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Newsclips - February 19, 2018

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Dallas Morning News - February 18, 2018

Democrats running to take on incumbent GOP Rep. Pete Sessions call for tougher gun control

The leading Democratic candidates for Congressional District 32 on Sunday expressed outrage at the nation's lack of gun control laws and pledged to work with Republicans on solutions. "I think there might be hope," said Lillian Salerno, a former undersecretary in the Department of Agriculture at a forum at SMU. "Those kids in Florida, they're not going to lie down. If we can get some representatives up there who will talk to each other, you can get some bipartisanship." Salerno said she supports banning assault weapons sales to anyone under 26, background checks and other measures.

Dallas Morning News - February 18, 2018

From rival to wingman, Ted Cruz boasts of chumminess with Trump as he stumps for re-election

SUGAR LAND — One thing Sen. Ted Cruz isn’t doing as he seeks a second term is running away from the president. Despite a checkered history, the Texan boasts about his access and influence on matters ranging from taxes to the Paris Climate Accord. “I spent a lot of time urging President Trump to pull out of that deal,” he recounted. “I spent 45 minutes on Air Force One saying, `Mr. President, this is killing jobs and it’s bad for our economy.'” The day after Trump announced his decision, Cruz continued, “he calls me on my cellphone. He says, 'Well, Ted, I did it, what do you think?’ ... I told him, `Mr. President, everyone who hates you is ticked off and everyone who loves you is thrilled.’”

Dallas Morning News - February 15, 2018

DMN: We recommend John Payton in the Republican primary for Texas House District 89

Voters have a choice between two good candidates in the Republican primary for state House District 89, Collin County Justice of the Peace John Payton and community volunteer Candy Noble. They're running for the seat being vacated by longtime Rep. Jodie Laubenberg, who is retiring, and are generally aligned with her conservative approach on issues. We recommend Payton, 46, because he has a proven take-action approach to problems facing the district and deeper grassroots community involvement. He's worked since his election in 1990 to address juvenile crime, creating a teen court that was expanded countywide to offer community service as an alternative to jail for minor offenses.

Dallas Morning News - February 15, 2018

Climate change to bring North Texas longer droughts, heavy rains, 120-degree temps within 25 years

The United States has just come off a record year for weather and climate disasters and, by most accounts, it's only going to get worse. Last year hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria; the wildfires and floods in California; and tornado outbreaks in the Midwest and the South delivered $306.2 billion in damages, more than any year in history when adjusted for inflation. Texas is particularly vulnerable to a changing climate. It has had more costly weather-related disasters than any other state, and those events will happen more often as air and ocean temperatures climb, scientists say. "Climate change is not just about polar bears," said Katharine Hayhoe, a climate scientist at Texas Tech University with an impressive YouTube following. "It will affect North Texas profoundly."

Dallas Morning News - February 16, 2018

Texas regulators wrestling with how to be sure firms like Oncor pass tax-cut savings to consumers

Oncor has already agreed to return its estimated $245 million in tax rate savings to consumers. But getting the money from the electricity distributor to customers' bank accounts is not as easy as it sounds. Texas utility regulators are asking transmission companies like Oncor to keep track of how much they save from the recently enacted corporate tax rate cut from 35 percent to 21 percent. The companies, which are state-regulated monopolies, also will be evaluated separately by the staff of the Texas Public Utility Commission. In many cases, transmission costs — set by the state — are intertwined with retail electricity rates — which are determined by the market.

Austin American-Statesman - February 16, 2018

Miller faces 2 challengers in GOP agriculture commissioner primary

In the Republican contest for agriculture commissioner, incumbent Sid Miller’s spending, hiring and social media practices are front and center. Miller has been under fire in his first term for sharing insensitive posts and false information on social media, instituting rate increases for many services his agency provides, taking state-paid trips for personal reasons, and hiring the wife of his longtime political consultant to a new, high-paid position. He faces two challengers in the primary: Trey Blocker, a conservative podcast host and former lobbyist and ethics adviser, and Jim Hogan, a farmer and retired insurance professional who ran against Miller as a Democrat in 2014. The Republican nominee will face Democrat Kim Olsen in the general election.

Austin American-Statesman - February 18, 2018

Quintero: Let’s use better tools to decide which inmates get bail

Criminal justice reform is a prominent issue in the public square, capturing the interest of both ends of the ideological spectrum, as well as celebrities, think tanks and even the White House. Propelling this issue forward, both nationally and in the Lone Star State, is a recognition that change is needed. Especially when it comes to jails. One of the primary functions of county jails is for pretrial incarceration. Right now, a significant number of county jail inmates are pretrial detainees, which means these defendants are behind bars despite not having been convicted of a crime. There are good reasons for this. Defendants can pose a high risk to the community or be flight risks who may not show up to their trials.

Austin American-Statesman - February 18, 2018

Smith: Return to real criminal justice reform, like it’s 1989

It will surprise many to learn that once upon a time — and not so very long ago — a bipartisan coalition of Texas legislators approved an innovative plan aimed at reducing crime through progressive health and education strategies. The year was 1989, and the proposals were put together by Lt. Gov. Bill Hobby, a Democrat, with the cooperation and assistance of Republican Gov. Bill Clements, Democratic House Speaker Gib Lewis and other leaders from both parties in the state House and Senate. As Hobby explained at the time to the Senate Finance Committee, “When we project what the prison population will be in 10 years, we are assuming the unavoidable incarceration of children who are today seven, eight and nine years old.”

Austin American-Statesman - February 16, 2018

State’s top business group boosts political activity ahead of primaries

The state’s most powerful business lobbying group has been beefing up its political donations, in keeping with a vow to be more proactive after spending much of 2017 on the defensive as social conservatives in the Legislature pushed measures — such as the so-called bathroom bill — that it viewed as bad for the Texas economy. The rift between the Texas Association of Business and some leaders of the socially conservative faction of the state’s Republican Party was laid bare anew recently, when Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick canceled a scheduled appearance at its annual conference and took swipes at the organization while speaking at a conservative policy foundation. Patrick lumped the business group — traditionally considered a bastion of mainstream Republicanism — among the “moderates, liberals and progressives” that he said are out of step with Texas, noting in his speech that the word “business” in a group’s name “does not necessarily mean they’re being run by conservative Republicans.”

Austin American-Statesman - February 17, 2018

PolitiFact: State share of education spending declines

A candidate for lieutenant governor says state government has whoppingly slashed its share of spending on public schools since the 1980s. Scott Milder, a former Rockwall City Council member challenging Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick in the Republican primary, poses and answers questions on his campaign website including: “Does Texas spend enough on public education?” Milder’s posted response: “Local homeowners pay too much. The state does not pay enough. Texas has the revenue to adequately fund education without a tax increase, but improper spending priorities at the state level have resulted in a system that places a disproportionate share of the burden on local taxpayers through property taxes.” ... Milder said: “In the 1980s, the state funded 68% of school expenses, and now the state’s share is 38%.” The state’s share of state-local education spending has slid, we confirmed, though not as much as Milder declared. In the 1980s, lawmakers voted for the state to cover 70 percent of the Foundation School Program yet state aid actually covered a little more than half of state-local costs. State aid covered 44 percent of such costs in 2016; it’s expected to cover 38 percent of such costs in 2019. On balance, we rate this claim Half True.

Austin American-Statesman - February 15, 2018

Central Texas homes sales, prices set January records

The Central Texas housing market kicked off 2018 showing continued strength, with home sales and the region’s median sales price both at record highs for the month of January, the Austin Board of Realtors said Thursday. January’s year-over-year increases came despite a housing supply crunch in the Austin area, signaling that 2018 could be another strong one for the local market, the Austin Board of Realtors said. For the seventh year in a row, the Central Texas housing market in 2017 set records for both the number of sales and the median sales price, which rose to $299,900, up 5.4 percent over 2016.

Texas Tribune - February 16, 2018

Sid Miller talks re-election campaign, previous term, immigration

Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller sat down for a conversation with Texas Tribune CEO Evan Smith on Friday to discuss Miller’s re-election campaign, immigration and more. Miller, who is in the middle of a tense Republican primary race with longtime lobbyist Trey Blocker, said he’s not ready to leave his statewide elected office because there’s still work to be done. Watch the full video above. Or read below what he had to say about his time as agriculture commissioner and his re-election campaign:

Texas Tribune - February 16, 2018

Austin has mandated paid sick leave for workers, but Texas lawmakers are already working to reverse it

The Austin City Council on Friday morning approved a new rule requiring businesses in the city to provide paid sick leave for employees, but movement is already afoot in the Texas Legislature to kill the ordinance. At a meeting where over 200 people came to testify — a majority of them supporting the ordinance — the council voted 9-2 to implement the policy. But hours after the rule was passed, state Rep. Paul Workman, R-Austin, sounded off against the bill, saying the ordinance is “declaring war” on small private businesses. “It’s not the role of the government to mandate for employers to do this," Workman said.

Texas Tribune - February 18, 2018

For a weekend, Texas is a battleground for Trump agenda, midterms

Texas may be a red state, but for at least the weekend, it served the role of a battleground for two party leaders determined to put their spin on President Donald Trump's agenda in the lead-up to the midterm elections. The state played host Friday and Saturday to Vice President Mike Pence and U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., providing a split-screen battle to rally their party faithful for victory in November. Republicans are seeking to protect their congressional majorities against historical headwinds and surging Democratic enthusiasm, even in GOP-dominated Texas.

San Antonio Express-News - February 18, 2018

Democratic gubernatorial candidates fighting for spotlight

Adrian Ocegueda doesn’t mind admitting that the race for the Democratic primary for governor has broken his heart a little. It’s not the strain of the nine-way battle for the nomination to challenge Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, but the fact that most of the attention in the race is going to just two candidates. Political experts, activists and the media largely have been focused on former Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez and Houston businessman Andrew White, son of the late former Gov. Mark White. “In some ways, it is to be expected as Lupe is the only candidate that has won elections, and Andrew had a father who was governor.

San Antonio Express-News - February 17, 2018

Andrew White: We need leaders who do right, risk consequences

Andrew White is mingling at a political happy hour when a woman tells him she’s glad he’s running for governor because of what his father meant to her parents. “I always remember my mother said he took care of the state employees. That’s what she always said. And so we need more of that,” said Ann Marie Schroeder, whose late parents worked for San Antonio State Hospital and credited White with helping safeguard state employee pensions. It gives White “a little bit of a sentimental edge” in the Democratic primary election, she said.

San Antonio Express-News - February 16, 2018

SAEN: Our picks for Texas land commissioner

Republican incumbents generally don’t attract many opponents in statewide races in Texas. Land Commissioner George P. Bush has three, including, surprisingly, his predecessor in that office, Jerry Patterson. On the Democratic side, two are vying for the nomination. We recommend Bush in the GOP primary and Miguel Suazo on the Democratic side. First the Democrats. It’s uncomplicated.

San Antonio Express-News - February 18, 2018

Fikac: Abbott takes a risk in targeting fellow Republicans

Gov. Greg Abbott is putting his political reputation and his ability to work with the next Legislature on the line by trying to oust three Republican House members, and he could face fallout no matter how the races turn out. It’s something of a subtle risk. There’s no chance that Abbott will lose his own re-election campaign over targeting Reps. Lyle Larson of San Antonio, Sarah Davis of West University Place and Wayne Faircloth of Galveston. But if they win despite his best efforts to replace them, it will take some of the shine off his vaunted political machine. “It’s the emperor-has-no-clothes story. He makes an effort, fails, and ends up looking weaker,” said Rice University political scientist Mark Jones. So Abbott is going all in against his fellow Republicans.

San Antonio Express-News - February 18, 2018

Border Patrol casts a bleak picture of security at the border with Mexico

To hear the agency’s Rio Grande Valley sector public affairs office tell it, these are bleak times along the borderlands. A sampling of recent agency news releases include “Double trouble at Falfurrias checkpoint,” “Five more Salvadoran MS-13 gang members off the streets” and “Troubled waters: Life and death on the Rio Grande.” Assaults on border enforcement personnel have risen sharply over the past year, and the landscape is no less daunting for migrants. The International Organization for Migration recorded 412 migrant deaths on either side of the border in 2017, even as the Border Patrol saw a nearly 50 percent decline of immigrants arriving at the border during the same time period compared with 2016.

San Antonio Express-News - February 18, 2018

Possible mumps outbreak shuts part of two Texas prisons

Another possible mumps outbreak shut down visitation over the weekend for some parts of two Texas prisons. A stomach bug impacted visiting at another three facilities, though Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokesman Jason Clark said it is a “relatively small number” of prisoners affected. The Beto Unit in Tennessee Colony and Segovia Unit in Edinburg are both dealing with the possibility of mumps, while McConnell, Ellis, and Terrell Units are all grappling with gastrointestinal illnesses, Clark said.

Houston Chronicle - February 18, 2018

HC: For land commissioner: Jerry Patterson

Have you seen George P. Bush lately? We hear he's running for re-election as Texas land commissioner, but he's not acting like it. He's been skipping public forums, he's dodging editorial board meetings and he hasn't released a schedule of campaign appearances. If a man doesn't show up for the job interviews, does he deserve to get hired? Four years ago, this editorial page enthusiastically supported Bush in his first bid for elected office. We were mightily impressed with his command of the complex issues facing the General Land Office. Anybody who thought this guy was just coasting on his family name was wrong. "George P. Bush is the real deal," we wrote.

Houston Chronicle - February 17, 2018

Hollingsworth, Koniski, Zirogiannis: How disasters like Harvey make air pollution worse

When Hurricane Harvey struck the Texas coast in August 2017, many industrial facilities had to shut down their operations before the storm arrived and restart once rainfall and flooding had subsided. These shutdowns and startups, as well as accidents caused by the hurricane, led to a significant release of air pollutants. Over a period of about two weeks, data we compiled from the Texas’ Air Emission Event Report Databaseindicates these sites released 2,000 tons of sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds and other pollutants. ... But, as we document in a newly published study in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, they also occur regularly during the routine operation of many industrial facilities, sometimes in large quantities. And, even if unintended or unavoidable, the pollutants released during these events are in violation of the U.S. Clean Air Act (CAA).

Houston Chronicle - February 18, 2018

HC: For lieutenant governor: Milder and Collier

In Texas, the lieutenant governor is president of the Senate, casts the deciding vote in the event of a legislative tie and ranks second in leadership only to the governor. Through the power to appoint Senate committee chairs and the discretionary right to direct bills to committees depending on desire to see a proposal debated or buried, the lieutenant governor shapes the Senate agenda. Republicans and Democrats alike should look for candidates who can work cooperatively with the diverse body to focus on the important issues facing our state, such as school finance reform and flood prevention. Early voting runs from Tuesday through Friday, March 2. Election Day is March 6.

Houston Chronicle - February 16, 2018

Texas execution drug pentobarbital found in dog food

The J.M. Smucker Co. has voluntarily recalled 27 pet food products because of what the U.S. Food and Drug Administration described as low levels of pentobarbital, the same drug used to execute people in Texas. The products include the company's Gravy Train, Ol' Roy, Kibbles 'N Bits and Skippy brands. Food Safety News has a detailed list of the specific products recalled. Pentobarbital causes respiratory arrest in animals, including humans, and is used to euthanize both. TRANSLATOR To read this article in one of Houston's most-spoken languages, click on the button below. Select Language?? BUSINESS DeLoreans are lined up outside the DeLorean Motor Company, Wednesday, Jan. 31, 2018, in Humble. ( Mark Mulligan / Houston Chronicle ) DeLorean's Humble home could be producing new cars in early '19 A Texas man is trying to sell a pair of used dentures on Facebook and the odd listing quickly generated humored attention online. Source: Facebook Texas man lists used dentures to Facebook sell group, the FILE - In this Aug. 28, 2017, file photo, rescue boats float on a flooded street as people are evacuated from rising floodwaters brought on by Tropical Storm Harvey in Houston. The National Hurricane CenterÂ?s official report on Harvey compiles staggering numbers, starting with 68 dead and $125 billion in damage. But the really big numbers in the Thursday, Jan. 25, 2018, tally have to do with the rainfall that swamped Houston. Two places had more than five feet of rain. Eighteen different parts of Texas logged more than four feet of rain. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip, File) There's another flood disaster brewing in Texas. It's not in Business calendar Small-business resources ?Arthur Aidala and Marianne Bertuna, who first worked together in 1997 at his New York law firm, got married in 2016.? Dating danger? Businesses rethink workplace romance policies An FDA spokesperson told Food Safety News that the agency's "...preliminary evaluation of the testing results of Gravy Train samples indicates that the low level of pentobarbital present in the withdrawn products is unlikely to pose a health risk to pets.

Ft. Worth Star-Telegram - February 16, 2018

FWST: This Democrat would take your call in Congressional District 6

Most of the five Democrats seeking the Congressional District 6 seat are well informed with a grasp of complex policy issues. During our Facebook Live forum, we were looking for the candidate who has sound solutions on healthcare, immigration and spending. Someone who knows the district and has a record of involvement with the community and its residents. On policy, it was a close contest between education counselor Ruby Faye Woolridge, 69, and communications consultant Jana Lynne Sanchez, 53. So we considered: who would be the representative most likely to help a constituent who called with a problem?

Ft. Worth Star-Telegram - February 16, 2018

FWST: A GOP independent could be a standout for the 6th Congressional District

Recommending a single candidate in the Republican primary for the 6th Congressional District was difficult. This editorial board disagrees with most of the candidates who seem to believe that immigrant Dreamers who came here as children should leave the country and apply for legal status or be deported. We also disagree with most of the candidates who see little danger in the president’s harsh name-calling of foreign leaders or countries. We believe that escalates international tensions. Having said that, we were looking for a candidate with proven accomplishments; the ability to independently represent the district; and qualities that would allow him or her to stand out in Washington and secure federal support for projects and people at home.

Big Jolly Times - February 18, 2018

Jennings: For Harris County Republicans, Trash the Slate is the thing

Harris County Republican activists have long known that the paid endorsement slates that are sent out by the hundreds of thousands each primary year are a curse on the Harris County Republican Party,as Ed Hubbard noted: There are two general types of mailers: those that are sent by non-profit groups; and those that are essentially for-profit advertisements paid for by the endorsed candidates. These latter mailers have become a scourge on primaries throughout the country. As we have expanded the total number of slates in order to dilute the impact of three slates which many of us thought had excessive influence on voters, it has become readily apparent that all we managed to do was to add to voter confusion. And frankly, most of the additional slates are not going to win any type of award for the purity of their slates vs. the “Big 3” slates that we focused on.

Ft. Worth Star-Telegram - February 14, 2018

Aldred: Meeting Texas’s transportation challenges

Texas is one of only two states to have two cities listed among the 10 most congested in the country. Dallas is the fifth-most-congested city in the nation, while Houston is eighth. Additionally, the stretch of Interstate 35 that runs through Austin is consistently ranked among the most congested highways in the nation. According to one estimate, the cost of congestion in Dallas, Houston and Austin will have grown to more than $60 billion per year by 2026 in terms of lost productivity and fuel costs. So what explains these levels of congestion? Put simply, Texas is the fastest-growing state. The latest projections from the Texas Data Center Services program indicate that Texas’ population will almost double to 55 million by 2050, assuming that net migration remains at similar levels to those seen over the previous 10 years.

The Eagle - February 15, 2018

Texas prison system stalls release of public information on executions

The cloud of secrecy surrounding Texas executions has grown a little darker lately. After death penalty defense lawyers claimed the state’s first two executions of the year were botched because of old lethal injection drugs, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice has stalled the release of public information regarding the state’s supply of lethal doses. Without providing a reason, the department told a Texas Tribune reporter last week that it would take an estimated 20 business days — until the day before the state’s next scheduled execution — to provide information on how many lethal doses the state has and when they expire. In the past, the records have been provided in half the time, and even that could be unlawful.

Dallas Voice - February 12, 2018

Trump’s popularity in Texas tracks with national disapproval

President Donald Trump’s approval rating in the latest Gallup Poll is 38 percent. In Texas, his approval rating stands at 39 percent. It seems the closer people are to Trump, the less they like him. In the election, only 8 percent of voters in Manhattan voted for him. Now, Trump’s lowest approval rating is in Washington D.C. with 6 percent approval. Among states, Vermont likes Trump the least giving him a 26 percent approval. Rounding out the bottom are Massachusetts (27 percent), California (29 percent) Hawaii (29 percent) and Maryland and home state New York (30 percent). In 12 states, Trump’s approval remains about 50 percent — Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Idaho, Kentucky, Montana, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, West Virginia and Wyoming.

Associated Press - February 15, 2018

Review: Home loan bias found for minorities in 5 Texas metro areas

Latinos and African-Americans in five Texas metro areas were more likely to be denied a conventional mortgage loan when compared with non-Hispanic whites, according to a new analysis. The review of millions of federal records by Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting found that redlining — the practice of charging more or denying services such as loans and housing based only on reasons related to such things as race, national origin and religion — has persisted in 61 metro areas around the U.S. In Texas, the review of data from 2015 and 2016 found redlining in Corpus Christi, the Killeen-Temple area, Longview, the San Antonio-New Braunfels area and Waco. In the San Antonio-New Braunfels area, Latinos were 1.5 times as likely to be denied a conventional mortgage loan in 2016 compared with whites.

This article appeared in the Austin American-Statesman

County Stories

Dallas Morning News - February 18, 2018

Dallas County's legislative representation will be reshaped by March 6 primaries

Two longtime state representatives are stepping down in Dallas County and one successor could be determined as soon as March 6. That's the day Dallas County voters will go to the polls to decide five contested Republican state House primaries. The county ballot has seven contested races on the Democrats' side. With no Republican or even a Libertarian in the race, the four Democrats vying for the District 109 primary have a direct line to succeed 13-term state Rep. Helen Giddings, D-DeSoto. The seat that represents all or part of Dallas, Cedar Hill, Ferris, Glenn Heights, Hutchins, Lancaster, Ovilla and Wilmer could very well stay with a DeSoto resident.

Austin American-Statesman - February 18, 2018

Contentious 331st District race pits longtime judge against attorney

The only contested judicial race in Travis County’s criminal district courts has gotten contentious, with challenger Chantal Eldridge saying taxpayers have been underserved by the incumbent while Eldridge faces questions of her own about the registered sex offender she employs in her law firm and intends to bring on as a judicial aide if she wins. Eldridge, a 53-year-old career defense lawyer who narrowly lost a judicial race in 2016, is running against state District Judge David Crain, who has presided over the felony 331st District Court since 2010 and has been a judge in Travis County for 32 years. He said his experience sets him apart in this race, suggesting “you wouldn’t want a novice to sit and try to conduct a jury trial for a murder case, child sexual assault, bank robbery or something like that.”

City Stories

Dallas Morning News - February 18, 2018

Plano council member says he won't resign over anti-Islam post despite backlash, colleagues' censure

The City Council chamber was packed Sunday, the thoughts of the community on display on the many signs dotting the crowd: "Stay Tom," "No to hate — Tom must resign," "Support Tom — no political agendas," "No to bigotry." Hundreds gathered for the special session the council called to address an anti-Islam social media post that council member Tom Harrison shared Tuesday night. The post, which included a photo of a student wearing a hijab, said: "Share if you think Trump should ban Islam in American schools." Harrison removed the post the following day and apologized online. But for some, that was not enough. After a little more than an hour behind closed doors, council members said they learned Harrison's post was not an isolated incident.

Dallas Morning News - February 15, 2018

DMN: Five ways the American Dream is broken for Dallas' working poor

The idea of the American Dream is that anyone can start from the bottom and work their way up by their own means. Unfortunately, that isn't happening for everyone. Nearly 31,000 impoverished Dallasites work full-time year-round and come home every day just as poor as they were the day before. More than half of them are women; 75 percent have children living at home.

National Stories

Wall St. Journal - February 18, 2018

Gun Rights Expand Even as Mass Shootings Spur Calls for Stricter Laws

The Florida school shooting that killed 17 people has prompted national leaders to again call for stricter gun laws, but such measures face a tough road as a wave of states have moved to expand gun owners’ rights. In the past six years, after three of the deadliest shootings in modern history—at a Las Vegas concert, an Orlando nightclub and a Connecticut elementary school—efforts in Congress to tighten gun regulations have all failed. Legislation in states, meanwhile, has led largely to wins for supporters of broader gun rights. In a recent push, 12 states—including West Virginia, Kansas and Missouri—now have laws allowing residents to carry concealed handguns without getting a permit from authorities. Permitless-carry laws are pending in at least 19 states, according to the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, a gun-control group.

Dallas Morning News - February 16, 2018

Lindenberger: Finding a middle way on guns isn't out of reach

A heartbreaking admission that triggered justifiable outrage: The FBI failed to act on a credible report that the shooter who killed 17 people at his former high school was a threat to others. To think this might have been prevented by a follow-up investigation is astonishingly hurtful to those grieving such profound loss. You know what else is astonishing? We've known for years that America has a large number of guns and gun deaths, and we refuse to do much of anything about it. The 19-year-old alleged killer was able to walk into a gun dealer and legally purchase a semiautomatic rifle despite warning signs that go way beyond the tip the FBI bungled. He was troubled, had been in counseling, had been expelled, and had made his friends and teachers repeatedly nervous about his violent tendencies and his constant obsession with his guns.

Associated Press - February 18, 2018

Few states let courts take guns from people deemed a threat

The warnings around Nikolas Cruz seemed to flash like neon signs: expelled from school, fighting with classmates, a fascination with weapons and hurting animals, disturbing images and comments posted to social media, previous mental health treatment. In Florida, that wasn't enough for relatives, authorities or his schools to request a judicial order barring him from possessing guns. Only five states have laws enabling family members, guardians or police to ask judges to temporarily strip gun rights from people who show warning signs of violence. Supporters of these measures, deemed "red flag laws" or gun-violence restraining orders, say they can save lives by stopping some shootings and suicides.

This article appeared in the Houston Chronicle

Houston Chronicle - February 15, 2018

Ted Cruz: Sutherland Springs survivors told me 'gun control is not the answer'

On Thursday, Sen. Ted Cruz appeared on "Fox & Friends" to give his condolences to victims of Wednesday's mass shooting in Parkland, Florida. "It's truly heartbreaking ... all of our prayers are with the families and all of those children who went through that horror," Cruz said. ... Sen. Cruz called the suspect's motives "evil" and compared Wednesday's tragedy with last year's mass shooting in Sutherland Spring, Texas, where 26 church-goers were killed during a Sunday service.

New York Times - February 18, 2018

Spending Bill Sets Path to Fix a Looming Pension Crisis

The sprawling agreement to boost government spending reached by Republicans and Democrats this month quietly included a step toward defusing what could be a financial time bomb for 1.5 million retirees and hundreds of companies in the industrial Midwest and the South. The deal creates a select congressional committee to craft what could effectively be a federal rescue of as many as 200 so-called “multiemployer” pension plans — in which employers and labor unions band together to provide retirement benefits to employees. Many of these plans are hurtling toward insolvency in the coming decade, with benefits owed to retirees projected to swamp what the plans can afford to pay. The 16-member, bipartisan committee will have to come up with a solution and legislation by the end of November, which the full Senate would need to vote on by the end of the year.

Washington Post - February 18, 2018

Taylor: The Russian journalist who helped uncover election interference is confounded by the Mueller indictments

A 37-page indictment issued by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s team on Friday brings fresh American attention to one of the strangest elements of alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election: The Internet Research Agency (IRA), a state-sponsored “troll factory” in St. Petersburg. But much of the information Mueller published on Friday about the agency’s efforts to influence the election had already been published last October — in an article by a Russian business magazine, RBC. In a 4,500-word report titled “How the 'troll factory' worked the U.S. elections,” journalists Polina Rusyaeva and Andrey Zakharov offered the fullest picture yet of how the “American department” of the IRA used Facebook, Twitter and other tactics to inflame tensions ahead of the 2016 vote. The article also looked at the staffing structure of the organization and revealed details about its budget and salaries.

Wall St. Journal - February 18, 2018

Trump Weekend Tweetstorm Responds to Mueller Indictment

President Donald Trump used Twitter over the weekend to respond to the latest moves by special counsel Robert Mueller, repeating that his campaign didn’t collude with Russia. He also played down the impact that Russian actions had on the election. Mr. Trump’s volley of a dozen Russia-related tweets Saturday and Sunday came after Mr. Mueller’s indictment Friday of three Russian companies and 13 Russian nationals for engaging in an effort to interfere in the 2016 presidential election. Russia’s concentrated social media effort attacked Democrat Hillary Clinton, promoted Mr. Trump and aimed to sow divisions among Americans, the indictment charges.

US News - February 19, 2018

Computer Specialist Who Deleted Clinton Emails May Have Asked Reddit for Tips

An army of reddit users believes it has found evidence that former Hillary Clinton computer specialist Paul Combetta solicited free advice regarding Clinton's private email server from users of the popular web forum. A collaborative investigation showed a reddit user with the username stonetear requested help in relation to retaining and purging email messages after 60 days, and requested advice on how to remove a "VERY VIP" individual's email address from archived content. The requests match neatly with publicly known dates related to Clinton's use of a private email server while secretary of state. Stonetear has deleted the posts, but before doing so, the pages were archived by other individuals.

