represent the state of Texas,” Bryan Christian, Proof Advertising’s president, said in a written statement. “The story of Texas is one of the most amazing ever told and we’re looking forward to finding new ways to tell it and new ways to introduce Texas to new travelers from all over the country and the world.”

Austin American-Statesman - September 18, 2017

UT System regents commit up to $4.5M for a bid to run Los Alamos

The University of Texas System Board of Regents on Monday authorized spending up to $4.5 million to prepare a bid to operate Los Alamos National Laboratory, a key part of the nation’s nuclear weapons complex. The UT System board also elected Regent Sara Martinez Tucker to chair the board, which oversees 14 academic and health campuses. She succeeds Paul Foster, who has led the board through a sometimes-fractious four years. The spending vote was not a surprise, as the board encouraged its staff last month to explore development of a bid. The regents still would have to vote again before submitting a proposal to the federal government to operate Los Alamos, which is tucked into the mountains of northern New Mexico.

Austin American-Statesman - September 18, 2017

Garson: How Texas can stop the ‘death spiral’ of health insurance

When Congressional Republicans developed a plan to repeal Obamacare, they did so with the promise of offering states flexibility. The legislation eliminated the expansion of Medicaid, too, and sought to turn that program into one that allow states to supposedly use money more effectively. But the legislation would have removed about $800 billion of health care funding before telling the states to manage what was left. As lawmakers reassess those reform efforts, Texas should seize the opportunity to be an innovator on health care. As the home of more uninsured people than any other state, it has a unique responsibility to do so.

Texas Tribune - September 19, 2017

New law aims to help elderly Texans fooled by scammers

Prompted by a man she had never met, an elderly woman in Dallas County recently decided to sell her home and wire the $200,000 windfall to a mysterious bank account, a victims advocate recalled. The man, who claimed to be communicating from Nigeria, promised to marry her. It was all a scam. Today, the woman is homeless. The advocate, Julie Krawczyk, is director of Dallas County’s non-profit Elder Financial Safety Center and said she sees cases like this all the time. “When we asked her why she did that, she said, 'well that’s what you do when you’re in love,'” Krawczyk said.

Texas Tribune - September 18, 2017

Houston looks to Supreme Court to resolve same-sex marriage benefits fight

After the Texas Supreme Court ruled that the landmark decision legalizing same-sex marriage does not fully address the right to marriage benefits, the city of Houston is now looking to the U.S. Supreme Court to weigh in. In a petition filed with the high court Friday, the city asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review a June 30 decision by the Texas Supreme Court in which it ruled that there’s still room for state courts to explore “the reach and ramifications” of marriage-related issues that resulted from the legalization of same-sex marriage.

Texas Tribune - September 19, 2017

Hey, Texplainer: How is FEMA distributing money to areas hit by Harvey?

Hey, Texplainer: How much aid has the federal government sent Texas for Hurricane Harvey recovery, and how is the Federal Emergency Management Agency distributing that money? It’s been several weeks since Harvey slammed the Texas Coast and left Houston — the nation's fourth-largest city — grappling with unprecedented flooding. State officials put the latest death toll at 82, though it may take weeks to determine the exact number of fatalities. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott requested money from the federal government, which has sent more than $1 billion since the federal disaster declaration issued by President Donald Trump on Aug. 25, according to Melaney Rodriguez, a member of Americorps-FEMA Corps, a partnership between The Corporation for National and Community Service and FEMA that helps with disaster preparedness, response and recovery.

San Antonio Express News - September 19, 2017

Feral hog trial at Camp Bullis a ‘practice run’ for pig poison

The feral hog with auburn fur hesitated as it watched another hog devour corn from a nearby wooden box. The cautious animal took one step toward the feed box, then two steps away. Within seconds, a total of nine hogs swarmed the feed box that researchers had left in the woods of the Army’s Camp Bullis. The food they ate was harmless, but was part of an experiment to determine whether feral hogs will later eat bait laced with fatal doses of sodium nitrite. Sodium nitrite is used in small amounts as a preservative in foods such as ham and bacon. But it is fatal in much higher doses and can kill a wild hog within two hours. Tests have shown a fatal dose won’t affect the meat from a hog.

San Antonio Express News - September 15, 2017

SAEN: Needed: An end to political gerrymandering

There was a welcome development recently in the bizarre world of gerrymandering. In an ideal world, all parties — as in Democrats and Republicans — would be on board with the notion that the every-10-year exercise of redistricting should be devoid of imposing partisan advantage. In other words, states should be drawing state legislative and congressional districts without the intent of keeping a controlling party in power. That redistricting task constitutionally lies with the states. Both parties have used that power to maintain control. It’s just that now, since they’ve captured a majority of state legislatures, Republicans — when they aren’t enacting voter ID laws for similar motives — are the more egregious abusers. And this is particularly true in rosey red Texas.

San Antonio Business Journal - September 18, 2017

Lone Star State tops the rankings for best business climate by a Texas-sized margin

Texas ranks No. 1 in the U.S. for best business climate, according to a new survey of corporate executives released today at the International Economic Development Council’s annual conference in Toronto. The survey, conducted every three years by the Development Counsellors International, tracks trends in economic development and for the first time this year also includes findings about how the current political climate is impacting business perceptions. It’s called the “Winning Strategies in Economic Development Marketing” survey.

Houston Chronicle - September 18, 2017

Texas Bullion Depository names former SWAT team leader director of security

The first line of defense between the outside world and Texas' gold will be Travis County Sheriff's Office veteran Bryan Whoolery, announced Lone Star Tangible Assets on Thursday. Whoolery, a 28-year employee of the office and a SWAT team leader, will be the director of security for the long-awaited Texas Bullion Depository. "Lone Star Tangible Assets is pleased Sgt. Bryan Whoolery will spearhead state-of-the-art security measures and programs to safeguard the depository," said Lone Star Chairman Matthew Ferris. "Whoolery has the requisite experience to ensure that all of our precious metals stay safe in Texas."

Houston Chronicle - September 18, 2017

Texas education chief making his mark in Harvey crisis

Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath's office became more of a triage unit than a traditional education office once Hurricane Harvey hit. Which school districts did the hurricane mow over? How bad is the flooding? Are schools that were either wrecked or flooded safe enough for class? Are children safe enough to be able go to school? The mission: help school districts across the state recover from the horrific storm and flooding as quickly as possible with all the resources the state can provide. Morath and the Texas Education Agency are normally focused on understanding the intricacies of state testing and accountability, among other education issues like looking for ways to improve teacher quality and review charter schools.

Houston Chronicle - September 17, 2017

The politics of Harvey relief: How local, state officials are performing so far

Three weeks after Hurricane Harvey rumbled onto Texas' shores, the real world damage has become clear with horrific flooding, thousands forced from their homes, more than 80 deaths and years of recovery left to come all lie ahead. But there is a political impact to the storm too, that is only now beginning to come into focus. Political leaders can't prevent natural disasters. But how they respond can have a big impact on their political careers that could reverberate for years. In most cases, presidents, governors and mayors benefit from attention, said Kyle Kondik, communications director for the University of Virginia Center for Politics. "Disasters can often bring out the best in people and become a unifying event," Kondik said.

Houston Chronicle - September 17, 2017

US coastal growth continues despite lessons of past storms

Rising sea levels and fierce storms have failed to stop relentless population growth along U.S. coasts in recent years, a new Associated Press analysis shows. The latest punishing hurricanes scored bull's-eyes on two of the country's fastest growing regions: coastal Texas around Houston and resort areas of southwest Florida. Nothing seems to curb America's appetite for life near the sea, especially in the warmer climates of the South. Coastal development destroys natural barriers such as islands and wetlands, promotes erosion and flooding, and positions more buildings and people in the path of future destruction, according to researchers and policy advisers who study hurricanes. "History gives us a lesson, but we don't always learn from it," said Graham Tobin, a disaster researcher at the University of South Florida in Tampa. That city took a glancing hit from Hurricane Irma — one of the most intense U.S. hurricanes in years — but suffered less flooding and damage than some other parts of the state.

Houston Chronicle - September 15, 2017

Study: Don't mess with 'Dreamer' families - they vote, and there's lots of them

As lawmakers in Congress calculate the political risks of making a deal to protect so-called Dreamers, a new study the New American Economy finds hidden political strength in their family members, particularly in Texas. The report found that roughly 2.5 million U.S. citizens live in the same household as someone who benefits from former President Barack Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, with the Trump administration is ending in March. Of those, more than 750,000 can vote, nearly 100,000 of them in Texas alone.

Dallas Morning News - September 18, 2017

Not so fast: Dallas ISD is focusing on changing four school names, not dozens

Hold on, y’all. Sam Houston Elementary isn’t going to change its name, at least not anytime soon. After initially stating that it would do more research into the names of 20 campuses, investigating the connections with slavery or the Confederacy of those for whom the schools were named, Dallas ISD is taking a different course. Instead of more research, the district is focusing on a narrow set of parameters to only rethink schools named after Confederate generals, said chief of school leadership Stephanie Elizalde. ... The decision to stop researching a broader list — which included Texas revolutionaries such as Houston and William Travis and U.S. founding fathers Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin and James Madison — was made this weekend, after the release of the list created a furor.

Waco Tribune-Herald - September 16, 2017

Texas prison-reentry model a focus of White House reform meeting

Texas' successful shift to prison treatment and rehabilitation programs to transition felons back into society is being eyed as a possible model for federal criminal justice programs. A bipartisan group of about two dozen elected officials, religious and business leaders and representatives from the Justice Department and other federal agencies joined President Donald Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, at a White House roundtable conference as a first step in an effort to shift the federal corrections system from its punitive crime-fighting focus to improved reentry programs that have been proven to lower recidivism in several states.

San Antonio Current - September 15, 2017

Facebook Shuts Down Popular Texas Secessionist Page — Because it's Probably Run by Russia

An incredibly popular Texas secessionist Facebook page has been shuttered by Facebook — on the suspicion it was being run by Russian group potentially tied to influencing the 2016 U.S. election. According to a September 6 press release, Facebook shut down some 470 "inauthentic" accounts and groups that were "affiliated with one another and likely operated out of Russia." These accounts were allegedly all linked to Russian accounts that paid some $100,000 for political Facebook ads preceding the presidential election. Business Insider confirmed this sweep included "Heart of Texas," a page that had over 225,000 followers in summer 2017, and featured a steady stream of aggressively anti-Hillary Clinton, anti-immigrant, pro-Texas, anti-LGBT and generally nationalistic memes.

Reason - September 18, 2017

Greg Abbott's Fair-Weather Federalism

When he was attorney general of Texas, Greg Abbott liked to describe his job this way: "I go into the office, I sue the federal government, and I go home." It was a joke, but it wasn't far from the truth. During his tenure as the state's top prosecutor, Abbott sued the Obama administration 31 times, bringing Washington to court over everything from immigration to federal limits on red snapper fishing. When Abbott became governor in 2015, he didn't lose his enthusiasm for states' rights. His Texas Plan, unveiled last year, proposed nine constitutional amendments "to rein in the federal government and restore the balance of power between the States and the United States."

Business Insider - September 14, 2017

Texas secession movement: Russia-linked Facebook group asked us to participate in anti-Clinton rallies

A Russia-linked Facebook group asked a Texas secessionist movement if it would participate in a series of anti-immigrant, anti-Hillary Clinton rallies it was planning to hold across the state last November, the group's president told Business Insider on Thursday. "When they decided to start doing all these 'Texit' rallies, they reached out and wanted us to participate," said Daniel Miller, the president of the Texas Nationalist Movement. "And we said 'thanks, but no thanks.'" The Facebook group, called Heart of Texas, had over 225,000 followers as of last summer. It was shut down last week as part of Facebook's takedown of accounts and pages "affiliated with one another and likely operated out of Russia," a Facebook spokesman told Business Insider on Wednesday.

Corpus Christi Caller Times - September 15, 2017

Moritz: Why politicians should be loathe to click the 'like' button

Call it the “like” heard ‘round the world. Late Monday night when most sensible folks were in their jammies and ready to hit the pillow, the name of Texas’ junior U.S. senator began trending on Twitter. And not in a good way. It turned out that @TedCruz, the verified account of the senator and 2016 Republican presidential hopeful, had just “liked” a two-minute X-rated video posted by a porn site. Screen-shot stills of the video along with Cruz’s profile photo and the little red heart that affirms approval of the content swirled at dizzying speeds on just about every social media platform known to the 21st century.

McAllen Monitor - September 15, 2017

Glod: Texas' bail system is costing us all a fortune

If you ask anyone, regardless of their political views, who they would rather have behind bars awaiting trial: Someone who poses a threat to society but can afford to pay their way out of jail, or someone who poses little to no threat to society but can’t afford to get out jail? It’d likely be the former. Currently in most jurisdictions in Texas, bail determinations generally hinge on the ability to pay for release, not whether someone is a threat to our safety. However, there are validated risk assessment models that can more accurately predict whether someone will fail to appear for court appearances or commit another offense while awaiting trial. These are tools that can help supplement, not supplant, a judge’s decision to release or hold a defendant while awaiting trial. Determining the level of risk a person poses over their ability to pay is a better determining factor when it comes to preserving public safety.

Bloomberg - September 15, 2017

Forget Oil, Water Is New Ticket for Pipeline Growth in Texas

The torrent of dirty water coming out of almost every American oil well is the next big bet for a former fund manager for billionaire Paul Allen. Getting rid of wastewater from onshore wells has become an increasingly costly problem for oil producers as U.S. crude output surged in recent years, especially in the new shale fields from Texas to North Dakota. Drillers typically get about seven barrels of water for every one of oil, and some struggle to deal with the overflow that is mostly sent by truck to disposal sites miles away. David Capobianco, a former managing director for Allen’s Vulcan Capital, is trying to change that by building pipelines to get wastewater out.

City Stories

New York Times - September 17, 2017

His Home Flooded, the Port Arthur Mayor Puts His City First

On a winding street of older brick homes in the center of town, only one house is without a mountain of debris on the front yard. The house, a two-story at the end of the cul-de-sac, had not been spared by the recent storm, which submerged three-quarters of this coastal industrial city. The homeowner, Derrick Ford Freeman, has just not had time to worry about his own affairs. He is the mayor of Port Arthur. Normally the job of mayor is part-time, requiring only one white button-down shirt bearing his name and the city logo. Lately, his mother has been washing that shirt every morning.

KHOU - September 15, 2017

As Harvey flooded the city, thousands of Houston firefighters were told to stay home

Thousands were rescued from their homes. But at the height of Hurricane Harvey’s flooding, thousands of Houston firefighters were told not to report to work. When the topic was brought up with Marty Lancton, his eyes turned red. The president of Houston’s firefighter’s union tried to swallow and hide his emotions. “We’re sorry,” Lancton said. “Every Houston firefighter would put their life on the line for anybody without question, with a moment’s notice, and this is not different.” During one of the worst catastrophes to ever hit this city, about 3,000 of HFD’s finest were told to stay home.

Dallas Morning News - September 15, 2017

Kingston's campaign video was a 'clear violation' of city rules, ethics commission chairman says

Dallas City Council member Philip Kingston could be in trouble for a campaign video he filmed inside his City Hall office. A preliminary Ethics Advisory Commission panel on Friday advanced a complaint against Kingston's ad to the full commission. Commission chairman John Rogers, a former assistant city attorney, said he believed Kingston had committed "a pretty clear violation" of the city's ethics rules, which Kingston had voted to adopt earlier this year. ... Kingston posted the video in question last month to his Facebook page. In it, Kingston sits in his City Hall office and implores his supporters to come to his fundraiser at a cafe in his district. "I really need you to bring me a contribution," Kingston says in the video. "This job is a lot of fun, but, boy, is it not cheap."

San Antonio Express News - September 18, 2017

Chasnoff: Awareness of racist symbols growing

In a nod, apparently, to how toxic Confederate symbols have become, a developer of the downtown Robert E. Lee Hotel wants to modify the structure’s historic sign. Currently, two neon signs that soar above the 10-story brick building at 111 W. Travis St. read “Hotel, Robt E Lee, Air Conditioned.” On Wednesday, a Connecticut-based firm that plans to renovate the 72-unit building will request approval from the Historic and Design Review Commission to remove the “E Lee.” The move comes just a few weeks after council voted to relocate a Confederate monument in downtown Travis Park, and trustees of the North East Independent School District voted unanimously to change the name of Robert E. Lee High School.

Houston Chronicle - September 18, 2017

Last 900 Harvey evacuees leave convention center in Houston

Officials say the last 900 Hurricane Harvey evacuees at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston have been relocated as the site returns to regular business. Housing and Community Development Department spokeswoman Jocklynn Keville (JAHK'-lyn kuh-VIL') said Monday that most of those evacuees were moved to a Houston Community College warehouse outfitted as a shelter. Keville says the rest moved over the weekend to a nonprofit group's Residences at Emancipation and also to the Chinese Community Center .

Dallas Morning News - September 18, 2017

School officials apologize after Texas actress distributes sex-trafficking, abortion materials to kids

A presentation by Friday Night Lights and Northern Exposure actress Janine Turner upset some Southlake parents because their children were given material about sex trafficking and abortion. The Tarrant County actress spoke at Eubanks Intermediate School for Constitution Day last week to discuss the U.S. Constitution and patriotism. Turner is the founder of Constituting America, which she describes as a nonpartisan group aimed at promoting civic engagement and understanding of constitutional rights. But the organization promotes conservative ideas on its website and made a documentary about right wing voices being silenced or met with violence.

Houston Chronicle - September 19, 2017

Houston's convention business survives first post-Harvey test

A group of exploration geophysicists will begin moving exhibits into the George R. Brown Convention Center on Tuesday, just days after the last Hurricane Harvey evacuee left the building. Meanwhile, a gathering of meeting planners will wrap up a successful event at the Marriott Marquis across the street, a feat one official called "incredible." The conventions - the first major ones in Houston since Harvey's historic flooding - show the city survived the initial threat to its growing convention business despite despairing national news coverage that lasted for days. In the end, not a single scheduled show canceled, said Mike Waterman, president of the Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Houston Chronicle - September 19, 2017

For Houston's immigrants, fear and uncertainty are the new rules

Damaris Gonzalez was 9 when her family came to the United States. Twelve when she learned the word "undocumented." An estimated 600,000 immigrants lack documentation in Houston. Despite their numbers, many live life in the shadows, unable to participate in much of daily life and vulnerable to exploitation and abuse. "My life in Houston as an undocumented woman has not been the greatest," said Gonzalez. "My parents were afraid to even let me go on a school trip," for fear someone would discover her status and she would not return. Advocates and individuals who work with immigrants who are living in the country without documentation said that fear has only increased in recent months at a panel discussion September 13 co-hosted by the Kinder Institute for Urban Research and the Houston Immigration Legal Services Collaborative.

