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Newsclips - April 26, 2018

State Stories

Victoria Advocate - April 17, 2018

How an upset diminished the political clout of Hispanic voters in this Texas congressional district

It all started with a wave. The 2010 elections — the first midterms during the Obama presidency — were cause for celebration for Texas Republicans. They picked up almost two dozen seats in the state Legislature and ousted a 27-year incumbent Corpus Christi Democrat in a South Texas congressional district he had represented since its creation in 1982. The timing of that fluke win in the 27th Congressional District was just right for Republicans. State lawmakers would soon embark on redrawing Texas’ political maps following the once-a-decade census. Now, Republicans could reconfigure CD-27 to protect their new incumbent, Blake Farenthold.

Brookings Institute - April 20, 2018

Teachers have been moonlighting in Texas—and elsewhere—to make ends meet

Last month, we talked about the fact that teachers are more likely than others to work second jobs. Since then, there have been all sorts of stories about teachers in Oklahoma working multiple jobs—as many as six! And the stories are neither new nor limited to Oklahoma. Presumably, teachers who take second jobs do it mostly—like anyone else—in order to supplement their salaries. Of course, low teacher salaries are a central issue in the teacher strikes that have swept the nation in recent months, so keep these teachers in mind when thinking about who might be working these second jobs. Thanks to work by Dr. Sam Sullivan and Dr. Robert Maninger at Sam Houston State University (SHSU), there’s quite a bit more to be said about teachers’ attitudes toward moonlighting.

KHOU - April 23, 2018

More children in Texas die in hot cars than any other state

Amber Andreasen knows the dangers of children and hot temperatures all too well. As the director of KidsAndCars.org for the past 20 years, a national child-safety organization, Andreasen helps track the number of children who died after they were left—after they were forgotten—in a car. Statistics gathered by KidsAndCars.org show that about one child in the United States dies every nine days from hyperthermia, a horrific condition that results in the body warming to fatal levels where organs fail. In Texas alone, 120 children have died of hyperthermia since 1991.

Texas Monthly - April 23, 2018

Texas Gerrymandering Case Goes Before U.S. Supreme Court: What You Need to Know

The Supreme Court is currently considering partisan gerrymandering cases out of Maryland and Wisconsin, where districts were drawn for so much political advantage that the high court may drop its traditional reluctance to address politics in redistricting. In Maryland, Democratic legislators drew a congressional district that only a Democrat could win, while Wisconsin Republicans drew a legislative map that gave two-thirds of the lower house seats to Republicans even though the aggregate vote for legislative candidates in the state was about 50-50 for each party. Political gerrymanders penalize the voters of the losing party by making their vote ineffective and make the concept of “consent of the governed” mostly moot. The Maryland and Wisconsin cases could affect Texas because the dissenting jurist in the Texas cases—5th Circuit Court of Appeals judge Jerry Smith—said his fellow judges in the legislative case “badly overreached in finding that Texas used race, rather than partisan advantage, as the predominant factor in the 2011 redistricting.”

Pro Publica - April 23, 2018

Shutdown of Texas Schools Probe Shows Trump Administration Pullback on Civil Rights

Beside a highway in Bryan, Texas, tucked between a motorcycle bar and the county jail, stands a low-slung, sprawling complex with tinted windows, sandstone walls and barbed wire lining parts of its roof. A roadside sign identifies it as the Brazos County Juvenile Justice Center. One Friday afternoon last October, after an incident at nearby Arthur L. Davila Middle School, a police officer arrested 13-year-old Trah’Vaeziah Jackson and brought her to the juvenile detention facility. She cried as employees patted her down, cut off her hair extensions, and took her photo and fingerprints. She was served dinner — chicken nuggets, mashed potatoes and an apple in a styrofoam box with a carton of milk — but had no appetite.

Texas Tribune - April 25, 2018

Price, Waddell, Doggett: Without early childhood education, the Texas Miracle won’t last

The “Texas Miracle” has become a common description for the state’s vibrant economy and successes. While we have much to celebrate, meeting the needs of our current workforce and providing our children with a solid educational foundation are critical to maintaining opportunity and potential in the State of Texas. Fortunately, there is a straightforward solution that will create the best opportunity for educational success, while solving our most difficult workforce challenges — access to quality early education for all children. When you provide access to quality early childhood education across a community, you are overcoming both workforce and educational obstacles. Employers face numerous challenges to recruit, train and retain top talent.