Politico - February 17, 2018

How Russia turned the internet against America

The indictment released Friday by special counsel Robert Mueller makes plain how prosecutors believe Russia pursued its multiyear scheme to undermine the 2016 presidential election — by wielding the social media-driven internet that the United States itself did so much to create. They had help, digital experts say, from decades of accepted U.S. policy about how to help the internet thrive: The U.S. government has taken a largely hands-off approach, while the anonymity that protects people's privacy and liberty online also allowed Russian trolls to deceive overly trusting Americans. And the same freedom to innovate that has made Silicon Valley wealthy and powerful meant that there were few eyes on the ball as Russian actors began figuring out how to manipulate the internet's few dominant platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter and the Google-owned YouTube.

San Antonio Express-News - February 18, 2018

Ayala: LULAC must rid itself of its national president and reboot

Presidents of nonprofit, membership-based organizations have a lot of reasons to stand for election and serve. They probably embrace their organization’s history and mission. They love community service and find it rewarding. Sure, they also like the honor and prestige. There’s a certain clubbiness that comes with holding office, though it’s mostly hard work, personal sacrifice and headaches. Some leadership roles come with perks, too, and ethical issues can emerge with them. After serving for several years, the most gifted leaders decide to step down. They mentor younger leaders and stand in the back of the room, to let them learn to lead. Sometimes, they leave the room altogether, and sometimes they’re pressed into service again.

New York Times - February 18, 2018

When Calling an Uber Can Pay Off for Cities and States

In Chicago, a 15-cent fee on Uber, Lyft and other ride-hailing services is helping to pay for track, signal and electrical upgrades to make the city’s trains run faster and smoother. Ride-hailing trips in Philadelphia are expected to raise $2.6 million this year for the city’s public schools through a 1.4 percent tax that will also generate more than a million dollars for enforcement and regulation of the ride-hailing industry itself. In South Carolina, a 1 percent ride-hailing fee has yielded more than a million dollars for municipalities and counties to spend as they choose. And Massachusetts began collecting 20 cents for every ride-hailing trip this month, earmarking the revenue to improve roads and bridges, fill a state transportation fund and even help a rival — the struggling taxi industry — adapt with new technologies and job training.

Politico - February 18, 2018

Behind the minimum wage fight, a sweeping failure to enforce the law

As Democrats make raising the minimum wage a centerpiece of their 2018 campaigns, and Republicans call for states to handle the issue, both are missing an important problem: Wage laws are poorly enforced, with workers often unable to recover back pay even after the government rules in their favor. That’s the conclusion of a nine-month investigation by POLITICO, which found that workers are so lightly protected that six states have no investigators to handle minimum-wage violations, while 26 additional states have fewer than 10 investigators. Given the widespread nature of wage theft and the dearth of resources to combat it, most cases go unreported. Thus, an estimated $15 billion in desperately needed income for workers with lowest wages goes instead into the pockets of shady bosses.

Houston Chronicle - February 18, 2018

Grieder: Misreading Republican voters is a mistake for Republican leaders

A few days ago, while trying to figure out why Congress is apparently incapable of coming up with a legislative solution for Dreamers, which is something most Americans support and the president has called for, it occurred to me that Republican leaders and the national political media have more in common than they realize. They claim to understand Republican voters. But many of them don't, and although that's always been the case, they didn't actually realize it until 2016, when Donald Trump shocked them by winning the presidency, after shocking them by winning the Republican primary.

Associated Press - February 18, 2018

Cities pitching diversity in efforts to lure businesses

Some cities and regions are highlighting racial diversity along with positive business climates, competitive tax rates and available land in pitches to lure tech companies and high-paying jobs to town. Places such as Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and Detroit are touting their populations of people of color to chief executives and other corporate officials as part of being open for business. "For Pittsburgh and southwestern Pennsylvania, ethnic and racial diversity has been an integral part of our history and a rich part of our narrative," said Stefani Pashman, CEO of the Allegheny Conference on Community Development. Pittsburgh and Philadelphia are among 20 cities still under consideration by online retail giant Amazon as locations for the company' second headquarters.

This article appeared in the San Antonio Express News

Newsclips - February 18, 2018

Lead Stories

Amarillo Globe-News - February 17, 2018

Beilue: Empower Texans — It’s like a season of ‘House of Cards’

So this is how it works in today’s Texas politics: State Rep. Four Price, R-Amarillo, in 2017 initially voted for Senate Bill 8, a sweeping anti-abortion bill that, among other things, shut down a ban on fetal tissue donation and two kinds of abortion in late pregnancies. Later, however, amendment 22 was added on the House floor that removed a narrow exception in the bill to late-term pregnancy abortions. The original exception was for “severe fatal abnormalities,” those rare instances for an abortion when a baby has no heart, or no brain, or any other vital organ, and will die moments after birth.

Houston Chronicle - February 17, 2018

Anti-vaccine movement focuses attention on Texas' largest medical district

A grassroots group focused on giving parents the freedom to opt out of getting medical vaccines for their children is picking a fight in Houston, in the heart of an area that's home to the world's largest medical complex. Texans for Vaccine Choice has donated thousands of dollars and nearly a week's worth of days knocking on doors and phone banking to convince voters in southwest Houston to replace state Rep. Sarah Davis. They targeted the West University Place Republican because they contend she is trying to take immunization decisions out of parents' hands. "I think they have picked the wrong district to wage a war on vaccines in," said Davis, who calls herself a proponent for vaccines.

Washington Examiner - February 17, 2018

Democrats struggle with rising popularity of GOP tax law

Democrats are struggling to cope with the rising popularity of the Republican tax law, less than nine months until the midterm elections. Democrats received a wake-up call of sorts earlier this week when Priorities USA, a top Democratic super PAC, released a memo calling on Democrats to message more consistently against the tax law. The law's standing has increased in the polls as GOP groups pitch the tax cuts to voters as a solid Republican accomplishment. "I think the memo is spot on. Absolutely spot on," said Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-Ill., one of the 12 House Democrats who sit in districts where Trump won in 2016.

Politico - February 17, 2018

'Something was weird': Inside the Russian effort to bamboozle Florida

The scathing indictment unsealed Friday by special counsel Robert Mueller outlines a multi-state scheme to influence the outcome of the 2016 presidential election. But the document makes clear that the operation in Florida, the nation’s largest swing state, was in a class by itself. The indictment is packed with details of how Russian nationals duped Donald Trump campaign volunteers and grass-roots organizations in Florida into holding rallies they organized and helped fund with foreign cash. And Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio himself was a target of an effort to “denigrate” him and several other presidential candidates.

State Stories

Austin American-Statesman - February 16, 2018

Playing to an audience of one, Dan Patrick doesn’t need your approval

Dan Patrick has been a salesman of Paper Mate products and class rings, a local TV sportscaster and weatherman, a restaurant and nightclub owner, a conservative radio personality, an author, a filmmaker and a politician. He has attended Lutheran, Catholic and Baptist churches. He has gone by Dannie Scott Goeb, Danny Scott and Dan Patrick. He was hospitalized for depression, underwent a vasectomy live on the radio and participated in enough bar fights to gain a reputation. He opened businesses, angered investors and closed the businesses. He filed for bankruptcy and was sued by the NFL, twice. By Patrick’s own telling, his years of instability and self-reinvention came to a sudden halt in March 1994, when he was in Las Vegas for a broadcast industry convention. Five years earlier, he had taken over a tiny suburban Houston radio station with a weak signal. Through hard work, good luck and a knack for tapping into his audience’s political id, he’d built it into a major player on Houston’s AM dial. Now Clear Channel wanted to buy it in a deal that would net Patrick and his partners almost $27 million.

Austin American-Statesman - February 16, 2018

Texas group helped Russians meddle in 2016 elections, FBI says

A federal indictment accusing 13 Russians and three Russian entities of plotting to interfere in the 2016 U.S. presidential election said the defendants got help from an unidentified “Texas-based grassroots organization.” The defendants, posing online as U.S. citizens to approach a number of political and social activists, were advised by a member of the Texas organization to focus their activities on “purple states” — swing states where both Republicans and Democrats are typically competitive in elections — such as Colorado, Florida and Virginia, the indictment said. “After that exchange, defendants and their co-conspirators commonly referred to targeting ‘purple states’ in directing their efforts,” the indictment said.

Austin American-Statesman - February 16, 2018

Austin’s paid sick leave ordinance a first in Texas

Just before 1 a.m. Friday, the Austin City Council voted in what could be described as the most progressive labor policy for the entire state and possibly the American South. At the behest of Council Member Greg Casar, the council made Austin the first city in Texas to require private employers to provide paid sick leave, a move that quickly garnered national attention in both kudos and criticism. The highly anticipated vote came after more than 200 people testified at City Hall, with the total discussion and debate lasting more than five hours. It passed 9-2, with Council Members Ora Houston and Ellen Troxclair against.

Austin American-Statesman - February 16, 2018

Legislature expected to weigh in on Austin sick leave rules

Debate over a requirement that businesses in Austin provide employees with up to eight days of paid sick leave annually might be just getting started, despite the City Council’s approval of the measure early Friday. But the setting for the next fight is likely to be the Texas Capitol, not City Hall, according to representatives of a number of local and state business groups. “The vast majority of businesses in Austin have no clue that this is even happening” and are in for a shock when they find out the ordinance becomes effective Oct. 1, said Rebecca Melançon, executive director of the Austin Independent Business Alliance.

Austin American-Statesman - February 17, 2018

5 Democrats running with hopes to unseat U.S. Rep. Roger Williams

Five Democrats, ranging from political newcomers to a Central Health board member, are running to unseat U.S. Rep. Roger Williams in the staunchly Republican 25th Congressional District. Austin defense attorney Chris Perri leads the pack of Democrats in money raised — $102,668, which includes $16,890 he made in personal loans to his campaign as of Dec. 31. Following closely behind is former mutual fund manager Chetan Panda, who has hauled in $99,336. Others running for the Democratic nomination are West Hansen, who works for his family’s health care business; controller and attorney Julie Oliver, who currently serves on the board of Central Health, Travis County’s hospital district; and Kathi Thomas, a small business owner who has run previously against Williams.

Austin American-Statesman - February 18, 2018

PolitiFact: Bush’s military career didn’t reach ‘retirement’ level

George P. Bush, seeking a second term as Texas land commissioner, touts his time in the Navy in a campaign mailer brought to our attention by his predecessor. “Did you know there are 1.7 million veterans in Texas alone?” Bush’s mailer opens. His message continues: “Retired U.S. Navy officer George P. Bush is committed to protecting our veterans who have served this great nation.” Hold on. Did Bush, who turns 42 in April, retire from the Navy? Jerry Patterson, the former land commissioner challenging Bush in this year’s Republican primary, questioned that after telling us he’d received Bush’s mailer at his home and had heard about it from other veterans. ... Bush served nearly a decade as an officer in the Navy Reserve. But that doesn’t make him a retired officer, we find. At minimum, Bush would need to have served longer to call himself that. We rate this self-description False.

Austin American-Statesman - February 18, 2018

6 Republicans, 4 Democrats try for Rep. Farenthold’s soon empty seat

Six Republicans and four Democrats are running for Congressional District 27, an open House seat that stretches from Bastrop to Corpus Christi. U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Corpus Christi, currently occupies the spot but gave up his re-election bid in December after a House committee began investigating sexual harassment claims made against him by a former aide. Farenthold, who is wrapping up his fourth term, has denied the allegations. Six candidates — including campaign fundraising front-runners Bech Bruun and Michael Cloud — want to keep the district Republican even though a federal court last year ruled that state lawmakers had illegally drawn it to reduce the voting strength of Latinos, who tend to favor Democrats.

Austin American-Statesman - February 16, 2018

Wear: Scoffing at Texas tolls to carry less cost starting in March

People who choose to drive on Texas tollways without paying are about to get a big break. Make that, on some Texas tollways. More on that below. As first reported by KXAN, the NBC affiliate in Austin, the Texas Department of Transportation fines for ignoring toll bills on March 1 will go from “My God!” level to “Meh,” thanks to laws passed by the 2017 Legislature. And even the huge outstanding bills — the ones for tolls ignored over the past decade of TxDOT tolling and sometimes multiplied into the thousands of dollars by fees and fines — could be discounted or even forgiven.

Texas Tribune - February 16, 2018

Texas Public Policy Foundation head Brooke Rollins to join White House

Brooke Rollins, the CEO and president of the Texas Public Policy Foundation, is leaving to join the White House. Rollins, who has led the Austin-based conservative think tank for 15 years, is taking a job in the White House Office of American Innovation — which is led by Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser. "Brooke is an exceptional and visionary leader who has had a tremendous impact on Texas and the direction of this nation,” TPPF executive vice president Kevin Roberts said in a statement Friday. "We are enormously proud to have her serve the president in the White House Office of American Innovation. In no uncertain terms, she is the right person for the job."

Texas Tribune - February 17, 2018

Cruz, like Trump, points to lack of collusion evidence in Russia indictments

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, is aligning with President Donald Trump in highlighting the lack of evidence in recently issued indictments that Russia's government colluded with Trump's 2016 campaign to influence the election. "On the face of these indictments, they say that the American side of it was unwitting — that there was not collusion. That's pretty significant," Cruz told reporters here Saturday night while emphasizing he is still waiting to see the results of congressional probes into Russia's role in the election. Those investigations, Cruz said, "need to be continued."

Texas Tribune - February 16, 2018

We asked 40 Texas Republican candidates about Trump. They like him. The tweets? Not so much.

Ask Texas Republicans running for office about President Donald Trump, and some will praise the $1.5 trillion tax cut he signed. Others will applaud his judicial appointments or his rhetoric on immigration. And some will avoid talking about him at all. But many have raised a similar concern about the commander-in-chief: his itchy Twitter fingers. “The only thing I would like to do is put his cellphone in time out,” said Linda Timmerman, one of three Republicans vying for the state House seat being vacated by Corsicana Republican Byron Cook.

Texas Tribune - February 16, 2018

Here's an updated look at how many execution drugs Texas has in stock

Since 1977, lethal injection has been the method for executing Texas criminals sentenced to death. But the drugs used in executions have changed over the years, as the state has struggled to get a hold of enough life-ending doses. Texas, along with other states that hold executions, has been engaged in a battle for years to keep an adequate inventory of execution drugs. Currently, the state uses only pentobarbital, a sedative it has purchased from compounding pharmacies kept secret from the public. To promote transparency, The Texas Tribune has obtained the inventory history and current supply of execution drugs held by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.

Texas Tribune - February 13, 2018

Henson, Blank: The perils of primary election polling

With primary elections in Texas just days away, public opinion polling is inevitably seeping into the discussion of an unusually active political season. Campaigns are starting to release their internal polling in efforts to shape the news coverage and perception of races, and of course the University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll will follow its more or less regular schedule and appear sometime prior to Election Day. Purveyors of public polls like the UT/Texas Tribune Poll are once again faced with the unenviable task of providing context and (unfortunately) implied predictions about what’s going to happen in nominating contests for the state’s top offices. The popularity of Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight.com in 2008 and the concomitant rise of “data journalism” set political journalists on a path of sustained attention to polling and polling failures, a trend re-fueled by a handful of poor state-level estimates in the 2016 presidential election.

Texas Tribune - February 16, 2018

Texas AFL-CIO changes decision, endorses U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke for Senate

The political arm of the Texas AFL-CIO announced on Friday it will be supporting U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke, D-El Paso, in his bid for U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz’s seat. In a special board meeting, the group overturned its decision not to endorse in the race after O’Rourke failed to appear at the organization's convention last month. The labor group's president, Rick Levy, said in a Friday news release that O’Rourke’s campaign efforts now warranted AFL-CIO’s support.

Texas Tribune - February 16, 2018

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick backs Angela Paxton in GOP primary for North Texas senate seat

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick on Friday jumped into the hotly contested Republican primary for Senate District 8, endorsing Angela Paxton over Phillip Huffines. In backing Paxton, the wife of Attorney General Ken Paxton, Patrick, who oversees the Texas Senate in his role as lieutenant governor, said he had initially chose to remain neutral in the race. However, Patrick said in a video, "when I saw the personal attacks launched against Angela Paxton, I couldn’t remain on the sidelines any longer." "Angela Paxton has been a friend for years, and I can tell you this: Everyone who knows her agrees that she's a dynamic conservative leader and a person of integrity deeply rooted in her Christian faith," Patrick added.

San Antonio Express-News - February 16, 2018

Chasnoff: Uresti bought ads on Google before trial

In the three months before the criminal trial began, from Oct. 16 to Dec. 29, Uresti paid Google nearly $17,000 in political expenditures for “advertising,” according to his most recent campaign finance report. Uresti, however, is not on the ballot this year. (Only about half of state senate seats are up for re-election due to staggered elections.) For that reason, James Smith, director of digital media at the Austin-based Lee Tilford Agency, called the senator’s recent expenditures for online advertising “flakey” — and odd. “That’s a lot of money to spend and not be in cycle,” Smith said. “The only reason you put money into Google is to advertise. It makes zero sense why someone would advertise if they’re not running. … If you’re not on the ballot, you have nothing to advertise.” ... How many potential jurors saw the senator’s online ads? It’s unclear what ads Uresti purchased through Google.

San Antonio Express-News - February 17, 2018

Texas land commissioner doesn’t reveal Austin home, loan

George P. Bush lives in an Austin mansion that was financed through a bank owned by one of his political donors, and the Texas land commissioner failed to report the house and the loan in public disclosure documents required by the state. An online records search reveals that Bush and his wife, Amanda Bush, live in a 4,000-square-foot home in an exclusive gated community in west Austin. But Bush’s name is nowhere to be found on property records. That’s because the house was purchased in 2014 by a trust, which received a $850,000 mortgage loan from a bank owned by Brandon Steele, a political donor to Bush and his father, Jeb, public records show.

San Antonio Express-News - February 17, 2018

Jury to decide Uresti, Cain’s fates in criminal trial this week

The fate of state Sen. Carlos Uresti will be placed in the hands of 12 strangers after lawyers in his criminal fraud trial wrap up closing arguments Tuesday. Uresti and co-defendant Gary Cain have been on trial the past four weeks in the defrauding of investors in an oil field company. Senior U.S. District Judge David Ezra declined two requests to acquit the men, advising their lawyers while the jury was out of the courtroom that there was “telling evidence” against Uresti and that FourWinds Logistics was a “scam from the get-go.”

San Antonio Express-News - February 17, 2018

Lupe Valdez: We all should have an opportunity

Lupe Valdez chokes up a bit as she surveys the little house where she grew up on San Antonio’s West Side. Gone are the roses planted by the mother who gave her the opportunity at an education, leaving the bare concrete flower beds built by the father who feared his daughter seizing her chances. Gone are those parents, who gave up the migrant-farmworker life at her mother’s insistence so that Lupe and one of her brothers — the two youngest of eight children — could go to school instead of traveling to Michigan to pick green beans and beets.

Houston Chronicle - February 17, 2018

Bullet train sparks fight as old as Texas: progress v tradition

The fight over Texas Central Railway - a.k.a. the Texas Bullet Train - rests on many of the contentious fault lines that shape the Lone Star State. City interests versus rural identity. Urban dwellers versus people who want their stars at night to shine big and bright. Mostly, it is about land. Who controls it, what's the best use for it and how much of it can the two metro areas - Houston and Dallas - claim so their economic futures are secure. "How do you achieve that balance?" Harris County Precinct 4 Commissioner Jack Cagle asked. He supports the project despite the strong opposition of many in his district.

Houston Chronicle - February 17, 2018

GOP candidate totes assault-style weapon in mailers days after Parkland

A leading contender for a Houston-area congressional seat is offering no regrets for putting out a campaign mailer and television ads showing her carrying an assault-style weapon just days after the horrific killings in Parkland, Florida. In the mailers, there are two pictures of Wall holding weapons on the front and back, with a statement saying: "Kathaleen Wall stands with Donald Trump: We must be vigilant to protect gun rights." The mailer, which was produced days before the Parkland shooting, goes on to state: "Every day we are up against those who would take away our freedoms, restrict our liberties, and even those who want to abolish the Second Amendment."

Houston Chronicle - February 17, 2018

Texas' flu death toll tops 4,000

The death toll now tops 4,150, but flu activity in Texas finally may be starting to level off, according to a new state report. Though the report emphasizes that it's too early to say Texas' season has peaked, it shows a second consecutive weekly decline in both the rate of hospital and doctor visits for flu-related reasons and the percentage of patient specimens testing positive for the virus. The declines were fairly small. "Flu activity level is still high – higher than at any point the last two years – but it does appear to be coming down a bit," said Lara Anton, press officer for the Texas Department of Health and Human Services.

Dallas Morning News - February 16, 2018

DMN: We recommend Greg Abbott in the GOP primary for Texas governor

While the names of two opponents will be printed on the Republican primary ballot for governor, incumbent Greg Abbott likely isn't losing any sleep over this race. Nor should he. Abbott is the only responsible choice. The first-term governor has been most effective when he focuses on policy rather than politics. For example, he has shown smart leadership on the Legislature's overhaul of the dysfunctional Child Protective Services system and education efforts on behalf of high-quality pre-K and improved teacher training.

Dallas Morning News - February 16, 2018

UNT staffer under fire for calling petition to name dorm for woman or person of color 'reverse racism'

A member of the University of North Texas communications department is under fire for referring to a petition calling for a new campus residence to be named for a woman or person of color "a form of reverse racism." Nancy Kolsti, part of UNT's communications team, emailed Student Government Association senator Misaki Collins from her personal email account in response to the petition, which Collins posted on Twitter on Feb. 6, along with her contact information. "You can certainly suggest individuals whom you think should have the residence hall named after them," Kolsti wrote, "but you must realize that there are many longtime UNT administrators who are deserving of the honor and were beloved on campus, and they happen to be white males ....

Dallas Morning News - February 16, 2018

DMN: We recommend Stefano de Stefano over Ted Cruz in the GOP primary for U.S. Senate

Texas Republicans have an opportunity in the March 6 primary featuring incumbent Sen. Ted Cruz and four Republican opponents to vote for the kind of public leadership that inspires America rather than divides it. A kind of leadership that gives America its best chance to address the very real challenges ahead. To make the most of the moment, we urge voters to choose Houston energy lawyer Stefano de Stefano over Cruz. Stefano, 37, is an earnest if mostly untested conservative who offers Republicans a way past the bruising style that has characterized Cruz's time in public life.

Dallas Morning News - February 16, 2018

Andrew White's latest big bet: Top 8 other Democratic contenders to challenge GOP Gov. Greg Abbott

Andrew White has taken huge risks. Fourteen years ago, he sold his house to raise the money for a home warranty firm he launched. Then he started a sister firm arranging home repairs. He staffed the call centers at his two startups with humans rather than machines. Six years ago, he sold his companies, then plowed some of the proceeds into even more brainchild companies.

Dallas Morning News - February 16, 2018

Beto O'Rourke banks $2.2M in six weeks in bid to unseat Sen. Ted Cruz

El Paso Rep. Beto O’Rourke, the Texas Democrat hoping to oust Republican powerhouse Sen. Ted Cruz, announced he’s raised $2.2 million in the first six weeks of 2018. That’s almost as much as O’Rourke raised in the final three months of 2017, when he posted a $2.4 million haul and outraised the sitting senator. O’Rourke, who has barnstormed the state since declaring his candidacy last spring, has twice posted higher quarterly figures than his Republican opponent. Cruz finished 2017 with nearly $2 million more in cash on hand — $6.4 million to O’Rourke’s $4.6 million, according to federal filings — and hasn’t fully revved his re-election engines.

Dallas Morning News - February 17, 2018

In Dallas, Vice President Pence points to GOP tax revamp as proof that 'America is back'

Vice President Mike Pence on Saturday touted the GOP's $1.5 trillion tax revamp as a harbinger of renewed prosperity in Texas, signaling how Republicans plan to lean on the legislation in their efforts to maintain control of Congress. The Republican, speaking at the Sheraton Dallas, said "it's been really been remarkable to watch" the response to the sweeping overhaul. Pence pointed, in particular, to how companies like Dallas-based AT&T and Southwest Airlines have announced $1,000 employee bonuses in recent weeks. In Texas alone, he said, nearly 88,000 workers have received what he called a "Trump bonus."

Ft. Worth Star-Telegram - February 12, 2018

Trump infrastructure plan could lead to more toll roads on interstates

Could motorists soon be asked to pay even more tolls on interstate highways? The answer appears to be yes, based on an early reading of President Donald Trump's far-reaching infrastructure plan unveiled Monday. It will be interesting to see how the proposal is greeted in Texas, where state elected leaders have ordered the Texas Department of Transportation not to build any more toll lanes. Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price was among the state and local officials from across the country invited to meet with Trump about the plan.

Ft. Worth Star-Telegram - February 17, 2018

Kennedy: More extreme than the NRA: Some Texans align with ‘a little nutjob group’

Let me explain something you should know about Texas. Here, the National Rifle Association is considered moderate. If you've spent recent days railing on social media against the NRA or its lobbying power, please realize that in Texas, many Republicans take an even more extreme position against almost any gun laws or background checks at all. Some Freedom Caucus lawmakers are backed by the Colorado-based National Association for Gun Rights (NAGR), which opposes any government licensing, regulation, qualifications, background checks or restriction of guns, weapons or ammunition at all — “the way our Founders intended.”

El Paso Times - February 16, 2018

Anti-Escobar PAC fails to report campaign spending on advertisements

A smiling portrait of former County Judge Veronica Escobar looks out at passersby from two identical billboards, positioned at intersections in different parts of El Paso's congressional district. The text reads: “I doubled my salary and raised your taxes. We good?” The billboards were purchased by a new political action committee called Keep El Paso Honest, which was formed last year with one objective in mind: ensure that Escobar is not elected to replace U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke in Congress.

Insurance Journal - February 13, 2018

Texas Sees Increase in Auto Fatalities in 2017

More than 3,700 people were killed on Texas roadways last year marking a 10 percent increase in traffic deaths from 2016, according to data from the Texas Department of Transportation. The Insurance Council of Texas reports that since 2010, traffic deaths in the state have increased by 34 percent. “More people moving into the state mean more people on Texas highways and the greater chance more traffic collisions with people getting hurt,” Mark Hanna, a spokesperson for the Insurance Council of Texas, said in the group’s announcement. “But alcohol, speeding and distracted driving remain the major factors in the majority of accidents on our roadways today.”

Temple Daily Telegram - February 16, 2018

Texas police group opposes Grisham

The Texas Municipal Police Association is coming out against Texas House candidate CJ Grisham over what the group says are his “anti-cop” Facebook posts. “We’re really concerned about anybody who has made the kind of hateful remarks about our law enforcement officers running for a position in the statehouse,” TMPA Executive Director Kevin Lawrence said on Friday. “That type of vitriol, that type of demonization of our law enforcement personnel we just don’t think it’s a good ingredient in the public policy making process.”

County Stories

Dallas Morning News - February 16, 2018

Crowded candidate fields vie for legislative seats in Collin, Denton and Tarrant counties

The candidate field for the March 6 primaries will be crowded in suburban Collin, Denton and Tarrant counties with a number of legislative seats up for grabs. In Denton County, Republican candidates Clint Bedsole and Jared Patterson will face each other in the primary battle for outgoing Rep. Pat Fallon's state House District 106 seat, which covers Frisco and parts of Denton County. Fallon is running for state Senate. Bedsole, a 46-year-old Frisco small business owner, is a retired Army reservist and serves on the board of CoServ Electric, a cooperative serving six North Texas counties. He's known for helping strike a compromise in a city of Frisco fight over where to bury a high-voltage transmission line.

City Stories

Dallas Morning News - February 16, 2018

Plano council member eats his (implied) words, but anti-Islam video he posted is hard to swallow

Tom Harrison is learning the hard way why most folks don't want to talk about politics or religion over dinner. Stomachs turn into knots and tempers flare when irretrievable words explode like bombs while the biscuits get cold. Harrison, for now a Plano City Council member waiting for the guillotine to drop, brought a heaping helping of trouble on himself and his fair city by mixing politics with religion on his Facebook page — which is like inviting everybody over for supper and seeing what happens.

Austin American-Statesman - February 16, 2018

In bid for Amazon’s HQ2, is Austin’s labor market a plus or a minus?

Despite all the bluster about tax incentives, site selection and economic development experts insist that more mundane factors — especially workforce criteria – still hold the greatest sway over corporate relocation and expansion decisions. Of course, we might have to toss all the usual expectations when it comes to Amazon’s plans for a second headquarters and the 50,000 high-paying jobs that come with it. But to the extent that workforce factors will influence the company’s decision, Austin faces an uphill battle. An in-depth analysis compiled for by Emsi for the American-Statesman shows that the Austin metro area might have a couple interesting cards up its sleeve, but it’s holding a fairly modest hand when compared with many of the other finalists for the $5 billion project Amazon has dubbed HQ2.

Dallas Morning News - February 16, 2018

Mexico’s Fox likely to sink his teeth in during Dallas visit

Former Mexican President Vicente Fox comes to Dallas next week for a series of public events on democracy, resistance, U.S.-Mexico relations and to promote his new book. Fox’ new book is called Let’s Move On: Beyond Fear and False Prophets. In it, the often-blunt Fox, an outspoken critic of President Donald Trump, explores U.S.-Mexico relations and the North American Free Trade Agreement. Fox was president of Mexico from 2000 to 2006, but his profile in the U.S. began to rise again when Trump started his push for the U.S. presidency.

Dallas Morning News - February 16, 2018

Could Dallas' bail system be deemed an 'instrument of oppression' after Houston ruling?