Ft. Worth Star-Telegram - September 18, 2017

Commission wants City Council to join ‘sanctuary cities’ lawsuit

City leaders should reconsider joining a lawsuit against a bill targeting “sanctuary cities,” the city’s Human Relations Commission said Monday. Commission members debated for nearly two hours on the wording of the recommendation they will send to the City Council, in the end saying it was their duty to ask the council to “reconsider its position on joining other major Texas cities” that are already parties to the lawsuit. “Implementation of SB4 disproportionately impacts Hispanic/Latino residents and targets them for extra scrutiny simply because of how they look or how they speak,” the recommendation says.

Texas Tribune - September 19, 2017

In Houston, low-income residents struggle after losing vehicles in floods

Daniel Gonzalez stood next to his father under the shade of a tree at the Imperial Oaks apartment complex last week and offered fallow glances at the parking lot where the men’s two immobile vehicles sat. The 18-year-old and his dad used to pay the bills by working as day laborers at various construction jobs. But ever since Hurricane Harvey dumped more than 50 inches of rain on parts of this city, flooding their parking lot and rendering their cars useless, they’re now unable to get to work. That’s left them spending their days in a monotonous, hopeless holding pattern that’s stretched on for weeks.

Texas Tribune - September 19, 2017

Houston looks to Supreme Court to resolve same-sex marriage benefits fight

After the Texas Supreme Court ruled that the landmark decision legalizing same-sex marriage does not fully address the right to marriage benefits, the city of Houston is now looking to the U.S. Supreme Court to weigh in. In a petition filed with the high court Friday, the city asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review a June 30 decision by the Texas Supreme Court in which it ruled that there’s still room for state courts to explore “the reach and ramifications” of marriage-related issues that resulted from the legalization of same-sex marriage.

National Stories

Washington Post - September 19, 2017

In U.N. speech, Trump threatens to ‘totally destroy North Korea’ and calls Kim Jong Un the ‘Rocket Man’

President Trump warned the United Nations in a speech Tuesday that the world faces “great peril” from gathering threats posed by rogue regimes with powerful weapons and terrorists with expanding reach across the globe, issuing a call to fellow leaders to join the United States in the fight to defeat them. “We meet at a time of immense promise and great peril,” Trump said in his maiden address to more than 150 international delegations at the annual U.N. General Assembly. “It is up to us whether we will lift the world to new heights or let it fall into a valley of disrepair.”

Washington Post - September 19, 2017

Senate Intelligence Committee interview with Trump lawyer abruptly canceled

The Senate Intelligence Committee has unexpectedly canceled a Tuesday session to interview Michael Cohen, a former lawyer for President Trump’s business and a close associate of the president. The meeting was scheduled as part of the committee’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. Cohen arrived for the interview with his attorney Tuesday morning, but left the closed door session after about an hour, informing reporters waiting outside that committee staff had suddenly informed him they did not wish the interview to go forward.

Politico - September 19, 2017

Court: Law against encouraging illegal immigration could violate First Amendment

A federal law that makes it a crime to encourage or induce foreigners to enter or stay in the U.S. illegally may run afoul of the First Amendment, a federal appeals court suggested in an unusual order Monday. A 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel asked federal public defenders and immigrant rights groups to submit amicus briefs arguing that a San Jose, California, woman was improperly convicted because the law is vague or overbroad. Immigration consultant Evelyn Sineneng-Smith was convicted at a jury trial in 2013 of inducing foreigners from the Philippines to stay in the U.S. unlawfully by charging them to file labor and immigration petitions that had no chance of winning the immigrants legal status.

Washington Post - September 18, 2017

New push to replace Obamacare reflects high stakes for Republicans

A final GOP effort to dismantle the Affordable Care Act burst into view this week in the Senate, where leaders began pressuring rank-and-file Republicans with the hope of voting on the package by the end of the month. The renewed push comes nearly two months after the last attempt to overhaul the law known as Obamacare failed in a dramatic, early-morning vote, dealing a substantial defeat to President Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and prompting many to assume that the effort was dead. The latest proposal would give states control over billions in federal health-care spending, repeal the law’s key mandates, and enact deep cuts to Medicaid, the federally funded insurance program for the poor, elderly and disabled.

Bloomberg - September 18, 2017

Equifax Suffered a Hack Almost Five Months Earlier Than the Date It Disclosed

Equifax Inc. learned about a major breach of its computer systems in March -- almost five months before the date it has publicly disclosed, according to three people familiar with the situation. In a statement, the company said the March breach was not related to the hack that exposed the personal and financial data on 143 million U.S. consumers, but one of the people said the breaches involve the same intruders. Either way, the revelation that the 118-year-old credit-reporting agency suffered two major incidents in the span of a few months adds to a mounting crisis at the company, which is the subject of multiple investigations and announced the retirement of two of its top security executives on Friday.

Politico - September 18, 2017

How the FEC Turned a Blind Eye to Foreign Meddling

When Facebook revealed to investigators that a Kremlin-linked troll farm paid the company $100,000 for divisive political ads during the 2016 election, many saw the news as a bombshell. But in a year of unpredictable leaks, scandals and scoops, this just might be the least surprising news. Almost everybody with a Facebook, Twitter or Instagram account saw a political advertisement on the internet last year. The opportunity for a political campaign is obvious. Internet ads give candidates and interest groups the ability to microtarget potential voters more effectively than TV, for far less money. Approximately two-thirds of Americans get at least some of their news from social media, while print newspaper readership is a fraction of what it once was.

Wall St. Journal - September 18, 2017

Russia and China Begin Joint War Games

Russia and China launched joint war games in the North Pacific on Monday, showcasing a budding military partnership and giving Moscow a venue to double up on its display of military might as world leaders convene at the United Nations. Chinese and Russian forces are set to conduct eight days of land and sea drills, including defending ships from attack by air or by other surface ships, the Chinese Defense Ministry said. No formal military alliance exists between Russia and China, but they are developing common equipment and techniques that allow them to train and fight together.

Houston Chronicle - September 19, 2017

Health care study: Nation more united than people think

Despite the seemingly never-ending bickering and bombast over health care in this country, a new Texas Medical Center Health Policy Institute survey shows that people are, in fact, overwhelmingly in agreement on many points. The survey, released Tuesday, also showed that such uniformity of opinion about the importance of health insurance crosses political boundaries. Now in its third year, the survey asked a wide ranging series of health care questions to 9,200 consumers across 15 states and more than 450 physicians earlier this summer. For the first time the survey looked at political leanings of a state to see if that influenced answers.

Politico - September 19, 2017

Clinton won't rule out challenging legitimacy of 2016 election

Democrat Hillary Clinton refused to rule out challenging the legitimacy of last year’s presidential election in an interview released Monday afternoon, though she said such a move would be unprecedented and legally questionable. “I don't know if there's any legal constitutional way to do that. I think you can raise questions,” Clinton told NPR’s Terry Gross during an extended interview on “Fresh Air,” before pivoting to criticism of President Donald Trump’s rhetoric regarding Russian efforts to interfere in the 2016 race.

New York Times - September 18, 2017

Trump Administration Rejects Study Showing Positive Impact of Refugees

Trump administration officials, under pressure from the White House to provide a rationale for reducing the number of refugees allowed into the United States next year, rejected a study by the Department of Health and Human Services that found that refugees brought in $63 billion more in government revenues over the past decade than they cost. The draft report, which was obtained by The New York Times, contradicts a central argument made by advocates of deep cuts in refugee totals as President Trump faces an Oct. 1 deadline to decide on an allowable number. The issue has sparked intense debate within his administration as opponents of the program, led by Mr. Trump’s chief policy adviser, Stephen Miller, assert that continuing to welcome refugees is too costly and raises concerns about terrorism.

CNN - September 18, 2017

US government wiretapped former Trump campaign chairman

US investigators wiretapped former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort under secret court orders before and after the election, sources tell CNN, an extraordinary step involving a high-ranking campaign official now at the center of the Russia meddling probe. The government snooping continued into early this year, including a period when Manafort was known to talk to President Donald Trump. Some of the intelligence collected includes communications that sparked concerns among investigators that Manafort had encouraged the Russians to help with the campaign, according to three sources familiar with the investigation. Two of these sources, however, cautioned that the evidence is not conclusive.

New York Times - September 16, 2017

Bewildered by That Rarest of Sightings in Washington: Bipartisanship

Bipartisanship can be disorienting. That’s why Washington has seemed so perplexed over the past 10 days. An unexpected outbreak of cooperation between President Trump and the two top congressional Democrats has upended the established order and left lawmakers grasping to divine the significance, especially Republicans who saw themselves as a strong ruling majority. “You’ve got an unconventional president who is not limited to what the conventions of political behavior are among office holders,” said Senator John Cornyn of Texas, the No. 2 Senate Republican. “He is shaking things up.”

Waco Tribune - September 16, 2017

Whitaker: Baylor survey on religious Trump voters possibly sacrilegious but plenty enlightening

Baylor University’s survey profiling the religious wave that catapulted real-estate magnate and reality TV star Donald Trump into the presidency in 2016 isn’t so much a revelation as a stunning confirmation of what must be clear to anyone who digests news daily. Findings: Religious folks behind Trump tend to belong to white evangelical Protestant churches; view the United States as a Christian nation (separation of church and state be damned); believe in an authoritative god actively involved in world happenings (such as hurricanes); deem Muslims from the Middle East a threat; and oppose gay and transgender rights. More stunning: Researchers’ conclusion that many evangelicals may well allow their politics to shape their religion, rather than vice versa. This may explain why biblical cherry-picking is increasingly rampant.

Houston Chronicle - September 18, 2017

NAACP sues Trump administration for ending 'Dreamer' protections

As Donald Trump and the Congress look for an agreement to protect young immigrants from deportation, the NAACP brought suit Monday on behalf of "Dreamers" who would be hit by the administration's decision to end an Obama-era program that provided temporary legal status. Following California and 15 other states, the nation's oldest civil rights organization is challenging the constitutionality of the president's plan to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program. The vast majority of DACA registrants, or Dreamers, are "people of color," the NAACP said in court briefs.

New York Times - September 18, 2017

With a Picked Lock and a Threatened Indictment, Mueller’s Inquiry Sets a Tone

Paul J. Manafort was in bed early one morning in July when federal agents bearing a search warrant picked the lock on his front door and raided his Virginia home. They took binders stuffed with documents and copied his computer files, looking for evidence that Mr. Manafort, President Trump’s former campaign chairman, set up secret offshore bank accounts. They even photographed the expensive suits in his closet. The special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, then followed the house search with a warning: His prosecutors told Mr. Manafort they planned to indict him, said two people close to the investigation. The moves against Mr. Manafort are just a glimpse of the aggressive tactics used by Mr. Mueller and his team of prosecutors in the four months since taking over the Justice Department’s investigation into Russia’s attempts to disrupt last year’s election, according to lawyers, witnesses and American officials who have described the approach.

Miami Herald - September 15, 2017

Judge: Have politicians, not court, settle immigration issue

A judge said Thursday he'd prefer that politicians in Washington, not the courts, settle the issue of what to do about thousands of immigrants brought into the United States illegally when they were children. U.S. District Judge Nicholas Garaufis is overseeing a case in which immigration advocates want to challenge President Donald Trump's decision to end a program that has protected some young immigrants from deportation. But at a Brooklyn court hearing, he said fast-moving political developments over a legislative solution might mean the court shouldn't waste its time. The judge read a Trump tweet from earlier in the day that he said shows the Republican president wants to find relief for immigrants protected by the program, called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA.

The Hill - September 17, 2017

The Memo: Trump keeps political world guessing

The political world is trying to figure out President Trump — again. Trump has repeatedly transgressed the norms of political behavior since he began his quest for the presidency in June 2015. He has done so primarily by appealing to the Republican base in visceral terms. That has changed in recent days, as Trump has instead sought progress on a stalled legislative agenda by cooperating with Democrats. Now, Washington is fixated on whether this presages a longer-term shift on Trump’s part or is only a momentary aberration.

CNN - September 15, 2017

Trump admin to expand hunting access on public lands

Interior Department Secretary Ryan Zinke signed an order Friday morning aiming to expand access for hunters and fishers to public lands and monuments. In what is being described as an "expansive" secretarial order, Zinke's rule would ultimately allow broader access across the board to hunters and fishers on public lands managed by the Interior Department, according to the order. A section of the order also amends the national monument management plan to include or expand hunting and fishing opportunities to the "extent practicable under the law."

Bloomberg - September 17, 2017

Superpower India to Replace China as Growth Engine

India is poised to emerge as an economic superpower, driven in part by its young population, while China and the Asian Tigers age rapidly, according to Deloitte LLP. The number of people aged 65 and over in Asia will climb from 365 million today to more than half a billion in 2027, accounting for 60 percent of that age group globally by 2030, Deloitte said in a report Monday. In contrast, India will drive the third great wave of Asia’s growth – following Japan and China -- with a potential workforce set to climb from 885 million to 1.08 billion people in the next 20 years and hold above that for half a century. ``India will account for more than half of the increase in Asia’s workforce in the coming decade, but this isn’t just a story of more workers: these new workers will be much better trained and educated than the existing Indian workforce,’’ said Anis Chakravarty, economist at Deloitte India.

Austin American-Statesman - September 15, 2017

Oppel: Where does America’s hate come from? Your Facebook feed

A Fox News poll released Aug. 28 found that 56 percent of respondents think President Trump is “tearing the country apart” didn’t surprise me. What did stun me was how divided Democrats and Republicans are on that question. Only 15 percent of Republicans believe that Trump is tearing the country apart, while among Democrats that belief registered an incredible 93 percent, according to the poll. We have lost the middle ground. We now divide ourselves more and more by political party, and even within parties — with GOP extremists like Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick working to defeat moderates like Speaker Joe Straus.

PolitiFact - September 14, 2017

PolitiFact: Fact-checking Hillary Clinton’s book 'What Happened'

For us at PolitiFact, Clinton’s book is a trove of checkable claims. She is a self-confessed wonk, and her references to research and statistics range from the mundane to the deepest undercurrents that shape our politics. Our fact-checker’s guide to her book follows that eclectic mix. ... "Texas has defunded Planned Parenthood and refused to expand Medicaid, and maternal mortality doubled between 2010 and 2014." On the right to have an abortion, Clinton said, "There’s overwhelming evidence about what happens when these rights are denied." "Texas has defunded Planned Parenthood and refused to expand Medicaid, and maternal mortality doubled between 2010 and 2014," she wrote. ... But the link between the funding cut and the rise in maternal mortality rate is unproven. The events took place at the same time but that doesn’t necessarily mean one caused the other.

Politico - September 16, 2017

Rubin: Getting Real With North Korea

The right response to North Korea’s challenge over the long term is a form of regional containment. Working with Seoul and Tokyo and other friends and allies, Washington must ensure that the United States and its allies will always be in a dominant military position should Pyongyang try to use its nuclear weapons as blackmail. That means the tightest possible alliance with South Korea and Japan, analogous to NATO allies during the Cold War. Which means there is no place for President Trump’s threat to trash the U.S. South Korea trade agreement during a period of crisis (trade improvements can wait) not to mention his bitter critique of an ally’s elected leader. Dominating the military balance at every level must be the joint policy of the United States, South Korea and Japan. Along with the tightest possible sanctions regime, this new military standard will show that North Korea’s reckless policies have had real-world consequences.

All - September 18, 2017

Lead Stories

Houston Chronicle - September 15, 2017

Barton, a 'no' vote on Harvey aid, to lead congressional recovery task force

U.S. Rep. Joe Barton, one of four Texas Republicans who voted against at $15 billion relief package for the victims of Hurricane Harvey, will lead a congressional task force to help coordinate recovery efforts. Despite his opposition to the bill, which was tied to an increase in the government debt limit, Barton said he wants to help. "Texans will not leave one another behind," he said in a statement Friday. Barton, who has served in Congress since 1985, is generally considered the "dean" of the Texas congressional delegation. He will team up with Laredo Democrat Henry Cuellar in a bipartisan effort to coordinate Congress's response to the storm that devastated Houston and the Gulf Coast.

Texas Tribune - September 18, 2017

Houston lawyer Mostyn talks Harvey, Irma and how new laws could affect storm-related lawsuits

On the Sunday after Hurricane Harvey’s floodwaters finally began draining out of the nation’s fourth-largest city, CBS’ 60 Minutes re-aired its deep look at the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy as a prelude to what Texans might expect when they try to get their insurance companies to pay up. The piece, entitled “The Storm After The Storm,” prominently featured Houston trial lawyer Steve Mostyn, who represented thousands of homeowners who sued their insurance companies for allegedly shortchanging them on their claims after the 2012 storm slammed New Jersey. Mostyn’s phones have been ringing off the hook ever since — not only from worried Harvey victims but from those impacted more recently by Hurricane Irma in Florida.

Dallas Morning News - September 15, 2017

Schnurman: How to sell Amazon on Dallas for HQ2? Pitch the city, not the state

By the standard metrics, the Dallas area should be a leading contender to land Amazon’s next-generation headquarters. It has the office space, the land, the labor force, the transportation network and the stomach to handle years of hefty taxpayer incentives. The big unknown: Can Amazon get past the Lone Star State's culture wars? It’s not only that Texas is deep red and Amazon’s home in Washington state is neon blue. On some key issues, including immigration, LGBT rights and climate change, Texas’ elected leaders are often at odds with the progressive values of the online giant.

Associated Press - September 17, 2017

Governments turn tables by suing public records requesters

An Oregon parent wanted details about school employees getting paid to stay home. A retired educator sought data about student performance in Louisiana. And college journalists in Kentucky requested documents about the investigations of employees accused of sexual misconduct. Instead, they got something else: sued by the agencies they had asked for public records. Government bodies are increasingly turning the tables on citizens who seek public records that might be embarrassing or legally sensitive. Instead of granting or denying their requests, a growing number of school districts, municipalities and state agencies have filed lawsuits against people making the requests — taxpayers, government watchdogs and journalists who must then pursue the records in court at their own expense.