Western Journal - April 22, 2018

Behna: Ted Cruz Challenger’s Radical Leftist Agenda Should Alarm Voters

There are many red flags when it comes to Beto O’Rourke, the Texas Congressman challenging U.S. Senator Ted Cruz’s senate seat for the 2018 midterm elections in November. On the campaign website, O’Rourke lists an agenda including open borders, pro-abortion policies, and government healthcare to name a few. Here are five issues that explain how far-left Cruz’s challenger really is. 1. Abortion O’Rourke is clearly not pro-life, ignoring the technological advances and modern-day science that already proves life begins at conception, making abortion murder. Like many leftists, he describes his views on abortion under the guise of “Women’s Health.” The website states the goal of “ensuring that a woman’s right to choose is not compromised by limited access to safe and legal abortion services or family planning help.”

Corpus Christi Caller-Times - April 23, 2018

Gov. Greg Abbott joins growing calls for funding for Port of Corpus Christi

The chorus is growing louder for the federal government to uphold its financial commitment to the Port of Corpus Christi ship channel expansion project and others like it. This time, it's Gov. Greg Abbott joining the call for more funding and action. In an April 19 letter sent to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Abbott urged the Corps to provide advance funding to ports across Texas, as they play a critical role in the nation's energy future. About a third of all future U.S. liquefied natural gas export projects are planned to be in Texas, which puts the state in position to help the country meet growing global demand for the product.

KUHF - April 25, 2018

Texas Regulators Pressured To Be Tougher On Pollution Rules

Texas lawmakers are pressing regulators to be tougher on enforcing pollution rules, a push in response to the pollution spikes Hurricane Harvey caused. Listen 00:00 /00:43 The state says Harvey caused more than 200 toxic spills. There was also excess air pollution from Houston-area industry after the storm, as refineries and plants came back online. At a hearing on the storm response, Democratic El Paso Representative Joe Pickett said he worries that polluters see fines as “just the cost of doing business.” “Some of the fines that you have levied are inconsequential,” he told Bryan Shaw, head of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

KUHF - April 25, 2018

From The Chinese Government To The Koch Brothers, Outside Donors Receive Scrutiny At Texas Universities

Under pressure to keep up with rising expenses, colleges in Texas and across the country have turned to outside groups to underwrite certain initiatives. But bringing in outside funders can lead to questions about whether their donations come with strings attached. Texas Tech University’s Free Market Institute has found itself in liberals’ crosshairs before, and it takes just a glance down the institute’s list of funders to know why. Appearing almost a dozen times, next to donations that total $5.5 million over four years, is the Charles Koch Foundation. The conservative-leaning John Templeton Foundation, which gave nearly $1.7 million, is also listed amid a catalog of mostly redacted names that The Texas Tribune obtained through an open records request.

Dallas Morning News - April 25, 2018

Some Blue Cross policyholders could pay 100% of ER bill if visit is not life threatening

The already baffling emergency room billing landscape is about to become even more perplexing for some consumers covered by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas, the largest health insurer in the state. Starting in June, when some policyholders go to the emergency room, if their ailment is later determined to be not be serious enough, they could be on the hook for 100 percent of the medical costs. In a memo shared with brokers and consultants on April 18, Blue Cross said the new policy — which takes effect June 4 — applies to fully insured group and retail HMO members. An HMO is a type of health insurance plan that limits coverage to in-network providers, except in emergency situations. About 500,000 of the more than 5 million Texans insured with Blue Cross statewide have that type of plan.

Wichita Falls Times Record - April 25, 2018

Texas Gov. Abbott believes Gulf Coast area set to explode with growth

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said, believe it or not, he is mightier than Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday during a speech in Wichita Falls. Abbott said the economy of Texas is heftier than the economies of Canada, Australia – and Russia. “That makes me more powerful than Putin,” the native Wichitan said to appreciative laughter and applause at the Kay Yeager Coliseum. The Lone Star State has hit an apex with a Gross Domestic Product of about $1.65 trillion a year, Abbott told hundreds during a keynote speech at the Texas Alliance of Energy Producers’ annual meeting.

Dallas Morning News - April 25, 2018

Trump judge nominees from Texas grilled about political bias by Senate panel

Senate Democrats on Wednesday glossed past an erroneous allegation that a Texas judicial nominee had called immigrants “maggots," even as they dug for signs of political bias by him and another Trump pick who serves as Gov. Greg Abbott’s general counsel. At a confirmation hearing, Democrats trained most of their attention on Andrew Oldham, Abbott’s lawyer and a nominee for the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, which handles cases from Texas and two other states. But they also pushed hard on Michael Truncale, a Beaumont lawyer whose 2012 comments were scrutinized last week after Slate briefly claimed he’d called immigrants in the country illegally “maggots.”