On the one hand, it was a kick in the gut. But it was also a roadmap. That's how Dallas County officials see a much-anticipated ruling by a federal appeals court on bail reform. For years, county leaders and judges have been in talks to overhaul the criminal bail system to make it easier for poor suspects who aren't dangerous to be released from jail while they await trial. The ruling Wednesday by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals added urgency for Dallas County to change its system. The ruling agreed with a lower court that Harris County's system was unconstitutional — meaning that Dallas County's current system would likely also be, officials said.

Houston Chronicle - February 16, 2018

Report calls for restructuring city government to cut spending, boost revenue

Even after Mayor Sylvester Turner's landmark pension reforms, the city of Houston is on pace to spend $1 billion more than it will take in over the coming decade, and must cut spending and raise revenue bring its annual budget into balance, according to an exhaustive new report. Failing to do so, the authors state, risks letting the city inch toward insolvency with all the symptoms that accompany such a fiscal crisis: Worker layoffs, an erosion in police staffing, fewer library hours, decaying parks facilities, a hollowing out of the city as the suburbs boom. The analysts from Philadelphia-based consulting firm PFM did not shy away from controversial recommendations, including some that would dramatically restructure city government.

National Stories

Washington Post - February 16, 2018

Trump tech adviser Reed Cordish is leaving the White House

A senior Trump administration adviser on government-to-government and technology initiatives is stepping down, the latest of more than a dozen top officials to depart the White House in little more than a year. Reed S. Cordish is leaving his post as assistant to the president in the Office of American Innovation, where he is being replaced by Brooke L. Rollins, the White House said this week. Rollins is a former aide to Energy Secretary Rick Perry, from his time as Texas governor. She joins the White House from the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a conservative think tank that advocates for criminal justice reform and free enterprise.

Washington Post - February 16, 2018

A host called Ted Cruz ‘afraid’ to talk guns on CNN. Then the senator showed that he had.

In the wake of the school shooting in Parkland, Fla., this week, CNN host Chris Cuomo called out prominent Republicans on air by name, saying they were “afraid” to face questions about gun violence, unless they were on Fox News. One politician, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), shot back with a photo of an at-the-time yet-to-air interview that he accused CNN of sitting on. On Thursday’s edition of CNN’s “New Day,” which begins at 6 a.m., Cuomo asked, “What are they afraid of? The mistake we’ve been making is, we don’t say by name the lawmakers of that particular state and what they have done or refused to do. So this morning, let’s undo the mistake.” Then he named Florida Gov. Rick Scott, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Cruz. ... On Friday morning, Cruz tweeted that he had spoken to CNN for 15 minutes on Thursday, and he turned the tables by asking why his interview hadn’t aired, in full.

Wall St. Journal - February 17, 2018

After Senate Failure on Dreamers, Immigration Faces Unclear Path in House

The Senate’s failure to pass immigration legislation this week has alarmed some centrist House Republicans who have been pushing their leaders for months to bring up a bill that would provide legal protections for Dreamers. Many of them represent the most competitive districts, where the outcome of November’s midterm elections could determine whether the GOP retains control of the House next year. Florida Rep. Carlos Curbelo, a Republican in a district that Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton won in 2016, said Thursday he is working to draft a new solution that followed President Donald Trump’s requests to pair legal protections for the Dreamers with tighter border security, including funding for a wall. The president has also called for curbs to family-based migration and an end to the diversity visa lottery, which admits 50,000 people chosen at random from countries that are underrepresented in the U.S.

Houston Chronicle - February 18, 2018

GOP donor wants assault weapons banned

A prominent Republican political donor demanded on Saturday that the party pass legislation to restrict access to guns, and vowed not to contribute to any candidates or electioneering groups that did not support a ban on the sale of military-style firearms to civilians. Al Hoffman Jr., a Florida-based real estate developer who was a leading fundraiser for George W. Bush's campaigns, said he would seek to marshal support among other Republican political donors for a renewed assault weapons ban. "For how many years now have we been doing this - having these experiences of terrorism, mass killings - and how many years has it been that nothing's been done?" Hoffman said in an interview. "It's the end of the road for me."

San Antonio Express-News - February 18, 2018

Trump sparks a defense spending boom

Pentagon officials can be forgiven if they think Christmas arrived in February this year thanks to the prospect of a massive defense buildup that would deliver a wish list of big-ticket items to the military. Billions of dollars in proposed new spending would pay for 60 refurbished M1 Abrams tanks for the Army and a pair of Virginia-class submarines for the Navy. The Air Force would receive four dozen new F-35A Joint Strike Fighters and add 4,700 new airmen, most of them enlisted, who would enter basic training in San Antonio.

Associated Press - February 18, 2018

Biden, in public and private, tiptoes toward a 2020 run

Former Vice President Joe Biden is tiptoeing toward a potential presidential run in 2020, even broaching the possibility during a recent gathering of longtime foreign policy aides. Huddled in his newly opened office steps from the U.S. Capitol, Biden began a planning meeting for his new diplomacy center by addressing the elephant in the room. He said he was keeping his 2020 options open, considering it a real possibility. He insisted he had made no decision, and didn't need to yet, according to five people who either attended the meeting or were briefed on it by those who did.

This article appeared in the San Antonio Express-News

Politico - February 16, 2018

Mitt Romney announces he's running for U.S. Senate in Utah

Former 2012 presidential candidate Mitt Romney announced Friday that he's running for Senate in Utah, saying that "I am ready to fight for this great state and advocate for solutions that improve the lives of Utahns." Romney was widely expected to enter the race after Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch said in January that he wouldn’t run for reelection. “I am running for United States Senate because in these trying times there is no better moment to bring Utah’s values to Washington. Utah’s economic and political success is a model for our nation,” Romney said.

Washington Post - February 17, 2018

State elections officials fret over cybersecurity threats

State elections officials said Saturday that they want more information from federal officials to ensure they are protected from cybersecurity threats in light of evidence that foreign operatives plan to try to interfere in the midterm elections. At a conference of state secretaries of state in Washington, several officials said the government was slow to share information about specific threats faced by states during the 2016 election. According to the Department of Homeland Security, Russian government hackers tried to gain access to voter registration files or public election sites in 21 states. Although the hackers are not believed to have manipulated or removed data from state systems, experts worry that the attackers might be more successful this year.

San Antonio Express-News - February 17, 2018

Castro tests the New Hampshire waters

In an interview at a pizza joint here, a radio host asked Julián Castro what he’d say to those who believe he lacks the experience to be the Democrats’ 2020 presidential nominee. The host had introduced Castro as somebody “very interested in running for president,” speculation the former San Antonio mayor and Obama administration Cabinet member plays down. Nonetheless, here Castro was on Friday, 2,000 miles from home in New Hampshire, which holds the nation’s first presidential primary. And two years from that election, somebody was asking if he has what it takes to be president of the United States. “No. 1, I have not decided to run yet,” Castro replied, before boiling down a résumé that one day may become familiar to many people.

New York Times - February 17, 2018

Gunman Was Called Low Risk After a Visit by Social Services

A Florida social services agency conducted an in-home investigation of Nikolas Cruz after he exhibited troubling behavior nearly a year and a half before he shot and killed 17 people at his former high school in Florida, a state report shows. The agency, the Florida Department of Children and Families, had been alerted to posts on Snapchat of Mr. Cruz cutting his arms and expressing interest in buying a gun, according to the report. But after visiting and questioning Mr. Cruz at his home, the department determined he was at low risk of harming himself or others. The report is the latest indication that Mr. Cruz was repeatedly identified by local and federal agencies as a troubled young man with violent tendencies.

Dallas Morning News - February 16, 2018

MacDougall, Kohlman: New bill would give federal prosecutors a do-over for the death penalty

During the latest budget debate in Congress, four Republican senators — Tom Cotton of Arkansas, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, and Ted Cruz and John Cornyn of Texas — introduced a bill that is intended to give federal prosecutors who fail to convince a jury to impose a death sentence the legal equivalent of a do-over. The bill would "require the impaneling of a new jury if a jury fails to recommend by unanimous vote a sentence for conviction of a crime punishable by death." Current federal law requires that a jury verdict of death in a capital trial be unanimous. If 12 jurors cannot agree on a sentence, the defendant is automatically sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. The bill is called Eric's Law for Eric Williams, a corrections officer savagely murdered by an inmate at the federal prison in Canaan, Penn., in 2013.

Dallas Morning News - February 17, 2018

Trump signs Kari's Law, a 911-call bill named for slain East Texas woman

Surrounded by family members of slain East Texas woman Kari Hunt Dunn on Friday, President Donald Trump signed Kari's Law, a measure that will require businesses to enable direct-dial access to 911. In 2013, Dunn was stabbed multiple times in a hotel room by her estranged husband as her children watched. Her then-9-year-old daughter repeatedly dialed 911 but was unable to reach emergency responders because she didn't understand that the hotel phone required her to first dial "9." Kari's Law, long championed by Tyler Rep. Louie Gohmert in the House, requires multi-line telephone systems, like those often found in hotels or offices, to have a default configuration that enables users to call 911 without a prefix. Gov. Greg Abbott approved a state version of Kari’s Law in 2015.

Dallas Morning News - February 16, 2018

Floyd: One reason flu can kill is the worst illness you never heard of: sepsis

For a condition that causes such swift and widespread devastation, sepsis is not widely understood. It kills more than a quarter of a million Americans every year — more than breast cancer, prostate cancer and AIDS combined. It's the leading cause of death in patients in hospital intensive care units. Up to half the people who experience the most severe form of sepsis, septic shock, will die — and many of them die swift, horrible deaths that leave their families, and even their doctors, stunned and reeling. Yet nearly half the American public doesn't even know what it is. A Harris poll commissioned by the nonprofit Sepsis Alliance in 2016 determined that 45 percent of the respondents weren't familiar with the term, and fewer than one-third could name its most common symptoms.

New York Times - February 17, 2018

Kristof: You’re Wrong! I’m Right!

Decades ago, a media expert at M.I.T. named Nicholas Negroponte foresaw the emergence of a news product that he called “The Daily Me,” with information tailored to a user’s needs. Negroponte was thinking of local weather, sports, particular interests and so on, but what actually arrived with the internet was a highly political version of “The Daily Me.” There’s not an exact parallel in the way the right and the left seek out like-minded news sources. The right has spawned conspiracy nuts like Alex Jones who believe that the Sandy Hook school shooting was faked, and one study found that the more people watched Fox News, the worse they did on a current events test. So I’m not advocating that you waste time on Breitbart propaganda any more than I’m saying that it was worth listening to leftists in the 1970s who praised Chairman Mao. But wherever we stand on the spectrum, there are sane, intelligent voices who disagree with us — and too often we plug our ears to them.

Newsclips - February 16, 2018

Lead Stories

San Antonio Express-News - February 16, 2018

Uresti’s criminal case could go to the jury Friday

Jurors in state Sen. Carlos Uresti’s criminal fraud trial could begin deliberations as early as Friday afternoon after prosecutors and defense lawyers give their closing arguments. The jury was excused early Thursday on day 16 of the trial after lawyers for co-defendant Gary Cain rested their case. Senior U.S. District Judge David Ezra and the lawyers spent Thursday afternoon reviewing more than 30 jury instructions that he’s expected to read aloud in court Friday morning. After Ezra instructs jurors on how the law applies to the evidence in the case, closing arguments will be presented. The judge has said he will give prosecutors a total of 90 minutes for their closing, while Uresti and co-defendant Gary Cain’s defense teams will each have 45 minutes.

Texas Tribune - February 16, 2018

George P. Bush’s secret mansion is financed by an undisclosed loan from Texas donor's bank

Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush lives in an Austin mansion he financed at a bank owned by a major Republican donor who employed his wife, Austin lawyer Amanda Bush. But voters would be hard-pressed to connect all those dots. Bush’s name doesn’t appear in online property appraisal records for the 4,000-square-foot house he bought in a gated West Austin enclave in 2014. And the $850,000 mortgage from donor Brandon Steele’s East Texas bank isn’t disclosed on the personal financial statements that Bush, like all state candidates, must file. The house — with four bedrooms, a fireplace in the master bedroom and a pool out back — is legally owned by a family trust that also isn’t disclosed in Bush’s personal financial statements.

KUHF - February 12, 2018

Paxton, Huffines Spend Millions In GOP Bid For Texas’ Only Open State Senate Seat

Phillip Huffines, the Dallas County Republican Party chairman, and Angela Paxton, the wife of the Texas Attorney General, are duking it out in the GOP primary that’s become the most expensive state Senate race in Texas. Huffines benefits from a name easily recognizable from the family’s chain of auto dealerships spread across North Texas. He’s got a stake in the company, but his brother Ray runs the auto dealership’s operations. ... On the other side, Angela Paxton is also touting sterling conservative credentials. She has the benefit of a conservative brand built around her husband’s political career. Before becoming attorney general, Ken Paxton held the state Senate seat his wife now wants. University of Houston political scientist Brandon Rottinghaus says the Paxton brand is incredibly durable in Collin County because of his role shifting the suburban enclave from a moderate Republican stronghold to the Tea Party bastion it is today.

New York Times - February 15, 2018

Three Immigration Plans Fall, Leaving ‘Dreamers’ in Limbo

The Senate summarily blocked three measures on Thursday — including one backed by President Trump — to resolve the fate of the so-called Dreamers, leaving hundreds of thousands of them facing an uncertain future. As senators struck down measure after measure, a week that began with the promise of a rare open, free-ranging debate on the issue crashed headlong into the same divisions that have prevented Congress from fixing the nation’s immigration system for decades. The lack of consensus left in question whether any solution on the Dreamers can be reached. In a rebuke to the president, senators voted overwhelmingly, 39 to 60, against the White House-backed bill, which would have committed $25 billion for a wall along the border with Mexico, placed strict limits on legal immigration, ended the diversity visa lottery and offered 1.8 million Dreamers an eventual path to citizenship.

State Stories

Texas Tribune - February 15, 2018

Audit: Company behind Texas "clean coal" project used federal funds for liquor, limousines and lobbying

A now-bankrupt company that received a major federal stimulus grant to build a “clean coal” power plant in West Texas spent millions of taxpayer dollars on alcohol, lobbying, spa services and other questionable — or clearly unauthorized — expenses. That’s according to a report released Tuesday by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Inspector General, which found that under the Obama administration the department’s Office of Fossil Energy demonstrated blatantly lax oversight of a $450 million grant awarded in 2010 to Seattle-based Summit Power Group for the “Texas Clean Energy Project.” The coal-fired carbon-capture power plant — slated for a 600-acre plot near Odessa — was never built.

Texas Tribune - February 16, 2018

Ramsey: Texans won’t have to wait for November to know who’s winning

It only stands to reason that, if the state’s general elections generally fall to the people from one political party, much of the competition would move to the party primaries. And that, with a speaker of the Texas House deciding not to seek re-election, the factions within that majority Republican Party would be vying for supremacy now — the better to control who succeeds the outgoing speaker. Or that the state’s chief executive and his number two — frustrated last year by resistance from the socially moderate wing of their party — would be acting to silence some of that wing’s louder voices with endorsements, campaign advertising and any other means they can find.

Texas Tribune - February 16, 2018

Local taxes in Texas have been rising to help pay for education. Who is to blame?

Hey, Texplainer: How much has the state contributed to education funding over the past several years, and how has that affected property taxes? This question is familiar to anyone involved in state politics these days. Texas leaders say property taxes are too high. School leaders say those taxes have gone up because the state isn't funding public education like it used to. Here are the facts: During the 2008 fiscal year, the state covered roughly 48.5 percent of the cost of public education, according to the Legislative Budget Board. By the 2019 fiscal year, it will support closer to 38 percent.

Texas Tribune - February 15, 2018

Republican state Rep. Sarah Davis on voting for Gov. Greg Abbott: "It'll be hard to do that."

State Rep. Sarah Davis, R-West University Place, said Thursday that she won't support a Democrat for Texas governor in 2018 but can't commit to voting for her fellow Republican Greg Abbott. “It'll be hard to do that,” she said of supporting the incumbent governor who has worked hard to unseat her in this year's Republican primary. "I would most likely just not vote." Davis made the comments during a morning interview in Austin with The Texas Tribune's CEO, Evan Smith.

Texas Tribune - February 15, 2018

Texas Freedom Caucus sees opportunities to grow in 2018 GOP primaries

A feisty coalition of hardline conservatives is looking to grow its ranks with March’s Republican primaries. And to hear some Texas House Freedom Caucus members tell it, that growth is all but guaranteed. “I am certain the Texas Freedom Caucus will grow,” said the group’s chairman, Tyler Republican Matt Schaefer. “A larger Texas Freedom Caucus is a safe bet." Schaefer wouldn’t speculate on specific races or give any clear predictions on size. But others, including state Rep. Matt Rinaldi of Irving, think the caucus could more than double in size in 2019.

Houston Chronicle - February 13, 2018

Democrats change tune: Seem to like a lot of each others' ideas

After sparring over several issues, and with just a week to go before the start of early voting, a majority of the Democrats running to unseat incumbent Republican Gov. Greg Abbott are now sounding a lot alike on many key issues. At a Bexar County Democratic Party forum, six of the nine gubernatorial contenders in the upcoming March 6 primary agreed on more than a dozen top issues — with disagreement remaining on the state income tax, toll roads and legalizing casinos to help pay for schools. They supported a move to abolish the death penalty and closing a loophole that allows corporations to avoid billions in property taxes. Likewise with improving public schools, LGBTQ equality, universal pre-K and property-tax reforms..

Houston Chronicle - February 14, 2018

New ad accuses attorney general, wife of getting rich off public service

The day before Valentines Day, the hopeful for a state Senate seat broke out the bubbly in a searing campaign ad accusing the attorney general and his wife of enriching themselves from public service. The negative ad is meant to hurt Angela Paxton's bid in a contested Republican primary battle for the District 8 state Senate seat in suburban Dallas. The 30-second ad by Republican candidate Phillip Huffines ratchets up criticism of Paxton by associating her with past criticism of her husband, Ken Paxton. Attorney General Paxton and his wife Angela "didn't have much" when he won his first election in 2013, read the narrator in the campaign ad released Tuesday. "Just 11 years later, they co-owned 28 companies."

Houston Chronicle - February 15, 2018

Grieder: Blowing the whistle on the Texas Constitution

Like most people who attended Texas public schools, I know a few things about Texas history. Mrs. Kimball was the teacher who introduced me to the subject. Her enthusiasm for Texas history was such that she volunteered at the Institute of Texan Cultures, in San Antonio, on the weekends. And her expertise greatly exceeded that of the activists associated with Empower Texans, and its derivative 501(c)(4), Texans for Fiscal Responsibility. The group describes itself, piously, as a "non-profit service organization," which aims to "educate and inspire Texans to exercise effective citizenship." But the only thing ET has inspired lately is a backlash, after word got out about their latest half-baked scheme. And in a somewhat amusing irony, the "ISD Whistleblower Project" targets the Texans who are actually committed to educating and inspiring people.

San Antonio Express-News - February 15, 2018

Texas Department of Public Safety launches new drone program

The Texas Department of Public Safety is launching a new drone program, about eight years after scrapping its first effort due to challenges posed by federal restrictions and maintenance costs. Over the past few months, the department has quietly spent about $70,000 to purchase 17 drones, known formally as unmanned aerial systems. The most expensive, an Aeryon SkyRanger equipped with a high-tech camera, cost $48,000 and can fly for up to 50 minutes, department purchase records show. DPS officials weren’t available to discuss details Thursday, but DPS spokesman Tom Vinger said the SkyRanger, equipped with specialized software and an extended battery life, mostly will be used by the highway patrol for crash scene reconstruction.

San Antonio Express-News - February 16, 2018

Texas lawmakers praise Harvey funding — say more may be needed

Houston and the Gulf region came out well with an $89.3 billion disaster relief package signed earlier this month by President Donald Trump, but a group of Texas lawmakers warned Thursday that there is still work to be done to recover from Hurricane Harvey and prepare for future floods. “This legislation addresses all of the concerns that we have now,” Houston Democrat Rep. Al Green said. “Whether it will totally, completely and absolutely address all the concerns is something we may have to visit at a later time.” Green made his remarks in a Capitol Hill news conference accompanied by a number of other House members from Texas, including Democrats Henry Cuellar, Sheila Jackson Lee, Gene Green and Eddie Bernice Johnson and Republicans John Culberson and Pete Olson.

San Antonio Express-News - February 14, 2018

Field of 18 GOP candidates fighting for runoff in primary for Lamar Smith’s seat

A few days after the release of 21st congressional district candidate Robert Stovall’s first TV campaign ad, a nod to President Donald Trump that featured the former Bexar County GOP chairman standing knee-deep in an actual swamp, Stovall’s campaign put on a fundraising reception at a ritzy North Side country club. The “special guest” speaker at the late January reception: Brad Parscale, the digital architect of Trump’s 2016 campaign and a longtime friend of Stovall’s. During a short speech, Parscale conveyed at least one clear message: that Stovall’s unflagging embrace of Trump was legit — thus setting him apart from the pack.

San Antonio Express-News - February 16, 2018

The futures of ‘Dreamers’ still left up in the air

San Antonio teacher Maria Rocha said she had largely tuned out the debate about what would happen to her and other recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. The rhetoric was too demeaning to immigrants, said Rocha, 30, who is originally from Mexico but came to the U.S. as a child. She had mixed feelings about proposals in Congress that would give legal status to young immigrants like her but would fund a border wall and restrict visas for others. “It’s just really sad to see our faces with dollar bills,” Rocha said of legislation that tied legal status for DACA recipients to funding for a border wall.

San Antonio Express-News - February 15, 2018

Analysis suggests mortgages are less accessible to blacks, Latinos

Blacks and Latinos were “significantly more likely” than non-Hispanic whites to be denied conventional mortgage loans to buy houses in the San Antonio-New Braunfels metropolitan area in 2015 and 2016, according to a nationwide, yearlong analysis by Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting. The nonprofit news organization’s analysis found the same disparity toward both blacks and Latinos in a dozen other metro areas, including New Orleans; Little Rock, Arkansas; Atlanta; Orlando, Florida; Washington, D.C.; and Tacoma, Washington, based on a review of 31 million Home Mortgage Disclosure Act records. Lenders were more likely to deny such financing to at least one minority race or ethnicity in 61 metros across the nation, Reveal’s investigation concluded.

Dallas Morning News - February 15, 2018

Texas pushes back on federal judge's foster care ruling, though children's lawyers say let it rip

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton's office and lawyers representing foster children slugged it out Thursday over whether a federal appeals court should make Texas obey a judge's demands while the state appeals her ruling that its long-term foster care system is "broken." Three judges of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals complained they don't have enough information on whether the Legislature's infusion of cash and new hires at Child Protective Services last year have alleviated some of the problems cited by U.S. District Judge Janis Graham Jack. "What is the situation?" asked Judge Leslie H. Southwick of Mississippi, who presided over a three-judge panel that heard Thursday's arguments. It will decide how much if any of the full 5th Circuit's stay should remain in effect.

Dallas Morning News - February 15, 2018

In Texas, VP Mike Pence will tour border and raise funds for Dallas GOP and embattled congressmen

Vice President Mike Pence will tour the Texas-Mexico border Friday with Sen. Ted Cruz, during a two-day Texas visit that includes rounding up funds in Dallas to protect endangered GOP congressmen. The visit to McAllen will highlight the administration's demands for a border wall and an overhaul to immigration policy, as Congress wrestles with the fate of young immigrants brought to the country illegally. The trip will combine politics and official business. At the Omni Dallas on Saturday, Pence will raise money for the National Republican Congressional Committee, the party's House fundraising arm.

Dallas Morning News - February 15, 2018

Texas regulators on verge of approving Sempra's $9.45 billion purchase of Oncor

The four-year search to find a new owner for Oncor — Texas' largest regulated utility — appears to be nearly over. Texas Public Utility Commissioners asked staff members Thursday to prepare an order approving the $9.45 billion sale in time for the agency's March 8 meeting. Besides that vote on San Diego-based Sempra Energy's offer, a second approval will be needed from the Delaware court handling the bankruptcy of Oncor's parent company, Energy Future Holdings. It appears that commissioners have "blessed" the deal, said Geoffrey Gay, attorney for the steering committee of cities served by Oncor. "The commissioners have the authority to challenge anything or ask questions, but they seem to be content that the parties have addressed every major issue," he said.

Dallas Morning News - February 15, 2018

DPS says it won't lay off 117 older officers after reaching deal with lawmakers

Following a wave of criticism, the Texas Department of Public Safety announced Thursday that it would not lay off 117 older officers who had received termination orders in December as a way to address budget cuts to the agency. "The Reduction-in-Force (RIF) action previously announced to eliminate the Retire/Rehire program for commissioned officers, which would result in the termination of DPS commissioned officers who had previously retired, is rescinded," DPS Director Steve McCraw said in an email to his staff Thursday obtained by The Dallas Morning News. "This follows recent discussions and the concurrence of the Texas Leadership to pursue an alternative option to fund these positions."

Dallas Morning News - February 15, 2018

Parker: In a galaxy far, far away, a political rebellion grows in Texas

The rebellion is underway. And the Empire is under siege. A long, long time ago, (late last year) an unusual pair of rebellions broke out in a galaxy far, far away, known as Texas. Democratic candidates for political office swarmed the state's first-in-the nation primaries, exhibiting a courage unseen in Texas in many decades to restore the Republic. And even some Republicans fought the emperor and Darth Vader in a desperate attempt to wrest control of the Death Star. For the first time in a quarter century a fight is on in Texas to break the grip of a Republican Party steadily drifting to the far right, now under a conniving governor, Greg Abbott, and his warlord, Dan Patrick. On March 6 the ballot will be full of candidates to replace an old guard either desperately clinging to power or slinking into retirement. (Hat tip to R.G. Ratcliffe of Texas Monthly who used the "Empire Strikes Back" metaphor first for this year's primary.)

Dallas Morning News - February 15, 2018

Florida shooting should rally North Texas to improve safety net for vulnerable students

In the wake of yet another school massacre — this one leaving 17 dead in southern Florida — our thoughts turn not just to the gun in the shooter's hands, but to the darkness in his mind. While this tragedy will no doubt ignite a gun-control debate, our focus today is on another significant fact that surfaces all too often in these stories: The "troubled" Florida shooter has a life story full of warning signs, including concerns around his emotional health. Research indicates that mental instability or illness is no precursor to a mass shooter, who generally acts from a mix of ideology, personal grievance, character and, potentially, chemical imbalances in the brain. But as details emerge about Nikolas Cruz, who has confessed to the Florida shooting, no one would dispute that he needed help.

Austin American-Statesman - February 16, 2018

Central Texas congressional delegation reacts to Florida shooting

On Thursday, survivors and victims’ families demanded lawmakers create policies that would limit attacks like the one in Florida. U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, responded by calling for hearings to identify “what kind of tools might be available to us” to prevent mass shootings. “Our churches and schools should be refuges, places where parents and children especially feel safe and secure,” Cornyn said from the Senate floor Thursday. “Many of these shootings can be prevented. Perhaps not all, but we need to do everything we can.” ... U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said the Florida attack was heartbreaking, and Democrats wanted to politicize the shooting by pushing “gun control,” he said during an appearance on Fox News Channel. “That’s not the right answer,” Cruz said. “The answer is to focus on criminals, to focus on violent criminals. This individual appears to have significant issues with mental illness. I think we will certainly be asking were there signs of mental illness, could we have stepped in and prevented this beforehand.”

Austin American-Statesman - February 15, 2018

Amid Alamo management concerns, Bush will leave nonprofit board

Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush plans to resign this spring from the board of the Alamo Trust, the nonprofit that manages day-to-day operations of the state’s most iconic site. The decision follows reporting last week by the American-Statesman about an unreleased draft audit report, prepared by internal auditors for the General Land Office, that found that the agency’s use of the nonprofit was unduly complicated and sometimes led to practices that run afoul of state requirements. “Commissioner Bush continues to demonstrate his dedication to ensuring the highest level of integrity, accountability and transparency in Alamo operations,” Bush press secretary Brittany Eck said Thursday.

Austin American-Statesman - February 15, 2018

Texas deer breeders challenge ruling on state’s disease regulations

Some breeders of captive deer for the multibillion-dollar Texas hunting industry are continuing their fight against the state’s wildlife agency and its regulations aimed at curbing the spread of a deadly contagious disease that can infect the animals. A court ruling last fall upheld the authority of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department to enact rules to curtail chronic wasting disease, which is fatal to deer, elk and moose, either in captivity or the wild. A pair of deer breeders who challenged the agency’s regulations — Ken Bailey and Bradly Peterson, who were ordered to pay about $426,000 combined to cover the state’s legal expenses — are appealing, arguing among other things that the court erred by not recognizing that the agency had trampled on their private property rights by issuing rules for the handling of captive-bred deer as well as for wild deer.

Austin American-Statesman - February 15, 2018

Herman: Politics, can we talk about it more please?

Texas, we need to talk. And we need to talk about what we talk about and what we don’t talk about. Apparently – surprisingly? – it turns out too few Texans talk about politics. A new study says that’s bad for our civic health. So, in the name of improving our civic health, please take time today get a political conversation going with somebody. Here are two suggested opening lines: “Hey, is that Trump guy unbelievably great or what?” or “Hey, is that Trump guy bat-droppings crazy or what?”