This article appeared in the Houston Chronicle

Houston Chronicle - September 16, 2017

Private air quality monitoring detects high levels of pollution following Harvey

As Hurricane Harvey barreled into Houston, the state shut down 50 stationary air quality monitors that track pollution levels to protect the sensitive devices from the high winds and torrential rains that swamped the region. The timing, while perhaps unavoidable, couldn't have been worse. Over the week - longer in some neighborhoods - that the air monitors were out of commission, record floods triggered spills from refineries, chemical plants, pipelines and storage tanks that released volatile chemicals into the air. The extent of exposure to these pollutants, some known to cause cancer, may never be known, but since the skies cleared and floods receded, a small corps of private air monitors have spread out into the neighborhoods near the spills and found that emissions likely reached dangerous levels - in some cases more dangerous than environmental regulators initially acknowledged.

Houston Chronicle - September 16, 2017

Chapman: Developers killed Houston's first flood control plan. Don't let them do it again.

Houston has a long relationship with hurricanes. The first occurred in October 1837, when the town was in its infancy. Racer's Storm, as it became known, formed off the Yucatan Peninsula, swept over Brownsville, then curved up the coast toward Galveston. Traveling more than 4,000 miles and lasting 16 days, the storm produced widespread flooding across the Houston area. Hurricanes would continue to strike the Texas coast for the next 180 years, with Harvey, our most recent visitor, dropping historic amounts of rainfall and causing massive flooding. What can Houston do? Unfortunately, planning - for natural disasters or anything else - has never been our strong suit. Although the first map of Houston reveals an orderly grid of 62 blocks with designated land for schools, churches, and government buildings, the Allen brothers did not supply water or sewage systems, street paving, gas works, public schools, or garbage collection.

Washington Post - September 17, 2017

U.S. warns that time is running out for peaceful solution with North Korea

The Trump administration escalated its rhetoric against North Korea on Sunday, warning that time is running out for a peaceful solution between Kim Jong Un’s regime and the United States and its allies. Administration officials said the risk from North Korea’s nuclear weapons program is rising, and they underscored that President Trump will confront the looming crisis at the U.N. General Assembly this week. Trump, who spoke by phone with South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Saturday, referred to Kim on Twitter as “Rocket Man” and asserted that “long gas lines” are forming in the North because of recent U.N. sanctions on oil imports.

Texas Tribune - September 18, 2017

Ramsey: In Harvey, Abbott finds focus in the eye of the storm

You don’t want to call a major disaster a political boon, but Hurricane Harvey blew away some of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s distractions while coinciding with a reboot in the office he wants to hold for another four years. The storm is now the central concern of what has often been an unfocused administration. It also shifted the spotlight away from the most prominent alternative to his leadership — Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, a conservative favorite of some of the GOP’s most outspoken activists. The special session that ended last month was, to put it gently, humbling for the governor.

Washington Post - September 18, 2017

For those in the Party of Trump, the Republicans — not the president — are to blame

During one of their usual morning gatherings at the Bojangles’ restaurant in this rural town near the Virginia border, a group of retirees from a local Baptist church shook their heads at the failure of Washington to repeal Obamacare, lower the national debt, build a wall along the southern border, kick people off welfare or get anything else accomplished. But the focus of their blame is not President Trump, it’s Republicans in Congress — whom they view as standing in the way. And they applaud the president’s recent attempts to work with Democrats on issues ranging from the debt ceiling to immigration. “I am proud to say I am proud of Trump,” said Mildred Oakes, 76, a former registered Democrat who is no longer affiliated with a party.

WFAA - September 15, 2017

State Rep. Pat Fallon pushes for Confederate monument bill

Even when Robert E. Lee's statue is not there, it is an attraction. A base without a statue sits enclosed by gates. People come by to take pictures, and some even brought family to witness what is and is not there. "At the end of the day, we won. There's no statue on that base," said Jeff Hood. Hood was part of the effort to bring Robert E. Lee's statue down at the park in Dallas. It has been met with a now-more vocal sentiment that it should have stayed. Pat Fallon, the Texas Representative of District 106, had a Facebook post on the Fallon For Texas page that made the rounds. He used a simple word addressed to Dallas: "Shame!"

State Stories

Austin American-Statesman - September 17, 2017

PolitiFact: Cruz and O’Rourke running ‘neck and neck’? Half True

A West Texas Democrat seeking to represent the state in the U.S. Senate asserts that he’s already running even with incumbent Ted Cruz. In a Facebook post, El Paso U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke’s campaign said: “Beto O’Rourke out-raised Senator Ted Cruz in the second financial quarter without taking a DIME from PACs, and the latest polls show us tied neck-and-neck.” ... An April 2017 poll showed a 30 percent-30 percent race, though a plurality of registered voters indicated they didn’t know enough to commit either way and the poll folded in too many Democrats. O’Rourke didn’t identify any other poll of the match-up nor did we find one. This claim is partly accurate but lacks important context. We rate it Half True.

Houston Chronicle - September 17, 2017

Mayor asks U.S. Supreme Court to review ruling on same-sex marriage rights

The City of Houston and Mayor Sylvester Turner filed a petition Friday asking the U.S. Supreme Court to review a decision that came down earlier this summer, concluding that states did not have to provide publicly funded benefits to same-sex couples, according to a news release from the city. The decision in Pidgeon v. Parker from the Texas Supreme Court on June 30 said states did not have to provide government employee benefits to all married persons, regardless of whether their marriages are same sex or opposite sex. The Texas court claims the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark 2015 decision Obergefell v. Hodges, that recognized marriage rights among gay couples did not determine whether same-sex couples have spousal benefits. The court also said the Pavan vs. Smith case does not conclude whether same-sex couples are entitled to spousal benefits.

Houston Chronicle - September 15, 2017

Insured losses from Harvey to top Ike, Insurance Council of Texas says

Hurricane Harvey caused $19 billion in insured losses, topping Hurricane Ike, until now the costliest storm to hit Texas with $12 billion in insured losses, the Insurance Council of Texas said Friday. Insured windstorm and other storm-related property losses are expected to top $3 billion. This doesn't include residential property losses due to flooding or any uninsured losses. The flooding of some 250,000 private passenger and commercial vehicles is expected to result in $4.75 billion in losses.

Dallas Morning News - September 17, 2017

Feds cracking down on adults using 'sextortion' to force kids into sending nude photos

In most cases, the blackmailers pose as children on social media sites or a messaging app like Kik. The local cases, like others nationwide, have involved multiple — sometimes hundreds — of victims. Experts say smartphones and social media apps are behind the alarming rise in such crimes. Federal prosecutors and judges in Texas are showing little mercy toward offenders, many of whom are spending decades behind bars. Carl Rusnok, spokesman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Dallas, said adults study and practice for years to learn how to write like teenagers and children — an essential skill in pulling off their sextortion schemes.

Dallas Morning News - September 14, 2017

DMN: Ridiculous legislation alert: New Texas law strong-arms breweries, tramples free market

Will Rogers once said: "I don't make jokes. I watch the government and report the facts." That's how we feel about the new Texas law requiring craft beer breweries that produce more than 225,000 barrels a year to pay a distributor to deliver their beer. That includes making a delivery to their own facility. The effort involved in getting your favorite beer from the producer to your mug is one that hails from the Prohibition era. Pre-Prohibition, breweries could engage in manipulative practices, making their products exclusive to some retailers and preventing competition from other breweries.

Dallas Morning News - September 16, 2017

Hometown flooding brings out gentler side of Ted Cruz

Ted Cruz leaned into a refrigerator and, with an aide and three other volunteers, wrestled it the curb. They dumped a waterlogged buffet, too, and a dining room table. It was a bit symbolic. But the gesture was meaningful to Timothy Moss, 61, as he cleared debris from his dad's house. From a driveway strewn with broken glass and warped vinyl records, Moss picked up a photo of his grandparents and showed it to the senator. "Texas took a hard, hard hit," Cruz said, but "we're going to come back even stronger than we were before." The floodwaters that swept away lives and homes also exposed some unexpected layers of the state's most polarizing political figure.

Austin American-Statesman - September 15, 2017

Washington: Texas should remove legislative barriers to Harvey rebuild

Texas limits the use of design-build project delivery, which has been at the heart of modern-day disaster reconstruction from hurricanes to the Pentagon rebuild after 9/11 and the Minneapolis Interstate 35 bridge collapse in 2007. Design-build isn’t new and it’s not radical; however, it does require public owners — such as cities, states and the federal government — to provide flexibility in the procurement process by allowing designers and builders to collaborate earlier in the process. This creates projects that allocate risks more efficiently and improving delivery time and budget. That authority is lacking in Texas. Though Hurricane Harvey destroyed many small Texas communities, under current law, only local government entities with populations over 100,000 are permitted to use design-build without restriction. Rebuilding efforts should be equitable across all damaged areas, not just in large cities.

Austin American-Statesman - September 18, 2017

Luis Saenz replacing Daniel Hodge as Gov. Abbott’s chief of staff

Gov. Greg Abbott will announce Monday that Luis Saenz will replace Daniel Hodge as his chief of staff. At an afternoon press conference, Abbott will also name former state Sen. Tommy Williams, vice chancellor for federal and state relations for the Texas A&M University System, as his senior advisor for fiscal affairs, and Sarah Hicks, the assistant vice chancellor for government relations at A&M, as the new budget director, according to the governor’s office. In other moves as the Abbott administration moves into the last quarter of its third year, the governor has chosen Peggy Venable as his appointments director and John Colyandro as his senior advisor and policy director.

Austin American-Statesman - September 18, 2017

First Reading: L’affaire Fetonte: How an Austin union organizer’s work with CLEAT created a schism in America’s burgeoning socialist movement

I did not realize when I moved from D.C. to Austin in December 2012 that I was moving closer to the center of American politics. But I was. Just ask Lawrence Wright, who in July wrote an epic New Yorker piece, America’s Future Is Texas: With right-wing zealots taking over the legislature even as the state’s demographics shift leftward, Texas has become the nation’s bellwether. Or Roger Stone, who has increasingly turned his attention to Austin as the locus of the new pro-Trump media as manifested by Alex Jones and InfoWars.

Austin American-Statesman - September 15, 2017

Castillo: A quiet vigilance against hate takes on an added urgency

The racially-fueled violence that engulfed Charlottesville, Va., and transfixed the nation in August now is yesterday’s news. Such is the short shelf life of the 24-hour news cycle: One day we are riveted by incomprehensible images of neo-Nazis and Ku Klux Klan members marching on a college town, spitting racial epithets and anti-Semitic rhetoric — and the next day we are awestruck by the fury unleashed by Harvey, then Irma. Let us hope we never become numb or complacent to tragedies, man-made and natural. The hate that descended on Charlottesville on Aug. 12 is a painful memory, but it retains value, nonetheless. For members of the Austin/Travis County Hate Crimes Task Force, what happened in Charlottesville is a reminder that hate can rear its ugly face anywhere. It could happen here.

Austin American-Statesman - September 15, 2017

As Fort Hood turns 75, veterans recall their time at the ‘Great Place’

When Kenneth “Scooter” Barclay arrived in Central Texas to report to Camp Hood in late 1949, what he found was an Army post still under construction. Opened in a hurry during World War II as a place to host the Army’s new tank destroyer academy, Camp Hood was a mash-up of flat open ranch land and two story wooden buildings. “There were two restaurants in the whole city, and Killeen was totally dry,” recalled the 93-year-old World War II veteran and retired lieutenant colonel. “Meanwhile, we didn’t have quarters for people. They made Hood Village with duplexes for people to come in to build the post.”

Austin American-Statesman - September 17, 2017

Possible La Niña could bring milder, drier weather in coming months

Could Austin see a fall and winter that are milder and drier than normal? Ocean temperatures in the Pacific about 3,000 miles away indicate it’s possible, forecasters said last week. Why? The not-so-short answer involves understanding that the seasonal warming and cooling of the waters in the tropical latitudes of the central and eastern Pacific can influence weather in Central Texas, for good or ill. For instance, when the ocean in the eastern Pacific near the equator is warmer than normal, forecasters call that weather pattern El Niño — and in Austin, we typically blame it for wetter, cooler and more unsettled weather. When the same parts of the Pacific get cooler than normal, it’s called La Niña, and it can have the opposite effect on Texas weather.

Texas Tribune - September 18, 2017

New law lets Texas drivers help tackle the state's rape kit testing backlog

State Rep. Victoria Neave agrees that everyday Texans shouldn't have to pass around a figurative hat to help rape victims get justice; footing the costly bill to test sexual assault kits should be the job of government, she says. But since the state and localities seldom allocate enough money to test kits as they come in, the Dallas Democrat is hoping generous Texans will help. A new law Neave authored will essentially crowdfund rape kit testing statewide. House Bill 1729, which took effect Sept. 1, directs the Department of Public Safety to allow Texans to contribute to that cause when applying for and renewing driver’s licenses and personal identification certificates.

Texas Tribune - September 18, 2017

Abbott getting a new chief of staff, among other major staffing changes

Gov. Greg Abbott is making major changes in his office after his first two regular sessions — and a special session — bringing in several new senior staffers with deep legislative experience, according to aides. Daniel Hodge, Abbott's chief of staff, is departing after holding the top job since the governor took office in 2015. Hodge, who's worked for Abbott since his 2002 campaign for attorney general, is being replaced by Luis Saenz, Abbott's former appointments director in the governor's office. Other new additions include Tommy Williams, currently the vice chancellor for federal and state relations at the Texas A&M University System.

KUHF - September 15, 2017

125,000 Unemployed Texas Workers Have Filed Claims After Harvey

Early projections say Hurricane Harvey will end up costing $190 billion. Damages, disruption to businesses and increased gas prices all contribute to this. Another factor: lost jobs due to the storm. Lisa Givens, a spokesperson for the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC), tells News 88.7 about 125,000 people in Texas have applied for Disaster Unemployment Assistance since Harvey hit. Givens says not all of those claims will be paid, as they’re still processing eligibility requirements. “As we move through the recovery process, we’re certainly looking to place people in employment,” Givens said. “We are anecdotally hearing many times these claims are for temporary situations of unemployment. But we just won’t know until the long term plays out.”

Longview News Journal - September 15, 2017

Some East Texas colleges mark record enrollments

Fall enrollments are up at almost all East Texas colleges and universities, with several schools reporting record student numbers this semester. That includes LeTourneau University, which was at 3,003 students — an increase of more than 10 percent compared with fall 2016. President Dale Lunsford attributed that growth to the school's aviation and nursing programs, as well as high school dual-credit students.

Reuters - September 15, 2017

Oil and chemical spills from Hurricane Harvey big, but dwarfed by Katrina

More than 22,000 barrels of oil, refined fuels and chemicals spilled at sites across Texas in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, along with millions of cubic feet of natural gas and hundreds of tons of other toxic substances, a Reuters review of company reports to the U.S. Coast Guard shows. The spills, clustered around the heart of the U.S. oil industry, together rank among the worst environmental mishaps in the country in years, but fall far short of the roughly 190,000 barrels spilled in Louisiana in 2005 after Hurricane Katrina - the last major storm to take dead aim at the U.S. Gulf Coast.

Texas Observer - September 14, 2017

‘Los Zetas Inc.’ Author on Why Mexico’s Drug War Isn’t About Drugs

In her compelling new book Los Zetas Inc., Correa-Cabrera follows the rise of the Zetas, Mexico’s first paramilitary cartel, and the government’s military response. Authorities responded to the Zetas by unleashing thousands of soldiers into the streets, which only spurred greater acts of violence. Correa-Cabrera, an associate professor at the Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University, spent seven years researching and conducting interviews for the book in some of the most dangerous regions of the country, including Tamaulipas and Veracruz. Correa-Cabrera looks at organized crime from an economic perspective and argues that the term “drug cartel” is outmoded: The Zetas and groups like them have morphed into transnational corporations with interests in everything from coal mining and the extraction of oil and gas to cornering the market on avocados. Los Zetas Inc. also asks: Who benefits from the chaos of the drug war?

Wall St. Journal - September 17, 2017

Texas Cities Struggle to House Thousands Displaced by Hurricane Harvey

Tens of thousands of Texans are still unable to return to their flood-affected homes. Hotel occupancy in the Houston area has surged. And disaster recovery officials are scrambling to figure out short-term and permanent housing for those left homeless by the storm—a daunting and costly mission that could take months. “While the final scope and scale of the housing challenge is still being realized, it is already apparent that this will be one of the largest, most complex efforts ever undertaken,” said Michael Byrne, who is heading up relief efforts in Texas for the Federal Emergency Management Agency. As of Saturday night, more than 66,000 people who fled the storm were staying in hotels paid for with FEMA vouchers, the agency said.

KUHF - September 15, 2017

125,000 Unemployed Texas Workers Have Filed Claims After Harvey

Early projections say Hurricane Harvey will end up costing $190 billion. Damages, disruption to businesses and increased gas prices all contribute to this. Another factor: lost jobs due to the storm. Lisa Givens, a spokesperson for the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC), tells News 88.7 about 125,000 people in Texas have applied for Disaster Unemployment Assistance since Harvey hit. Givens says not all of those claims will be paid, as they’re still processing eligibility requirements. “As we move through the recovery process, we’re certainly looking to place people in employment,” Givens said. “We are anecdotally hearing many times these claims are for temporary situations of unemployment. But we just won’t know until the long term plays out.”

County Stories

Houston Chronicle - September 14, 2017

Abbott fills 3 vacant benches in Harris, Fort Bend counties

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has appointed two judges to vacant benches in Harris County and a third in Fort Bend County. Kristin Guiney, a well-respected former felony court judge, was appointed Wednesday to replace Mary Lou Keel on the 232nd state District Court. Keel was elected to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals in November and took office in January. In the civil courthouse, Abbott appointed Debra Ibarra Mayfield to preside over the 190th civil court.

San Antonio Express News - September 17, 2017

As BRAC looms, growth complicates Randolph's future

AT-6A Texan II trainer took off from Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph and climbed over a four-lane divided road just north of the runway on a recent sunny afternoon, crossing a key stretch of airspace over a warehouse, the First Baptist Church of Universal City and its adjacent school. Suburban construction here and in other parts of “Accident Potential Zones” 1 and 2 is a matter of growing concern. Besides safety, there’s another reason commanders worry about incompatible development in their APZs: It will factor into decisions made by a base closure commission Congress could approve this year. Newly populated areas along Loop 1604 west of the base already have caused the Federal Aviation Administration to limit Randolph’s ability to host the Thunderbirds at airshows. But any aircraft, not just the precision aerial team’s F-16s, could lose power or spin out of control on takeoff or landing.

San Antonio Express News - September 17, 2017

Construction underway on controversial rail project

DUNLAY — Proponents of a new rail spur under construction here tout its future promise as an economic development catalyst for Medina County. It’s already delivering dust clouds and heartache to residents nearby. “It scares us to death,” said Shirley Voigt, 71, noting that gravel-laden trains will pass 200 feet from her bedroom window, on a neighbor’s land across County Road 4643. “This is going to change our whole life.” Southwest Gulf Railroad’s estimated 9-mile track will initially have trains hauling rock from a Quihi-area quarry owned by Vulcan Materials, the railroad’s parent company, but trains also could carry freight for other entities because of the line’s status as a “common carrier.”

Houston Chronicle - September 15, 2017

Residents of flood-ravaged Wharton County feel forgotten in Harvey's wake

Kenneth Pospisil saw the flood coming in the city of Wharton, while he and his neighbors grilled ribs on their Freedom Road lawn. Sharon Thyssen noticed it in the town of Glen Flora, where she'd planned to celebrate her 62nd birthday with her husband and friends. Linda Holmes spotted it in her country home, when she looked out a window and saw her yard shining. For residents of rural Wharton County, located some 60 miles southwest of downtown Houston, the floodwaters came quickly - in a matter of hours, perhaps faster. They arrived as a wall of water, pushing across fields, over roads and up to doorsteps.

City Stories

Houston Chronicle - September 17, 2017

Mayor Sylvester Turner urges unity at prayer vigil for Hurricane Harvey victims

Mayor Sylvester Turner and religious leaders urged the city to stay united at a prayer vigil Sunday on the steps of City Hall, as the crisis sparked by Hurricane Harvey has ebbed and local governments return to more normal schedules. Several dozen residents sang and hugged, cupping white wax candles with tinfoil and plastic cups, at an hour-long service. Religious leaders sang and prayed to Jesus and Allah, in English and Spanish. One attendee blew a shofar horn - a symbol of the Jewish New Year - intermittently.

San Antonio Express News - September 17, 2017

Houstonians blast Army Corps of Engineers for deadly release of reservoir water

The decision came late at night, when much of Houston was already asleep. With little warning and no evacuation orders, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began releasing water about midnight Aug. 27 from the struggling Barker and Addicks reservoirs, pushing floodwaters from Hurricane Harvey deeper into several west Houston neighborhoods. Robert Arthur Haines and Cathy Harling Montgomery, both 71, could not escape. They drowned after their homes near Buffalo Bayou began to fill up with water following the dam releases. “I just want the public to know that the government really screwed up — royally,” said Emile Nassar, a flood survivor who is president of the homeowners association at the condominium complex where Montgomery died.

Inside Climate News - September 16, 2017

Hurricane Victims Left Homeless in Texas Town With Housing Help Slow to Arrive

More than two weeks after a plea from the mayor of Port Arthur, Texas—"Our whole city is under water"—went viral, thousands of flooded-out residents remain homeless with nowhere to go, and community leaders, angry with the speed of the federal government's response, are considering a former youth correctional facility or even tents as options for housing. "They are living wherever they can lay their heads at this particular point—garages, with relatives, with friends, in cars, you name it," Hilton Kelley, director of Community in Power and Development Association, said. "Infants, the handicapped are also homeless. We have a lot of elderly folks; all of them are homeless."

Austin American-Statesman - September 15, 2017

Wear: Confused about texting while driving? Let’s clear that up

And now an anecdote from my one-man focus group: me. I was texting in my car last week and … hey, calm down, I was stopped at a traffic light! Perfectly legal. Where was I? Anyway, the light changed and it is possible that I typed the last word, and maybe punctuation, while I was drifting forward. Perhaps not. There were no witnesses. But I can confirm that I quickly put the phone down and drove ahead. And at that moment, I thought to myself: Huh. Now that the Legislature changed the law, I guess I could just pick up the phone and make a call rather than using my car’s wireless feature. Then, about five seconds later, I remembered that is not the case at all. The Lege backed away from doing that this summer. Hand-held phone use while driving is still against Austin law.

National Stories

The Hill - September 16, 2017

GOP sees fresh opening with Dems’ single payer embrace

Republicans are cheering on the Democrats' embrace of single-payer health care, believing the move to the left will be an albatross for candidates in next year's elections. After playing defense on health care for months as they failed to fill a promise to repeal ObamaCare, Bernie Sanders’s increasingly popular ‘Medicare for all’ gives the GOP new momentum to blast Democrats. And they’ve got plenty of targets, with 16 Democratic senators backing Sanders’ effort and a similar House measure supported by half of the party’s caucus.

Wired - September 15, 2017

Where do they put all that toxic hurricane debris?

Craft and other environmental advocates met with representatives of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality this week to talk about debris disposal. “It sounded like [the state] was relying on landfill operators to be vigilant,” Craft says. “The state does not do the best job of active surveillance. It’s nice to think that everyone is doing the right thing, but sometimes they don’t.” Case in point: Versailles, Louisiana. After Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Louisiana state environmental officials were so overwhelmed with construction debris that they opened up a new landfill next to the low-income Vietnamese community of Versailles.

Associated Press - September 18, 2017

Senate on track to pass $700 billion defense policy bill

The Senate is on track to pass a defense policy bill that pumps $700 billion into the Pentagon budget, expands U.S. missile defenses in response to North Korea's growing hostility and refuses to allow excess military bases to be closed. The legislation is expected to be approved on Monday by a wide margin in another burst of bipartisanship amid President Donald Trump's push for cooperation with congressional Democrats. The 1,215-page measure defies a number of White House objections, but Trump hasn't threatened to veto the measure. The bill helps him honor a pledge to boost military spending by tens of billions of dollars.

This article appeared in the San Antonio Express News

Houston Chronicle - September 15, 2017

Hurricanes show need to shore up nation's energy systems, Perry says

Energy Secretary Rick Perry said the damage reaped by hurricanes Harvey and Irma on power lines, pipelines and other components of the nation's energy system necessitate greater investment in shoring up those assets against storms. "As round-the-clock efforts continue to help communities recover from the devastation of hurricanes Harvey and Irma, the need to continue strengthening and improving our electricity delivery system to withstand and recover from disruptions has become even more compelling," Perry said in a statement. Nearly 7 million customers in Florida and neighboring states lost power as did some 120,000 customers of the Houston utility CenterPoint.

Politico - September 18, 2017

Trump's team gunning for potential 2020 reelection rivals

Allies of Donald Trump have begun plotting to take down or weaken potential Democratic challengers in 2020, including several who will be on the ballot in next year’s midterms. The 2018-focused work ranges from a major donor-funded super PAC designed to blemish Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s image, to a full-scale effort to defeat Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown outright before he gets the chance to take on Trump. Beyond that, after months of monitoring dozens of potential challengers, Trump allies are building research files and crafting lines of attack on Democrats seen as most threatening to Trump and who will be on the ballot next November.

Politico - September 18, 2017

Senate GOP tries one last time to repeal Obamacare

Obamacare repeal is on the brink of coming back from the dead. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and his leadership team are seriously considering voting on a bill that would scale back the federal government’s role in the health care system and instead provide block grants to states, congressional and Trump administration sources said. It would be a last-ditch attempt to repeal Obamacare before the GOP’s power to pass health care legislation through a party-line vote in the Senate expires on Sept. 30.

The Hill - September 15, 2017

DOJ rolls back program intended to identify problems in police departments

The Department of Justice announced Friday that it’s rolling back an Obama-era program created to help improve trust between police agencies and the communities they serve. The department said it’s making significant changes to an office that investigated and issued public reports about problems it found in individual police departments. DOJ said the changes to the program “will return control to the public safety personnel sworn to protect their communities and focus on providing real-time technical assistance to best address the identified needs of requesting agencies to reduce violent crime.”

Austin American-Statesman - September 17, 2017

Across U.S., lawmakers chip away at public’s access to records

In February, Arkansas lawmakers marked the 50th anniversary of the Freedom of Information Act with a resolution calling it “a shining example of open government” that had ensured access to vital public records for generations. They spent the following weeks debating and, in many cases approving, new exemptions to the law in what critics called an unprecedented attack on the public’s right to know. When they were finished, universities could keep secret all information related to their police forces, including their size and the names and salaries of officers. Public schools could shield a host of facts related to security, including the identities of teachers carrying concealed weapons and emergency response plans. And state Capitol police could withhold anything they believed could be “detrimental to public safety” if made public.

Austin American-Statesman - September 17, 2017

Strengthening Hurricane Maria a threat to Irma-hit Caribbean

The islands of the eastern Caribbean prepared Sunday to face another potential disaster, with forecasters saying newly formed and likely to strengthen Hurricane Maria was headed for a hit on the Leeward Islands by Monday night. Hurricane or tropical storm warnings were posted for many of the islands, including those already coping with the devastation caused by Hurricane Irma, such as St. Barts and Antigua and Barbuda. The U.S. National Hurricane Center said Maria was expected to gain power and could be near major hurricane strength while crossing through the Leeward Islands late Monday on a path aiming toward Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and Haiti.

This article appeared in the San Antonio Express News

Politico - September 17, 2017

Inside the new battle against Google

One of the biggest, most embarrassing divorces in the normally quiet world of Washington think tanks blew into the open earlier this month, when writer Barry Lynn and nine others defected from New America. Lynn said they were pushed out of the influential Democratic think tank after he wrote a post this summer criticizing Google, one of its key funders. Anne-Marie Slaughter, who heads the foundation, called the story reporting the news "false"—then wrote a long Medium post walking her charge back. Whatever the final trigger for the split, its roots lay far deeper than this summer's scuffle. The Google controversy marked the most public emergence of an intellectually combative group jostling for a role as the new economic brain of the Democratic Party.

Washington Post - September 17, 2017

Senate Republicans look to revive effort to repeal Obamacare by end of September

Senate Republican leaders seem increasingly focused on reviving their effort to undo the Affordable Care Act before the end of the month, asking Congress’s nonpartisan budget analysts to fast-track consideration of a plan that would devolve federal health-care spending to states. The Congressional Budget Office is in the process of estimating the cost and coverage impact of the so-called Graham-Cassidy bill, according to a senior Senate Republican aide. The measure from Sens. Lindsey O. Graham?(R-S.C.), Bill Cassidy?(R-La.), Ron Johnson?(R-Wis.) and Dean Heller?(R-Nev.) would provide states with funding to establish health insurance programs outside ACA protections and mandates, an approach that could force millions off insurance rolls.

Washington Post - September 17, 2017

White liberals view police much more favorably than black Democrats

Ethnically mixed crowds of liberal demonstrators marched in St. Louis this weekend after the acquittal of a white former city police officer in the shooting death of a black driver after a car chase and who was accused by prosecutors of planting a gun on the victim. Prosecutors charged Jason Stockley with murder in the death of Anthony Lamar Smith nearly six years ago in December 2011. A probable cause statement said the former St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department officer was caught saying he was “going to kill this motherf???er, don't you know it.” He was also heard telling another officer to drive into Smith's slowing car.

Salon - September 18, 2017

Trump’s FEC pick: Defender of dark money

Donald Trump is already notorious for appointing people to lead federal agencies who are opposed to the very purpose of that agency, such as Scott Pruitt at the EPA or Rick Perry at the Department of Energy. But his nomination of Trey Trainor, a far-right lawyer from Texas, to sit on the six-member panel at the Federal Election Commission (FEC), is egregious even by Trump’s standards. It’s doubly troubling because the FEC is one of the few bulwarks Americans have against corrupt campaign spending in the 2018 and 2020 elections. It’s an issue that has become even more urgent in the face of increasing evidence that Russian operatives pulled out all stops to get Trump elected in 2016.

Houston Chronicle - September 16, 2017

Harvey will make history books for nation's wettest storm

Give or take a few trillion gallons, Mother Nature dumped Lake Tahoe on Texas and Louisiana, making Hurricane Harvey not just a part of Houston's history, but modern storm history. "This is certainly the most extreme precipitation event on record to affect any major city in the United States," said Jeff Masters, founder of Weather Underground. Based on assessments by the National Weather Service and analyses by various meteorologists, Harvey rained down more water on a metro area than any storm in U.S. history. The estimated 34 trillion gallons of rainfall across East Texas and western Louisiana is about the same as Tropical Storm Allison in 2001, 2015's Memorial Day floods and last year's Tax Day floods - combined.

Austin American-Statesman - September 13, 2017

McIntyre: Trump’s ‘integrity’ panel spreads falsehoods about elections

The right to vote is a critical principle of our democracy. We want our election system to be free, fair and accessible to all eligible voters. President Donald Trump’s sham panel — the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, which was formed in May — has launched an assault on the right to vote. Led by Vice President Mike Pence and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, this so-called Commission on Election Integrity is laying the groundwork for potential voter suppression by the wrongful removal of eligible voters — including black, Hispanic, elderly and student voters — from the rolls. The agenda of this commission is part of a wider effort to suppress the vote, keep certain politicians in power and undermine our elections by spreading falsehoods about or elections system.

Washington Post - September 14, 2017

Antifa: Guardians against fascism or lawless thrill-seekers?

Interviews with a dozen antifa activists show they come from a variety of backgrounds and are only loosely affiliated. Some, like Hines, are youths in search of a cause. Others have been demonstrating for decades. Many are anarchists, although some vote. They employ a range of peaceful tactics, including doxing, or exposing, white supremacists. While they are all open to using violence, some embrace it — even glorify it. What unites them is the belief that free speech is secondary to squashing fascism before it takes root in the United States. “If everyone is punching a Nazi, it’s eventually going to create a mass militant movement based around anti-fascist,” Hines said. “That hopefully will be enough to stop them from gaining power.”

Politico - September 14, 2017

How Man-made Earthquakes Could Cripple the U.S. Economy

When Hurricane Harvey made landfall in Texas, U.S. oil refining plummeted to record lows. Now, nearly three weeks later, six key refineries remain shut down and an additional 11 are either struggling to come back on line or operating at a significantly reduced rate. That slowdown, coupled with predictions of decreased demand in the wake of Hurricane Irma and the devastating earthquake that struck Mexico last week, has shifted oil pressures in other places, too. And none may be quite as vulnerable as the tank farms in Cushing, Oklahoma. Dubbed the “Pipeline Crossroads of the World,” Cushing is the nexus of 14 major pipelines, including Keystone, which alone has the potential to transport as much as 600,000 barrels of oil a day. The small Oklahoma town is also home to the world’s largest store of oil, which sits in hundreds of enormous tanks there. Prior to this recent spate of natural disasters, Cushing oil levels were already high. They’ve increased nearly a million barrels, to nearly 60 million barrels, since Harvey hit.

Washington Post - September 16, 2017

To make their tax plan work, Republicans eye a favorite blue-state break

As long as there has been a federal income tax, taxpayers have been able to deduct most of the state and local taxes they pay from earnings subject to Uncle Sam’s grasp. But that deduction — especially popular in states rich in Democratic voters — could disappear as soon as next year if President Trump and congressional Republicans succeed in their promised rewrite of the tax code. The state and local tax deduction, or SALT, has long been a target for tax-policy wonks who see it as an unwise federal subsidy that is mainly claimed by the wealthy. But politics have always intervened: Thanks to the opposition of lawmakers in high-tax states, the deduction has survived every effort to clear out loopholes, including the last federal tax overhaul of similar ambition in 1986.

Politico - September 13, 2017

Teflon Don confounds Democrats

Democrats tried attacking Donald Trump as unfit for the presidency. They’ve made the case that he’s ineffective, pointing to his failure to sign a single major piece of legislation into law after eight months in the job. They’ve argued that Trump is using the presidency to enrich himself and that his campaign was in cahoots with Russia. None of it is working. Data from a range of focus groups and internal polls in swing states paint a difficult picture for the Democratic Party heading into the 2018 midterms and 2020 presidential election. It suggests that Democrats are naive if they believe Trump’s historically low approval numbers mean a landslide is coming. The party is defending 10 Senate seats in states that Trump won and needs to flip 24 House seats to take control of that chamber.

Dallas Morning News - September 15, 2017

Rick Perry: Harvey showed need for emergency oil stockpile that Trump wants to slash

Energy Secretary Rick Perry said on Friday that the recent hurricanes that battered the U.S. are a "good example of why we need an SPR" — the Strategic Petroleum Reserve that was tapped for millions of barrels of oil in the storms' aftermath. And the former Texas governor hinted that he may have doubts about a Trump administration proposal to slash that emergency stockpile in half. Perry said that President Donald Trump had asked "very, very good questions" about whether the reserve was properly structured and if its nearly 700 million barrels was the right amount. But the Texan also stressed that he "didn't write that budget" that proposed halving the stockpile.

Wall St. Journal - September 15, 2017

One House, 22 Floods: Repeated Claims Drain Federal Insurance Program

Brian Harmon had just finished spending over $300,000 to fix his home in Kingwood, Texas, when Hurricane Harvey sent floodwaters “completely over the roof.” The six-bedroom house, which has an indoor swimming pool, sits along the San Jacinto River. It has flooded 22 times since 1979, making it one of the most flood-damaged properties in the country. Between 1979 and 2015, government records show the federal flood insurance program paid out more than $1.8 million to rebuild the house—a property that Mr. Harmon figured was worth $600,000 to $800,000 before Harvey hit late last month.