Austin American-Statesman - February 15, 2018

Abbott ad: You said ‘no’ to Wendy Davis, now say ‘no’ to Sarah Davis

Gov. Greg Abbott’s campaign is escalating the air war against Republican state Rep. Sarah Davis by launching a fourth TV commercial, this one focusing on abortion policies and likening the moderate renegade to her unrelated namesake, Wendy Davis, Abbott’s Democratic rival in 2014. “You said ‘no’ to Wendy Davis. Now it is time to say ‘no’ to Sarah Davis,” says the narrator of the 30-second ad, which will go on TV next week. The Abbott campaign released the ad in advance of the Houston-area lawmaker’s Thursday morning interview in Austin with Texas Tribune CEO and co-founder Evan Smith. At the event, Davis said she looks forward to working with the governor in the next legislative session but did not expect to vote for him in November.

Austin American-Statesman - February 15, 2018

UT System Board of Regents to evaluate itself at least every two years

The Board of Regents of the 14-campus University of Texas System, which is already engaged in a bit of self-reflection with a new chairwoman and the search for a new chancellor, has adopted a rule requiring the board to evaluate itself at least every two years. The rule, adopted unanimously by the regents Thursday with no discussion, is intended to comply with new accreditation requirements of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. Among other things, the self-evaluation will include assessments of the board’s organization, leadership, oversight of the chancellor, oversight of the campuses, policymaking role, orientation of new regents and methods of addressing potential conflicts of interest involving regents.

Austin American-Statesman - February 15, 2018

First Reading: `My son, who is autistic, was robbed by three black thugs.’ Lisa Luby Ryan on why she will oppose gun regulation `to my last breath.’

On Tuesday, Lisa Luby Ryan, who is challenging Villalba in the March 6 Republican primary, took Villalba to task for that initiative at a debate hosted by the North Dallas Chamber of Commerce and League of Women Voters of Dallas. As James Russell, who covered the debate for the Quorum Report, wrote: Citing Villalba’s op-ed in The Dallas Morning News last year calling for a statewide commission to study the causes of gun violence ahead of the next legislative session, written after a man shot and killed 26 people at a church in Sutherland Springs, a town just east of San Antonio. Ryan maintained her strong stance against any restrictions on gun ownership and usage, taking a personal view on the issue.

Ft. Worth Star-Telegram - February 14, 2018

This state rep candidate voted to improve Old Town Keller, then bought property there

A vacant lot in the Old Town Keller area has become an issue in the Republican primary for state representative District 98. The lot at 110 Bates St., just west of U.S. 377 in one of the city's oldest neighborhoods, is owned by Armin Mizani, who is trying to unseat incumbent Giovanni Capriglione for the GOP nomination. Capriglione, a Southlake resident who has represented the Southlake-Keller area in the Texas House of Representatives for six years, says Mizani's purchase of the land last year is not well-known in the Keller community.

Temple Daily Telegram - February 16, 2018

Texas police group opposes Grisham

The Texas Municipal Police Association is coming out against Texas House candidate CJ Grisham over what the group says are his “anti-cop” Facebook posts. “We’re really concerned about anybody who has made the kind of hateful remarks about our law enforcement officers running for a position in the statehouse,” TMPA Executive Director Kevin Lawrence said on Friday. “That type of vitriol, that type of demonization of our law enforcement personnel we just don’t think it’s a good ingredient in the public policy making process.”

El Paso Times - February 16, 2018

Anti-Escobar PAC fails to report campaign spending on advertisements

A smiling portrait of former County Judge Veronica Escobar looks out at passersby from two identical billboards, positioned at intersections in different parts of El Paso's congressional district. The text reads: “I doubled my salary and raised your taxes. We good?” The billboards were purchased by a new political action committee called Keep El Paso Honest, which was formed last year with one objective in mind: ensure that Escobar is not elected to replace U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke in Congress.

Ft. Worth Star-Telegram - February 9, 2018

Campaign for this Texas House seat turns nasty and costly, drawing more than $500,000

The fight for House District 99 is on. Once again, the contest for this seat has become a marquee battle — pitting two men whose families have been longtime friends — that tips the scales at more than a half million dollars. State Rep. Charlie Geren, R-Fort Worth, has represented this district since 2001 and is seeking another term in office; Bo French, who unsuccessfully ran against Geren two years ago, is back on the ballot. So far, the fiery fight for this district involves hundreds of thousands of dollars, a lawsuit and peace officer concerns about a fake Facebook page created two years ago.

KXAN - February 15, 2018

TxTag revamps billing system after KXAN investigation

Following hundreds of complaints from frustrated drivers, KXAN investigators continue holding the state’s toll authority accountable for billing problems. Now, TxTag will soon consolidate its customer service and collections process and is enhancing its efforts to verify billing addresses. KXAN initially began investigating TxTag customer service, collection fees and billing practices last June. In the months to follow, KXAN uncovered the state’s tolling entity contracting with an aggressive collections agency, racking up nearly $1 billion in fines alone to customer accounts. Soon after, the Texas Department of Transportation, which oversees TxTag toll roads, stopped sending accounts to collections altogether.

Spectrum News - February 14, 2018

Report: Texas ranks at the bottom for political participation

A new study by the University of Texas at Austin revealed that the Lone Star State ranks at the bottom of the charts for political participation and civic involvement nationwide. The report, by the Annette Strauss Institute for Civic Life, highlights Texas’ need to promote and support civic engagement as the Texas primaries are swiftly approaching. Out of the 50 states, Texas ranked number 47 in voter turnout and 44th in voter registration.

Washington Free Beacon - February 12, 2018

Texas Dem Senate Candidate: More Planned Parenthoods Would Mean More Lives Saved

Presumptive Democratic Senatorial nominee and current U.S. Representative Beto O'Rourke stressed the importance of family planning clinics during a town hall in San Marcos, Texas on Monday. The subject of family planning clinics was brought up by a woman concerned that Republicans are trying to "take away women's rights" and worried that religion might "take over government." "I want to ask about what you think about the GOP and the far right trying to take away women's rights, and what we can do about that, because we're crossing that fine line of having religion take over government," the Texas resident asked O'Rourke.

Amarillo Globe-News - February 10, 2018

Henry: Is there a conspiracy in West Texas?

There is a conspiracy brewing in West Texas. Then again — maybe not. It depends who you ask. If you ask state Sen. Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo, there is a conspiracy. “It is an absolute fact,” Seliger said. The conspiracy (if there is one) goes something like this: Leal, a well-known Amarillo restaurant owner and former candidate for state House, is only running for state Senate to siphon votes in these parts from Seliger, the incumbent, in a three-candidate race in the March 6 GOP primary. You see, there is another candidate running for the District 31 seat, Mike Canon of Midland. Seliger beat Canon in the 2014 GOP primary for this seat, but it was close, 52 percent to 47 percent — give or take a few decimals.

Politico - February 15, 2018

Poll: Republican barely leading in Pennsylvania special election

Republican Rick Saccone holds a slim lead over Democrat Conor Lamb in the special election for a Western Pennsylvania congressional seat, according to a Monmouth University poll released Thursday. Saccone leads Lamb, 49 percent to 46 percent, the poll shows — only a marginal edge for Republicans in a district that supported President Donald Trump by 20 points in 2016. Another 4 percent are undecided, and 1 percent support a third-party candidate. The poll used a turnout model "similar to voting patterns seen in other special elections over the past year," according to a memo from Monmouth University pollster Patrick Murray.

Corpus Christi Caller-Times - February 11, 2018

Moritz: Democrat Mike Collier hopes to parlay policy wonk chops into political success

Just moments after Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick was serving up a thick and juicy slab of political red meat to a conservative think tank in Austin on Thursday, the leading Democrat hoping to oust him in November was a few blocks away eating his vegetables. Rhetorically speaking. Mike Collier, an Austin outsider who came to Democratic politics through the unlikely route of being an accountant-finance guy for button-down firms like Exxon and PriceWaterhouseCoopers, was explaining the scholarly white paper his campaign prepared on school finance and property tax policy.

County Stories

Dallas Observer - February 14, 2018

Dallas Area Had Highest Number of ICE Arrests in the Country in 2017, New Study Says

Agents working out of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Dallas office arrested nearly 17,000 people in 2017, according to a new study from the Pew Research Group. That's the highest number of arrests in any ICE region — the agency calls them "areas of responsibility" — and an uptick of nearly 7,000 arrests in the region since 2016. Dallas racked up its arrest lead although it has the country's fourth-largest population of undocumented residents, according to Pew's latest estimates. The New York-Newark-Jersey City region has nearly three times as many undocumented residents — 1.15 million to 475,000 — but recorded only a fraction of the number of arrests made in Dallas — 2,576 compared with 16,520.

Houston Chronicle - February 15, 2018

Worried Houston-area school officials beef up security after Florida shooting

They notice the signs of depression - students who seem isolated, withdrawn or prone to bursts of anger. They notice symbols of hate, like a swastika scrawled in a journal. But still they worry: Could one child slip through the cracks? Student teachers at the University of Houston discussed the realities of campus violence and how to connect with at-risk students during a Thursday lesson -- one of many such conversations that unfolded across the Houston area Thursday, a day after a 19-year-old gunman killed 17 people at a Florida high school. "It's something we have to face now," said UH student Ayo Shofoluwe, 25. "You never know who might do something."

Houston Chronicle - February 15, 2018

Turner, Emmett want $200 million from Texas to repair damaged bayous

County Judge Ed Emmett and Mayor Sylvester Turner are asking the state of Texas to advance Harris County and Houston $200 million to pay for damage to local bayous and detention basins incurred during Hurricane Harvey. Officials already were working on repairs to the Harris County Flood Control District's infrastructure when Harvey hit. Eroding bayous or crumbling concrete can hamper the ability of the bayous and detention basins to quickly funnel floodwaters out of the region into Galveston Bay.

Politico - February 9, 2018

Houston district becomes unlikely battleground for vaccine policy fight

Texas House District 134 in southwest Houston, with its teeming 50 million-square-foot medical complex that includes Baylor College of Medicine, MD Anderson Cancer Center and 100,000 health workers, seems an improbable battleground for a political fight over vaccines. Yet it's the latest front in the war over vaccination requirements — and a proxy for the broader struggle between social conservatives and moderates for the soul of the Texas Republican Party. Texans for Vaccine Choice, a political action committee that favors expanding parents' ability to claim exemptions from childhood vaccination requirements, is backing a primary challenge to moderate GOP state Rep. Sarah Davis, who last year joined with Democrats and a handful of Republicans to unsuccessfully oppose a proposal barring doctors from inoculating children in foster care.

City Stories

Houston Chronicle - February 15, 2018

Houston First looks to move past controversy in picking new chief exec

In the latest sudden change at Houston First Corp., Mayor Sylvester Turner nominated an inside candidate to replace the agency's longtime president and chief executive, who was removed Tuesday for reasons the mayor and other officials have failed to explain. Brenda Bazan, chief financial officer for the convention and tourism agency, was introduced as the nominee at the close of a Houston First board meeting on Thursday. "She's got a terrific grasp of internal operations and expressed a good vision for growing our footprint," board chairman David Mincberg said afterward.

Bloomberg - February 16, 2018

In Houston, 45% Pay Hikes Are Dangled to Lure Immigrant Workers

Cesar Gomez’s life is great right now. And a little scary. The great part: He just got a 45 percent raise –- to $160 a day. A master remodeler in Houston, he’s in such hot demand amid the post-hurricane cleanup that his boss threw him the extra cash to make sure he wouldn’t bolt for a rival outfit. But Gomez is wanted in another sense of the word, too. He’s an undocumented Mexican living in a state that’s pursuing one of the country’s toughest crackdowns on undocumented immigrants. This has made him extra leery of bumping into police officers and, as a result, hesitant to venture outside for anything but work. “I just go straight home from work to eat and sleep and that’s it, and then back to work again,” he said.

San Antonio Express-News - February 16, 2018

La Gordiloca: Texas law is unconstitutional

A Laredo social media personality and citizen journalist arrested for publishing information about a suicide and a car wreck is challenging the constitutionality of the Texas law under which she was charged. Priscilla Villarreal, who is best known as her online personality, La Gordiloca, was arrested in December on a charges of misuse of official information after she published on Facebook the name of a suicide victim and the name of a person who died in a car wreck. Media law experts said at the time the arrest likely violated her First Amendment rights.

Dallas Morning News - February 15, 2018

Dallas mayor on Florida shooting: Leaders must step up on gun violence or 'get the hell out of the way'

Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings on Thursday blasted politicians who he said "lack the courage" to do anything in response to mass shootings. He announced that he will ask Texans in Congress to establish a blue-ribbon commission to study the problem. In his impassioned remarks following a ribbon-cutting at Texas Capital Bank in West Dallas, Rawlings said "America needs to be outraged" by Wednesday's school shooting in Broward County, Fla., that left 17 dead and 16 wounded. "I'm so frustrated with the leadership of this country," Rawlings said. "It's like every time this happens, they're deer in the headlights. And all they can say is, 'Our thoughts and prayers,' and 'This is pure evil.'

Houston Chronicle - February 15, 2018

Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in Houston on Friday

For the second time in three weeks, Houston will play host to a Democratic leader in Congress. On Friday, U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi will be in Houston to fire up Democratic activists and help Harris County Democrats raise money at their annual fundraising dinner. Pelosi speaks at the annual Johnson-Rayburn-Richards Dinner at 6 p.m. at the Marriott Marquis Houston. Harris County Democrats say the theme of the dinner is "It All Starts Here," a nod to the strategic importance they say Harris County could play in turning Texas blue.

Houston Chronicle - February 15, 2018

HISD superintendent calls for drastic changes in annual speech

Invoking the region’s can-do spirit, Houston ISD Superintendent Richard Carranza delivered an impassioned pitch Thursday for the sweeping proposals that he says will create a more equitable district while trimming $208 million from the budget. ... Carranza blamed for HISD’s budget shortfall on Texas’ unpopular school finance system. He said HISD will have to write a check for as much as $260 million to the state due to recapture, a method by which the state collects money from so-called property wealthy school districts to redistribute to districts with lower property values, including Aldine ISD in north Houston.

National Stories

Dallas Morning News - February 15, 2018

After Senate 'train wreck' on competing immigration plans, Cornyn casts doubt on continuing DACA debate

After months of promises to find a solution for young immigrants in the country illegally, lawmakers in the Senate failed to reach agreement on a series of immigration proposals Thursday. And Texas Sen. John Cornyn — the No. 2 Republican who backed a bill reflecting hard-line demands from the White House — cast doubt on continuing to debate the issue, leaving uncertain the fates of young people still at risk of deportation. Asked if the immigration issue will soon receive additional floor time for debate, Cornyn told CNN: "I don't see it. We couldn't get it together this week. We've got other things we have to do. ... If I were [Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell], I'd be reluctant to spend another week of wasted time."

The Hill - February 12, 2018

Cruz warns Texas GOP: 'The left is going to show up'

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) is warning his party that the "left is going to show up" in the 2018 midterm elections. During a speech Friday addressing the Fort Bend County GOP, Cruz talked about an "incredible volatility in politics right now," according to the Texas Tribune. "Let me tell you right now: The left is going to show up," Cruz said during his keynote address at the party's Lincoln Reagan Dinner. "They will crawl over broken glass in November to vote."

San Antonio Express-News - February 15, 2018

Cruz predicts Republicans will lose Congress if DACA deal includes amnesty

U.S Sen. Ted Cruz said Republicans will lose the majorities in both the U.S. House and Senate if they support an immigration deal that provides a path to citizenship for so-called Dreamers. “Mark my words, if Republican majorities in Congress pass citizenship for millions of people — an amnesty — I think it is quite likely we will lose both houses of Congress and Speaker Nancy Pelosi will impeach President Trump,” Cruz said during an interview on Fox News Channel Thursday morning. If the immigration plans pass, he said conservative voters will be so upset that they will stay at home and not come out to vote for Republicans while Democratic voters turnout out in big numbers.

Washington Post - February 15, 2018

Cox, Rich: No, there haven’t been 18 school shootings in 2018. That number is flat wrong.

The stunning number swept across the Internet within minutes of the news Wednesday that, yet again, another young man with another semiautomatic rifle had rampaged through a school, this time at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in South Florida. The figure originated with Everytown for Gun Safety, a nonprofit group, co-founded by Michael Bloomberg, that works to prevent gun violence and is most famous for its running tally of school shootings. “This,” the organization tweeted at 4:22 p.m. Wednesday, “is the 18th school shooting in the U.S. in 2018.” A tweet by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) including the claim had been liked more than 45,000 times by Thursday evening, and one from political analyst Jeff Greenfield had cracked 126,000. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio tweeted it, too, as did performers Cher and Alexander William and actors Misha Collins and Albert Brooks. News organizations — including MSNBC, ABC News, NBC News, CBS News, Time, MSN, the BBC, the New York Daily News and HuffPost — also used the number in their coverage. ... It is a horrifying statistic. And it is wrong. Everytown has long inflated its total by including incidents of gunfire that are not really school shootings.

New York Times - February 15, 2018

Bui, Sanger-Katz: How to Prevent Gun Deaths? Where Experts and the Public Agree

We conducted a survey on 29 gun control ideas, looking for the intersection of effectiveness and popularity. Our expert survey asked dozens of social scientists, lawyers and public health officials how effective each of 29 policies would be in reducing firearm homicide deaths, regardless of their political feasibility or cost. Policies deemed both effective and popular appear in the upper-right corner of the matrix. Less popular, less effective measures fall lower down and to the left. The two policies ranked most effective were those requiring all sellers to run background checks on anyone who buys a gun, and barring gun sales to people convicted of violent misdemeanors, including domestic assaults.

Washington Post - February 15, 2018

FBI’s near-brush with suspect in Florida school shooting draws scrutiny

A tipster alerted the FBI in September to a disturbing comment that had been left beneath an online video. “Im going to be a professional school shooter,” read the comment, posted by YouTube user “nikolas cruz.” Two FBI agents interviewed the caller, Mississippi bail bondsman Ben Bennight, the next day. The bureau checked public and law enforcement databases for anyone by Cruz’s name who might be of concern, the FBI said, but could not identify the person who left the comment. Five months later, police say, Nikolas Cruz, 19, walked into the Florida high school from which he had been expelled and opened fire, killing 17 people in one of the nation’s deadliest school shootings.

Associated Press - February 16, 2018

Trump cites mental health — not guns — in speech on shooting

Declaring the nation united and grieving with "one heavy heart," President Donald Trump promised Thursday to tackle school safety and "the difficult issue of mental health" in response to the deadly shooting in Florida. He made no mention of the scourge of gun violence. Not always a natural in the role of national comforter, Trump spoke deliberately, at one point directly addressing children who may feel "lost, alone, confused or even scared." "I want you to know that you are never alone and you never will be," Trump said. "You have people who care about you, who love you, and who will do anything at all to protect you."

This article appeared in the San Antonio Express-News

Texas Tribune - February 15, 2018

After Florida shooting, Texas Sen. John Cornyn plans to talk gun policy with a leading Democrat

Republican U.S. Sen. John Cornyn of Texas said on Thursday that he wanted to sit down with one of the leading Senate Democrats to talk gun policy in the wake of Wednesday's mass shooting at a South Florida high school. At a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California, brought the issue to the fore. "Let’s take some action," she said. "We cannot see this continue on." She then mentioned two areas where compromise might be reached. The first was a "Fix NICS" bill Cornyn sponsored last fall that would hold government agencies accountable for uploading relevant information to the federal background check system.

Politico - February 15, 2018

Priebus on White House chaos: 'Take everything you’ve heard and multiply it by 50'

Reports of chaos and disorganization inside the White House through the first months of President Donald Trump’s administration are accurate, former chief of staff Reince Priebus said. In fact, Priebus said, those reports understated the truth of the Trump administration’s beginnings. “Take everything you’ve heard and multiply it by 50,” Priebus told author Chris Whipple, whose book on White House chiefs of staff, “The Gatekeepers,” will be released in paperback next month with a new chapter on the Trump administration. Excerpts of the new chapter were published Wednesday by Vanity Fair.

Dallas Morning News - February 14, 2018

Watchdog: Under Trump, consumer protection grows so weak you won’t recognize it

Last year's Equifax data hack of our personal information is worse than we thought. We already knew criminals stole 145 million names, birth dates, addresses, Social Security numbers and, for some, driver's license and credit card numbers. Equifax recently admitted to a U.S. Senate committee that tax identification numbers, phone numbers, email addresses and expiration dates on credit cards were ripped off, too. This is crazy important because if a criminal has your cell phone number and email address, she or he could commandeer anti-fraud protections such as two-step identification or password changes and lock you out of your own account.

Austin American-Statesman - February 16, 2018

Weiner, Fleck: 10,000 experts plan to make America ‘evidence-based’ again

Ten thousand of the nation’s leading scientists are gathering in Austin this week to discuss the state of science in the country. High on the list of concerns for the American Association for the Advancement of Science at their annual meeting is the Trump administration’s antagonism to language used widely in the scientific community: “science-based” and “evidence-based.” Apparently, these words are so anathema that the current administration has banned CDC from using them on its websites and in agency directives. When we informed the association that we were working on a piece regarding the bans on these terms, the organization’s press office offered a had a single word reply: “Yeah!” Susan Hockfield, the association’s new president, has said that “working together to clearly articulate the value and importance of scientific research and innovation is more than ever the imperative.”

Houston Chronicle - February 8, 2018

Tomlinson: Don't believe in climate change? Energy companies do

While some conservative political leaders still deny that the Earth is heating up due to humans burning fossil fuels and releasing greenhouse gases, the people who produce those fuels and chemicals have recognized the imperative to limit global warming to a rise of 2 degrees Celsius. Many of these companies are recommending a carbon tax, and others are calling on governments to keep predictable environmental regulations. The pleas for reason coming from corporate boardrooms contrast sharply with the sloganeering coming from Republican politicians. Sara Ortwein, the president of Exxon Mobil subsidiary XTO Energy, last week called for "sound policies and regulations" for methane emissions.

Dallas Morning News - February 9, 2018

Casey: The best thing you can do for school teachers is to vote

Teachers know the work we do every day is crucial to our democracy, our culture, our future. Like master chefs we take the ingredients present in our classes -- bright kids, funny kids, late kids, kids with no pencil, kids with no bed, kids with a headache, a heartache, a trophy. We summon our skills to light a fire under our learners, fusing their sundry flavors, adding piquant spices, until a rich stew of wisdom starts to simmer. Then we get up the next morning and start cooking all over again. There's nothing we won't do to stir our students to be the creme de la creme. Except, it seems, to vote. We get so immersed in our own corner of the kitchen that we fail to attend to the House. And the Senate. And the governor's mansion.

New York Times - February 15, 2018

Halbfinger, Kershner: In Netanyahu’s Israel, the Divisiveness Is Now All About Him

In a trio of new polls, Israelis have declared what they think of the bribery case against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and the answer is roughly the same as what they think of Mr. Netanyahu himself: About half think he should step aside. His right-wing supporters overwhelmingly think he should stay. Mr. Netanyahu’s Israel is as polarized as it has been in generations, and under his lengthy tenure, the national conversation has become steadily more toxic. Now, as the prime minister awaits a possible criminal indictment, his efforts to cling to power could pose even greater strains on a society that already seems at risk of tearing itself apart.

Washington Post - February 13, 2018

Hillary Clinton, a favorite GOP foil, plans discreet 2018 strategy

Her emerging 2018 strategy, according to more than a dozen friends and advisers familiar with her plans, is to leverage the star power she retains in some Democratic circles on behalf of select candidates while remaining sufficiently below the radar to avoid becoming a useful target for Republicans seeking to rile up their base. Most likely, they said, Clinton will attempt to help Democratic candidates who have a history of supporting her and her family, and expending her political capital in a number of the 23 congressional districts she won in 2016 but are now held by a Republican. Lending a hand to Democrats organizing at a grass-roots level is a priority, they added.

Newsclips - February 15, 2018

Lead Stories

Associated Press - February 14, 2018

Group of senators reaches immigration deal on Dreamers, wall

A group of senators reached a bipartisan agreement Wednesday aimed at balancing Democrats' fight to offer citizenship to young "Dreamer" immigrants with President Donald Trump's demands for billions to build his coveted border wall with Mexico. Though the compromise was announced by 16 senators with centrist views on the issue and was winning support from many Democrats, it faced an uncertain fate. Leaders were trying to schedule votes on that plan and three other immigration proposals for Thursday, which they hoped would bring the chamber's showdown over the hot-button issue to a close.

This article appeared in the San Antonio Express News

Washington Post - February 14, 2018

‘A horrific, horrific day’: At least 17 killed in Florida school shooting

PARKLAND, Fla. — A heavily armed 19-year-old who had been expelled from a South Florida high school opened fire on campus shortly before classes let out Wednesday, killing 17 people while terrified students barricaded themselves inside classrooms, police said. The violence unfolded at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High, a school of more than 3,000 students in a tony suburb northwest of Fort Lauderdale where houses sit on broad lots. The Broward County sheriff identified the suspect as Nikolas Cruz, who had recently attended the school but had been kicked out for “disciplinary reasons.” He was captured after a manhunt that transfixed the region and forced a nearby school into a lockdown, said Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel. ... This is at least the third school shooting this year, and one of the deadliest on record. Beginning with Columbine 19 years ago, more than 150,000 students attending at least 170 primary or secondary schools have experienced a shooting on campus, according to a Washington Post analysis of online archives, state and federal enrollment figures, and news stories. That doesn’t count dozens of suicides, accidents and after-school assaults that have also exposed children to gunfire.

Dallas Morning News - February 14, 2018

Communication is key issue in GOP state senate primary fight between Hall and Burkett

To the candidates in the state Senate District 2 Republican primary --Rep. Cindy Burkett R-Sunnyvale and incumbent Sen. Bob Hall, (R-Edgewood) -- the underlying issue in the race could be a failure to communicate. Burkett says her campaign was prompted by "grassroots recruiting" by people who want someone in office who is responsive to their needs. "The last year and a half, I've had several people approach me," said Burkett, 59. "Their main frustration was a lack of communication with our current senator and a lack of effectiveness."

Austin American-Statesman - February 14, 2018

Dawnna Dukes says standing desk fell on her the night of Democratic forum

Rep. Dawnna Dukes, D-Austin, sent praise to medical staff at the Austin Regional Clinic in Round Rock for caring for her after an adjustable standing desk fell on her the night she was supposed to be at a forum for Travis County Democratic candidates. “PAIN is indeed a 4 letter word; & full body sprains do hurt more than breaks,” she said in a Facebook post at 11:17 p.m. on Tuesday. “A varidesk hurts real bad when it slides into you and pens you hard on concrete.” Dukes, who is seeking re-election in House District 46, sent a message Wednesday to the American-Statesman saying she’ll be OK.

State Stories

San Antonio Express-News - February 14, 2018

Bush to resign from Alamo Trust

Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush will resign from the nonprofit board that oversees the Alamo’s daily operations in order to avoid any appearance of a conflict of interest. In a conference call Wednesday with the San Antonio Express-News Editorial Board, Bush said the Senate Finance Committee had recommended he resign “so that there is no appearance of favoritism” between the General Land Office, the state agency he leads, and the Alamo Trust, a subsidiary of the Alamo Endowment that runs the complex.

San Antonio Express-News - February 14, 2018

Uresti co-defendant says lawmaker was angry over fraud

A consultant being tried with state Sen. Carlos Uresti over the pair’s roles at a startup oilfield services company testified Wednesday that the lawmaker was angry that an investor he recruited was being defrauded. But two different spins were put on the testimony of Gary Cain, who spent the morning of the 15th day of the trial being grilled by Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Roomberg — largely over when Cain and Uresti knew there was fraud being committed at the startup, FourWinds Logistics. ... Cain maintained it wasn’t until early 2016 — several months after he parted ways with FourWinds — that he learned the full scope of how officials there mishandled investor funds. But Roomberg hammered away with questions meant to try to show jurors that Cain was not being truthful, and that Cain actually knew about the fraud a month after contracting with FourWinds.

Austin American-Statesman - February 14, 2018

Man key to ruling in Judge Kocurek shooting case doesn’t show in court

A witness in the attempted murder of Travis County state District Judge Julie Kocurek failed to show up to testify in an Austin federal courtroom for the second time Wednesday about a traffic stop connected to the arrest of defendant Chimene Onyeri. With the hearing set to start, the defense informed the court they had lost contact with Onyeri associate Reginald Matthews and that calls to his phone were going straight to voicemail. Matthews of Houston was the only witness set to testify as the defense tries to persuade the judge to suppress evidence that authorities gathered from Onyeri’s cellphone.

Austin American-Statesman - February 14, 2018

ICE denies woman punished for sexual assault allegations

Protesters gathered Wednesday morning outside the T. Don Hutto Detention Center in Taylor alleging a woman had been held in solitary confinement for refusing to recant her allegation that she had been sexually assaulted by a guard. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents placed El Salvadorian immigrant Laura Monterrosa in solitary confinement at the center for 60 hours from 11 p.m. Friday to 11 a.m. Monday, saying she would only be freed from solitary if she took back her story, said Cristina Parker, a spokeswoman for Grassroots Leadership.

Austin American-Statesman - February 14, 2018

Former Baylor University president told employee to delete scandal-related emails, motion claims

Attorneys in a sexual assault lawsuit against Baylor University say they’ve obtained records that suggest a former Baylor interim president told an administrator to delete emails related to the suit. The allegation was in a motion, filed Wednesday, and is the latest development in a federal civil rights lawsuit in which several women have accused the Waco-based university of repeatedly mishandling, ignoring or stifling claims of sexual and physical abuse of students. The attorneys for the 10 women claim in the motion that they’ve obtained an email that shows that then-interim President David Garland wrote to a “high-level Baylor athletics official” and told him, “I would erase the emails.”