All - September 17, 2017

Lead Stories

Austin American-Statesman - September 15, 2017

Hurricane Harvey’s pollution toll on air, water slowly comes into focus

Fifty-five refineries and petrochemical plants in the Houston, Corpus Christi and Beaumont areas collectively emitted 5.8 million pounds of benzene, ammonia and other pollutants to the air in connection with Hurricane Harvey, according to reports filed by the companies with state regulators. In addition, more than 560,000 gallons of crude oil, gasoline, saltwater and other contaminants spilled from wells, pipelines and storage tanks into coastal or inland waters, including the Colorado River southeast of Austin in Fayette County. Meanwhile, 19 public drinking water systems serving 14,000 people remain inoperable and 77 other systems have warned consumers to boil tap water before drinking it, according to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

Texas Observer - September 13, 2017

Flood Expert Jim Blackburn: Houston Must Plan or Perish

For more than three decades, environmental attorney Jim Blackburn has been sounding the alarm about how rampant development is worsening the effects of hurricanes on the Texas coast. Blackburn is a civil and environmental engineering professor and co-director of the Severe Storm Prediction, Education and Evacuation from Disaster Center at Rice University, but he likes to say that engineering alone cannot solve Houston’s problems. A bigger cultural and political shift is needed, he argues, to rein in the city’s unchecked development and prepare for the coming climate crisis. Blackburn spoke with the Observer about repeated, catastrophic flooding in Houston and how the city could be better prepared for the next big storm.

CNBC - September 16, 2017

The party's over: Republicans and Democrats are both finished

Stick a fork in the Democrats and Republicans. Wednesday night's latest round of deal making between President Donald Trump and Democratic congressional leaders is the latest evidence that the major political parties have lost all semblance of real power. Never before have we seen the leadership of both major political parties so humbled. That power vacuum is currently enabling the president to act without any loyalty to his own party, while working with whomever he pleases on whatever issues he wants.

Austin American-Statesman - September 15, 2017

PolitiFact: Paxton says DACA granted citizenship. Pants On Fire

Texas’ attorney general hailed President Donald Trump’s move to rescind President Barack Obama’s executive action affording young unauthorized immigrants protection from deportation. Moreover, Attorney General Ken Paxton charged in a recent press release, Obama “used that lawful-presence dispensation to unilaterally confer U.S. citizenship.” ... It’s incorrect to say that Obama via DACA conferred citizenship on anyone. That’s not how the system works, and the attorney general should know better. This unsupported characterization traces to a few DACA recipients — about a tenth of 1 percent — who gained citizenship in part by returning from abroad with a clean slate in accord with existing laws not amended by DACA. We find the claim incorrect and ridiculous. Pants on Fire!

Dallas Morning News - September 16, 2017

AG Jeff Sessions can't deny grant money for sanctuary cities, judge rules

A federal judge has ruled Attorney General Jeff Sessions cannot follow through with his threat to withhold public safety grant money to Chicago and other so-called sanctuary cities for refusing his order to impose tough immigration policies. U.S. District Judge Harry Leinenweber on Friday granted Chicago's request for a temporary "nationwide" injunction. That means the Justice Department can't deny requests for the grant money until Chicago's lawsuit against the agency is concluded. He wrote that Chicago has shown a "likelihood of success" in its arguments that Sessions overstepped his authority with the requirements.

Reuters - September 15, 2017

U.S. majority backs military action vs. North Korea: Gallup poll

A majority of Americans support military action against North Korea if economic and diplomatic efforts fail, according to a Gallup poll released on Friday amid rising tension over Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program and recent missile launches. The survey of 1,022 U.S. adults last week found that 58 percent said they would favor military action against North Korea if the United States cannot accomplish its goals by more peaceful means first. Such support, however, was largely split along political party lines. Among Republicans, 82 percent would back military action compared with 37 percent among Democrats. Among political independents, 56 backed such action.

State Stories

Houston Chronicle - September 14, 2017

George P. Bush to lead Texas housing recovery efforts after Harvey

Texas General Land Office Commissioner George P. Bush has been named to head the state's housing recovery efforts after Hurricane Harvey, officials said Thursday, as they announced they are implementing an expedited approval system for home repairs. Gov. Greg Abbott said Bush will oversee the dispersal of $7.4 billion in Community Development Block Grant funding that will be used to fund local infrastructure repairs, along with a so-called "direct repair" program that will allow payments to homeowners to undertake their own repair work without the usual red tape. "The goal is to quickly address local needs in each area," Abbott said, saying Bush will work with state recovery czar John Sharp and local officials to determine the funding needs in all of the Harvey-damaged areas.

Dallas Morning News - September 15, 2017

Texas Children's Health Insurance Program faces uncertain funding after Harvey

Middle-class Texas families, especially those struggling to recover from Hurricane Harvey, may soon face another obstacle — an uncertain future for their children’s medical coverage. The Children's Health Insurance Program — a federal program that matches state health care funds for kids whose families make too much to qualify for Medicaid — has been hugely popular in Texas, with over a million kids enrolled. When Hurricane Harvey tore through Texas, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services waived several application and renewal requirements in counties declared disaster areas to streamline access to care.

Dallas Morning News - September 16, 2017

Ragland: Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee is gone, but this wasn't how I saw his monumental tale ending in Dallas

For now, it feels like a great burden has been lifted off the city's shoulders: Ding-dong, the witch is dead. But another twist will be added to this ever-changing tale on Saturday when protesters, many expected to be toting guns, show up at Lee Park, where the bronze statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee and his sidekick once stood. They'll certainly have plenty to moan and yell about, especially if they can stick around a few weeks. Because when it comes to removing Confederate symbols in Dallas, taking Lee off his rose granite pedestal in Oak Lawn wasn't the end of the story. It's the beginning of the end. No, wait: Seems like we're stuck in the middle of a Hold-Onto-Your-Hat-Something-Big-Is-About-To-Happen page-turner.

Dallas Morning News - September 16, 2017

UT-Austin to restrict automatic admissions to top 6 percent of Texas high school students

Texas students who hope for automatic admission to the University of Texas at Austin will need to be in the top 6 percent of their high school classes starting in the summer of 2019, the school announced Friday. The public university is imposing the tighter standard because of the state's growing high school population. Those enrolling at UT in 2018 have to rank in the top 7 percent. Other public universities in Texas grant automatic admission for students graduating in the top 10 percent of their class.

Dallas Morning News - September 16, 2017

Group will pay for at least 74 women affected by Harvey to have abortions

At least 74 women have had or scheduled abortions through an Austin-based clinic that is offering them at no cost to those affected by Hurricane Harvey. Whole Woman's Health, a reproductive health care organization, is collaborating with the Lilith Fund and other groups in the effort. Whole Woman's Health has already raised $15,000 to pay for women's travel to one of their clinics and abortion procedures through its Stigma Relief fund. The group offered free abortion services after Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Ike as well, CEO Amy Hagstrom Miller said. Whole Woman's Health aims to raise $40,000 to cover expenses for the patients, which will include travel and accommodation costs on top of the abortion procedure.

Dallas Morning News - September 15, 2017

Texas lets storm victims apply for food stamps far from home, adds 7 counties to program

State social services officials are dropping their requirement that Hurricane Harvey victims return to their home counties to apply for federally provided disaster food relief. On Friday, social services czar Charles Smith announced Texas will give people affected by the storm greater flexibility to apply in counties that are not their counties of residence. "We're trying to help people where they are," said Carrie Williams, spokeswoman for the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, which administers federally provided food stamps. "If we see an issue, we're going to fix it. Getting people the food they need is the most important thing we're doing right now."

Dallas Morning News - September 15, 2017

Texas' job growth in August was the lowest this year, but we're beating California by one measure

Texas' job growth was almost flat in August, the state's workforce commission reported on Friday. Employers added just 5,500 jobs -- the lowest number of growth so far this year. Still, unemployment in the state dropped to 4.2 percent, lower than the national rate, which was 4.4 percent. That marks the third consecutive month of dropping unemployment rate for the state after a March peak of 5 percent. And over the year, the Lone Star State beats every other state in the country when it comes to job creation, including California, racking up 298,600 jobs for a growth rate of 2.5 percent.

Austin American-Statesman - September 15, 2017

Harvey an additional obstacle for Texas students with disabilities

Disability rights advocates are urging families of special education students who were displaced by Hurricane Harvey to brush up on the kinds of services they are entitled to in public school. Advocates and families of children with disabilities have expressed concerns about replacing assistive technology in storm-damaged schools; children not receiving necessary services or supports; and parents being given wrong information about the types of paperwork needed to enroll a child in a new school.

Austin American-Statesman - September 15, 2017

Trooper who arrested Sandra Bland says safety fears drove actions

The state trooper who arrested Sandra Bland, the woman whose violent arrest and jailhouse death in 2015 stoked outrage over police use of force against African-Americans, claimed in newly released interview recordings that he feared for his safety but could not explain why he broke with procedure during her arrest. The recordings as well as a use-of-force report, first obtained by KXAN-TV through a Freedom of Information Act request, shed light on the mentality of former Texas Department of Public Safety trooper Brian Encinia, who has never been questioned in court or spoken publicly about the case.

Austin American-Statesman - September 16, 2017

Texas Digest: Harvey evacuee inmates part of prison suit, judge says

A judge says at least 600 inmates evacuated during Harvey to a prison unit with oppressive heat are now part of an ongoing lawsuit about conditions at the facility. U.S. District Judge Keith Ellison ruled Thursday that by being evacuated to the Pack Unit, a state prison near Houston, these inmates were also being put at risk. In July, Ellison found the heat at the unit threatened the health of many inmates. As a result, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice moved more than 1,000 inmates out of the unit to facilities with air conditioning.

Texas Tribune - September 16, 2017

EPA approves expedited loan funding for Harvey-related water projects

The Environmental Protection Agency this week approved a request from Texas officials to expedite funding to help local governments restore water and wastewater systems damaged by Hurricane Harvey. The Texas Water Development Board, which administers an EPA low-interest loan program for the state, asked the federal agency in a Sept. 1 letter for the flexibility to quicken loan distribution procedures. In the letter, the board said loan money could serve as a bridge to meet immediate recovery needs for damaged water systems while local governments wait for other federal aid.

Texas Tribune - September 16, 2017

As a result of Hurricane Harvey, 600 more Texas prisoners getting AC

Thanks to Hurricane Harvey, about 600 more Texas prisoners are set to get a break from the sweltering Texas heat. The inmates had been evacuated from the flood-prone Stringfellow Unit ahead of the storm. But Texas prison officials, scrambling to get the inmates to safety, sent them to the notoriously hot (though dry) Wallace Pack Unit in Navasota. Once there, a judge ruled, the prisoners were made eligible to join a special class of heat-sensitive inmates subject to a federal lawsuit over hot conditions that have been blamed for nearly two dozen deaths over the last two decades. The Texas Department of Criminal Justice will now have to find cooler beds for them.

Texas Tribune - September 17, 2017

UT-Austin changes automatic admissions threshold from 7 to 6 percent

It just got a little harder to get into the University of Texas at Austin. The top-ranked public university in the state announced Friday that students hoping to enroll as undergraduates in the fall of 2019 will need to be in the top 6 percent of their Texas high school's graduating class if they hope to gain automatic admission. The current automatic cutoff is 7 percent. The change is the result of the growing number of applicants UT-Austin receives each year, school officials said. State law requires UT-Austin to provide automatic admission to students near the top of their high school class, but allows them to cap their automatic admittees at three-fourths of each freshman class.

San Antonio Express News - September 15, 2017

Chasnoff: Texas Democrats need more than a star

There are plenty of reasons U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio, would be wise not to challenge Gov. Greg Abbott in 2018, as Texas Democrats reportedly are urging him to do. Abbott is the most popular high official in Texas, according to a recent University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll. He’s flush with cash: more than $40 million. And there’s the stubborn fact that a Democrat hasn’t managed to win a statewide office in Texas in nearly three decades. There’s one big reason to ignore these obstacles, though, and it might be tempting Castro, who declined to comment on Friday. First, some background: At the same time that Texas was turning deep-red in the mid-1990s, the opposite was occurring in California, a transformation that can be traced to the mainspring of Proposition 187.

San Antonio Express News - September 16, 2017

Two years later, ill Texans still haven’t been able to legally use cannabidiol

The first doses of medicinal marijuana will be available for purchase in Texas as early as December, ending a wait of more than two years since lawmakers approved use of cannabidiol for people who suffer uncontrollable epileptic seizures. But the projected 150,000 people who qualify may not get fast or affordable access to the medicinal oil, if they can get it at all, critics say. Just three companies — two in Austin and one in Schulenburg — are set to supply the entire state. It means most patients will have to get the drugs through over-the-road delivery, a potentially expensive service for people in far-flung regions because the oils can’t be transported by air or by mail because of federal regulations.

San Antonio Express News - September 15, 2017

As demand for water grows, Guadalupe Delta faces big challenges

The airboat glides over water and grasses. Its roar startles flocks of white egrets and dark ibises. They raise their spindly legs and take off from the delta with great flaps of their wide wings. The boat’s pilot, San Antonio real estate developer Richard Gill, 32, knows this wetland well enough to not get lost in the maze. The boat feels like a hovercraft when he guides it over the grasses that separate channels and ponds of mixed salty and freshwater. This is the Guadalupe Delta, mostly within the property lines of Swan Lake Ranch, which has been in Gill’s family for three generations. Built over millennia by sediment flowing to San Antonio Bay, the delta is the final destination for all water, nutrients and sediment that flow from the Hill Country to the Gulf Coast via the San Antonio, Guadalupe and Blanco river basins.

San Antonio Express News - September 16, 2017

Cubans who arrived in Nuevo Laredo after end of “wet foot, dry foot” have gone, many to the U.S.

Nearly all of the Cubans have gone. Their absence is felt in the migrant shelters of this border city, and in its plazas where their rapid-fire speech is no longer heard. “There might be a few dozen of us Cubans left in town,” said Lourdes de la Torre, a 49-year-old accountant from Camaguey. “Little by little, they’ve all gone.” More than 112,000 Cubans have coursed through Nuevo Laredo since 2012, the vast majority of them crossing a pedestrian bridge into Texas. A decades-old rule known as the “wet-foot, dry-foot” policy had allowed Cubans to become permanent residents a year after making landfall in the United States.

Houston Chronicle - September 15, 2017

Hurricane Harvey victims may be at a loss when it comes to insurance coverage

Hurricane Harvey, the ?rst hurricane to strike the Texas coast since 2008, roared ashore with winds of up to 132 mph. But much of the storm's devastation, leading to much of the pain for homeowners, was caused by rainfall of biblical proportions. Since the 1960s, most major insurance providers have abandoned the private ?ood insurance market, ceding that territory to the FEMA-backed National Flood Insurance Program, which is itself under water. As of March 2016, the Federal Emergency Management Agency had borrowed $23 billion from the U.S. Treasury, largely to cover losses from the ?ood insurance program.

Houston Chronicle - September 16, 2017

Falkenberg: As support for Ike Dike grows, we still need stubborn boosters

It's been a long, hard slog for Bill Merrell since he first proposed the concept of an "Ike Dike" nine years ago. At times, the Texas A&M oceanographer probably could have used his own dike of sorts to keep all the dismissiveness at bay. Merrell's fight isn't over just because political leaders in the weeks after Harvey are calling for action on his concept, but he says it's heartening to finally see progress. His plan, a "coastal spine" composed of a system of floating gates, is intended to protect Galveston Bay and much of the Houston region from a killer wall of water known as a surge that could accompany a direct-hit monster storm. "The parade is forming," the 74-year-old professor said in an interview last week as he sat in a maroon swivel chair in his office overlooking the Galveston channel.

Houston Chronicle - September 16, 2017

HC: A call for a special session of the Texas Legislature

Driving down the streets in disaster- stricken neighborhoods and seeing the mounds of debris piled outside flooded homes, all of us can now bear witness to the hard work that lies ahead. Homeowners must do their best to replace the wrecked furniture and the ruined appliances, contractors must haul away the soaked carpet and spoiled sheetrock, and neighbors will help neighbors recover from Hurricane Harvey. Beyond the flood-ravaged streets of southeast Texas, the time has also come for some hard work in the halls of power. At a point in history when we're asking for an extraordinary amount of aid from the nation's capital, it's important that our state government also does its part. After all, Texas has never been content to rely on Washington.

Texas Observer - September 14, 2017

Religious Right Takes Bathroom Fight Back to Schools after Defeat at Capitol

On Monday, Allan Parker stood outside the San Antonio Independent School District’s David G. Burnet Center and asked everyone gathered to imagine Caitlyn Jenner’s dead body. Not that Parker wants Jenner dead or anything. But, he clarified, just think of how befuddled police would be by the discovery of her corpse. Parker, a lawyer and president of the San Antonio-based Christian legal advocacy group The Justice Foundation, mused: “Bruce Jenner, who calls himself Caitlyn Jenner, would be identified as a white male in the police report by his DNA. That’s what he is. He is not a woman. He’s a white male dressing as a woman and using a woman’s name.”

County Stories

Austin American-Statesman - September 17, 2017

AAS: Taxing districts can stop sticker shock by collaborating

With each passing year, as the appraised values of Austin homes increase, homeowners receive a higher property tax bill than the year before. That’s become the norm. Yet, every year, the mixed messages sent by taxing jurisdictions contribute to the sticker shock property owners experience when they receive their tax bill. When setting budgets — and the tax rates that finance them — some local taxing jurisdictions work independently, not knowing what the others are doing. As a result, the messages the jurisdictions — the city of Austin, Travis County, Austin Community College, Central Health and the Austin school district — deliver rarely tell the whole story. That needs to change.

Austin American-Statesman - September 14, 2017

Reedholm: Williamson County thinks it needs another racist statue

In August, University of Texas President Gregory L. Fenves ordered the removal of three more Confederate statues from prominent display on campus. Those statues were not discarded or put into a warehouse; they are being added to a campus historical center, where they will join a Jefferson Davis statue that was taken down in 2015 after a white supremacist killed nine black parishioners at a church in Charleston, S.C. Contrast that wise approach with the stubbornness of the Williamson County commissioners. Despite requests from concerned residents, they refuse to take up the issue of a Confederate statue that has stood in a prominent position in front of the county courthouse since 1916. Like the ones at UT, it was erected as a symbol of white supremacy.