Austin American-Statesman - February 14, 2018

Ken Paxton: 3 Texas school districts illegally supported candidates

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton on Wednesday sent cease-and-desist letters to three Texas school districts — Brazosport, Holliday and Lewisville — that he said had illegally used school resources to advocate for political candidates and measures. “My office fully encourages Texas schools to educate their students on civic duties and assist them in registering to vote. But pushing faculty or others to vote for a particular person is a clear violation of the Texas election and education codes,” Paxton said in a news release. Paxton’s letters to the school districts included screenshots of tweets from school district officials.

Austin American-Statesman - February 14, 2018

In YouTube video, ag commissioner candidate gets stabby with hog carcass

The YouTube video posted Wednesday — labeled a political advertisement for agriculture commissioner candidate Trey Blocker — does not appear to be a finished product. And yet, for most of the video, nothing appears out of the ordinary. The Republican challenger to incumbent Sid Miller is standing in front of feral hogs in the early stages of being butchered, presumably by the Wild Boar Meat Company, which posted the video. He talks of the significant problems the hogs pose to agricultural concerns in the state and speaks of his endorsement by the Texas Hog Hunters Association.

Texas Tribune - February 15, 2018

Split Decision: Texas Sen. Craig Estes and primary challenger Pat Fallon face off

State Sen. Craig Estes and his Republican primary opponent, state Rep. Pat Fallon, sat down in separate interviews with The Texas Tribune about their race for Texas Senate District 30. The pair answered the same batch of questions, discussing what separates their candidacies and what their priority issues are. Estes is seeking a sixth term in the Texas Senate. The Wichita Falls Republican said his seniority better positions him to get things done for his North Texas constituents. Fallon, who has represented a Frisco-based district for three terms in the Texas House, said he's running because community leaders in the district tell him Estes has been largely absent.

Texas Tribune - February 15, 2018

Texas Freedom Caucus sees opportunities to grow in 2018 GOP primaries

A feisty coalition of hardline conservatives is looking to grow its ranks with March’s Republican primaries. And to hear some Texas House Freedom Caucus members tell it, that growth is all but guaranteed. “I am certain the Texas Freedom Caucus will grow,” said the group’s chairman, Tyler Republican Matt Schaefer. “A larger Texas Freedom Caucus is a safe bet." Schaefer wouldn’t speculate on specific races or give any clear predictions on size. But others, including state Rep. Matt Rinaldi of Irving, think the caucus could more than double in size in 2019.

Texas Tribune - February 14, 2018

Gov. Greg Abbott compares Sarah Davis to Wendy Davis in latest attack ad

Gov. Greg Abbott is comparing state Rep. Sarah Davis, a fellow Republican, to his 2014 Democratic opponent, Wendy Davis, as he further intensifies his efforts to unseat the West University Place lawmaker. Abbott's campaign is going on TV next week in Sarah Davis' District 134 with a 30-second ad that shows the two Davises side-by-side, tying the Republican to the Democrat's famous 2013 filibuster against abortion restrictions. At the time, Sarah Davis was the only GOP lawmaker who ultimately voted against the legislation that Wendy Davis was filibustering.

Texas Tribune - February 14, 2018

Filing claims Baylor officials may have destroyed emails; university says documents weren't related to sexual assault scandal

Baylor University officials pushed back forcefully Wednesday night against a brief filed earlier in the day in federal court that claims school leaders urged staff to destroy emails and other evidence related to a wide-ranging sexual abuse scandal. The document, the latest missive in an ongoing federal lawsuit against Baylor, was filed by former Democratic state Rep. Jim Dunnam and Houston attorney Chad Dunn, who are representing several anonymous women who have sued the school on the grounds that it failed to comply with the gender-equity law Title IX. Within hours of the document's filing, Baylor officials said they'd "conducted an in-depth electronic review" and found the message at the heart of the brief had been mischaracterized.

Texas Tribune - February 15, 2018

Texas prison system stalls release of public information on executions

The cloud of secrecy surrounding Texas executions has grown a little darker lately. After death penalty defense lawyers claimed the state’s first two executions of the year were botched because of old lethal injection drugs, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice has stalled the release of public information regarding the state’s supply of lethal doses. Without providing a reason, the department told a Texas Tribune reporter last week that it would take an estimated 20 business days — until the day before the state’s next scheduled execution — to provide information on how many lethal doses the state has and when they expire.

Texas Tribune - February 14, 2018

Wakely: A carbon fee could ease Texans’ property tax woes

My wife and I, along with hundreds of thousands of our fellow Texans, just paid our property tax bill, and just like many homeowners suffering from rising property taxes, we didn’t have the money to pay. So, we did what so many of us must do. We borrowed the money, just like we did last year, and paid our tax bill by credit card. State leaders continue to hide the real reason behind rising local property taxes: the failure of state government to adequately fund public education. As a result, you and I will continue to see our local property taxes rise with no end in sight. ... But I have a plan that would help you pay those rising property taxes until a solution to school funding is found. I am proposing that Texas place a $10 carbon fee on the monthly production of crude oil, condensate and total oil, gas well gas, casinghead gas and total natural gas, raising an estimated $6.5 billion dollars a year — a number calculated using production data supplied by the Texas Railroad Commission.

Houston Chronicle - February 14, 2018

Texas natives serve as plaintiffs in lawsuit to federally legalize marijuana

Two Texas natives are key plaintiffs in a civil lawsuit to declare the federal government's classification of cannabis as a Schedule 1 drug unconstitutional. A U.S. district judge in New York will hear arguments for the lawsuit's dismissal Wednesday morning. Marvin Washington, a former NFL player from Dallas, and Alexis Bortell, an 11-year-old intractable epilepsy patient from Tyler, are both challenging the constitutionality of cannabis' categorization as a dangerous drug under the Controlled Substance Act. Washington seeks to legally expand his cannabis-based business to help professional athletes with head injuries. Bortell, who moved with her family to Colorado seeking medical cannabis to treat her seizures, seeks the freedom of flying across the U.S. and visiting federal lands even in states currently without legalized medical marijuana.

Houston Chronicle - February 14, 2018

Another surprise special election win has Democrats bullish on Texas

Upsets in special elections in Wisconsin, Missouri and now Florida have Texas Democrats more convinced than ever that a "blue wave" is developing that will help them make gains in the Republican-dominated state legislature, including in Houston races. "It's definitely a trend," said Rep. Cesar Blanco, an El Paso Democrat who is co-chair of the Texas House Democratic Campaign Committee that focuses on growing the party's numbers. Blanco said the big upsets are showing that the era of Donald Trump Republican politics has created an opening for Democrats to win races, even in places that Republicans are big favorites. The proof? In Florida on Tuesday night, Democrat Margaret Good defeated Republican James Buchanan by 8 percentage points in Florida House District 72 in Sarasota County.

Dallas Morning News - February 14, 2018

Floyd: Grim news, Texas: There really is a tequila shortage

If you're still looking for your lost shaker of salt, better pick up the pace — you might not need it much longer. We're facing a global tequila shortage. It's not just a rumor. As a trained journalist with a keen consumer interest in the aforementioned commodity, I did some poking around. The stories, alas, are lamentably accurate. Tequila is drying up because the slow-growing succulent used to make it, agave tequilana — the renowned blue agave cultivated in the Mexican state of Jalisco — is in short supply.

Dallas Morning News - February 14, 2018

DMN: We recommend Angela Paxton in the GOP primary for state Senate District 8

On the issues, the differences between first-time candidates Angela Paxton and Phillip Huffines are razor-thin. Both are staunch social and fiscal conservatives who are spending big bucks to woo essentially the same far-right Republican primary voters in the conservative state Senate District 8. In their answers to our questionnaire, both candidates are vague on solutions to many of the state's problems, from school finance to property tax reform. While both espouse positions this editorial board would oppose, such as support for the bathroom bill, our nod goes to Angela Paxton, wife of Attorney General Ken Paxton.

Dallas Morning News - February 14, 2018

Richards: Texas needs a new approach to water management before it's too late

Texas summer days are filled with the gasps and laughter of children as they cannonball into cold, refreshing spring-fed swimming holes like Jacob's Well, San Solomon Springs or Barton Springs. The future of these Texas icons is in jeopardy as population growth and climate change stretch thin our precious water resources and complicate water management during our infamous weather extremes. The current water management paradigm in Texas does not adequately promote sustainable water management or, quite frankly, place a priority on sustaining the needs of our environment. These challenges, however, are not unique to Texas. Across the United States and throughout the world, community leaders, water planners, and policymakers are wrestling with how best to manage water to maximize economic and social welfare equitably without compromising the sustainability of vital ecosystems.

Dallas Morning News - February 14, 2018

Texans, early voting for the primary election starts Tuesday. Here's what you need to know

Early voting for the primary election starts Tuesday, and with many contested races in North Texas, voters will have a significant say. It's not a presidential election year, but midterm elections could shake up the state Legislature and Congress. There's a Democrat running for every Texas congressional race this year for the first time in 25 years. Eight Texans will leave the U.S. House before the next term, opening the door for new faces in Washington. One of them, El Paso Rep. Beto O'Rourke, is running against Sen. Ted Cruz in the general election and outraised him in the last quarter.

Dallas Morning News - February 14, 2018

Jeffers: Texas Democrats hoping for blue wave, but organizing best way to win in GOP strongholds

Texas Democrats are hoping that in November, a giant blue wave will sweep them into statewide and local offices. Their hopes are based on the notion that base voters want to avenge Hillary Clinton's stunning loss to Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election, and that anti-Trump voters will flood the polls, even some Republicans, and strike a blow for Democrats. That could happen, maybe, particularly if the energy seen among Democrats lingers until the general election. Trump is indeed unpopular with independent and disgruntled Republicans. But like the Texas weather, politics can change on a dime, and it's hard to forecast what the climate will be months before a critical election.

Dallas Morning News - February 14, 2018

Smitherman: How Texas used a free market to reduce electricity prices and pollution

Electric competition in Texas recently passed its 16th anniversary, and our citizens continue to reap the benefits of a market, rather than a government, allocating energy resources and competing for electricity customers. Recently, the city of Lubbock, the sole electricity provider to city residents, asked to join the competitive market. Moving Texas' third-largest municipal utility, with its 100,000 customers, into the state's unique electricity market is historic and confirms the virtues of competitive electric markets. Prior to electric restructuring, for more than 100 years the provision of electricity in the U.S. was by monopoly utility companies inhabiting specific government-sanctioned geographic areas. For example, Texas Utilities provided electricity in Dallas, Fort Worth and much of North Texas, while Houston Lighting & Power provided it in the Houston area.

Dallas Morning News - February 14, 2018

DMN: We recommend Mark Phariss in the Democratic primary for state Senate District 8

Mark Phariss, an attorney from Plano, is the best of two Democratic candidates looking to fill state Senate District 8, a seat that is now open due to state Sen. Van Taylor's bid for Congress. Phariss, 58, has over 32 years of legal experience in Texas that includes helping to draft state legislation as well as working through the complexities of state law as a business attorney. That knowledge gives him a solid foundation for understanding the issues facing Texans.

Ft. Worth Star-Telegram - February 13, 2018

Senate Democrats’ immigration plan, courtesy of Texas Republican Will Hurd

Senate Democrats are rallying around an immigration plan crafted by one of the House’s leading border experts, San Antonio Rep. Will Hurd — who happens to be a Republican. He's also one of the Texas Democrats' top targets in 2018. The two-term congressman represents more than 800 miles of Texas’s roughly 1,200 miles border with Mexico. He’s made his ability to work with Democrats and his expertise on the border key elements of his re-election pitch in a congressional district that Democrat Hillary Clinton won in 2016.

Texas Observer - February 12, 2018

Bova: Breitbart, Trump and Texas GOP Now Silent on Border Patrolman’s Death

Around 11:25 p.m. on November 18, Border Patrol agents Rogelio Martinez and Stephen Garland were found badly wounded in a 9-foot deep culvert near Van Horn, Texas. Martinez, a 36-year-old El Paso native, later died from his injuries. Right-wing media, the president and Texas GOP leaders quickly formed a political dogpile, declaring that Martinez had been murdered and stressing the need for a border wall — despite no evidence from the FBI, the investigating agency, to back their claims. Now, the FBI and Border Patrol have released evidence suggesting the agents may have fallen by accident, prompting virtually no response from those same conservative media and elected officials.

Associated Press - February 14, 2018

New Texas group opposes bipartisan efforts to end cash bail

A new Texas nonprofit promoting crime victims' rights is opposing bipartisan efforts to end cash bail systems that have gained traction around the country — hitting back at one of the few issues that unified advocates on both the right and left. Kicking off Thursday, the Texas Alliance for Safe Communities wants to strengthen public safety and curb violent crime. The nonprofit says it hopes to preserve "judicial discretion." That means halting bail system overhauls favoring assessments of defendants' danger to the public.

This article appeared in the San Antonio Express-News

County Stories

Houston Chronicle - February 14, 2018

Appeals court approves most of federal ruling that Harris County's bail practices unconstitutional

An appeals court Wednesday upheld most of a federal district judge's historic ruling that changed Harris County's bail practices, agreeing the previous bail system was unconstitutional and unfair to low-level indigent defendants. MOST POPULAR Harris County OKs $105 million renovation of Astrodome Houston homebuilder RG Homes facing new legal trouble HISD needs an audit, not a revolution and deep budget cuts Astrodome renovation plan a win-win Houston First chief ousted after announcing retirement plans Ted Cruz cast lone vote against advancing 'Dreamer' legislation Couple get $8 million for loss of daughter’s body from San... The circuit court, however, ordered her to reconsider her ruling on several matters and revise an injunction it found overly broad. The opinion by the three-judge panel affirmed the Houston lower court's conclusion in April that the county's bail process did not protect poor detainees from bail being imposed as "an instrument of oppression."

Houston Chronicle - February 14, 2018

Smith: Astrodome renovation plan a win-win

Love it. Hate it. Tear it down or recreate it. The decaying, outdated and unused Astrodome is one of Houston's greatest cultural and architectural landmarks. The fact that $105 million now will be used to renovate the former home of the Astros and Oilers - the money finally greenlighted after years of public arguments and following the destruction from Hurricane Harvey - is also very Houston. ... The once-famous Astrodome should still be standing when all of those who now love (and hate) it are gone. If the plan works, Houston will be better off for having honored its history.

Houston Chronicle - February 13, 2018

Houston, Harris County could target buyouts, home elevations, drainage projects with new federal aid

The first half of an anticipated $1 billion in federal grants to harden the Texas coast for future storms through infrastructure projects, home buyouts or elevations and other efforts is up for grabs, state officials announced Tuesday. Gov. Greg Abbott announced the availability of this newest bucket of money in the hard-hit coastal town of Rockport and at Houston City Hall, as Mayor Sylvester Turner and Harris County Judge Ed Emmett looked on. FEMA's Hazard Mitigation Grant Program is a standard aid process triggered after every federally declared disaster.

City Stories

Dallas Morning News - February 14, 2018

Plano councilman apologizes for anti-Islam post that prompted mayor to call him 'unfit to represent us'

A Plano City Council member apologized Wednesday for sharing a Facebook video that he says "wrongfully implied I am anti-Muslim." Tom Harrison posted the apology just before 7 p.m. in the wake of public backlash to his post a day earlier that said "Share if you think Trump should ban Islam in American schools." "My hope is that due to the rightful negative response to my post, that it will spark a renewed discussion about all religions and their place in our public schools," Harrison stated in his Wednesday post.

Austin American-Statesman - February 14, 2018

Austin Regional Clinic studies anti-flu drug in high-risk patients

Austin Regional Clinic is studying a new drug to fight the flu. The drug from Japanese company Shionogi Inc. is known as S-033188 to the Food and Drug Administration or baloxavir marboxil outside of the study. It would be an alternative to Tamiflu. Baloxavir marboxil already has been studied in otherwise healthy people with the flu and showed promise for its rapid reduction of symptoms. The new phase tests the anti-viral medication in people who are considered at high risk.

Austin American-Statesman - February 13, 2018

Brown: Don’t pave paradise to put up a parking lot — or a stadium

Now that Butler Park has been removed from consideration as the site of the proposed Major League Soccer stadium, attention has shifted to an even worse idea: East Austin’s Roy G. Guerrero Park, a wild slice of the Colorado River 10 minutes from downtown that has somehow survived into the 21st century in its natural condition. The very fact that our civic leaders are giving attention to the idea of turning our riverfront parks into big-dollar corporate concessions reveals much about why so many feel Austin has lost its way in its relentless pursuit of growth. For all its pretensions of being a green, outdoor-loving city, Austin is working hard to pave paradise and put up a parking lot — and there would be no surer way to do just that than to put a giant stadium in the woods where the Chisholm Trail once ran.

National Stories

Texas Tribune - February 14, 2018

Sen. John Cornyn: DACA debate should move forward, but bill's fate remains uncertain

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn said Wednesday that a federal judge’s decision to keep the Obama-era’s 2012 deferred action program intact shouldn’t slow current efforts on Capitol Hill to advance a bill that codifies protections for undocumented immigrants but also bolsters border security and rolls back current immigration policies. But the Texas Republican said it's uncertain whether the Senate would get to a vote on a bill this week, and he expressed frustration with Democrats who have since stalled on the negotiations after the government briefly shut down last month over the issue. “President [Donald] Trump has given a deadline of March 5, [but] there could be some intervening court action,” Cornyn said.

Vanity Fair - February 14, 2018

"Who needs a controversy over the inauguration?": Reince Priebus opens up about his six months of magical thinking

Just after six a.m. on January 21, 2017, at his home in Alexandria, Virginia, Reince Priebus was watching the cable morning news shows, getting ready to leave for the White House. Suddenly his cell phone went off. It was Donald Trump. The new president, sworn in less than 24 hours earlier, had just seen The Washington Post, with photos showing Trump’s inaugural crowd dwarfed by that of his predecessor, Barack Obama. The president was livid, screaming at his chief of staff. “He said, ‘This story is bullshit,’?” recalled Priebus. “He said, ‘There’s more people there. There are people who couldn’t get in the gates. . . . There’s all kind of things that were going on that made it impossible for these people to get there.’ . . . The president said, ‘Call [Interior Secretary] Ryan Zinke. Find out from the Park Service. Tell him to get a picture and do some research right away.’?” The president wanted his chief of staff to fix this story. Immediately.

New York Times - February 14, 2018

Judges Say Throw Out the Map. Lawmakers Say Throw Out the Judges.

In Pennsylvania, a Republican lawmaker unhappy with a State Supreme Court ruling on gerrymandering wants to impeach the Democratic justices who authored it. In Iowa, a running dispute over allowing firearms in courthouses has prompted bills by Republican sponsors to slash judges’ pay and require them to personally pay rent for courtrooms that are gun-free. In North Carolina, the Republican Party is working on sweeping changes to rein in state courts that have repeatedly undercut or blocked laws passed by the legislature.

Politico - February 14, 2018

Poll: GOP gains on generic ballot, Trump approval ticks upward

Republicans have erased the Democratic advantage on the generic congressional ballot in a new POLITICO/Morning Consult poll that, for the first time since April, also shows President Donald Trump’s approval rating equaling the percentage of voters who disapprove of his job performance. Fully 39 percent of registered voters say they would support the GOP candidate for Congress in their district, while 38 percent would back the Democratic candidate. Nearly a quarter of voters, 23 percent, are undecided. Voters are split almost evenly along party lines. Democratic voters break for their party, 85 percent to 5 percent, while Republicans similarly favor the GOP, 84 percent to 8 percent. Among independent voters, 26 percent would vote for the Democrat, 25 percent for the Republican and nearly half, 49 percent, are undecided.

Washington Post - February 15, 2018

Trump urges GOP to consider a 25-cent hike in the gas tax

President Trump tried Wednesday to persuade his fellow Republicans to raise the gas tax. In a closed-door meeting on infrastructure with members of both parties, Trump pitched the idea of a 25-cent increase in the gas tax, which hasn't been raised since 1993. There's a growing rift among Republicans about whether it's worth considering a tax hike to fund much-needed upgrades to America's roads and bridges. “To my surprise, President Trump, today in our meeting, offered his support for raising the gas and diesel tax by 25 cents a gallon and dedicating that money to improve our roads, highways and bridges,” said Sen. Thomas R. Carper (D-Del.), who attended the meeting. Carper supports the increase and said “Trump came back to the idea of a 25-cent increase several times throughout the meeting.” The president “even offered to help provide the leadership necessary so that we can do something that has proven difficult in the past,” Carper said.

Politico - February 15, 2018

Scher: The Clock Is Not Ticking on DACA

All of a sudden this week, Republicans are awfully impatient to get an immigration deal done. “This will be our last chance, there will never be another opportunity! March 5th,” tweeted President Donald Trump, referring to the day his executive order set the termination of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. “The clock is ticking” warned Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on the Senate floor. “It’s this week or not at all,” said Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, “We need to get it wrapped up by Thursday.” First of all: What a callous sentiment to express regarding the lives of hundreds of thousands of people who have been left in limbo for years.

Politico - February 14, 2018

Dems: Bill Clinton too toxic to campaign in midterms

Democrats are looking to embrace the #MeToo moment and rally women to push back on President Donald Trump in the midterms—and they don’t want Bill Clinton anywhere near it. In a year when the party is deploying all their other big guns and trying to appeal to precisely the kind of voters Clinton has consistently won over, an array of Democrats told POLITICO they’re keeping him on the bench. They don’t want to be seen anywhere near a man with a history of harassment allegations, as guilty as their party loyalty to him makes them feel about it.

New York Times - February 14, 2018

How an Abundance of Democratic Candidates Could Help the G.O.P. Hold the House

SAN CLEMENTE, Calif. — This is Republican country, at least by California standards. But on a recent night, every folding chair set up in a tidy home on a suburban cul-de-sac was filled with a voter who wanted to meet one of the five Democrats running for Congress here. At first glance, the packed room — eight miles from what was once Richard Nixon’s Western White House — would seem an encouraging sign for Democrats looking to capture Republican districts like this one. This district, held by Representative Darrell Issa, a Republican who is not running again, is a critical part of the Democratic campaign to take back Congress. But the crowded field of candidates running for this open Republican seat spotlights what has become a major concern for Democrats. Under a new voting system in California, the top two vote-getters in the June primary — no matter their party — will face off in the general election in November.

Politico - February 15, 2018

DNC hires new top fundraiser

Three and a half months after firing its top fundraiser, the Democratic National Committee has hired a replacement. Clayton Cox, who has been serving as a senior adviser, will get the job, a DNC official confirmed Wednesday evening. Cox comes in as the DNC finished 2017 having raised half as much money as the Republican National Committee, and entered the midterms year with $6.5 million cash on hand and $6.2 million in debt. The DNC official explained the time it took to hire a new finance director by saying that chair Tom Perez and other leaders conducted a nationwide search interviewing several candidates, but Cox stood out from among them.

Dallas Morning News - February 13, 2018

Leubsdorf: D.C.'s failure to cut debt goes back to Bill Clinton sex scandal

This back-to-back display of budgetary myopia is hardly unique. It's just the latest in a series of decisions over nearly two decades by both parties building toward a day of fiscal reckoning for some future president, if not the current one. The failures all go back to -- of all people -- Monica Lewinsky. The scandal of President Bill Clinton's sexual relationship with the White House intern erupted in January 1998 just when Clinton and House Speaker Newt Gingrich were planning a bipartisan effort to tackle the biggest driver of future federal debt, burgeoning Social Security and Medicare costs. The partisan battle about impeaching Clinton destroyed chances for a historic alliance between the Democratic president and the Republican speaker that could have provided long-term budgetary stability.

AOL - February 12, 2018

Woody: America's foreign policy muscle is withering -- as China beefs up its own

Tillerson — whose planned reorganization the State Department has been criticized by legislators — kept a hiring freeze in place for most of his first year on the job. He eased it at the end of December for eligible family members and announced the expansion of the Expanded Professional Associates Program, which provided bureaus with greater placement flexibility. But the trickle of new employees entering the State Department doesn't compensate for the steady flow of departures, according to former diplomats. Amb. Barbara Stephenson, president of the American Foreign Service Association, said in December that the Foreign Service's "leadership ranks are being depleted at a dizzying speed." When Obama left office, the State Department had five career ambassadors, but with the departure of Tom Shannon, a 34-year State Department veteran, earlier this month, just one remains.

Des Moines Register - February 13, 2018

National push for Convention of States advances to Iowa Senate floor

A proposal to amend the U.S. Constitution to restrict the authority of the federal government was sent to the Iowa Senate floor Tuesday on a bipartisan vote, despite contentions that Americans can already fix problems at the ballot box. Senate Joint Resolution 8 is intended to call a convention of states that would impose fiscal restraints, limit the power and jurisdiction of the federal government, and to ask Congress to propose similar amendments. The measure was approved by the Senate State Government Committee on a 10-5 vote, with two Democrats joining eight Republicans in support.

Washington Free Beacon - February 12, 2018

Iran Unveils New Homemade Nuclear-Capable Ballistic Missiles Amid Massive War Celebrations

Iran unveiled a series of new homemade nuclear-capable ballistic missiles during military parades held over the weekend, a move that experts view as a bid to bolster the hardline ruling regime as dissidents continue efforts to stir protest. On the heels of an encounter between an Iranian drone and Israeli forces, Iranian leaders showcased their ballistic missile capabilities, which includes a nuclear-capable medium-range missile that appears to share similarities with North Korean technology, according to experts.

Dallas Morning News - February 14, 2018

Giovanetti: Public pensions are bad for employees but such fun for bureaucrats

In the course of the Dallas pension crisis we were surprised and shocked to learn that public pension fund managers can somehow go into the office every day, drink coffee and chat with colleagues, attend a parade of meetings and investment presentations, all the while knowing that the pension fund they oversee is an underfunded and underperforming disaster in the making. But surprise and shock is the name of the game when it comes to public pensions. Dozens of pension systems are in even worse shape than Dallas' because the derelictions of management have not been discovered, or because politicians have been unwilling to do the heavy lifting to fix things. According to the actuarial firm Milliman Inc., the 100 largest public pension funds are under 75 percent funded to meet their projected liabilities. This is a taxpayer catastrophe in the making, since for most public pensions, taxpayers are required to make up any gaps or shortfalls in benefits to public retirees. That's why Warren Buffett calls public pensions "gigantic financial tapeworms;" they're going to end up eating everything while their municipalities wither.

Dallas Morning News - February 13, 2018

With a tin cup and toothpaste, Plano Rep. Sam Johnson’s POW history to be displayed at the Smithsonian

It’s a pale green, chipped tin cup. It’s also a vessel that served as Congressman Sam Johnson’s lifeline during years of solitary confinement in North Vietnam. It was with this metal cup, issued by his captors more than four decades ago, that the former U.S. Air Force fighter pilot tapped on a wall to communicate with another prisoner of war, a Navy man, Rear Admiral Robert Shumaker. “We would hold our cups against the wall and it served as an amplifier to hear the tap code,” said Johnson, who spent nearly seven years as a POW and 42 months in solitary confinement after his plane was shot down in 1966.

Newsclips - February 14, 2018

Lead Stories

New York Times - February 13, 2018

Russia Already Plotting to Sway 2018 Elections, Spy Chiefs Say

Russia is already meddling in the midterm elections this year, the top American intelligence officials said on Tuesday, warning that Moscow is using a digital strategy to worsen the country’s political and social divisions. Russia is using fake accounts on social media — many of them bots — to spread disinformation, the officials said. European elections are being targeted, too, and the attacks were not likely to end this year, they warned. “We expect Russia to continue using propaganda, social media, false-flag personas, sympathetic spokespeople and other means of influence to try to exacerbate social and political fissures in the United States,” Dan Coats, the director of national intelligence, told the Senate Intelligence Committee at its annual hearing on worldwide threats.

Wall St. Journal - February 13, 2018

Immigration Debate Puts Spotlight on Texas Republican

No Republican has been more deeply involved in negotiating immigration legislation than Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn of Texas, who says he wants a bipartisan deal. Just what sort of deal he is willing to cut will become clearer this week as the Senate begins voting on immigration. Mr. Cornyn has never used the strident rhetoric of the far right on immigration. But his critics say his modulated comments and sunny disposition mask a far more conservative agenda. Immigration advocates even coined a term, the “Cornyn con,” to describe the notion that he talks a good game but never delivers. Mr. Cornyn says he is committed to passing legislation to protect the young immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally at a young age.

Houston Chronicle - February 13, 2018

Trying to find a campaign event for Land Commissioner George P. Bush? Good luck.

There are six people vying to become the next Texas land commissioner, but voters wanting to ask incumbent George P. Bush some questions may discover he's hard to find. Bush has no public campaign events listed on his campaign website or Facebook page. He has not participated in any of the dozen forums with the other Republicans candidates. Jerry Patterson, his most outspoken opponent who served as Land Commissioner prior to Bush taking office, believes voters don't know how to find Bush on the campaign trail.

San Antonio Express-News - February 13, 2018

Uresti declines to testify on his behalf as lawyers wrap up his defense in criminal trial

Lawyers for state Sen. Carlos Uresti wrapped up their defense in his criminal fraud trial Tuesday, deciding against calling the lawmaker or any of the big names that they previously submitted as potential witnesses on his behalf. Uresti lead lawyer Michael McCrum rested the San Antonio Democrat’s case after the lunch break on the 14th day of the trial. Uresti’s lawyers filed a December court document listing a powerful collection of judges, politicians and lawyers to potentially testify on Uresti’s behalf, including Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, former San Antonio Mayors Julián Castro and Henry Cisneros, state Sen. José Menéndez, state District Judges Peter Sakai and Solomon Casseb III, and Bexar County District Attorney Nico LaHood. “We didn’t think it was necessary,” McCrum said on why the decision not to call Uresti or any of his character witnesses. He also stood by his previous statement that the government hadn’t proven its case.

State Stories

Houston Chronicle - February 13, 2018

HC: For the 2nd Congressional District: Kevin Roberts

Houstonians would be hard-pressed to find a better model congressman than outgoing Republican U.S. Rep. Ted Poe. A longtime member of the Freedom Caucus (until leaving last year), Poe undeniably was a proud right-wing Republican who never let down the core of his party. He also successfully worked to find niche areas important to our city where he could be a driving agent for change. For Poe, a former criminal district court judge, that meant fighting sex trafficking and providing mental health therapy for survivors. Striking that balance between party and district remains the challenge for any effective representative, Democrat or Republican, especially in a political age where gerrymandered districts mean that primary voters hold the real levers of electoral power.

Houston Chronicle - February 13, 2018

Morris: Houston, Harris County could target buyouts, home elevations, drainage projects with new federal aid

The first half of an anticipated $1 billion in federal grants to harden the Texas coast for future storms through infrastructure projects, home buyouts or elevations and other efforts is up for grabs, state officials announced Tuesday. Gov. Greg Abbott announced the availability of this newest bucket of money in the hard-hit coastal town of Rockport and at Houston City Hall, as Mayor Sylvester Turner and Harris County Judge Ed Emmett looked on. FEMA's Hazard Mitigation Grant Program is a standard aid process triggered after every federally declared disaster. The final amount available to Texas will be calculated on the one-year anniversary of the storm making landfall, and will be set at 15 percent of the combined totals of the assistance FEMA provides to individuals and the grants the agency sends to local governments to cover their costs during the storm and in repairing their infrastructure afterward.

Houston Chronicle - February 12, 2018

HC: For Ag Commish: GOP should pick Trey Blocker to replace Sid Miller

"We like to eat, we like to wear clothes and we like to put gas in our cars. All three of those things are affected by the Department of Agriculture." That's how Trey Blocker succinctly describes the importance of the agency he wants to manage. Blocker is unquestionably the best qualified candidate running in the Republican primary for Texas agriculture commissioner. Anybody who's been paying attention to the news coming out of this corner of Austin during the last couple of years knows it needs new leadership. Blocker is a conservative ethics lawyer offended by what he calls "corruption and crony capitalism" in state government, but he's also spent decades working as a lobbyist for the farming and ranching communities.

Dallas Morning News - February 13, 2018

Republicans, Democrats battle to fill retiring Rep. Sam Johnson's seat, open for first time in two decades

Three Republicans and four Democrats want to fill retiring Rep. Sam Johnson's seat, the first time since 1990 that the 3rd Congressional District won't have the war hero from Plano running as the incumbent. All eyes are on the GOP primary race where Van Taylor, who decided against running a second time for his safe state Senate seat, will face off against the lesser-known Alex Donkervoet and David Niederkorn. Taylor, 45, is widely seen as Johnson’s successor and has racked up the endorsements and cash in the red district that stretches from Plano to Blue Ridge, encompassing much of Collin County.

Dallas Morning News - February 13, 2018

Teachers flip the script on campaign to enlist 'whistleblowers' against public schools

When a powerful conservative group, Empower Texans, asked the state’s public school teachers to serve as “whistleblowers,” watching for misuse of school district funds by endorsing or campaigning in the upcoming election, it was a call to action — in more ways than one. The mass mailer roused hundreds of teachers, advocates and former students to rally against the effort on social media, using the hashtag “#blowingthewhistle” to instead highlight teachers and school districts that go the extra mile. For example: “Hey, @EmpowerTexans, I have a colleague who took a kid’s clothes home (in an inconspicuous backpack) every day & washed them for her AND brought it back filled with snacks [because] the kid lived in her mom’s car.”

Dallas Morning News - February 13, 2018

DMN: We recommend Jerry Patterson in GOP primary for land commissioner

We recommend former state Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson over incumbent George P. Bush and two first-time challengers in the Republican primary, giving Patterson the chance to return to the job he held for 12 years. When Patterson, 71, stepped aside to run for lieutenant governor four years ago, voters chose from among a weak field of candidates to put Bush in office. Since then, the General Land Office has been at the center of several troubling controversies. Bush cut staffing at the agency and forced out some experienced staffers to make room for political allies he called "top-flight individuals."

Dallas Morning News - February 13, 2018

DMN: We recommend Carl Sherman Sr. in the Democratic primary for Texas House District 109

Carl Sherman Sr., former mayor of DeSoto, is the best candidate in a four-way race in the Democratic primary in state House District 109, in a bid to replace retiring longtime Rep. Helen Giddings. Sherman, 51, has a depth of experience running cities — he's currently the city manager of Hutchins — that gives him a broader knowledge of the issues in the southern Dallas County district. He has a firm grasp of school finance and would make better funding for public schools a priority. We also like that he would focus criminal justice reforms on better mental health services.

Dallas Morning News - February 13, 2018

DMN: We recommend Cindy Burkett in the GOP primary for Texas Senate District 2

Cindy Burkett's solution-oriented legislative record over her four terms as a state representative shows she knows how to fix the problems that torment Texans. From education funding to child advocacy to transportation, she has listened to her constituents since 2011 and focused her energies on ways to improve their lives. In contrast, Bob Hall's top priority seems to be rigid adherence to the tea party movement. The first-term state senator touts his high marks from scorecard-tallying outsiders, regardless of whether his votes solved problems for constituents of District 2, which stretches eastward from Dallas into seven other counties.

Dallas Morning News - February 13, 2018

Floyd: Garland man's offensive Trump T-shirt just worsens our political culture

Andy Ternay is a bearded bear of a man, a working blacksmith who lives in Garland and loves his dogs and looks a little like Santa Claus' younger brother. He helps his daughter sell Girl Scout cookies. ... His sudden fame derives not from any of the above, per se, but from getting the boot from a Richardson restaurant after he showed up for breakfast wearing a t-shirt emblazoned "[effword] Trump and [effword] you for voting for him." All in caps, all in a very large font. ... Like Ternay, a lot of us are struggling with righteous outrage. But if all we're getting is a whole lot more people willing to use a crude euphemism for the reproductive act in public settings, what exactly are we fixing?

Dallas Morning News - February 13, 2018

DMN: We recommend Miguel Suazo in the Democratic primary for Texas land commissioner

Most every notch on energy attorney Miguel Suazo's resume corresponds with the experience necessary to run the Texas General Land Office. The Austin-based Suazo manages a law firm that specializes in the natural resources negotiations that are at the core of the land commissioner's work. His knowledgeable answers, both during our interview and in his questionnaire, reflect a nuanced balancing of economic, energy and environmental concerns. Suazo, 37, previously served on the staff of U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., working on issues central to the elected office he now seeks: land-use planning, education, environmental protection and veterans' affairs.

Austin American-Statesman - February 13, 2018

First Reading: `My name is Samuel Temple. I am running as the last sane Republican in District 21.’

On a recent Saturday afternoon I met Samuel Temple at a playground at a housing complex on Old Bee Caves Road in Austin that was the site of a sparsely attended voter registration drive and candidate fair. I wanted to talk about his candidacy for the Republican nomination for Congress in the 21st Congressional District. After we talked a while, I said I wanted to make a one-minute video of him explaining why he was running. He said he would give it a try, and he proceeded to give the elevator pitch for his unlikely candidacy – if the elevator was in the Empire State Building. I first encountered Temple, who is from San Antonio, a few days earlier at a forum for the large field of Republican candidates seeking to succeed retiring U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith in TX-21, sponsored by the Travis and Hays Country Republican parties at the Exotic Game Ranch in Creedmoor.

Austin American-Statesman - February 13, 2018

‘Queer Dance Freakout’ planned for Texas Capitol to target Ted Cruz

A year after scores of political protesters held a self-described “Queer Dance Freakout” in front of the Texas Governor’s Mansion, the event’s organizers are taking the party this year to the south steps of the state Capitol. Last year, demonstrators targeted the state’s proposed transgender bathroom bill, state lawmakers' efforts to limit same-sex spousal benefits and recent federal immigration arrests. This year, organizers say the event – part gay pride celebration and part protest – hopes to “energize and rally the Austin queer community to help keep Ted Cruz out of office.”

Austin American-Statesman - February 12, 2018

Williston: Is this the year of community bank regulatory relief?

The calendar has flipped to 2018—a new year filled with great expectations. Will this be the year that comprehensive congressional regulatory relief for community banks finally happens? Many communities throughout Texas have seen their local banks shutter or be absorbed by larger institutions over the last several years because laws and rules, intended to curb the abuses of the nation’s largest “too-big-to-fail” banks, have instead trickled down to negatively impact the smallest. “Too-small-to-survive” is a term used to describe this. Urban and rural communities alike have seen a consistent wave of mergers and acquisitions in community banking. According to federal data on the nation’s 1,980 rural counties, approximately one-third don’t have a local bank and many have no bank at all. Here in Texas, we’ve lost nearly one-third of our banks since 2009.

Texas Tribune - February 13, 2018

In new disclosure, Texas AG Ken Paxton says he received $84,000 in gifts for his legal defense in 2017

Attorney General Ken Paxton, who has been fighting securities fraud charges for most of his first term, collected $84,000 in gifts last year to help pay for his legal defense, he says in a newly released financial disclosure statement. That means he has now gotten a total of over $630,000 for his legal defense from people he has described over the past three years as family friends or others who are not covered by state bribery laws. The $84,000 that Paxton received in 2017 is much less than he received for his legal defense in the two previous years: nearly $218,000 in 2016 and over $329,000 in 2015. State bribery laws say that elected officials cannot accept gifts from parties subject to their authority. But Paxton has justified the contributions to his legal defense by claiming an exemption that allows him to take gifts from people with whom he as a relationship that is “independent” of his “official status."

Texas Tribune - February 14, 2018

Immigration, GOP dollars dominate Democratic primary to replace U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke

EL PASO — The first question at a recent forum in this Democratic stronghold should have been an easy lay-up for the candidates vying to represent El Paso in Washington next year. The moderator asked about immigration, and all of the candidates agreed that young undocumented immigrants, known as "Dreamers," should benefit from a legislative fix that protects them from deportation. But less than a minute into giving her opinion that congressional Democrats had turned their backs on Dreamers last week when they voted to fund the government without an immigration fix, former El Paso county judge Veronica Escobar was interrupted by a heckler. “Tell that to your husband!” a woman shouted.

Texas Tribune - February 14, 2018

Ramsey: On Texas’ high property taxes, there’s plenty of blame to go around

Texas state senators are touchy, touchy, touchy when it comes time to hand out blame for rising property taxes. They’ve spent a decade hacking away at the state’s share of public education spending, and their current refrain is that the local districts have run amok by raising property tax bills. What they don’t like is having anyone — especially an official someone — pointing out the relationship between the state’s declining per-student education spending and the rise in local property taxes.

Texas Tribune - February 14, 2018

Fischer: Texas gets a 10-to-1 return on child support spending, but things could be better

I watch people fill the Aransas County Courtroom, and know I will be entertained, albeit in a cynical sort of way. Nah, it’s not some murder trial where procedures are tedious and boring. Today is Deadbeat Spouses Day, or to be more accurate and less politically correct, Deadbeat Dads Day. The judge, however, refers to it as “Child Support Court.” The bailiff calls out the names of each parent. Observers know that the closer the parents sit to each other, the more likely their case will go smoothly. About 8 or 9 cases in, a mom’s name is read. She says, “here.” But when the presumed dad is called, a large man jumps up and bellows “What are you talking about? I don’t even know her name!”

Texas Tribune - February 14, 2018

Switzer: Concealed carry reciprocity would make Texas less safe

Texas Gun Sense strongly opposes the federal Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act passed by the U.S. House and defended last month in an article in TribTalk. It creates a threat to public safety by forcing states with concealed carry laws to honor permits from states with less restrictive or even non-existent concealed carry laws. At present, 12 states do not require any permit or training to carry concealed guns in public. Altogether 26 states do not require training to obtain a permit. This legislation would allow almost anyone from those states to carry concealed handguns in Texas regardless of whether they satisfy Texas standards. For example, Texas requires background checks before allowing anyone to carry a handgun. A November 2017 Quinnipiac University poll shows that 95 percent of American voters overall, and 94 percent of American voters who live in households where there are guns, support universal background checks.

Texas Tribune - February 13, 2018

Coastal communities hit by Harvey will get $1 billion for hazard mitigation, Abbott announces

Texas communities slammed by Hurricane Harvey can now apply for a share of a half-billion dollars in federal money that will cover everything from buying out flood-prone homes to building new seawalls and restoring sand dunes, Gov. Greg Abbott told an audience in Rockport on Tuesday. The state expects to receive just over $1 billion in hazard mitigation money from the Federal Emergency Management Agency by the one-year anniversary of Harvey’s landfall in late August, Abbott said, but half of that is available immediately. “We want to rebuild in ways that reduce the risk of future damages to property and to lives,” Abbott told a group of local officials in Rockport, which bore the brunt of Harvey’s Category 4 winds and suffered extensive property damage.

San Antonio Express-News - February 13, 2018

Garcia: O’Rourke pushes to turn a campaign into a crusade

Maybe it’s impossible for any Democrat to win a statewide election in Texas in 2018. But if you’re a Democrat hoping to find an opening in this state’s seemingly impenetrable red wall, there’s only one way to do it. You have to create the sense that you’re leading not just a campaign, but a crusade. From the beginning of his underdog quest for Ted Cruz’s U.S. Senate seat, Beto O’Rourke seemed to grasp that point. That’s why the El Paso congressman talks about this year’s election in grand historical terms. During his Tuesday morning East Side town hall at the Ella Austin Center, he argued that this election cycle was the most important one this country has seen since 1860.

San Antonio Express-News - February 13, 2018

Democratic gubernatorial candidates take aim at Abbott

Democrats vying for their party’s nod for governor differed chiefly Tuesday in how harshly they tore into Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, saying the man each hopes to face in November has failed Texans on key issues such as education and health care. “We’re all Democrats. We all believe pretty much the same way … Our priorities need to be such things as education, jobs and health care. Those are the things that are important to all Texans,” former Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez said at the Bexar County Democratic forum at the Central Library. It drew six of the nine candidates on the Democratic gubernatorial primary ballot and was moderated by the local party chairman, Manuel Medina.

Ft. Worth Star-Telegram - February 12, 2018

Republican senators: Day of truth-telling about property taxes full of falsehoods

Tarrant County is now front and center in the fight to lower property taxes. County Judge Glen Whitley has drawn statewide attention for preaching what he believes — that Texans pay high property taxes because the state has long cut back on what it spends to educate public school students — and now a group of local state senators is firing back. "Let's set the record straight. Local property tax rates are set by locally elected officials. Period," according to a letter sent to the Star-Telegram by the Tarrant County Texas Senate delegation. "They are not determined by an informational rider in the state budget as Judge Whitley dishonestly suggests.

Texas Observer - February 13, 2018

At Border Patrol Checkpoints, An Impossible Choice Between Health Care and Deportation

At 17, Lucia Ramos feared she would be killed or kidnapped at her home in the Mexican state of San Luis de Potosi. Terrified and poor, she crossed the Texas-Mexico border illegally in 1999. Years later, her fears came true as her brothers, who were involved in organized crime, were kidnapped from their home. Lucia (not her real name) moved to Laredo, married and had a daughter three years later. Diana was born with scoliosis and no arms, possibly due to an undiagnosed genetic disorder. Without specialized care and surgery, doctors said, Diana’s backbone could eventually bend so much that it could cause her lungs, stomach and heart to shut down.

Texas Observer - February 12, 2018

Prison By Any Other Name

n early September 2015, guards fanned out across Texas with orders to round up about 200 men, rousing some from bed as early as 3 a.m. and demanding they stuff whatever they wanted to keep into black Hefty bags. The men weren’t hard to find. They’d all completed lengthy prison sentences for sex crimes. The state calls them “sexually violent predators,” men required not only to publicly register their whereabouts but also to participate in a court-ordered monitoring and treatment program meant to cure them of “behavior abnormalities” and safely integrate them back into society after they’ve done their penance. At the time of the roundup, most were living in boarding homes and halfway houses.

County Stories

Houston Chronicle - February 13, 2018

Harris County OKs $105 million renovation of Astrodome

Eight months before construction crews are expected to begin renovations work on the now-shuttered Astrodome, some groups already are hatching plans to make use of the famed stadium's nine acres. Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo officials see space for hundreds of commercial exhibitors who were wait-listed even as the annual event shattered attendance records. Ken Lovell, president of the Houston International Boat, Sport and Travel Show, envisions a display of watercraft in the aging stadium harkening back to a 1960s event held there.

Houston Chronicle - February 13, 2018

What data reveals about child abuse in Houston

Last week, newly released federal data shed light on Texas' disturbing increase in child abuse deaths. Between 2015 and 2016, the number of child abuse fatalities grew from 162 to 217, or a 34 percent increase according to the Department of Health and Human Services. Unfortunately, fatalities are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to child abuse. In 2017, investigations by Child Protective Services confirmed 63,657 victims of child abuse or neglect in Texas— roughly an 8 percent increase when compared to the previous year.

City Stories

Austin American-Statesman - February 13, 2018

Protesters call for tougher UT response to professor accused of abuse

About two dozen protesters gathered outside of the University of Texas College of Pharmacy on Tuesday to demand that school officials sanction professor Richard Morrisett, who pleaded guilty to a felony charge accusing him of choking his girlfriend. An American-Statesman investigation published in January revealed that Morrisett had pleaded guilty in 2016 to the felony charge in the domestic abuse case and violated university policy when he failed to notify the university of the criminal charge. Morrisett was also accused of violence in a second incident that sent his girlfriend to the hospital and for violating a court order to stay away from her, records show. He was sentenced to four years under community supervision for the offenses.

Austin American-Statesman - February 13, 2018

Cap Metro long-term plan leaks out, exciting light rail activists

Capital Metro didn’t intend for the map to become public. And it has the word “draft” marked in light gray across the various rail and bus lines arrayed across the Austin area. Even so, light rail supporters in Austin Tuesday were atwitter — literally — after a copy of the proposed Project Connect “high capacity transit system” map emerged on social media. The focus of that perhaps premature excitement: a possible 12-mile, $2.1 billion light rail line cutting up the center of Austin on Guadalupe Street and North Lamar Boulevard. That line, if were to advance from yet another line on a map to reality, would fulfill what has been a several-decade quest for electric-powered passenger rail in Austin.

Dallas Morning News - February 13, 2018

Two Dallas execs at center of national Latino chamber scandal

Two prominent Dallas executives, Javier Palomarez and Nina Vaca, are at the center of a brewing personnel dispute at the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, according to court documents and published reports. The nonprofit group that promotes Latino business interests is reviewing allegations that its CEO, Palomarez, has engaged in sexual harassment and padded his salary, according to a January court filing in Dallas County District Court. Vaca, chairman and CEO of Dallas-based Pinnacle Group, has been on the Hispanic Chamber’s board, but is no longer a member, according to the Chamber’s website. She is chairwoman of the Chamber’s Foundation, its philanthropic arm.

Houston Chronicle - February 13, 2018

Falkenberg: HISD needs an audit, not a revolution and deep budget cuts

One point has largely escaped notice in the debate over Houston ISD's future: The district hasn't had an independent, comprehensive performance review in 20 years. No outsider has been hired to come in and take a good look at HISD's books since then-state Comptroller John Sharp came to town in 1995 as part of his Texas School Performance Review. Such an audit seems vital right now with Superintendent Richard Carranza and leaders on the school board pushing for drastic reforms that reinvent everything from the district's management structure to its celebrated magnet programs.

Houston Chronicle - February 13, 2018

Dawn Ullrich of Houston First ousted after announcing retirement plans

Dawn Ullrich, the president and CEO of Houston First Corp., is retiring from the position she has held since 2011, officials announced Tuesday. UPDATE: Ullrich says she intended to retire at year's end and claims through her attorney that she was improperly dismissed on Tuesday. Ullrich has led Houston First since the city created the quasi-government corporation to manage 11 city-owned facilities, including the George R. Brown Convention Center, the Hilton Americas-Houston, Miller Outdoor Theatre, the Wortham Theater Center and Jones Hall for the Performing Arts. ... Houston First plans to announce a new president and CEO soon "as part of an overall drive to make its operations more forward-looking and efficient," according to a press release.

National Stories

Associated Press - February 13, 2018

Judge rules against Trump in case over immigration program

President Donald Trump's administration didn't offer "legally adequate reasons" for ending a program that spared many young immigrants from deportation if they were brought to the U.S. as children, a judge ruled Tuesday as he ordered the program to continue. U.S. District Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis in Brooklyn said in a written order that the Republican president "indisputably" has the power to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program but relied on flawed legal positions in doing so. "The Trump administration should be able to alter the policies and priorities set by its predecessor," Garaufis said. He said his order does not require the government to grant any particular DACA applications or renewal requests.

This article appeared in the Houston Chronicle

Politico - February 12, 2018

Trump takes aim at blue states in infrastructure plan

Major transportation projects in blue states may be in jeopardy in President Donald Trump’s 10-year infrastructure plan, which critics say favors little-populated rural areas to the detriment of urban America. The White House isn’t being coy about where its priorities lie in the $1.5 trillion proposal, released Monday: Of the $200 billion in actual federal investment called for in the 10-year plan, one-quarter would go to rural areas for purposes as diverse as sewers, highways, airports and broadband. But only 14 percent of people in the U.S. live in non-metropolitan areas. That leaves major transit projects — ranging from a long-planned rail tunnel linking New York and New Jersey to a nascent passenger rail system in California — fighting for the remaining money, $20 billion of which is dedicated to lightly defined “transformative” proposals that will “lift the American spirit.”

Houston Chronicle - February 13, 2018

Ted Cruz cast lone vote against advancing 'Dreamer' legislation

Texas U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz stood alone Monday in voting against a GOP motion to start debate on a new immigration proposal that could resolve the standoff over "Dreamers." The 97-1 vote dramatized the Texas Republican's hardline stance against President Donald Trump's proposal to grant a path to citizenship for as many as 1.8 million young immigrants brought into the country illegally as children. Cruz has frequently derided as "amnesty" any plan that confers legal status or citizenship on people living in the country illegally.

Politico - February 14, 2018

White House imposed a ban on new interim security clearances last fall

The White House quietly imposed a ban on new interim security clearances for anyone in the executive office of the president last fall, but it let existing employees with interim clearances stay on, according to an email obtained by POLITICO. The Nov. 7 internal email to senior leaders at the Office of Management and Budget said the White House personnel security office had advised that it would no longer grant interim security clearances. Pending requests for interim clearances were expected to be denied, though exceptions could be requested, according to the email.

The Hill - February 13, 2018

36 people who could challenge Trump in 2020

The field of Democrats who could jockey for a White House bid in 2020 is growing by the day, as more and more potential candidates are eyed as possible challengers to President Trump. Many potential candidates have sought to stand out from the field through vocal opposition to the Trump agenda — voting against the bipartisan two-year budget deal or calling for the president’s resignation. Here are 36 potential candidates, from top contenders to long shots, who could run in 2020:

Business Insider - February 13, 2018

A US jet destroyed a Russian-made T-72 battle tank in 'self-defense' in Syria

A US jet operating in Syria destroyed a Russian-made T-72 battle tank near Al Tabiyeh, Syria, on Saturday, a Pentagon representative confirmed to Business Insider on Tuesday. "The tank had been maneuvering with coordinated indirect fire on a defensive position occupied by Syrian Democratic Forces and Coalition advisers," US Marine Corps Maj. Adrian J.T. Rankine-Galloway said, adding that the SDF's "position was within effective range of the hostile weapons systems." The US has been training, equipping, and backing the SDF rebels in Syria's civil war for years as Russia has provided similar assistance to forces loyal to the Syrian government in close proximity.

Washington Post - February 13, 2018

Democrat wins legislative seat in Florida as once-sleepy state races heat up in Trump era

SARASOTA, Fla. — Democrats continued a streak of special election wins with a victory along the Gulf Coast of Florida on Tuesday, the 36th red-to-blue switch in a state legislative race since the 2016 election. Democrat Margaret Good triumphed by seven points in the Sarasota-based 72nd District, defeating Republican candidate James Buchanan in an area that backed Donald Trump for president in 2016 by more than four points. The upset is likely to reverberate through the two major parties as they gear up for the midterm election cycle. Although Republicans have been buoyed in recent weeks by the sense that their tax legislation will be popular among voters, and by new polling showing that Trump’s popularity has ticked up, Tuesday’s outcome offers yet another data point that voter enthusiasm lies with Democrats.

Real Clear Politics - February 13, 2018

Sperry: CIA Ex-Director Brennan's Perjury Peril

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes next plans to investigate the role former CIA Director John Brennan and other Obama intelligence officials played in promoting the salacious and unverified Steele dossier on Donald Trump -- including whether Brennan perjured himself in public testimony about it. In his May 2017 testimony before the intelligence panel, Brennan emphatically denied the dossier factored into the intelligence community’s publicly released conclusion last year that Russia meddled in the 2016 election "to help Trump’s chances of victory.” Brennan also swore that he did not know who commissioned the anti-Trump research document, even though senior national security and counterintelligence officials at the Justice Department and FBI knew the previous year that the dossier was funded by the Hillary Clinton campaign.

New York Times - February 13, 2018

Trump’s Longtime Lawyer Says He Paid Stormy Daniels Out of His Own Pocket

Michael D. Cohen, President Trump’s longtime personal lawyer, said on Tuesday that he had paid $130,000 out of his own pocket to a pornographic-film actress who had once claimed to have had an affair with Mr. Trump. In the most detailed explanation of the 2016 payment made to the actress, Stephanie Clifford, Mr. Cohen, who worked as a counsel to the Trump Organization for more than a decade, said he was not reimbursed for the payment. “Neither the Trump Organization nor the Trump campaign was a party to the transaction with Ms. Clifford, and neither reimbursed me for the payment, either directly or indirectly,” Mr. Cohen said in a statement to The New York Times. “The payment to Ms. Clifford was lawful, and was not a campaign contribution or a campaign expenditure by anyone.”

Dallas Morning News - February 12, 2018

Colangelo: Can the president be prosecuted for war crimes in the event of a nuclear strike?

Can U.S. nuclear strike planners and executors be prosecuted for war crimes? Short answer, yes. And the planners are more vulnerable to prosecution than world leaders, such as President Donald Trump. A preliminary question, of course, is what would constitute an illegal nuclear strike order. It is fairly clear that any use of nuclear weapons to achieve military objectives that conventional weapons can otherwise achieve would be illegal. The reason is that the nuclear option would violate principles of the law of war, or what's called humanitarian law, by causing indiscriminate and disproportionate loss of life and superfluous injury, since nuclear weapons are far more catastrophic than conventional weapons. If conventional weapons could achieve the same military objectives, then any order to use nuclear weapons instead would be manifestly illegal, leading to allegations of war crimes.

Dallas Morning News - February 12, 2018

DMN: Future generations will ask, 'So what did you do with the tax cut?'

Two months into the new tax law, there’s a flood of news on how it is trickling down to American workers. Big tax savings for companies are translating into pay raises and bonuses and promises to invest billions in U.S. projects. ... Of course, tax reform comes with a price tag, adding more than $1 trillion to the deficit over the next decade. Our preference is for policies that improve the federal fisc, so what we recommend now is that corporate America make the most of this opportunity to create broad, sustainable economic growth. That means investing tax savings with a long game in mind, which can include hiring more people, spending more on training and development, adopting or investing in new technology that can raise productivity, or pursuing acquisitions that can move the needle for American workers.

Wall St. Journal - February 13, 2018

Israeli Police Recommend Charging Netanyahu With Bribery, Fraud

Israeli police on Tuesday recommended corruption charges be brought against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a move that could lead to a formal indictment and threaten the grip on power of one of U.S. President Donald Trump’s most stalwart foreign allies. The police said prosecutors should charge the Israeli leader for receiving gifts from businessmen, including billionaire Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan and Australian billionaire James Packer, according to a statement. They also said Mr. Netanyahu tried to negotiate favorable coverage in a newspaper in return for limiting the influence of another daily. The police announcement is expected to bolster calls for Mr. Netanyahu to step down. A monthslong police investigation has sparked sporadic street protests and fueled public debate over whether the country’s longtime leader and his family have abused the privileges of the prime minister’s office.

MarketWatch - February 13, 2018

How Wall Street’s ‘fear gauge’ is being rigged, according to one whistleblower

One of the most popular measures of volatility is being manipulated, charges one individual who submitted a letter anonymously to the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. The letter makes the claim to regulators that fake quotes for the S&P 500 index SPX, +0.26% are skewing levels of the Cboe Volatility Index VIX, -2.50% which reflects bearish and bullish options bets 30-days in the future on the S&P 500 to gauge implied stock-market volatility. The whistleblower’s claims are consistent with those documented by John Griffin, professor of finance at the University of Texas and Ph.D. candidate Amin Shams in May 2017 in research that says the cost of manipulating less-liquid SPX options would be more than paid for by a successful bet on the direction of the VIX. The paper is consistent with the whistleblower’s conclusion—that manipulators are moving prices of the SPX options by spoofing at settlement—entering quotes for trades that are never executed—to “paint the tape” and, therefore, influence the value of expiring VIX derivatives.