City Stories

San Antonio Express News - September 16, 2017

Judicial candidate tries to hide criminal past

Bexar County Democratic Party stalwart Monique Diaz has a personal problem that is proving difficult to get rid of as she campaigns for a district judge seat. Seven years ago, Diaz was charged with resisting arrest and interfering with the duties of a police officer, both misdemeanors. The case was resolved in 2012 with her plea of no contest, deferred adjudication and nine months of probation. This June, Diaz filed a petition to expunge the public records of both cases. She has since twice failed to appear in court on the matter, most recently Thursday afternoon.

Houston Chronicle - September 15, 2017

Hundreds attend Houston ISD special education summit

After years of frustration with Houston ISD's response to the needs of their son, a fifth-grader with Asperger's syndrome, Robert and Bonney Wilkinson are a little more optimistic about the school system's willingness to help students with special needs. The goodwill kept coming Saturday when administrators and volunteers hosted a special education summit, connecting parents with resources across the district and community. The timing alone - on a weekend, rather than mid-week during work hours - was enough to draw praise from the Wilkinsons. "From what little we've seen, it seems to be changing for the better," said Robert Wilkinson, whose son attends River Oaks Academy, a private school focused on students with special needs, through an arrangement with Houston ISD. "We've got more people from the district showing up to our meetings and they're able to answer our questions. Normally, it was 'We'll have to look into that.'?"

Houston Chronicle - September 15, 2017

Mayor lifts post-Harvey curfew citywide

Residents in every corner of Houston can relax at their local watering hole through last call after Mayor Sylvester Turner on Friday lifted the post-Hurricane Harvey curfew he had imposed. The mayor tweeted at about 11:30 a.m. that he had lifted the midnight-to-5 a.m. curfew citywide. He had imposed the restriction Aug. 29, then lifted it for all but a portion of still-flooded west Houston on Sept. 5. "Thank you all for your cooperation helping us keep the city safe," Turner said.

Dallas Morning News - September 17, 2017

Sam Houston, Ben Franklin and Thomas Jefferson among Dallas ISD campuses that 'require further research' for possible name changes

Dallas ISD is researching the histories of Ben Franklin, Sam Houston, Thomas Jefferson and 17 other historical figures, looking into whether their connections with slavery or the Confederacy should prompt reconsideration of their names on DISD campuses. Last Thursday, DISD administration recommended changing the names of four schools honoring Confederate generals -- Stonewall Jackson, Robert E. Lee, Albert Sidney Johnston and William L. Cabell elementary schools. During that discussion, it was mentioned that there was a much broader list, of at least 21 names, that bore further investigation, if trustees were compelled to do so.

Houston Chronicle - September 17, 2017

Activists march in support of young immigrants, DACA

There isn't much that motivates people to stand out in the blistering Houston summer heat. Fighting for the right to stay in the country you grew up in, though, is worth it, Carlos Portella said. Portella, 18, a recipient of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. At age 6, his parents brought him from Cali, Colombia, to the United States to escape the violence that engulfed the city at the time. As a DACA beneficiary now vulnerable after President Donald Trump's decision to rescind the Obama-era executive order, Portella said he wants to give a voice to voiceless, so the pre-medical student found himself marching in northeast Houston on Saturday to save DACA.

National Stories

Associated Press - September 17, 2017

Pro-Trump rally draws hundreds, not thousands to Washington

Organizers had dubbed it the Mother of All Rallies and hoped to bring out thousands to pack the National Mall on Saturday in support of President Donald Trump. In the end, hundreds of flag-waving demonstrators did their best to make some noise in support of the president, who had skipped town for the weekend. The pro-Trump rally was part of a day of diverse political demonstrations in the nation's capital that highlighted the stark political divisions in the United States. It was preceded Saturday morning by a small anti-Trump protest near the White House, where about two dozen people demanded tougher action against Russian President Vladimir Putin in retaliation for Moscow's interference in the 2016 U.S. election.

This article appeared in the Houston Chronicle

Bloomberg - September 15, 2017

Tillerson Says Iran ‘Clearly in Default’ of Nuclear Deal’s Terms

Iran is “clearly in default” of expectations under its 2015 nuclear deal, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said, highlighting a rift with European allies and signaling the Trump administration may rule next month that the country isn’t complying with the accord. Tillerson said the U.S. still hasn’t made a decision about Iran’s compliance with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, as it’s required to do every 90 days. While international inspectors have found Iran is meeting requirements to limit its nuclear program, Tillerson said Thursday in London that it’s violating aspirational language in the deal’s preface about regional peace and security. He cited its ballistic-missile program and its support for Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad.

Wall St. Journal - September 16, 2017

Trump Administration Seeks to Avoid Withdrawal From Paris Climate Accord, International Climate Officials Say

Trump administration officials said Saturday the U.S. wouldn’t pull out of the Paris Agreement, offering to re-engage in the international deal to fight climate change, according to multiple officials at a global warming summit. The U.S. position on reviewing the terms of its participation in the landmark accord came during a meeting of more than 30 ministers led by Canada, China and the European Union in Montreal. In June, President Donald Trump said the U.S. would withdraw from the deal unless it could find more favorable terms.

Wall St. Journal - September 15, 2017

GOP Congressman Sought Trump Deal on WikiLeaks, Russia

A U.S. congressman contacted the White House this week trying to broker a deal that would end WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s U.S. legal troubles in exchange for what he described as evidence that Russia wasn’t the source of hacked emails published by the antisecrecy website during the 2016 presidential campaign. The proposal made by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R., Calif.), in a phone call Wednesday with White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, was apparently aimed at resolving the probe of WikiLeaks prompted by Mr. Assange’s publication of secret U.S. government documents in 2010 through a pardon or other act of clemency from President Donald Trump.

Washington Post - September 12, 2017

Winter wheat moving again to Gulf Coast export facilities

Hard red winter wheat exports are flowing again from the Plains states to the battered Gulf Coast for shipment overseas. Grain export facilities along the Gulf coast suffered little damage from Hurricane Harvey, but the railroad tracks that move wheat to them were more damaged by the storm, said Jay O’Neil, agricultural economist for the International Grains Program at Kansas State University. Most rail lines have since been inspected and repaired, he said. The storm caused about a four-day stoppage, depending on the port. Some terminals had wheat on hand ready to load onto ships, while others had to wait for rail cars to come in.

Dallas Morning News - September 15, 2017

Three Texans tapped for GOP working group on DACA

House Speaker Paul Ryan has tapped three Texans for an informal working group charged with finding a GOP solution for Dreamers. Homeland Security Chairman Michael McCaul, of Austin, Round Rock Rep. John Carter and San Antonio Rep. Will Hurd are among the Republicans whom Ryan has asked to help devise a path forward on the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, according to Politico. The program shields about 800,000 young immigrants — including 124,000 in Texas — from deportation. The news comes within days of President Donald Trump stunning his party by agreeing to work with Democrats on a deal for young immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally, in exchange for a border security package, and signals Republicans' increasing desire to reassert their role in policymaking.

Politico - September 15, 2017

Another prosecutor joins Trump-Russia probe

An attorney working on the Justice Department's highest-profile money laundering case recently transferred off that assignment in order to join the staff of the special prosecutor investigating the Trump campaign's potential ties to Russia, POLITICO has learned. Attorney Kyle Freeny was among the prosecutors on hand Friday as a spokesman for former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, Jason Maloni, testified before a grand jury at federal court in Washington.

Politico - September 15, 2017

California lawmakers green light early primary in 2020

California lawmakers sent Gov. Jerry Brown a bill early Saturday that would move the state’s 2020 primary election up three months to March, bidding to exert greater influence on the next presidential nominating contest. If signed into law by Brown, the early primary could dramatically alter the shape of the next presidential race, forcing primary candidates to compete in a state that has long languished as an afterthought in national elections.

New York Times - September 16, 2017

Cantor: How to End the Immigration Wars

THE decision by the Trump administration to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and to defer instead to Congress for a solution to the problem threw a wild card onto a congressional agenda that was already packed. But far more important, it thrust the lives of roughly 800,000 of our friends and neighbors into instant uncertainty. Washington being Washington, the administration’s decision and its confusing aftermath produced heated and generally unhelpful rhetoric from the extremes of both political parties. Having served as the Republican majority leader in the House of Representatives during the last major immigration debate, I understand the implications of this all too well.

International Business Times - September 9, 2017

Parental Happiness Gap In US: Rising Child Care Costs A Key Concern

Does having kids after marriage make a couple happy? Not in the United States, probably. According to a study published last year, American parents have the largest "parenting happiness gap" when compared to 21 other industrialized nations that are members of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). ... So how much is the average cost of infant child care in the U.S.? The median income for families is just over $55,000 a year, and the average cost of infant child care is $10,000 a year, according to Rachel Schumacher, who directs the Office of Child Care, a division of the federal Department of Health and Human Services. She shared these observations with NPR last year and added the high cost of child care was also labor intensive because in most of the states, a certain number of teachers or caregivers were required to ensure the health and safety of children.

All - September 15, 2017

Lead Stories

Austin American-Statesman - September 14, 2017

DA to hold off on felony charges in Rep. Dawnna Dukes case for now

The Travis County district attorney will not pursue, at least for now, the most serious charges against state Rep. Dawnna Dukes, saying prosecutors have renewed their investigation into the travel vouchers at the heart of the 13 felony counts the Austin Democrat is facing. District Attorney Margaret Moore confirmed to the American-Statesman on Thursday that prosecutors have obtained new information relating to the vouchers, which Dukes is accused of falsifying for financial gain. But Moore declined to elaborate on what the new information is. “The district attorney’s office recently received new, unexpected information pertinent to that case and the new information has created a need for further investigation by this office and the Texas Rangers,” Moore said.

Houston Chronicle - September 14, 2017

City plans hearings on Harvey-related property tax rate hike

City Council set the ball rolling Wednesday on Mayor Sylvester Turner's proposed one-year 8.9 percent property tax rate hike to help fund Houston's recovery from Hurricane Harvey, in what would be the first hike from City Hall in more than two decades. ... The average Houston owner of a $225,000 home with a standard homestead exemption would pay $118 more in property taxes next year under the proposal. The rate would rise to 63.87 cents per $100 of appraised value from 58.64 cents - the lowest city tax rate since the late 1980s. The former was the rate from 2009 through 2013, when a 13-year-old voter-imposed limit on Houston's property tax collections first began forcing City Council to cut the rate each year to avoid bringing in more revenue than was allowed.

San Antonio Business Journal - September 12, 2017

Sentencings of Four Winds employees postponed as Uresti cases proceed

A federal judge has postponed the sentencings of three former employees of a defunct frac sand company linked to a criminal case involving Texas State Sen. Carlos Uresti. In a series of recent decisions, U.S. District Court Judge David Ezra postponed the sentencing of three former Four Winds employees — Shannon Smith, Eric Nelson and Laura Jacobs. Smith and Nelson were set to be sentenced on Monday while Jacobs was supposed to be sentenced later this month. Under Ezra's orders, Jacobs will be sentenced in December, Smith will be sentenced in April and Nelson in June.

Austin American-Statesman - September 14, 2017

Herman: The George H.W. Bush State Office Building, version 2.0

Well, this was potentially embarrassing. Back in March, state Rep. Jim Murphy, R-Houston, filed House Concurrent Resolution 141 concerning someone in his district. Not just any someone. A someone who once lived at an exclusive Washington, D.C., address. Murphy’s measure called for the Texas Facilities Commission to “rename the State Insurance Building in the Capitol Complex as the George H.W. Bush State Office Building in … honor of former president George H.W. Bush and his steadfast commitment to our state and nation.” Nice, and an appropriate tribute, though the early 1960s, four-story State Insurance Building at 1100 San Jacinto Blvd. is, shall we say, not the crowning architectural achievement of the Capitol Complex. On the plus side, it’s not already named for somebody. So there’s that.

Texas Tribune - September 15, 2017

Ramsey: Forget about new political maps — probably

If anything changes in Texas politics in 2018, it’ll likely be the work of voters — not mapmakers. The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to stick with the state’s current political maps will preserve, for now, the Republican advantages that are baked into these particular biscuits. Specifically, that’s a 25-11 Republican-Democratic split in the congressional delegation, a 20-11 split in the Texas Senate and a 95-55 split in the Texas House. And it appears to squelch efforts by minority and Democratic groups to try to win in the courts some of the districts they've been unable to win at the polls. But the courts still have time to mess with the state’s 2018 elections.

Houston Chronicle - September 14, 2017

Abbott announces home repair plan as Turner names recovery czar

Former Shell Oil Co. president Marvin Odum, a Houston native, will lead the city's recovery efforts from Hurricane Harvey, Mayor Sylvester Turner announced Thursday. Turner said he wants Odum to push local leaders out of their comfort zones, not only coordinating with public officials and leaders from the business and nonprofit sectors, but also highlighting what steps the city must take before the next storm strikes. "I'm not looking for a report. We have a whole lot of reports," Turner said. "What I'm asking Marvin to do is to push us forward, to be a part of the rebuilding process, to push us to do more at all levels, to push us to make this city more resilient." Meanwhile, in Austin, Gov. Greg Abbott tapped Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush to head the state's housing recovering from Harvey.

Sabato's Crystal Ball - September 14, 2017

New Poll: Some Americans Express Troubling Racial Attitudes Even as Majority Oppose White Supremacists

A new Reuters/Ipsos poll conducted in conjunction with the University of Virginia Center for Politics finds that while there is relatively little national endorsement of neo-Nazis and white supremacists, there are troubling levels of support for certain racially-charged ideas and attitudes frequently expressed by extremist groups. The survey also found backing for keeping Confederate monuments in place, the removal of which has become a hot-button issue in communities across the country. As is often the case, these survey results can be interpreted in two quite different ways. On the one hand, despite the events in Charlottesville and elsewhere, few people surveyed expressed direct support for hate groups. But on the other hand, it will be disturbing to many that a not insubstantial proportion of those polled demonstrated neutrality and indifference or, worse, expressed support for antiquated views on race.

Dallas Morning News - September 15, 2017

Texas Children's Health Insurance Program faces uncertain funding after Harvey

Middle-class Texas families, especially those struggling to recover from Hurricane Harvey, may soon face another obstacle -- an uncertain future for their children’s medical coverage. The Children's Health Insurance Program -- a federal program that matches state healthcare funds for kids whose families make too much to qualify for Medicaid -- has been hugely popular in Texas, with over a million kids enrolled. When Hurricane Harvey tore through Texas earlier this month, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid waived several application and renewal requirements in counties declared disaster areas to streamline access to care.

Associated Press - September 15, 2017

Harvey sends US industrial production down most in 8 years

U.S. industrial output plunged 0.9 percent in August, the most in eight years, mostly because of Hurricane Harvey's damage to the oil refining, plastics and chemicals industries. The storm, which slammed into the Gulf Coast in Texas and Louisiana late last month, lowered industrial production by about 0.75 percentage point, the Federal Reserve said Friday. That suggests production would have slipped without the hurricane. The Gulf Coast is home to many of the nation's oil refiners, and petroleum is a key component in the manufacturing of plastics and chemicals.

This article appeared in the Houston Chronicle

Texas Tribune - September 14, 2017

Independent Monitors Found Benzene Levels After Harvey Six Times Higher Than Guidelines

As a longtime resident of Manchester, Guadalupe Hernandez is used to the chemical smells that waft through his southeast Houston, Texas neighborhood, a low-income, predominantly Hispanic community near a Valero Energy refinery. But when Hurricane Harvey blew in the weekend of Aug. 26, the stench became noticeably stronger for about five hours, a scent like “glue or boiled eggs,” he said. The Environmental Protection Agency has assured the public they looked into complaints in the area a week after the storm hit, and spent several days taking air pollution measurements with a mobile laboratory. The agency didn’t release any specifics, but said concentrations of several toxic chemicals, including the carcinogen benzene, met Texas health guidelines. Now, environmental advocacy groups have shared their own, detailed data with ProPublica and the Texas Tribune, based on air sampling from the same Manchester streets over six days. It shows a more nuanced picture than the one given by the EPA: in numerous locations, benzene levels, though under the Texas threshold of 180 parts per billion, far exceeded California’s guidelines, which is 23 times more stringent and is well-respected by health advocates nationwide.

Politico - September 14, 2017

Trump signs resolution condemning bigotry and violence in Charlottesville

President Donald Trump on Thursday signed a congressional joint resolution condemning the violence of neo-Nazis and white supremacists during a rally in Virginia last month, despite his equivocating on the matter during a meeting the day before with the Senate's only black Republican. “As Americans, we condemn the recent violence in Charlottesville and oppose hatred, bigotry, and racism in all forms,” Trump said in a statement issued by the office of the press secretary late Thursday.

State Stories

San Antonio Express News - September 14, 2017

Law limiting second-trimester abortion blocked until Nov. 22

A federal judge has further delayed enforcement of a new state law restricting a common second-trimester abortion procedure and set a trial to begin in early November. U.S. District Court Judge Lee Yeakel of Austin set the trial date for Nov. 2, granting a request from the attorney general’s office and abortion clinics suing the state, and extended by some three weeks his order blocking the law, to Nov. 22. Yaekel’s initial order — issued Aug. 31, a day before the law was set to take effect — was scheduled to expire today. The law restricts the use of dilation and evacuation abortions, in which a physician uses medical equipment to remove fetal tissue.

Austin American-Statesman - September 15, 2017

First Reading: Why everybody hates Ted Cruz and why it doesn’t matter.

At a little before 4 in the morning Tuesday I became aware that overnight, @tedcruz’s Twitter account had liked a porn video. I was not pleased. I had just risen and was behind the eight ball to get that day’s First Reading done – Alex Jones’ 9/11 exclusive: President Trump is being drugged in his Diet Cokes – and didn’t want to be distracted by something so trivial whose progression over the next news cycle or two or three (I’m no longer quite sure what a news cycle is or how long its lasts) was so predictable. There were, even in the middle of the night, questions of irony and hypocrisy.

San Antonio Express News - September 15, 2017

Mystery surrounds remains of Alamo fallen

One of the great mysteries of the Alamo — one that lingers today as a critical issue in how the historic site is interpreted — is the location of funeral pyres where bodies of some 200 men were burned after the morning battle on March 6, 1836. Another source of curiosity: reports that charred remains of some defenders may have been interred at San Fernando Cathedral or one of the city’s historic East Side cemeteries. The Center for Archaeological Research at the University of Texas at San Antonio attempted to compare written accounts with findings from 1980s and ’90s excavations downtown. A 1999 report, “Historical and Archaeological Investigations at the Site of Rivercenter Mall (Las Tiendas),” by Anne Fox and Marcie Renner, included a chapter titled, “Searching for the Funeral Pyre.”

KXII - September 14, 2017

Sherman lawyer enters GOP primary for Dist. 62 Texas state rep.

Reginald "Reggie" B. Smith, Jr. formally announced his candidacy on Wednesday for the position of Texas State Representative, District 62 on the steps of the Grayson County Courthouse. District 62 is made up of Grayson, Fannin and Delta counties. “I think it is important to have widespread local support across all of District 62, Smith said in a press release. Smith is no stranger to District 62 or to the conservative battlefield of fighting for less government, lower taxes, Texas jobs, and secure borders.

San Antonio Express News - September 14, 2017

Uresti, Alamo City Comic Con square off

State Sen. Carlos Uresti and Alamo City Comic Con creator Alfredo “Apple” De La Fuente are squaring off in a super slugfest. Bam! Kapow! Lawsuits! Alamo City Comic Con, which hosts an annual comics and pop-culture event that attracts thousands to the Convention Center — including many clad in costumes of their favorite characters, such as Wonder Woman and Darth Vader — sued Uresti last month for fraud and breach of fiduciary duty relating to legal and consulting services he provided the company. The San Antonio Democrat fired back last week with his own lawsuit, alleging fraud and breach of contract against Comic Con and De La Fuente.

Lubbock Avalanche-Journal - September 13, 2017

Democrat Samantha Fields announces campaign for Texas House 84

South Plains Democrats continue to fill up the 2018 election ballot — now for one of Lubbock’s Texas House seats. Lubbock native Samantha Fields announced Wednesday that she will run in the spring 2018 primary for the Democratic nomination for the Texas House 84, which has been held by Republican John Frullo since 2010. Fields stood behind a podium at the Lubbock County Democratic Headquarters Wednesday evening to say she never intended to run for office, but believes Lubbock is no longer being represented.

Austin American-Statesman - September 14, 2017

Rep. Doggett files tax relief bill for workers who lost jobs in storms

U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin, the top Democrat on the Ways & Means Tax Policy Subcommittee, was joined by more than 30 colleagues Thursday in introducing legislation to provide tax relief to working families adversely affected by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. This bill would ensure that qualifying individuals and families in Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma federal disaster areas receive the maximum assistance from the earned income tax credit and child tax credit by giving them the option of using their prior year, pre-hurricane income to compute the credits that they would otherwise not receive for time they were sidelined from their jobs due to the storms.

Austin American-Statesman - September 15, 2017

Statesman Exclusive: Improper teacher-student relationship cases soar

Amid increasing scrutiny from top state officials of teachers accused of soliciting romantic relationships from students, the number of such cases has jumped for the ninth year in a row. In the one-year period that ended Sept. 1, the Texas Education Agency opened 302 cases against public teachers who have been accused of having improper relationships with students, a 36 percent increase from the year before. The most recent data show the biggest one-year jump in almost a decade. “That’s just a huge number, to go 80 (cases) above,” said Doug Phillips, TEA’s director of educator investigations. “We’ve amped up the pressure to report and we’ve made people more aware.”

Austin American-Statesman - September 15, 2017

Washington: Texas should remove legislative barriers to Harvey cleanup

The vital connection between America’s infrastructure and the well-being of our citizenry is never more apparent than in times of crisis. Rebuilding communities in Texas and Florida will be an immense task; however, there are important lessons to be learned after Hurricanes Katrina, Irene and Sandy that could also be utilized to make infrastructure better and stronger as we rebuild. Unfortunately, there are legislative obstacles to that reconstruction in Texas.

Austin American-Statesman - September 14, 2017

Gov. Abbott expects three more federal disaster aid bills this year

Gov. Greg Abbott said Thursday that Congress might pass as many as three additional federal disaster aid packages before the end of the year in addition to the $15.3 billion in recovery money, including $7.4 billion for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, approved by Congress last week in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. At a nearly hourlong briefing at the new Texas-FEMA Joint Field Office in North Austin, where about 2,000 federal and state officials are coordinating the rebuilding of Houston and other coastal communities hard hit by Harvey, Abbott said that based on his conversations with federal officials, there could be a second supplemental spending package approved before the end of this month, another possibly in October, and a third before the end of the year.

Austin American-Statesman - September 14, 2017

Straus asks House members to study Hurricane Harvey-related issues

Texas House Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, asked lawmakers Thursday to study ahead of the 2019 legislative session ways the state can respond to Hurricane Harvey-related issues and prepare for future disasters. Straus’ interim charges are: House Appropriations Committee: Review how state agencies use federal dollars to respond to Harvey, find ways to make the most of those dollars to “reduce the impact” of future natural disasters, identify the resources Texas needs to respond to Harvey and future disasters, and identify ways to invest in infrastructure ahead of future disasters.

Texas Tribune - September 14, 2017

Phillip Huffines talks about his brother, the border and the "bathroom bill"

He’s his own man — or is he? Huffines has billed himself as a carbon copy of his twin brother, state Sen. Don Huffines, who represents the adjacent Senate District 16. The two even released this video describing themselves as “two guaranteed conservative votes” and “kind of like getting two for the price of none,” as both have pledged not to accept a dollar of state salary. But on Thursday morning, Phillip Huffines said that his “values are similar to Don’s ... But I’m very independent. I look at things from my perspective, I’ve got a strong personality, and I will be my own person.”

Texas Tribune - September 15, 2017

Principals aren’t registering high schoolers to vote. Texas is turning to superintendents.

In 1983, State Rep. Paul Ragsdale saw a problem in Texas high schools: Students weren’t registering to vote. “In certain counties in this state, difficulties have arisen with the ability to go onto high school campuses to register eligible students to vote,” he wrote at the time. So Ragsdale, a Dallas Democrat and staunch civil rights advocate who died in 2011, authored novel legislation calling on high schools to address the issue. His law required principals or other designated registrars to circulate voter registration forms and notices to eligible high schoolers at least twice a year.

Texas Tribune - September 15, 2017

Texas public school districts may now store, not trash, leftover food

In more than 40 years of working in El Paso ISD's cafeterias, Olimpia Estrada has seen the amount of wasted food drop dramatically as officials have established programs allowing the redistribution of leftover food. But they still have a long way to go. "Anything to cut down on the waste and not feed the trash can, I think would be good," Estrada said. Estrada and cafeteria managers across the state now have an increased ability to get that leftover food into the hands of students. A law passed this spring creates a new pathway for school districts that want to reduce food waste and feed hungry kids throughout the week.

Texas Tribune - September 14, 2017

Will Hurricane Irma pull federal resources away from Harvey aid?

After a pair of massive hurricanes battered Texas and Florida, members of Congress from those states are facing an uncomfortable question: Does relief for one state come at the cost of the other? The fear among many in Washington is that the double-whammy of the two hurricanes — Harvey in Texas and Irma in Florida — could pull away federal resources needed in both states. One of the most important Texans in the middle of these negotiations is U.S. Rep. Kay Granger, a Fort Worth Republican and senior member of the House Appropriations Committee. She told the Tribune that she is “absolutely” concerned about Congress addressing dual disasters.

Houston Chronicle - September 12, 2017

Texas' drop in uninsured rate might not last

The notable drop in the rate of the people without health coverage in Texas and across the nation may feel like vindication for backers of the law known as Obamacare, but any victory lap is slowed by the uncertainty ahead. The U.S. Census Bureau reported Tuesday that the rate of uninsured in Texas fell to 16.6 percent last year, down from 22.1 percent in 2013 when the Affordable Care Act's individual market plans first became available. Overall, the nation's rate of uninsured dropped to 8.6 percent in 2016, down from 14.5 in 2013. That means that last year 91 percent of people had coverage, or about 320 million people nationally, according to the Census report.

Dallas Morning News - September 14, 2017

Joaquin Castro considering running for governor against Republican Greg Abbott, party chairman says

In need of someone to lead the top of the 2018 ticket, Democrats are trying to persuade U.S. Rep. Joaquín Castro to run for Texas governor. "He and others are considering it," Texas Democratic Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa told The Dallas Morning News. "It's a very big decision for him. It would require him to leave his safe seat in the U.S. House, where he's a rising star." Castro, who will turn 43 on Saturday, has represented the 20th Congressional District since 2013. He served 10 years in the Texas House. He had not responded to requests for comment as of Thursday afternoon.

Dallas Morning News - September 15, 2017

Even conservative Texans agree, it's time to tap the rainy day fund

Hurricane Harvey recovery, especially for the families of the 70 Texans who lost their lives, will take years. The economic impact is also staggering. Early estimates show this storm could cost $190 billion in lost economic output, according to AccuWeather, roughly 14 percent of the state's personal income and 1 percent of the nation's total gross domestic product. In addition, more than 1 million people have been displaced, struggling to find resources to meet basic needs. But this is Texas, where strangers become quick friends and where people don't wait for government assistance. Armies of private trucks and trailers, driven by Texans acting on their own initiative, brought resources to fellow Texans in need.

Dallas Morning News - September 15, 2017

Could homeowners see their beloved mortgage interest deduction threatened by tax reform?

All it took for Debbie Hays to make the jump from long-time renter to first-time homeowner was a bit of math. The 58-year-old looked at the increasing rent checks she was signing for her Plano apartment of 15 years. She then eyed the prospect of paying about the same for a $1,100-a-month mortgage to own a cheery Cape Cod-style bungalow in Denton County’s Providence Village. And one key part of her calculation was the mortgage interest deduction she now takes each year on her tax returns. “It puts an incredible amount of money back in my savings account,” said Hays, who made the move in 2014. That perk that so many tout as critical to boosting homeownership could be threatened as Congress pursues what would be the first major overhaul of the tax code in three decades.

Dallas Morning News - September 14, 2017

Could futuristic travel end up in Dallas? Hyperloop company is considering it

Dallas has one more mode of futuristic transportation to dream about, along with bullet trains and flying Uber cars. It's made the short list for Hyperloop One, a Los Angeles-based company that wants to replace long flights and road trips with a quick ride through a low-pressure tube. The Texas route is one of 10 routes that the company is considering, according to a Thursday news release. It would cover about 640 miles and connect Dallas-Fort Worth to Austin, Houston, San Antonio and Laredo. Hyperloop One launched a contest in May 2016, asking individuals, universities, companies and governments to submit proposals for routes in their region. The company narrowed the field from hundreds of applicants to 10 teams.

Dallas Morning News - September 14, 2017

Arrests indicate violent Mexican drug cartel is back in Dallas

When federal prosecutors last year shut down the Dallas cell of a violent new Mexican drug cartel, experts predicted the lull would be temporary. It didn't take long. On Wednesday, federal authorities announced charges against eight members of the Jalisco New Generation Cartel in a large methamphetamine trafficking plot allegedly operating in the Dallas and DeSoto areas. The seven men and one woman are charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute a controlled substance. They remain in federal custody, said the U.S. attorney's office in Dallas.

Dallas Morning News - September 14, 2017

A look inside Texas prisons damaged by Harvey, where workers and inmates are pitching in to clean up

ROSHARON — All Richard Babcock wanted was to get to work. As Harvey began its days-long soaking of Houston, he left the downtown prison he oversees just to grab a pillow for the long, stormy night ahead. Two hours later, roads to the city were impassable, leaving him stranded away from the 20 employees and 600 inmates in his charge. Forty miles south, Adam Hernandez waited anxiously in the dark with about 200 of his fellow inmates at the Terrell Unit. He just wanted to get to safety. The Brazos River and Oyster Creek, less than a mile from his bunk, were beginning to top their banks, and he could hear howling winds blow debris from the rooftops.

Dallas Morning News - September 14, 2017

Harvey could cost flood insurers $11 billion, but funds are running out

The head of the National Flood Insurance Program said that Hurricane Harvey is expected to cost the federal program $11 billion, and that it’s too soon to know the toll of Hurricane Irma. Problem is, the federal insurer doesn't have that kind of cash. In a call with reporters Wednesday, director Roy Wright pledged to quickly get money into the hands of affected policyholders, despite the program having only $1.5 billion on hand. What’s more, it’s set to run out of funds sometime this fall. The program was already $25 billion in debt to the U.S. Treasury before Harvey and Irma swept ashore, and will soon bump up against its $30.4 billion borrowing limit.

Dallas Morning News - September 14, 2017

After years of inaction, Gov. Greg Abbott agrees to discuss Texas' Confederate statues

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has agreed to meet with a state lawmaker who wants to alter or remove Confederate monuments on the Capitol grounds. Abbott, who has said "tearing down monuments won't erase our nation's past," will meet soon with Dallas Democratic Rep. Eric Johnson to discuss the issue, his office confirmed Thursday. The two had scheduled a sit-down earlier this month but were forced to postpone because of Hurricane Harvey. The meeting comes as officials across Texas and the nation have been forced to rethink Southern homages to the Confederacy in the wake of this summer's deadly racial clashes in Charlottesville, Va.

Dallas Morning News - September 15, 2017

Even conservative Texans agree, it's time to tap the rainy day fund

Hurricane Harvey recovery, especially for the families of the 70 Texans who lost their lives, will take years. The economic impact is also staggering. Early estimates show this storm could cost $190 billion in lost economic output, according to AccuWeather, roughly 14 percent of the state's personal income and 1 percent of the nation's total gross domestic product. In addition, more than 1 million people have been displaced, struggling to find resources to meet basic needs. But this is Texas, where strangers become quick friends and where people don't wait for government assistance. Armies of private trucks and trailers, driven by Texans acting on their own initiative, brought resources to fellow Texans in need.

San Antonio Express News - September 15, 2017

Texas unemployment rate for August improves to 4.2 percent

The Texas unemployment rate for August improved to 4.2 percent for the fourth straight month of declining jobless figures. The Texas Workforce Commission on Friday announced last month's unemployment compares to a 4.3 percent statewide jobless rate in July. Nationwide unemployment for August was 4.4 percent. Amarillo had the lowest unemployment rate for Texas last month at 3.1 percent. A TWC statement says the McAllen-Edinburg-Mission area had the highest jobless rate in Texas during August at 8 percent.

Community Impact Newspapers - September 12, 2017

Senators: Harvey will “dominate” next two years of legislative talk

Several state senators and representatives of the Fort Bend Delegation predict challenges or the next legislative session. Legislators gathered for a panel Tuesday, hosted by the Fort Bend Chamber of Commerce and Central Fort Bend Chamber at the Safari Texas Ranch in Richmond. Sens. Joan Huffman, R-Houston, and Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham, as well as Reps. Ron Reynolds, D-Missouri City, Phil Stephenson, R-Wharton, John Zerwas, R-Richmond, and Rick Miller, R-Sugar Land, all agreed during the panel that the 86th legislative session will confront the affects of Hurricane Harvey on school and property taxes.

Community Impact Newspapers - September 14, 2017

Experts: Public school funding shifts from state to taxpayers

Some experts and legislators said they believe little was done to address school finance and property tax reform during the 85th Texas Legislature, despite meeting for a special session this summer. On Aug. 16, Gov. Greg Abbott signed House Bill 21, which provides more than $300 million in state funding to schools through the next biennium. However, the initial version of the bill drafted by the House proposed $1.8 billion in additional funding while lowering recapture payments from wealthier school districts, commonly referred to as the “Robin Hood” plan, said Chandra Villanueva, senior policy analyst for the Center for Public Policy Priorities. Local school districts and policy experts argue the bill is not enough to undo years of missteps.

Construction Citizen - September 14, 2017

Experts: Harvey, Texas Immigration Law, and End of DACA Create Perfect Storm for Workforce

Immigrant rights activists, experts in the law, and business leaders gathered Wednesday night in Houston to talk about challenges the region faces following the convergence of a state crackdown on “sanctuary cities,” a devastating hurricane, and the impending end of a federal program that allows young undocumented immigrants a chance at employment without fear of deportation. A 90-minute discussion at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston presented by the Kinder Institute for Urban Research at Rice University and the Houston Immigration and Legal Services Collaborative featured speakers from various walks of life. The talk also played out just as confusion was unfolding in Washington about whether President Donald Trump and Democrats had indeed struck a deal to make permanent the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program.

County Stories

Houston Chronicle - September 14, 2017

Majority of Commissioner's Court backs proposed flood control bond

A majority of the Harris County Commissioners Court on Wednesday said they would support a large bond issue, perhaps upwards of $1 billion, and a tax increase to pay for it. The bond issue would bolster cash-strapped flood control initiatives, which could include a improvements to waterways and buyouts of properties that repeatedly flood. After Hurricane Harvey's widespread devastation and severe floods of the last few years, Harris County Judge Ed Emmett and commissioners Steve Radack and Jack Cagle, all Republicans, said in interviews Wednesday afternoon that they would favor a bond issue.

Houston Chronicle - September 14, 2017

Harris County Flood Control District to launch home buyout program

The Harris County Flood Control District has opened a new phone bank for county residents who wish to be considered for home buyouts following the heavy flooding accompanied by Hurricane Harvey almost three weeks ago. Since the storm, the county and city have been focused on clearing debris, assessing and repairing drainage infrastructure and reducing risks of flooding in the next storm. In addition to that, the flood control district has authorized emergency repairs while conducting a countywide assessment of bayous, creeks, channels and storm water detention basins.

City Stories

Houston Chronicle - September 14, 2017

Houston Humane Society gets letter, donation from Donald Trump

Houston's Humane Society just got a sizable donation from President Donald Trump. The president and Melania Trump sent a letter and $25,000 to the Houston Humane Society to help with ongoing rescue and housing efforts following Hurricane Harvey. "Animals are truly non-partisan members of society, can use help from both sides of the aisle" said Sherry Ferguson, executive director for the Houston Humane Society, according to a Facebook post Thursday morning.

Dallas Morning News - September 14, 2017

Four Dallas schools honoring Confederates to be renamed, and 21 other campuses might be targeted, too

Dallas ISD's efforts to change the names of campuses that honor the Confederacy just got a lot more tangible — and possibly a lot more interesting. During Thursday's board briefing, DISD trustees unanimously expressed interest in supporting name changes at four schools named after Confederate generals — Stonewall Jackson, Robert E. Lee, Albert Sidney Johnston and William L. Cabell elementary schools. The future might hold even more alterations. District administration compiled a list of at least 21 other school names that administrators say are connected to the Confederacy, slave owners and segregationists. Some trustees showed interest in approving changes to those schools eventually.