New York Times - February 12, 2018

His 2020 Campaign Message: The Robots Are Coming

Among the many, many Democrats who will seek the party’s presidential nomination in 2020, most probably agree on a handful of core issues: protecting DACA, rejoining the Paris climate agreement, unraveling President Trump’s tax breaks for the wealthy. Only one of them will be focused on the robot apocalypse. That candidate is Andrew Yang, a well-connected New York businessman who is mounting a longer-than-long-shot bid for the White House. Mr. Yang, a former tech executive who started the nonprofit organization Venture for America, believes that automation and advanced artificial intelligence will soon make millions of jobs obsolete — yours, mine, those of our accountants and radiologists and grocery store cashiers. He says America needs to take radical steps to prevent Great Depression-level unemployment and a total societal meltdown, including handing out trillions of dollars in cash.

Dallas Morning News - February 13, 2018

Palomarez denies charges, says he resigned as U.S. Hispanic Chamber CEO to end infighting

Javier Palomarez said Tuesday that he had stepped down from his post as CEO of the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce to end "infighting" among board members of the Latino business group. "The board has been very divided. I was the spark driving it, and I was the problem and had to recognize that," Palomarez said in an interview with The Dallas Morning News. "There was a lot of energy and time and acrimony built up defending attacks when they were supposed to be focused on what's right for the agency." The Flower Mound resident had commuted to Washington, D.C., for years to run the agency. The chamber is the voice of Hispanic entrepreneurs, and instead of pursuing that narrative, he said, "we were so busy with infighting."

Politico - February 11, 2018

Devin Nunes creates his own alternative news site

LOS ANGELES — House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, a relentless critic of the media, has found a way around the often unflattering coverage of his role in the Trump-Russia investigation — by operating his own partisan news outlet. Resembling a local, conservative news site, “The California Republican” is classified on Facebook as a “media/news company” and claims to deliver “the best of US, California, and Central Valley news, sports, and analysis.” But the website is paid for by Nunes’ campaign committee, according to small print at the bottom of the site. Leading the home page most recently: a photograph of Nunes over the headline, “Understanding the process behind #ReleaseTheMemo.”

Newsclips - February 13, 2018

Lead Stories

The Hill - February 12, 2018

White House releases 55-page, $1.5 trillion infrastructure plan

The White House on Monday officially released a 55-page proposal for President Trump's long-awaited infrastructure overhaul. The plan puts forth a framework for lawmakers to craft legislation for a $1.5 trillion infrastructure package that would focus on public-private partnerships and funding from state and local governments. The plan is structured around four main goals: generating $1.5 trillion for an infrastructure proposal, streamlining the permitting process down to two years, investing in rural infrastructure projects and advancing workforce training.

San Antonio Express-News - February 12, 2018

Trump public works plan relies heavily on state money

A long-awaited infrastructure plan President Donald Trump sent to Congress Monday aims to spur investment in the nation’s ailing highways and bridges, but provides little in the way of a road map for Texas and other states looking for ways to pay for new construction. The plan, which Trump said is intended to “help the states out,” calls for the federal government to invest $200 billion over the next decade to leverage as much as $1.5 trillion in state and private infrastructure spending. Cities like Houston could use the money for new water projects, road building or public transit. But there’s a catch for state and local officials: the bulk of the funding would have to come from their own coffers, either by borrowing, taxing, tolling, or cutting budgets.

Houston Chronicle - February 12, 2018

Ted Cruz cast lone vote against advancing 'Dreamer' legislation

Texas U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz stood alone Monday in voting against a GOP motion to end debate on a new immigration proposal that could resolve the standoff over "Dreamers." The 97-1 vote dramatized the Texas Republican's hardline stance against President Donald Trump's proposal to grant a path to citizenship for as many as 1.8 million young immigrants brought into the country illegally as children. Cruz has frequently derided as "amnesty" any plan that confers legal status or citizenship on people living in the country illegally. "I do not believe we should be granting a path to citizenship to anybody here illegally," Cruz said at the Capitol last month shortly after Trump broached the idea of offering a path to citizenship for Dreamers in exchange for border wall funding.

Texas Tribune - February 12, 2018

Trial begins in case targeting Texas' statewide elections of judges

El Paso lawyer Carmen Rodriguez and Juanita Valdez-Cox, a community organizer in the Rio Grande Valley, live hundreds of miles from each other, but they share an electoral grievance that could upend the way Texans fill seats on the state’s highest courts. For years, Rodriguez and Valdez-Cox have noticed that campaigning for the Texas Supreme Court and Court of Criminal Appeals hardly reaches their corners of the state. And it’s left them feeling so neglected and undermined as voters that they decided to the sue Texas over the statewide election system it uses to fill seats on those courts. “I think every vote should count and should have equal weight as much as possible,” Rodriguez testified in federal court on Monday on the first day of a week-long trial in a case challenging the state’s current election method for the Texas Supreme Court and Court of Criminal Appeals.

State Stories

San Antonio Express-News - February 12, 2018

Texas donors to Democrat outpaced giving to the Republican in heated Alabama race

One of the biggest upsets in recent political history came at least partially thanks to Texans and their wallets. Texas donors, including H-E-B Chairman and CEO Charles Butt, ended up giving nearly $1 million to Alabama Democrat Doug Jones, who narrowly defeated Republican Roy Moore in one of the most contentious special elections in the nation late last year. Moore, 70, was besieged by allegations that he had inappropriate relationships with teenage girls in Alabama when he was in his 30s — charges Moore denied. Moore lost to Jones, a former U.S. attorney best known for prosecuting two Ku Klux Klansmen who killed four black girls in Birmingham’s infamous 1963 church bombing.

San Antonio Express-News - February 12, 2018

After killings, Pentagon added thousands of dishonorable discharge cases to FBI database

In the weeks after Devin Patrick Kelley gunned down 26 people in a Sutherland Springs church Nov. 5, the U.S. military sent more than 4,500 dishonorable discharge records to an FBI database used to prevent former service members from obtaining firearms. Kelley, 26, of New Braunfels had been kicked out of the Air Force after serving time for a 2012 domestic assault and child abuse conviction. The service did not report his case to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System database, which would have prevented him from legally buying four firearms after his discharge — one of which was used in the killings.

San Antonio Express-News - February 12, 2018

Texas rancher sues feds, state after finding surveillance camera on his property

LAREDO — A long-running feud between a South Texas rancher and the Border Patrol has escalated into a civil lawsuit after the rancher confiscated a surveillance camera he found on his property. The suit filed by Ricardo D. Palacios, a lawyer who lives on a ranch near Encinal, north of Laredo, against federal agents and a Texas Ranger raises questions about how much leeway law enforcement officials have to enter private property near the border. Congress has given the Homeland Security Department permission to patrol private property within 25 miles of the border without a warrant, but experts say the courts have never defined how much authority agents have on private land. Federal agents cannot enter “dwellings” without a court order.

San Antonio Express-News - February 12, 2018

Taylor: Texas taxpayers should be wary of Amarillo’s $45.5 million baseball stadium deal

On Feb. 1, the city of Amarillo broke ground on their brand new $45.5 million publicly-funded baseball stadium downtown, the future home of San Antonio’s minor league Missions baseball team. As I wrote about last week, I dislike these public-money stadium deals, for two reasons. First, the promised “economic development” too often is an illusory sales pitch that never comes true. Second, I get mad because sports teams owners should build their own doggone stadiums rather than depending on tricks with public dollars. Despite my distaste, it’s useful to study these things to understand how they might come about.

Austin American-Statesman - February 12, 2018

PolitiFact: Texas tops in feral pig population

A publication aimed at farmers and ranchers says Texas is home to most of the nation’s feral pigs. Southwest Farm Press declared in a January news story that while 39 states have reported wild pig problems, “Texas is home to more feral pigs than any other state — an estimated 50 percent to 75 percent of all feral swine in the nation.” ... Texas remains home to the most feral hogs, we confirmed, but estimates put Texas’ share of the overall feral hog population at about one-third — considerably short of 50 percent to 75 percent. We rate this claim Half True.

Austin American-Statesman - February 12, 2018

Texans see little sizzle in Trump infrastructure plan

The Trump administration’s infrastructure plan, with its heavy reliance on the private sector and federal loans, landed Monday at a time when those approaches to building highways have fallen out of fashion in Texas. The administration’s plan is centered on using $200 billion in federal money to leverage more than $1 trillion in local and state tax dollars, as well as private investment, to fix America’s infrastructure, such as roads, highways, ports and airports. Given the Trump plan’s offering of only $200 billion in federal dollars over 10 years, plus the chilly political climate in Texas lately toward toll roads, the reaction from some transportation officials and activists was somewhere between muted and dismissive.

Texas Tribune - February 13, 2018

He’s been a Texas Supreme Court justice for a month. Now Jimmy Blacklock must become a candidate.

Jimmy Blacklock is new to this — so new that the card outside his Texas Supreme Court office still has the old occupant's name on it; so new to the court that even his extensive collection of law books has yet to completely fill the wood shelves of his sunny office on the Capitol grounds; so new that the velcro hanging strips stuck on his walls do not yet bear decorations. Blacklock, 37, has experience with the law — he boasts stints in the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, the state attorney general's office and as general counsel to Republican Gov. Greg Abbott. But 2018 marks the first year he'll sit on the bench. And it will also be his first time running a campaign — at least since his successful bid to lead the Yale Law Republicans (an uncontested race, as he recalls).

Texas Tribune - February 13, 2018

Ted Cruz goes all in for 2 former staffers in crowded races for U.S. House seats

NEW BRAUNFELS — A number of attendees at a mid-morning rally here for Chip Roy, a Republican candidate for Texas' 21st Congressional District, admitted they didn't know much — if anything — about Roy. But they did know one thing: He's been endorsed by his former boss, U.S. Sen Ted Cruz, and that counts for something in the most consequential part of an election year in Texas: the GOP primaries. "Never heard of him at all, but if Ted Cruz supports him," Eddie Toro of Kyle said as he left the event with his wife, "we support him as well."

Houston Chronicle - February 12, 2018

Grieder: Andrew White is trying to do the right thing by running for Texas governor

Would Houston-based businessman Andrew White be a good governor? This is a question that none of us has really considered since White announced his bid for the Democratic nomination back in December. It's one that the candidate himself, for that matter, hasn't directly engaged. His pitch to primary voters, understandably enough, has centered on his potential crossover appeal. In a tweet pinned to the top of his timeline, for example, White describes himself as "a common sense Democrat with the best chance of beating Greg Abbott." "People in the Democratic Party are tired of moral victories," White told me this week over lunch at Frank's Americana, after showing me how to use what I would describe as an unnecessarily complicated salt shaker.

Houston Chronicle - February 12, 2018

Tear gas, pepper spray use up in Texas prisons, including on suicidal inmates

As violence behind bars continues to rise, Texas prisons over the past 10 years have seen a 71 percent increase in the use of chemical agents on inmates, often those attempting suicide or self-harm. The shift comes amid an increase in the number of violent offenders and a growing mentally ill population - factors that prison officials and officers cite in explaining the growing reliance on tools like pepper spray and tear gas. "It might be controversial, but when you have somebody who's cutting himself with a razor blade, that's the best approach," said Lance Lowry, a Huntsville officer and former union president. "Their focus goes from, 'Hey, I wanna kill myself' to, 'Hey, this stuff burns.'"

Houston Chronicle - February 12, 2018

Abbott to announce 'hundreds of millions' of dollars to mitigate future floods, disasters

Cities and counties inundated by Hurricane Harvey will have an opportunity to tap hundreds of millions of dollars for disaster mitigation projects, the governor office plans to announce Tuesday. The program will offer city and county governments a chance to submit projects -- such as buyout programs, drainage projects, flood retention and elevation changes -- they want the hazard mitigation funds to cover. The governor's office said the program would make "hundreds of millions" of dollars available, but declined to release a specific dollar amount. The money is separate from the nearly $90 billion Congress approved last week for disaster recovery in Texas and other states ravaged by disasters like hurricanes and wild fires.

Houston Chronicle - February 12, 2018

Trump infrastructure plan relies on states for bulk of $1.5 trillion

A long-awaited infrastructure plan President Donald Trump sent to Congress Monday aims to spur investment in the nation's ailing highways and bridges, but provides little in the way of a roadmap for Texas and other states looking for ways to pay for new construction. The plan, which Trump said is intended to "help the states out," calls for the federal government to invest $200 billion over the next decade to leverage as much as $1.5 trillion in state and private infrastructure spending. Cities like Houston could use the money for new water projects, road building or public transit. But there's a catch for state and local officials: the bulk of the funding would have to come from their own coffers, either by borrowing, taxing, tolling, or cutting budgets.

Dallas Morning News - February 12, 2018

Disability rights group threatens to sue Texas for not offering voter registration services

Advocates accused Texas of failing to provide voter registration services to thousands of people with disabilities in a letter sent Monday to state agencies. Under the National Voter Registration Act, Texas must provide the services to people who receive job training from the state. The Coalition of Texans with Disabilities said the Texas Workforce Commission has failed to do so since taking over the state's job training responsibilities in September 2016. Lawyers for the coalition allege that each year, between 74,000 and 100,000 Texans with disabilities are not being offered voter registration services. If the commission is not brought under compliance, the advocates say they are prepared to sue the state to force it to resume the voter registration services.

Dallas Morning News - February 12, 2018

Texas, are you ready for a tax cut windfall?

Who doesn't love a giant tax cut? In December, Republicans and President Donald Trump pushed through major tax reforms that will reverberate for years. The new law cuts corporate and individual taxes by almost $1.5 trillion over the next decade, a prospect that helped push the stock market to record highs. Hundreds of companies announced one-time bonuses, pay raises and new investments. The big downside? The tax cuts are projected to balloon the deficit by $1 trillion. Apparently, that's a problem for another day — and perhaps another presidential administration. Why business is celebrating: The biggest tax cut in the law goes to corporate America, which had paid one of the highest rates in the world. Now its tax rate is lower than the global average. "Pass-through" entities also get a 20 percent deduction on income tax, a boon for small businesses.

Dallas Morning News - February 12, 2018

President Trump names Gov. Abbott’s general counsel to federal appeals court

President Donald Trump has tapped Gov. Greg Abbott’s general counsel, Andrew Oldham, to serve as a judge on the 5th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals. The announcement Tuesday comes after Abbott named Oldham to the position Jan. 2, when former general counsel Jimmy Blacklock was appointed to the Texas Supreme Court. Abbott said at the time that he looked forward to working with Oldham and thanked him for his service to the state. "Andy is a brilliant mind with a strong legal background, having served as Legal Counsel at the U.S. Department of Justice and as a law clerk to Justice Samuel A. Alito, Jr. on the United States Supreme Court," Abbott said in a January press release.

Dallas Morning News - February 12, 2018

Jeffers: Who's the luckiest of seven? Democrats fight for chance to challenge Pete Sessions

When Hillary Clinton beat Donald Trump in Dallas-area's Congressional District 32, it was a clarion call for Democrats looking to knock off Pete Sessions, the longtime lawmaker who has represented the area since 2003. The theory: If Clinton won the district in 2016, a strong Democratic candidate could ride an anti-Trump wave and beat Sessions in the 2018 mid-term elections. Now seven Democrats are vying in their party's primary, with the winner advancing to the general election against Sessions, who has light opposition in the GOP primary. Five of the contenders are considered viable candidates in a contest that's expected to be settled in a May runoff between the top two finishers.

ProPublica - February 12, 2018

Houston-Area Officials Approved a Plan for Handling a Natural Disaster — Then Ignored It

Seven months before Hurricane Harvey inundated the Houston area with a trillion gallons of water and led to widespread criticism of the Red Cross, Harris County adopted a disaster-preparation plan that’s key assumption was that the Red Cross would be slow to act. “In a major disaster where there is widespread damage, the local resources of the Red Cross may be overwhelmed and not available immediately,” stated the plan. “It may be upwards of 7 days before the Red Cross can assume a primary care and shelter role.” The 17-page document, entitled the “Mass Shelter Plan,” was unanimously approved by the county’s governing body on Jan. 31, 2017. ProPublica obtained the plan, which until now has not been public, as part of a public records request.

County Stories

Houston Chronicle - February 12, 2018

Trump's proposed NASA budget focuses on human exploration, eliminates education office

Robert Lightfoot envisions a world 12 years from now where astronauts further study the moon, scientists have determined if oxygen can be harvested from the Martian atmosphere, and samples have been collected from Mars for study. All this and much more is possible if Congress approves President Donald Trump's $19.9 billion request for NASA's fiscal year 2019 budget, said Lightfoot, the space agency's acting administrator. "We are once again on a path to return to the moon with an eye toward Mars," Lightfoot said Monday. "This time we are leveraging the multiple partners both here at home and internationally in developing a sustainable approach where the moon is simply one step on our truly ambitious long-term journey to reach out farther into the solar system to reap the economic, societal, and expanding knowledge benefits such an endeavor will bring," he said during a State of NASA presentation.

Dallas Morning News - February 12, 2018

$48 million once meant for toll road will be diverted to Trinity levees

Tens of millions of dollars once set aside for a road along the Trinity River will now be diverted toward flood control, years after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers told Dallas City Hall it needed to address the aging levees. Members of the Dallas City Council's Mobility Solutions, Infrastructure & Sustainability Committee were told Monday that $48 million in 1998 bond funds will be spent raising and flattening stretches of the levees that constitute the Dallas Floodway System. The floodway, created in 1929 and modified since, runs from the Elm Fork in the north to the Santa Fe Trestle in the south.

Austin American-Statesman - February 12, 2018

New program expands voter registration effort at Travis County Jail

The Travis County sheriff’s office on Monday began training about two dozen volunteers to help an underrepresented population register to vote — county jail inmates — as part of a new effort to increase Texas participation in elections. Travis County Voter Registrar Bruce Elfant said the vast majority of the county’s jail inmates are eligible to vote, because they are either being held on misdemeanor charges or awaiting trial and have not yet been convicted of a felony, which would bar them from voting. But most don’t know that, he said. “I hope that eligible inmates will embrace the opportunity to have their perspectives represented in our elections,” said Elfant, who is also the county’s tax assessor. “Regardless of their circumstances, their votes count just like any other vote.”

City Stories

Dallas Morning News - February 12, 2018

How DISD suffers if Congress doesn't act on immigration reform

How sad it's come to this: Dallas ISD is pressed to come up with plans to help students who might come home to find their parents or guardians have been swept up in raids by U.S. Immigration and Custom Enforcement agents. The district is smart to plan ahead, especially since it's believed that thousands of students (the district can't ask immigration status) could be affected here. It's disheartening to think of these young people suddenly without the loved ones charged to take care of them. Exactly where are these kids supposed to go?

Dallas Morning News - February 12, 2018

Fort Worth mayor likens Trump's infrastructure push to Eisenhower's interstate plan

President Donald Trump on Monday unveiled his long-awaited plan to boost the nation’s crumbling infrastructure, pledging that he would deliver to the “American people roads that are fixed and bridges that are fixed.” And Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price was there for the test drive. Price — whom Trump has described as a “fantastic friend” — was the only Texan among a group of state and local leaders to gather in the White House’s state dining room for a presidential pitch on how $200 billion in direct federal spending could spur $1.5 trillion in overall investment. Though the proposal is a long way from the finish line, the mayor said she was “fairly confident that this is going to happen.”

KVUE - February 6, 2018

Can a convicted felon run for office? Austin may soon find out

On the surface, this looks like a fairly standard campaign event. The center of attention is anything but. "I felt like he pulled a gun on me, and I killed him in self defense," explained Lewis Conway Jr., a candidate for District 1 Austin City Council Member, as he stood near a row of tables at a fundraising event in North Austin. Lewis Conway Jr. doesn't hide his past. In 1992, Conway accepted a plea deal for voluntary manslaughter.

National Stories

Washington Post - February 12, 2018

Trump wants to overhaul America’s safety net with giant cuts to housing, food stamps and health care

The budget that President Trump proposed Monday takes a hard whack at the poorest Americans, slashing billions of dollars from food stamps, public health insurance and federal housing vouchers, while trying to tilt the programs in more conservative directions. The spending plan reaches beyond the White House’s own power over the government social safety net and presumes lawmakers will overhaul long-standing entitlement programs for the poor in ways beyond what Congress so far has been willing to do. The changes call on lawmakers to eliminate the expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act and transform the rest of that program into a system of capped payments to states; convert food assistance into a hybrid of commodity deliveries and traditional cash benefits; and expand requirements that low-income people work to qualify for federal assistance.

Politico - February 12, 2018

McConnell’s immigration gamble

Mitch McConnell is taking the reins of an immigration debate that may prompt a fix for “Dreamers” — or quickly spiral out of control. Usually careful with his every move, the Senate majority leader is taking a gamble this week with his pledge for a free-for-all debate over the fate of hundreds of thousands of young undocumented immigrants. No one knows the GOP leader’s endgame, nor how he personally prefers the stalemate over Dreamers to be resolved. It’s highly unusual for a Senate majority leader, particularly one as calculating as McConnell, to bring a divisive issue to the floor with no clearly intended result in sight.

The Hill - February 9, 2018

Dems left Dreamers out to dry, say activists

Immigration activists are furious that 73 House Democrats, including seven members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, voted for a bipartisan spending bill that doesn't include a DACA fix. The early-morning House vote ended a brief government shutdown precipitated by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), and in the process passed a two-year spending proposal that included a bevy of Democratic priorities, but not immigration. “Last night immigrant young people and people of conscience fighting for justice were betrayed by both parties,” said Greisa Martínez Rosas, a DACA recipient and advocacy director for United We Dream, an immigrant youth activism network.

Politico - February 12, 2018

Trump's HHS worked with conservative group on Planned Parenthood policy

A conservative legal organization worked with the Trump administration to make it easier for states to defund Planned Parenthood, according to documents obtained by congressional Democrats and shared with POLITICO. HHS last month told states they no longer have to comply with Obama administration policy that made it difficult for states to exclude the women's health group from their Medicaid programs — an announcement timed to the March of Life anti-abortion rally. HHS received a draft legal analysis from the conservative Alliance Defending Freedom a week before the announcement, according to House Oversight Committee ranking Democrat Elijah Cummings. Cummings cited a whistleblower who shared emails and documents.

Bloomberg - February 12, 2018

Campaign Workers Unionize Just in Time for Midterm Elections

Several Democratic congressional campaigns have agreed to bargain collectively with the Campaign Workers Guild, a new union trying to organize election campaign staff in what may be a first for national politics. The CWG announced Monday that it had secured a union contract with the campaign of Wisconsin activist Randy Bryce, the leading Democratic challenger to Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan in this year’s midterm elections. Campaign staffers are the latest professional targets for labor organizers. While overall U.S. unionization remained at a record-low 10.7 percent, last year saw membership in the overwhelmingly non-union professional and technical services sector grow by close to 90,000 members, bringing the total number of unionized American workers to 14.8 million, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data.

The Hill - February 8, 2018

White House to give phones to senior advisers for political calls

The White House will allow as many as a dozen senior advisers to receive additional cell phones so that they can contact the Republican National Committee (RNC) regarding the fall midterm elections, officials said Thursday. A White House official, who was granted anonymity to describe the plan, said the arrangement was made in order to allow certain senior advisers to “conduct political activity during core working hours,” when personal devices are not permitted inside working areas of the White House. Advisers could begin to receive the devices in a matter of days, according to the official. The White House isn’t saying which staff members will have an RNC phone.

New York Times - February 12, 2018

Brooks: The End of the Two-Party System

Back in the 1990s, there was an unconscious abundance mind-set. Democratic capitalism provides the bounty. Prejudice gradually fades away. Growth and dynamism are our friends. The abundance mind-set is confident in the future, welcoming toward others. It sees win-win situations everywhere. Today, after the financial crisis, the shrinking of the middle class, the partisan warfare, a scarcity mind-set is dominant: Resources are limited. The world is dangerous. Group conflict is inevitable. It’s us versus them. If they win, we’re ruined, therefore, let’s stick with our tribe. The ends justify the means. The shift in mentalities seems like a shift in philosophy. But it’s really a shift from a philosophy to an anti-philosophy. The scarcity mind-set is an acid that destroys every belief system it touches.

Reuters - February 12, 2018

Russians killed in clash with U.S.-led forces in Syria, say associates

Russian fighters were among those killed when U.S.-led coalition forces clashed with pro-government forces in Syria this month, former associates of the dead said on Monday. A U.S. official has said more than 100 fighters aligned with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad died when coalition and local coalition-backed forces thwarted a large attack overnight on Feb. 7. Russia’s Defence Ministry, which supports Assad’s forces in the Syrian civil war, said at the time that pro-government militias involved in the incident had been carrying out reconnaissance and no Russian servicemen had been in the area.

Washington Examiner - February 12, 2018

York: Comey told Congress FBI agents didn't think Michael Flynn lied

According to two sources familiar with the meetings, Comey told lawmakers that the FBI agents who interviewed Flynn did not believe that Flynn had lied to them, or that any inaccuracies in his answers were intentional. As a result, some of those in attendance came away with the impression that Flynn would not be charged with a crime pertaining to the Jan. 24 interview. Nine months later, with Comey gone and special counsel Robert Mueller in charge of the Trump-Russia investigation, Flynn pleaded guilty to one count of making false statements to the FBI in that Jan. 24 questioning. What happened? With Flynn awaiting sentencing — that was recently delayed until at least May — some lawmakers are trying to figure out what occurred between the time Comey told Congress the FBI did not believe Flynn lied and the time, several months later, when Flynn pleaded guilty to just that.

Washington Post - February 12, 2018

Bump: A number of Republicans appear to be becoming independents

Charles Franklin, director of the Marquette Law School Poll, made an interesting observation over the weekend: The number of Americans who identify as Republican dropped in 2017, and the group that benefited appears to be independents. There is an interesting connotation to this. President Trump’s low approval ratings (which have improved recently) are often discussed with an asterisk. He may be unpopular, but among Republicans he’s still viewed positively. But if there are fewer Republicans now than there were when he took office, that Trump maintained their support seems less impressive. If six of your 10 friends like your spouse, but then three of the four who don’t like your spouse decide they don’t want to be your friend anymore, it’s not exactly a good sign if six of your remaining seven friends are still supportive.

New York Times - February 12, 2018

Bergman: The Middle East’s Coming War

In the early hours of Saturday morning, the Middle East was on the brink of yet another war. During the night, according to my high-ranking sources, Israel’s intelligence services had been tracking an Iranian drone that was launched by the Quds division of Iran’s elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps from the Tiyas air base in central Syria. A minute and a half after the drone entered Israeli airspace, an Israeli Air Force attack helicopter shot it out of the sky. Simultaneously, eight Israeli fighter jets fired missiles at the drone’s command and control center at Tiyas, blowing it up, along with the Iranians manning the center. (Iran has denied that its drone was shot down or that its troops were killed.)

Washington Post - February 12, 2018

Syria’s war mutates into a regional conflict, risking a wider conflagration

A war that began with peaceful protests against President Bashar al-Assad is rapidly descending into a global scramble for control over what remains of the broken country of Syria, risking a wider conflict. Under skies crowded by the warplanes of half a dozen countries, an assortment of factions backed by rival powers are battling one another in a dizzying array of combinations. Allies on one battlefront are foes on another. The United States, Russia, Turkey and Iran have troops on the ground, and they are increasingly colliding. In the space of a single week last week, Russia, Turkey, Iran and Israel lost aircraft to hostile fire. The United States, meanwhile, has been battling for days to hold back Iranian-supported Syrian tribal militias in the eastern desert, drawing U.S. forces closer toward entanglement in Syria’s conflict.

The Hill - February 11, 2018

Rand Paul rails against 'wasteful spending' after forcing brief government shutdown

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) railed against what he cast as runaway government spending, days after he forced a short-lived government shutdown with a lengthy floor speech decrying the budget deficit. Speaking to radio host John Catsimatidis on New York radio station AM 970, Paul accused lawmakers of kicking the can down the road on budget issues by repeatedly turning to continuing resolutions to keep the government running, and took aim at what he called "wasteful spending." "I can give you a quick example of some of the stuff we spend money on," Paul said. "We spent $700,000 last year studying what Neil Armstrong said when he landed on the moon."

New York Times - February 12, 2018

Lott: Background Checks Are Not the Answer to Gun Violence

The background check measures before Congress aim to improve enforcement of existing law and increase such reporting by imposing financial penalties on government officials whose agencies fail to provide required information. That’s a good goal, but any proposal should also fix another major problem with the background check system: false positives that stop law-abiding people from getting weapons that they might need to protect themselves and their families. The background check system confuses the names of law-abiding individuals with those of criminals, resulting in thousands of “false positives” every year. Relying on phonetically similar names along with birth dates just doesn’t allow for much accuracy.

New York Times - February 12, 2018

Leader of Latino Business Group Steps Down Amid Sexual Harassment Claims

The head of a prominent Latino business organization is leaving his job amid allegations of financial impropriety and sexual harassment. Late Monday, directors of the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce announced that the group’s president and chief executive, Javier Palomarez, would step aside. “After much deliberation and careful consideration for the future of the USHCC,” the board said, “Mr. Palomarez and the board of directors have mutually agreed to undergo a leadership transition for the organization effective immediately.”

Washington Post - February 11, 2018

Ingraham: Pennsylvania Republicans have drawn a new congressional map that is just as gerrymandered as the old one

Last month the Pennsylvania Supreme Court instructed the state's Republican-led legislature to draw a new congressional map after finding the existing one was an illegal partisan gerrymander that violated voters' right to participate in “free and equal elections.” On Friday, Republican leaders in the legislature submitted their new map for the governor's approval. As directed by the Supreme Court, the new map is much more compact than the old one. Gone are the infamous convolutions that characterized the old map, earning nicknames such as “Goofy kicking Donald Duck.” The new districts generally respect county and municipal boundaries and don't “wander seemingly arbitrarily across Pennsylvania,” as the state's Supreme Court wrote. Unfortunately for Pennsylvania voters, the new districts show just as much partisan bias as the old ones.

Newsclips - February 12, 2018

Lead Stories

Washington Post - February 11, 2018

Up next in the Senate: Immigration. And nobody knows what will happen.

A long-anticipated showdown on immigration reform is coming this week — and nobody knows how it will turn out. The Senate is set to begin debate Monday night on an issue that has vexed lawmakers for years, probably signaling whether the closely divided chamber has any hope of striking a bipartisan compromise. Among other challenges is whether Congress can find a way to protect “dreamers” — as a majority of Americans want for those young undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children — while also enacting changes in border security eagerly sought by President Trump.

The Hill - February 9, 2018

The Memo: Knives come out for Kelly

Sources close to the White House say chief of staff John Kelly has suffered a serious blow to his standing from the bungled resignation of staff secretary Rob Porter, who has been accused of domestic abuse. Kelly’s most vehement critics even suggest the episode could herald his demise within the administration. “We’ll see this as an inflection point when he is fired,” said one source within President Trump’s orbit. The source, who requested anonymity to speak candidly, blasted Kelly as “tone deaf and politically inept.”

San Antonio Express-News - February 11, 2018

Uresti accused of taking ‘blood money’ as criminal trial enters week four

Almost a year after FourWinds Logistics went belly up, Harlingen investor Denise Cantu was feeling helpless with nowhere to turn as she tried to get back most of the $900,000 she invested with the oil field company. Cantu, 38, texted Carlos Uresti — a man she has described as her counselor, financial adviser, friend and, eventually, lover — to say no one was helping her, not even the lawyers he referred her to. He’s now on trial for allegedly defrauding her and other investors.

Austin American-Statesman - February 9, 2018

Craymer: Replacing property tax with higher sales tax doesn’t add up

It’s no exaggeration to say that Texans don’t like paying property taxes; we have some of the highest in the nation. Could we kiss those tax bills goodbye by modestly increasing the sales tax? That’s among the property tax relief options now floating around the Texas Capitol. If it sounds too good to be true, you’re right. Even a cursory look at the numbers shows that swapping property taxes for a higher sales tax is unrealistic. In 2016, Texans paid $36 billion in state and local sales taxes. Property taxes totaled more than $56 billion — far more than what a few more pennies added to the sales tax would raise.

State Stories

San Antonio Express-News - February 11, 2018

Can Obama's influence help change Texas redistricting in Democrats favor?

Former President Barack Obama and members of his administration are ready to take another shot at chipping away at Republican domination in Texas. A new group headed by former Attorney General Eric Holder and with the public backing of Obama himself is targeting Texas among 11 states in which they are determined to change the redistricting process to assure more competitive state House and Senate races in the future. “In 2011, Republicans created gerrymandered districts that locked themselves into power and shut out voters from the electoral process,” Holder said in announcing the National Democratic Redistricting Committee’s electoral targets last week. “By focusing on these state and local races, we can ensure Democrats who will fight for fairness have a seat at the table when new maps are drawn in 2021.”

San Antonio Express-News - February 11, 2018

Fikac: Attorney general spokesman: Reporters will rip out, eat your heart

Reporters are people who hang out at home stealing ideas from Twitter, opponents in a political game, antagonists who will rip your heart out and eat it in front of you. That’s what public information officers heard from Attorney General Ken Paxton’s communications director, Marc Rylander, during an open-government seminar. Such talk doesn’t necessarily come as a shock to those of us who request public information from state agencies as part of our job, seeking the details of such things as a multimillion-dollar contract that went south, the way statewide elected officials exercise their power and the issues that are vexing local election officials.

San Antonio Express-News - February 11, 2018

Alamo takes center stage in race for state land commissioner

A battle over the Alamo is defining the race for Texas land commissioner, as Republican incumbent George P. Bush faces escalating allegations of mismanagement of the shrine by primary challenger Jerry Patterson. What began as Bush’s ambitious redevelopment effort meant to restore historical authenticity to the site of the 1836 siege could become an Achilles’ heel in his first re-election campaign. The political rivals agree on key elements: preserving the mission-era church and creating a museum to house hundreds of artifacts donated by musician Phil Collins. What’s up for debate, however, is how they do it. Bush, 41, largely chalks up criticism as politically motivated and defends his approach on the potentially $450 million redevelopment plan.

Austin American-Statesman - February 11, 2018

Henson, Blank: Would Amazon avoid conservative Texas for HQ2? Think again

Amazon’s choice of a location for its second headquarters has led to much eye-of-the-beholder appraisal of the relative positives and negatives of the 20 cities on the most recent “short list” released by Amazon. Among the several factors Amazon is weighing that is frequently cited as a black mark against the two remaining Texas candidates, Austin and Dallas, is the conservative social and political climate of the state. As the Boston Globe put it in a brief review of the candidates’ pros and cons: “A string of socially conservative state laws could turn off a company that wants a good ‘cultural fit’ for its employees.”

Texas Tribune - February 5, 2018

Craymer: Bad Math: Replacing property taxes with higher sales taxes doesn’t add up for Texans

It’s no exaggeration to say that Texans don’t like paying property taxes, as we have some of the highest in the nation. Could we kiss those tax bills goodbye by modestly increasing the sales tax? That’s among the property tax relief options now floating around the Texas Capitol. If it sounds too good to be true — you’re right. Even a cursory look at the numbers shows that swapping property taxes for a higher sales tax is unrealistic. In 2016, Texans paid $36 billion in state and local sales taxes. Property taxes totaled more than $56 billion, far more than what a few more pennies added to the sales tax would raise.

Texas Tribune - February 12, 2018

Ramsey: Texas 2018 Hotlist: The most competitive races in this year’s election

Between statewide races and those for seats in Congress and the Texas Legislature, there are 215 races on the 2018 Democratic and Republican primary ballots. Which ones are on my short list? For this highly subjective, recurring list of the most competitive races in Texas, I’ve ranked contests by the threat to each incumbent, to the incumbent party, or just by the level of interest and heat they’re generating. It’s a mix of competitive heat, drama and interest. Incumbents are noted in the chart, as are changes and adds from the previous week’s list.

Texas Tribune - February 12, 2018

Case targeting Texas' statewide elections of judges goes to trial today

The list of voting rights challenges Texas is fighting in court lengthens this week with the beginning of a federal trial in a case challenging the way the state elects judges to its highest courts. As part of a lawsuit filed on behalf of seven Latino voters and a civil rights organization, U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos of Corpus Christi will consider whether the statewide method of electing judges on the Texas Supreme Court and Court of Criminal Appeals dilutes the voting power of Texas Latinos and keeps them from electing their preferred candidates. The lawsuit has largely flown under the radar since it was first filed in 2016, even as two other Texas legal fights over the disenfranchisement of voters of color through the drawing of the state’s political maps and voter identification requirements have wound through the courts.

Houston Chronicle - February 11, 2018

Falkenberg: Abbott asks Trump to reward Texas for bad governance

America is a nation of laws, and those laws should be respected. The point is often underscored by Republican elected leaders in debates over immigration. Such leaders also stress, and I think most Americans would agree, that government officials should be smart with taxpayer money, that they should talk straight, that they should put the people before politics. Yet Gov. Greg Abbott essentially violates every single one of these principles in a recent letter to President Trump, pressing him to reinstate tens of millions of dollars in federal funding for women's health care in Texas.

Houston Chronicle - February 11, 2018

Businesses along Texas border fear 'going belly up' without NAFTA

EL PASO -- Erives Enterprises, a trucking company in this Texas border city, recently capped its best year ever, hiring workers and handing out raises as its business hauling everything from cars to snowmobiles boomed alongside the factories making the products across the Rio Grande. ... But the fate of this link between Mexican factories and Texas companies hinges on fraught negotiations to update NAFTA, scheduled to resume in Mexico City later this month. Businesses on both sides of the border are increasingly worried that President Donald Trump will follow through on his threat to pull the United States out of the treaty, undermining the free flow of goods and services that has sustained them for more than two decades. "If NAFTA ends, we're going belly up," said Angel Ponce, who oversees sales at Erives. "The business will literally go away."

Houston Chronicle - February 11, 2018

White puts up first ad in Texas Democratic gubernatorial primary

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew White, taking to the small screen to bolster his chance to win the crowded March 6 primary, on Sunday announced he will start running a 30-second television ad for the next four weeks. The TV ad that will run on Houston stations is the first from any of the nine candidates in the Democratic primary race to challenge incumbent Republican Gov. Greg Abbott in the November general election. It underscores both White's push to turn out Houston voters to get him through the primary, and his fundraising lead in the race where he has raised more than $1.3 million, including a $1 million loan from himself, while closest rival Lupe Valdez has raised just over $100,000.

Houston Chronicle - February 11, 2018

Abbott: Let's get tougher on sex crimes

Texans have the right to be safe and secure in their own communities and to be afforded the dignity and freedom that human life demands. However, innocent lives are being violated every day in the most heinous ways by sexual predators and human traffickers. In many of these cases, the victims are being denied the justice they deserve. According to a University of Texas study, more than 300,000 people in our state are victims of human trafficking, including 79,000 minors. Texas cannot and will not tolerate the most vulnerable in our society being exploited by criminals and predators. That is why I have released a plan to protect victims and survivors, help prevent these despicable acts and punish the individuals who commit these crimes.

Houston Chronicle - February 10, 2018

HC: For the 7th Congressional District -- Consider two Dems from an extraordinary field vying for Culberson's congressional seat.

So many people flocked to the Faith Lutheran Church one evening last month, you'd think they were previewing a new Star Wars movie. The parking lots overflowed and traffic backed up into the adjacent neighborhood. Inside the gymnasium, every chair was occupied, standing-room only spectators lined the walls, and people who couldn't find seats just plopped down on the floor and sat shoulder-to-shoulder in the aisles. Organizers of the event in Bellaire estimated it attracted more than 500 people, including dozens who couldn't get into the doors. All of them came out on a weeknight to hear the Democratic candidates for Texas' 7th Congressional District. ... John Culberson should take notice. Energized Democrats believe they can beat the long-time Republican congressman who has spent 17 years representing this district, which circles from northwest Harris County to southwest Houston and encompasses wealthy enclaves such as Bunker Hill Village and West University Place.

Dallas Morning News - February 9, 2018

Idea of raising federal gasoline tax has some North Texas lawmakers fuming

Any push to increase the federal gas tax would face a bumpy road in Congress if lawmakers from car-centric North Texas offer a guide. Many Dallas-area representatives, along with Texas’ senators, oppose efforts to up the 18.4-cent-a-gallon levy for the first time in 25 years. Others are keeping an open mind, though with much reluctance. And Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Dallas, is rare in pushing an increase with gusto. The general lack of enthusiasm is no real surprise, given Congress’ longstanding aversion to raising the levy that’s paid at the pump.

Dallas Morning News - February 10, 2018

More children die from abuse in Texas than in any other state

In 2016, 4-year-old Leiliana Wright was brutally beaten to death while in her mother's care even after social workers had been warned the Grand Prairie girl was in danger. Her story led to outrage and scrutiny of the state's child welfare system, but she was far from the only child to die in such a way. A report released this month by the Department of Health and Human Services shows that Leiliana was just one of 217 Texas children killed by child abuse that year — a 34 percent increase from 2015. Texas reported more child fatalities than any other state in 2016, a sobering distinction it is has held since 2012, according to the report.

Dallas Morning News - February 9, 2018

DMN: We recommend Colin Allred in the Democratic primary for 32nd Congressional District

Three candidates in this race are so closely matched in knowledge and credentials that readers can't go wrong voting for any of them. Colin Allred, Ed Meier and Lillian Salerno, all with significant experience in the Obama administration and almost identical stands on the issues, seem equally adept at tackling the intricacies of both policy and politics. While it makes recommending just one of them difficult, voters should be encouraged that such worthy candidates want to serve. We tip to Allred, 34, a civil rights attorney who has worked in the federal housing department and overseen Texas voter-protection cases.

Dallas Morning News - February 8, 2018

Why you're meeting more Chicago, Los Angeles and New York transplants in Texas

More than a half million new residents move to Texas annually, according to the latest estimates by the Texas Association of Realtors. Texas had the second highest total moves in the country second only to Florida in 2016, according to the latest census data analysis by the Texas Association of Realtors. "Despite slowing job and economic growth over the last two years, housing-market and population growth have remained strong and steady throughout the state," Kaki Lybbert, 2018 chairman of the Texas Association of Realtors, said in the report.

Dallas Morning News - February 8, 2018

DMN: We recommend Jake Ellzey in the GOP primary for 6th Congressional District

J.K. "Jake" Ellzey, a retired Navy pilot and member of the Texas Veterans Commission, is our choice in the 11-candidate GOP field to replace retiring Rep. Joe Barton. The 48-year-old Ellzey, who lives in rural Ellis County, shows a good understanding of the issues that confront Congress. His military experience and five years of commission service on behalf of veterans will make him a valuable voice in Washington. Because Ellzey's stand on many topics is to the right of this newspaper's, we deliberated long and hard about his opponents, particularly Kevin Harrison, 51, founder and president of the online West Coast Bible College.

Victoria Advocate - February 9, 2018

Congressional candidates want to help with hurricane recovery

With U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold retiring this year, Democratic candidates are hoping they have a shot to fill the congressional seat in District 27. Ten candidates are competing for his seat, four of whom are running as Democrats with campaign promises to increase economic development, invest in education and help residents recover from Hurricane Harvey. Voters casting ballots in the Democratic primary will be asked to choose between Eric Holguin or Raul "Roy" Barrera, both of Corpus Christi; Ronnie McDonald, of Bastrop; or Vanessa Edwards Foster, of Houston.

Rio Grande Guardian - February 11, 2018

Ardis: Healthcare world of retired public school employees turned upside down

Every day—and I do mean every day—since January 1, I have felt a heaviness in the pit of my stomach. Every day, I know I am going to hear another story about what has befallen my fellow retired Texas public school employees courtesy of Gov. Abbott, Lt. Gov. Patrick, and the Texas Legislature. As many of you may have heard, during the 2017 Legislative Session, these elected officials decided to turn our healthcare world upside down, despite the fact that we retired under the promise of affordable healthcare, a promise made to us years ago when we began teaching and again when we completed all of the paperwork for retirement.

Texas Observer - February 9, 2018

Barajas: Texas Teachers ‘Blow the Whistle’ After Conservatives Accuse Them of (Gasp!) Getting out the Vote

“I will vote in support of public education in the interest of the more than 5 million Texas school children.” That’s the oath Texas Educators Vote shopped to public school districts across the state last year as part of the teacher coalition’s campaign for school board resolutions that promote voting among eligible students and staff. The group’s pledge, and the idea that public schools might promote voting to the extent that they even transport students and staff to and from the polls, was so hyper-partisan and offensive to some Texas conservatives that they asked state Attorney General Ken Paxton to declare school district attempts to encourage voting illegal “electioneering.”

County Stories

Houston Chronicle - February 11, 2018

Rains, Bradstreet: GOP voters should be wary of pay-to-play slates

Building a winning slate of general election party candidates starts with getting your primary voters to the polls to support your strongest candidates. Letting candidates buy recommendations and endorsements on a pay-to-play basis is no way to determine the strongest, yet that's what happens all too often in Harris County. That's why we in the Houston Young Republicans are working to bring attention to candidate slates endorsed by the so-called Big Three: the Link Letter, the Texas Conservative Review and Conservative Republicans of Harris County (or, alternatively, of Texas). These dubious organizations wield disproportionate influence in Harris County Republican primaries through their misleading mailings to hundreds of thousands of unsuspecting Harris County Republican voters every primary election season. They claim to offer, according a recent mailer, "a listing of the best qualified, most conservative candidates." What they actually offer is, all too often, paid advertising masquerading as a helpful voter guide.

Austin American-Statesman - February 10, 2018

Ex-death row inmate gets to question DA candidates

DALLAS — A man who was exonerated after spending 12 years on Texas’ death row questioned candidates running to become Dallas’ top prosecutor on Saturday about how they would prevent wrongful convictions like his. Anthony Graves moderated a panel of candidates running for Dallas County district attorney. Speaking to The Associated Press beforehand, Graves said he wanted to push forward changes to the criminal justice system in the nation’s most active death penalty state. “I understand better than most the power that the DA’s office wields,” Graves said. “And I understand better than most how bad that can go if they decide to abuse it. I lived that injustice.”

McAllen Monitor - February 10, 2018

Willacy to seek ultimate penalty

Nearly one century has passed since a person convicted and sentenced to death in WillacyCounty has been executed by the state of Texas. This week, one of two men accused of shooting and killing an off-duty Border Patrol agent and injuring the man’s father in rural WillacyCounty will stand trial in the 197th state District Court. The Willacy County District Attorney’s Office is seeking the death penalty for both men, who are being tried separately and have pleaded not guilty to the charges. Gustavo Tijerina-Sandoval, a La Villa man, is charged with capital murder and attempted capital murder for shooting and killing Javier Vega Jr. of Kingsville and injuring the agent’s father, Javier Vega Sr. of La Feria, in August 2014.

San Antonio Express-News - February 11, 2018

Dallas County judge backing Lupe Valdez for governor

Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said he has decided to endorse former sheriff Lupe Valdez for governor. Jenkins told the San Antonio Express-News that Valdez was “a very effective sheriff” and “effective leader of the part of Dallas County that has the most employees.” “In my dealings with her, she’s plainspoken, and what she says she’ll do is what she does,” Jenkins said. Jenkins said his decision isn’t due to concerns over Andrew White, the Houston businessman seen as Valdez’s chief rival in a crowded Democratic field. Instead, Jenkins said, it is because of his knowledge of Valdez, who stepped down as Dallas County sheriff to make the gubernatorial race.

City Stories

Dallas Morning News - February 7, 2018

Two-time felons could serve on city of Dallas boards under council proposal

Twice-convicted felons would no longer be automatically disqualified from serving on city boards and commissions under a proposal discussed Wednesday at the City Council's Ad Hoc Administrative Committee. The proposed change was prompted by City Secretary Bilirae Johnson's removal of Marlon Rollins from the Park Board for his previously undisclosed and undiscovered felony convictions. The proposal had support from council members on the committee and a few others who sat in on the meeting. A member of the latter group, city council member Philip Kingston, called Rollins' removal "an absolute travesty" and questioned the rationale behind it.

National Stories

Wall St. Journal - February 11, 2018

Immigration to Get Freewheeling Debate in the Senate

The immigration debate that begins Monday in the Senate promises to be the rarest of things in Washington: a freewheeling, open-ended battle over one of the thorniest subjects, with the expected outcome completely unclear. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) will begin debate on a shell bill that has no immigration provisions, to be filled in with senators’ amendments. The process could take days or weeks, depending on the number of amendments offered and the amount of time Mr. McConnell wishes to devote to a single policy area. It is rare these days for a bill to come to the floor that doesn’t have built-in support from the majority party; even rarer still one that is essentially an empty vessel—to be filled with the ideas of whichever group of senators can come up with the needed votes.

Politico - February 11, 2018

Progressives storm Democratic primaries

Progressive insurgents are launching challenges to Democratic members of Congress in some of the country’s bluest districts, sparked by deep frustration with the party establishment and anti-Trump anger. Most of the challengers are long shots at the moment. But some are putting a scare into entrenched incumbents, thanks to their muscular fundraising and a message of liberal disaffection on issues including Wall Street, criminal justice reform and single-payer health care. Six veteran incumbents already face energetic primary challenges from younger candidates in New York and Massachusetts. In Illinois, two Chicago-based members are being targeted from the left.

Politico - February 11, 2018

Desperate Republicans turn to Adelson

Republicans made their annual sojourn to the lavish Venetian hotel here this weekend to kiss the ring of a benefactor they need more than ever: casino mogul Sheldon Adelson. Confronting the potential loss of one or both chambers of Congress in the midterms, and struggling to raise money against an energized Democratic base, the party is desperate for Adelson’s millions. So the praise at the annual Republican Jewish Coalition conference he hosts overflowed, even though the billionaire, attending the funeral of a close friend in Israel, wasn’t on hand. During a private appearance on Saturday morning, Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who is edging closer toward a run for Senate, led off his remarks by calling Adelson and his spouse, Miriam, “great friends” who he’d known for a long time. The Republican governor, himself tremendously wealthy, said he was saddened that the Adelsons couldn’t make it to this year’s event and that he was thinking of them.

New York Times - February 11, 2018

Barreto: Democrats Can Win on Immigration

To no one’s surprise, President Trump, who has been doubling down on his anti-immigrant rhetoric, used his State of the Union address to draw parallels between the Central American gang MS-13 and law-abiding immigrants in the United States. The next week, he reiterated that “MS-13 killers” are “pouring into our country.” This kind of language, long a Trump trademark, was used as a political strategy just a few months ago in Virginia during the failed bid of the Republican candidate for governor, Ed Gillespie. It was also on display in the campaign of Kim Guadagno, a Republican who lost the race to replace Chris Christie as governor of New Jersey.

Washington Post - February 11, 2018

Trump takes ‘shackles’ off ICE, which is slapping them on immigrants who thought they were safe

A week after he won the election, President Trump promised that his administration would round up millions of immigrant gang members and drug dealers. And after he took office, arrests by Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers surged 40 percent. Officials at the agency commonly known as ICE praise Trump for putting teeth back into immigration enforcement, and they say their agency continues to prioritize national security threats and violent criminals, much as the Obama administration did. But as ICE officers get wider latitude to determine whom they detain, the biggest jump in arrests has been of immigrants with no criminal convictions. The agency made 37,734 “noncriminal” arrests in the government’s 2017 fiscal year, more than twice the number in the previous year.

Politico - February 11, 2018

The mysterious oppo researcher working in the White House lawyer's office

Few people in or close to the White House have any idea what Michael Roman does all day. Officially, Roman works as a special assistant to the president and director of special projects and research, a vague title that reveals almost nothing. He earns $115,000 a year for this work, according to White House salary records, and keeps an office inside the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. He reports to White House counsel Don McGahn, who represented the conservative Koch network as a lawyer during the period when Roman was working for the Kochs’ Freedom Partners group as head of research — a $269,000-a-year job that involved tracking the activities of Democratic political organizers and donors.

Associated Press - February 11, 2018

Trump support vital as Congress tackles immigration issue

The Senate begins a rare, open-ended debate on immigration and the fate of the "Dreamer" immigrants on Monday, and Republican senators say they'll introduce President Donald Trump's plan. Though his proposal has no chance of passage, Trump may be the most influential voice in the conversation. If the aim is to pass a legislative solution, Trump will be a crucial and, at times, complicating player. His day-to-day turnabouts on the issues have confounded Democrats and Republicans and led some to urge the White House to minimize his role in the debate for fear he'll say something that undermines the effort. Yet his ultimate support will be vital if Congress is to overcome election-year pressures against compromise. No Senate deal is likely to see the light of day in the more conservative House without the president's blessing and promise to sell compromise to his hard-line base.

This article appeared in the San Antonio Express-News

The Hill - February 10, 2018

Texas GOP lawmaker: Trump wall 'expensive and least effective’ security plan

Texas Republican Rep. Will Hurd wants the House to tackle an immigration bill that’s “narrow and bipartisan” and devoid of the vast border wall President Trump promised during his campaign. “I've been very clear that building a wall from 'sea to shining sea' is the most expensive and least effective way to do border security,” Hurd told The Hill’s Power Politics podcast in an interview. Although Trump has continued to press Congress for more than $25 billion over 10 years for a physical border wall, Hurd said the president “has evolved since the campaign.”

Investor's Business Daily - February 5, 2018

Most Think Obama White House Spied On Trump Campaign, Want Special Counsel: IBD/TIPP Poll

Americans overwhelmingly believe the Obama administration "improperly surveilled" Donald Trump's presidential campaign, and a majority say they would like to see a special prosecutor appointed to look into possible misconduct by the FBI and Department of Justice in spying on Trump, the latest IBD/TIPP poll shows. One fact emerges from the poll of 900 people conducted from Jan. 25 to Feb. 2: The public doesn't necessarily buy into the Democratic narrative that the Trump campaign "colluded" with Russia to tamper with the 2016 presidential election. ... On the question of whether a special counsel was needed to "investigate whether the FBI and the Department of Justice improperly surveilled the Trump campaign during the 2016 presidential election," 54% responded "yes," and 44% "no."

Austin American-Statesman - February 5, 2018

Poverty. Overdoses. Obesity. Life in the South is getting shorter

Year after year, southern states consistently rank among the worst in the U.S. for health and wellness. This is not a new trend. The rankings have changed little over the last quarter century. What’s causing residents of Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana and other southern states to live such short lives, while experiencing higher rates of cancer, diabetes and heart disease? As a researcher who’s worked on state health promotion in Hawaii and Texas, it’s clear to me that there are a variety of factors behind people’s poor health in southern states – and none will be an easy fix.

The Hill - February 11, 2018

Attkisson: Democratic ties to Russia are ample, and often ethically dubious

Nearly every day, it seems, analysts and reporters reveal new ties between American political figures and Russia or its leader, Vladimir Putin, and his political cronies. The news is delivered in breathless tones with an air of suspicion. There seems to be some confusion, because the following things are legal activities for Americans to do: Living in Russia, visiting Russia, talking to Russians, doing business in Russia and with Russians, consulting for Russia, advising Russia, having “ties” to Russia, lobbying for Russia, meeting with Russian leaders, “refusing to criticize Putin,” meeting with Russians connected to Putin, discussing politics with Russians, discussing U.S. policy and sanctions with Russians, consulting for the Russian government on political matters. It’s true that certain conditions could make these activities illegal. For example, if an American works as a paid lobbyist for Russia but fails to register as a foreign agent, that violates U.S. law.

Austin American-Statesman - February 8, 2018

Rogers: The so-called GOP-FBI split is a Democratic fantasy

The Republican Party is the law-and-order party. That is not new, and it isn’t seriously contested. However, according to liberal media outlets such as HuffPost, Republicans are waging a “war on G-men.” The idea that Republicans are suddenly splitting from the FBI is a fantasy designed by the Democrats to attack a GOP strength and to distract from the growing revelations about anti-Trump maneuvering by a few senior FBI officials. Republicans exposing the malfeasance of Hillary Clinton supporters at the top of the FBI’s ranks has hit a nerve. Democrats are afraid it could not only diminish their hopes that the Russia investigation will bring down President Donald Trump but also perhaps flip the investigation into questions of senior FBI leaders manipulating the legal process to pursue Trump and help Clinton. As historian Victor Davis Hanson recently wrote in National Review, “the greatest irony of all” would be “a special counsel investigating what likely did not happen while ignoring what likely did — perhaps the greatest political scandal of the modern age.”

Dallas Morning News - February 9, 2018

AT&T CEO Stephenson: Trump's words are 'the big elephant in the room' in antitrust case

AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson appeared on CNBC this morning from Pebble Beach, where AT&T is sponsor of a Pro-Am golf tournament. Stephenson was asked about the usual subjects: tax reform and the Time Warner merger. And while he admitted he was limited in what he could say about the latter, Stephenson did reiterate that the Dallas-based telecom is confident that the merger will eventually go through. AT&T is seeking to acquire Time Warner, which controls content networks including HBO, CNN, and TNT in addition to the extensive Warner Bros. movie catalogue. But the Justice Department filed suit in November to block the $108.7 billion deal, saying that the combination could potentially harm consumers.

Dallas Morning News - February 9, 2018

Fielding-Singh: Why do poor Americans eat so unhealthfully? It's not what you think

An overwhelming majority of the wealthy parents told me that they routinely said "no" to requests for junk food. In 96 percent of high-income families, at least one parent reported that they regularly decline such requests. Parents from poor families, however, almost always said "yes" to junk food. Only 13 percent of low-income families had a parent that reported regularly declining their kids' requests. One reason for this disparity is that kids' food requests meant drastically different things to the parents. For parents raising their kids in poverty, having to say "no" was a part of daily life. Their financial circumstances forced them to deny their children's requests — for a new pair of Nikes, say, or a trip to Disneyland — all the time. This wasn't tough for the kids alone; it also left the poor parents feeling guilty and inadequate. Next to all the things poor parents truly couldn't afford, junk food was something they could often say "yes" to.

CNN - February 5, 2018

The 10 Senate seats most likely to flip in 2018: February edition

Increasingly, it looks like Texas -- not Tennessee -- represents Democrats' best chance at putting a third GOP-held seat in play. Democratic Rep. Beto O'Rourke actually outraised Texas Sen. Ted Cruz in 2017's fourth quarter, hauling in $2.4 million to Cruz's $1.9 million. That means Cruz's cash on hand advantage is down to $7.3 million to O'Rourke's $4.6 million -- nowhere near the insurmountable gap many expected. Hotline's Josh Kraushaar convincingly made the case for a close Texas race in part by pointing to three competitive House contests that will engage voters in the Dallas, Houston and San Antonio media markets.