Dallas Morning News - September 14, 2017

Crane removes Robert E. Lee statue from Dallas park

After 81 years, Gen. Robert E. Lee's patrol along Turtle Creek has ended. The statue of the Civil War commander astride his horse Traveller and accompanied by a young soldier was removed quietly Thursday amid a noisy national debate over Confederate monuments. A crane truck had arrived about 4 p.m. at Lee Park, near Lemmon Avenue in Oak Lawn, after squad cars blocked ramps on Insterstate 35E to ensure its safe travel to Turtle Creek Boulevard. On Sunday night, a tractor-trailer carrying a crane from Houston to remove the statue had been involved in a deadly collision just south of downtown Dallas. That crane was damaged and could not complete the job.

Dallas Morning News - September 14, 2017

Irving rattled by second earthquake in less than a month

A 2.6 magnitude earthquake that shook North Texas on Thursday morning was the second earthquake in Irving in less than a month, the U.S. Geological Survey said. The quake's epicenter was recorded at 11:45 a.m. off Luna Road, just south of Luna Vista Golf Course, according to data from Alexandros Savvaidis, a research scientist at the University of Texas' Bureau of Economic Geology who operates TexNet, the state's seismic network. North Texas' most recent earthquake before Thursday, with a measured magnitude of 3.1, happened Aug. 25 in the same vicinity.

Washington Post - September 14, 2017

As flooded Houston neighborhoods dry out, residents wonder: Are they worth the risk?

The suburban Houston enclave of Meyerland has long presented a facade of prosperity and permanence. Built half a century ago on what had been rice fields, it totals more than 2,000 spacious homes, many with swimming pools, all set amid unfurling green lawns. In 1955, Vice President Richard M. Nixon attended the development’s ribbon-cutting. Michael Dell, the billionaire computer entrepreneur, grew up here. “Driving through Meyerland, it’s easy to envy those who are able to live in the neighborhood,” the Houston Press noted in a 2014 profile of the subdivision.

Weatherford Democrat - September 13, 2017

City drops Zion Hill annexation

Citing the passage of a new state law regarding involuntary annexation, the City of Weatherford Tuesday night dropped plans to annex areas in the Zion Hill area next month. The shift came after weeks of vocal opposition from a large group of Zion Hill and other Parker County residents and days after Hudson Oaks Mayor and county judge candidate Pat Deen met with the city on the group’s behalf. At the start of a scheduled public hearing on the proposed involuntary annexation Tuesday, city council members met with the city attorney for about an hour before voting to cancel the public hearings.

Dallas Morning News - September 15, 2017

Police won't interfere with protest to keep Confederate statues — unless there's trouble

A group claiming to "protect all things Texas" intends to protest Dallas' Confederate monuments on Saturday at the same park where one such statue was removed this week. The demonstrators, This Is Texas Freedom Force, have rallied across the state to support such tributes, and they list groups such as Occupy Austin and Black Lives Matter as the "opposition." Dallas officials removed a statue of Gen. Robert E. Lee on Thursday, just days before a protest by the This is Texas Freedom Force at the same spot. But the group said it plans to gather at 11 a.m. anyway. Robert Beverly, the group's president, said the Lee statue's removal "makes our battle even bigger."

National Stories

KYW - September 14, 2017

Poll: Nearly 4 In 10 Americans Can’t Name Any First Amendment Rights

A recent poll conducted by the University of Pennsylvania finds that residents of the United States are poorly informed about basic constitutional provisions. The newly released survey suggests Americans cannot name a single right protected by the First Amendment. According to Penn’s Annenberg Public Policy Center released Tuesday, 37 percent could not name any of the five rights protected by First Amendment, and just about half (48 percent) could name freedom of speech. In addition, the survey found that 33 percent of those polled were unable to name one of the three branches of the U.S. government, such as legislative, executive and judicial. And only 26 percent of the respondents could name the three branches.

Washington Post - September 14, 2017

Trump’s die-hard supporters are fuming after an apparent about-face on ‘dreamers’

Staunch conservative allies of President Trump have erupted in anger and incredulity after Democrats late Wednesday announced that the president had agreed to pursue a legislative deal that would protect thousands of young undocumented immigrants from deportation but not secure Trump’s signature campaign promise: building a massive wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Nearing midnight and into Thursday, social media accounts came alive as elected officials and activists on the right dashed off tweets and posts to share their shock. And in between those posts, there was a flurry of fuming calls and text messages — a blaring political fire alarm among Trump’s die-hard supporters.

Washington Post - September 14, 2017

Clinton raised a much higher percentage of her money in places she won than did Trump

It’s often difficult to figure out the results of elections based on Zip codes because Zip codes, frustratingly, don’t align neatly with political boundaries. The U.S. Postal Service’s geographic needs are different than the needs of elected officials, making it tricky to figure out how the residents of Zip code 44444 (Newton Falls, Ohio) cast their ballots in the 2016 presidential election. Happily, Ryne Rohla, working on behalf of Decision Desk HQ, spent a good deal of time after the 2016 election asking different jurisdictions for precinct-level data on how people voted. That’s a level of granularity that we don’t usually get to see, and it allows us to cobble together tallies for Zip codes across the country. And that, in turn, allows us to do an analysis that’s otherwise tricky: Compare fundraising totals — for which Zip codes are readily available — with the results of the presidential election.

New York Times - September 13, 2017

Medicare for All or State Control: Health Care Plans Go to Extremes

In one Senate office building, some of the leading lights of the Democratic Party gathered Wednesday to embrace what was once a proposal only of the far left: a huge expansion of Medicare, large enough to open the popular, government-run health program to all Americans. In another Senate office building, a smaller but equally adamant group of Republican senators stood together to take one last stab at dismantling the Affordable Care Act. They proposed instead to send each state a lump sum of federal money, along with sweeping new discretion over how to use it. Important elements in both parties are trying to move beyond President Barack Obama’s health care law, which has always been a complicated, politically difficult mix of government and private health insurance. But they are moving in radically different directions.

Fox News - September 14, 2017

Liberals sick of the alt-left are taking 'the red pill'

The mainstream media failed to see the rise of Donald Trump in 2016. Now it’s overlooking another grassroots movement that may soon be of equal significance— the growing number of liberals “taking the red pill.” People of all ages and ethnicities are posting YouTube videos describing “red pill moments”—personal awakenings that have caused them to reject leftist narratives imbibed since childhood from friends, teachers, and the news and entertainment media. You might say that those who take the red pill have been “triggered.” But instead of seeking out “safe spaces,” they’re doing the opposite, posting monologues throwing off the shackles of political correctness. Their videos can feature the kind of subversiveness that was once a hallmark of the left—before the movement lost its sense of humor.

New York Times - September 14, 2017

North Korea Launches Another Missile, Escalating Crisis

North Korea fired a ballistic missile over Japan on Friday, a bold test that defied the new sanctions resolution adopted by the United Nations Security Council earlier this week as well as repeated warnings from around the world that the country should stop raising tensions. The missile blasted off from near the Sunan International Airport north of Pyongyang, the North Korean capital, and flew about 2,300 miles, flying over northern Japan, the South Korean military said in a statement. The missile reached a maximum altitude of 478 miles. In Japan, an alert was issued on television and via cellphones, warning people to take shelter inside a building or underground. The Japanese government said the missile landed in waters about 1,240 east of the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido.

New York Times - September 14, 2017

Lieber: Finally, Some Answers From Equifax to Your Data Breach Questions

Here’s what I’ve learned about, among other things, Equifax’s credit freeze process, whereby people lock up their files so that no thief can get new credit by impersonating them. One cautionary lesson: The company doesn’t always get its answers right. Do Equifax’s website and phone systems actually work at this point? Yes, the company maintains, though barely if all the messages in my email are any indication. Some people are waiting until the middle of the night to try to use Equifax’s security freeze website and even failing then to get through. It’s like trying to get Bruce Springsteen tickets, except nobody wants to see this particular show.

The Hill - September 13, 2017

For Hill staffers, Cruz’s ‘liked’ porn tweet a nightmare scenario

Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-Texas) Twitter mishap late Monday night involving a pornographic account is nightmare fuel for congressional staffers who are increasingly tasked with managing social media for their bosses. Twitter and Facebook have become crucial communication tools for members of Congress, helping them stake out their positions, interact with constituents and attract media attention. As a result, staffers spend many of their work hours managing and cultivating lawmakers’ social media presences.

Dallas Morning News - September 14, 2017

Trump rules out citizenship for Dreamers, digs in on border wall as hard-liners fume at 'Amnesty Don'

President Donald Trump ruled out citizenship for young immigrants facing deportation in six months, under pressure Thursday from hard-liners who accused him of embracing amnesty in a deal he cut with Democrats. The deal won't include funding for a controversial border wall, though as the day wore on and fallout mounted, he projected increasingly tough stands on border security and so-called Dreamers — the nearly 800,000 immigrants brought into the country illegally before age 16. By day's end, Trump asserted that he won't cave on demands for a wall, and will insist on "extreme security" before putting his signature on a measure to codify the Obama-era policy he rescinded nine days earlier, called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.

Dallas Morning News - September 14, 2017

Trump, border wall largely to blame for sharp decline in Mexicans' views of U.S.

The majority of Mexicans view the United States more unfavorably than any time in the past decade and a half, and the sentiment is fueled largely by President Donald Trump’s call for a border wall, according to a poll released Thursday by the Pew Research Center. Nearly two-thirds of Mexicans view the United States negatively, more than double two years ago, according to the poll. An estimated 94 percent of respondents oppose the wall, a signature policy of the president’s since he announced his candidacy in June 2015.

The Hill - September 14, 2017

Right explodes in anger over Trump's immigration push

President Trump’s supporters are apoplectic and lashing out at “Amnesty Don” for pursuing a deal with Democratic leaders to protect young immigrants who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children. Only a week ago, Trump thrilled his base by rescinding an Obama-era order on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which allows about 800,000 young people brought into the country illegally to live and work without fear of deportation. But the president quickly backtracked, reaching an agreement late Wednesday over dinner with Democratic leaders Sen. Charles Schumer (N.Y.)and Rep. Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) that would extend protection to the so-called Dreamers in exchange for promises to enhance border security.

The Hill - September 14, 2017

Some Dems sizzle, others see their stock fall on road to 2020

Several potential Democratic presidential candidates have seen their stock fall since the beginning of the year, while others have risen. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has seen rivals jump on to his single-payer health-care bill, while former Vice President Joe Biden is preparing a major book tour through key swing states. Sens. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) have both generated headlines as Democratic opponents of President Trump who have been “shushed” by Republican lawmakers.

Dallas Morning News - September 13, 2017

Cruz says Congress must overhaul tax code or suffer one of 'greatest missed opportunities in modern history'

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz on Wednesday urged his colleagues to fulfill a "fundamental promise" to overhaul the tax code, saying that Congress has a once-in-a-generation opportunity to "produce incredible results." Cruz, a key conservative voice, spoke in sweeping terms about a tax revamp that would center on growth, simplicity and fairness. He offered a vision of a tax system with reduced rates, fewer loopholes and the ability for most Americans to file their taxes on a postcard. And he invoked former President Ronald Reagan, who oversaw a major tax overhaul, to frame the stakes.

Austin American-Statesman - September 14, 2017

Michael McCaul gets a second look for homeland security chief

U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul fell short last December of being named secretary of the Homeland Security Department by President-elect Donald Trump. But with the position vacant since late July, when John Kelly took over as White House chief of staff, the seven-term Austin Republican is now high on the list for homeland security chief. McCaul, 55, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, asked Thursday by the American-Statesman about his interest in the post, said, “I can’t respond to anything right now.” But U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, told the Statesman, “I think he’s talking to the White House,” when asked Wednesday about McCaul being considered for homeland security secretary.

San Antonio Express News - September 14, 2017

Garcia: How “Medicare for All” became a thing for Dems

In September 2009, Barack Obama was flying back to the nation’s capital on Air Force One, after a short visit to New York. Then-New York Congressman Anthony Weiner was on the flight and decided to educate Obama on how to sell the president’s controversial health plan, the Affordable Care Act. Weiner told Obama he needed to simplify his message. “Just say that what we’re doing is gradually expanding Medicare,” Weiner said. ... Weiner’s bigger point, though, was relevant. Language is crucial when you’re selling policy, and when you frame the idea of single-payer coverage not as “socialized medicine” or “government-run health-care,” but as “Medicare for All,” you start to see the needle of public opinion move in the positive direction.

Washington Post - September 14, 2017

How health-care reform affected America, in 51 graphs

Last year, 8.6 percent of Americans lacked health insurance. Three years earlier, that figure was 14.5 percent, meaning that the rate dropped by 5.9 percentage points over the period that the Affordable Care Act went into effect, a 40 percent decline from the 2013 figure. In real terms, that’s about 19 million fewer people lacking health insurance, per estimates released Tuesday by the Census Bureau. There’s a big split, though, between those states that took advantage of the ACA’s expansion of Medicaid and those that didn’t. On average, states that expanded Medicaid at the outset now have an uninsured rate of about 6.1 percent, a decline of 5.9 percentage points since 2013. In those states that never expanded Medicaid, more than 10 percent of the population lacks insurance on average, and the decline since 2013 is a more modest 4.6 percent.

Bloomberg - September 15, 2017

North Korea Puts Guam in Range With Missile Launch Over Japan

North Korea’s second missile launch over Japan in as many months flew far enough to put the U.S. territory of Guam in range, a provocation that comes days after the United Nations approved harsher sanctions against Kim Jong Un’s regime. The intermediate-range missile fired from Pyongyang at 6:57 a.m. on Friday flew over the northern island of Hokkaido, reaching an altitude of 770 kilometers (478 miles) before landing in the Pacific Ocean. It traveled 3,700 kilometers -- further than the 3,400 kilometers from Pyongyang to Guam, which North Korea has repeatedly threatened.

Bloomberg - September 15, 2017

Motel 6 Just Left the Light on for ICE

Motel 6’s parent company, G6 Hospitality LLC, said locations in the Phoenix-area have been voluntarily handing over guest information to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) employees. “This was implemented at the local level without the knowledge of senior management,” G6 spokeswoman Raiza Rehkoff wrote in an email. “When we became aware of it last week, it was discontinued.” ?She said the company is investigating the incidents. The Blackstone Group acquired Motel 6 in 2012 as part of a $1.9 billion deal. At least 20 undocumented people were arrested at two Motel 6 locations between February and August, according to the Phoenix New Times.

Houston Chronicle - September 14, 2017

Higher gasoline, housing costs lift U.S. consumer prices

Higher gasoline and housing costs boosted U.S. consumer prices 0.4 percent in August, the most in seven months. The increase suggests inflation could be picking up, but the figures were likely distorted by Hurricane Harvey. Consumer prices climbed 1.9 percent last month compared with a year earlier, the Labor Department said Thursday, up from an annual gain of 1.7 percent in August and the second straight increase. Excluding volatile energy and food costs, prices rose 0.2 percent in August and 1.7 percent from a year earlier. The pickup will likely assuage Federal Reserve policymakers that prices are stabilizing, a sign of a healthy economy. Fed officials may be more likely to raise short-term interest rates as a result in the coming months, economists said.

Dallas Morning News - September 15, 2017

Rick Perry: Harvey showed need for emergency oil stockpile that Trump wants to slash

Energy Secretary Rick Perry said on Friday that the recent hurricanes that battered the U.S. are a "good example of why we need an SPR" -- the Strategic Petroleum Reserve that was tapped for millions of barrels of oil in the storms' aftermath. And the former Texas governor hinted that he may have doubts about a Trump administration proposal to slash that emergency stockpile in half. Perry said that President Donald Trump had asked "very, very good questions" about whether the reserve was properly structured and if its nearly 700 million barrels was the right amount. But the Texan also stressed that he "didn't write that budget" that proposed halving the stockpile.

Politico - September 15, 2017

Trump's tweet on London attack draws ire from U.K. officials

President Donald Trump implied that authorities were monitoring those responsible for setting off explosives in the London subway early Friday morning, drawing rebukes from officials in the United Kingdom as they respond to the attack. Prime Minister Theresa May reproached Trump for his rhetoric. “I never think it’s helpful for anybody to speculate on what is an ongoing investigation,” she said. “As I’ve just said, the police and security services are working to discover the full circumstances of this cowardly attack and to identify all those responsible.”

Politico - September 15, 2017

POLITICO-Harvard poll: Obamacare repeal still tops GOP voters' to-do lists

Republican leaders want to move past Obamacare repeal, but most GOP voters aren't ready to let them do it. That's a key finding of the latest POLITICO-Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health poll, which finds the Trump administration's messaging on health care is clearly resonating with the party's base. The poll asked Americans to review and score 10 top priorities for Congress through the end of the year. Fifty-three percent of Republican respondents said taking action to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act should be an "extremely important priority," while another 26 percent of Republicans said it should be a "very important priority." Only 16 percent of Republicans said ACA repeal should not be a priority for Congress.

Dallas Morning News - September 9, 2017

Solis: With DACA ending, what's next for the 'dreamers?'

It’s official. The Obama-era program for young undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. by their parents is ending. What next for these Dreamers? There are nearly 800,000 recipients of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals permits in the U.S. About 124,000 are in Texas. Now, they are calling for laser focus on efforts to get Congress to pass a law giving them a pathway to U.S. citizenship — something DACA never did. “We knew DACA wasn’t a permanent solution from the beginning,” says Jose Manuel Santoyo, a DACA beneficiary who was brought to the U.S. when he was 8 years old. “So now we can move forward and fight for something better.”

Vox - August 30, 2017

Study: a universal basic income would grow the economy

A universal basic income could make the US economy trillions of dollars larger, permanently, according to a new study by the left-leaning Roosevelt Institute. Basic income, a proposal in which every American would be given a basic stipend from the government no strings attached, is often brought up as a potential solution to widespread automation reducing demand for labor in the future. But in the meantime, its critics typically allege that it is far too expensive to be practical, or else that it would spur millions of Americans to drop out of the labor force, wrecking the economy and depriving the government of a tax base for funding the plan.