Dallas Morning News - April 25, 2018

Still buddies after long road trip, Beto O'Rourke, Will Hurd keep pitching bipartisanship

One is a Democrat challenging a senator who may be the most popular Republican in Texas. The other is a Republican scrambling to keep a congressional seat in one of the nation's most narrowly divided districts, in a year of stiff anti-GOP headwinds. They're an odd couple, Reps. Beto O'Rourke and Will Hurd. And as election season marches on, they've stuck by an alliance based on their joint devotion to bipartisanship, and cemented by a 25-hour road trip livestreamed across the nation. As sincere devotion to improving civic life and public discourse, it's heartwarming. As political calculus, it's a symbiotic relationship that makes strategists in their own parties a bit uncomfortable.

Dallas Morning News - April 25, 2018

Piquero, Bishopp, Piquero: The stress of police work leads to higher rates of depression, anger and burnout

Which of these happened to you this morning? The barista at your coffee shop served you the wrong order. You spilled your coffee on your white shirt. You hit every red light on the way to work. These irritations might upset you, but they pass relatively quickly. In fact, the stress many of us experience each day is vastly different from those of high-risk professions, especially careers in protective services such as firefighters and police officers. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention listed protective services professions at No. 6 on its list for those most at risk for suicide. Sadly, this is not a surprising statistic. It's something my colleagues and I have also noted in our own research showing that the stress of this type of work leads to higher rates of depression, anger and burnout.

Austin American-Statesman - April 25, 2018

Abbott asks disgraced congressman to foot bill for special election

Gov. Greg Abbott wants Blake Farenthold to foot the bill for a special election the governor has called to replace the former disgraced congressman. Abbott on Wednesday sent a letter to Farenthold, a Corpus Christi Republican who resigned from Congress in early April amid sexual harassment claims, demanding that he cover all costs for the upcoming emergency special election for the 27th Congressional District. Farenthold had previously pledged to pay back an $84,000-taxpayer-funded settlement to a former female aide.

Austin American-Statesman - April 25, 2018

What to know about the 2020 census in Texas

The Census Bureau in 2020 will conduct its once-a-decade population count. It’s expected to reveal significant growth for Texas, which would mean the state could see its representation in Congress increase by as many as three seats. But some fear those gains could be imperiled with the reinstatement of a citizenship question, which is expected to drive down participation, especially in states with large numbers of people lacking legal immigration status, such as Texas.

County Stories

Austin American-Statesman - April 25, 2018

Austin-area home starts up 13.1% in 1st quarter

Home construction continued to boom in Central Texas in the first quarter, with builders starting work on 13 percent more houses than in the same quarter last year, the latest figures show. “Austin continues to ride the wave of buyer demand into the spring selling season,” said Vaike O’Grady, Austin regional director for Metrostudy, which tracks housing markets locally and nationally. “There’s no evidence of any slowing in demand, especially for homes with base prices below $300,000. At the same time, it’s becoming more challenging for builders to provide housing in that segment, due to rising construction costs for both materials and labor.”

City Stories

Austin American-Statesman - April 25, 2018

Al Gore picks up Lady Bird Award from LBJ Foundation

On April 24, the Luci Baines Johnson and Lynda Johnson Robb handed over a blue globe resting in bronze hands to former Vice-President Al Gore as part of the 2018 Lady Bird Johnson Environmental Award ceremony in New York City. Also at the Metropolitan Club that evening, Mark K. Updegrove, president and CEO of the LBJ Foundation, conducted an open conversation with Gore, one of the world’s leading activists on the subject of global warming. The foundation created the award to keep alive the late first lady’s commitment to environmental awareness.

Dallas Morning News - April 25, 2018

Dallas entrepreneur Bobby Lyle to self-serving politicos: Day of reckoning may be nigh

As the recent recipient of Southern Methodist University’s J. Erik Jonsson Ethics Award, Bobby Lyle, has thought deeply about the nation’s ethical state of mind. The popular Dallas entrepreneur, educator and a true north of our social moral compass believes we are in an ethical crisis where self-serving interests at the cost of integrity seem to be the standard of the day. “The spotlight is mostly on Washington, mostly, but not exclusively,” says the 77-year-old founder and CEO of Lyco Holdings and the namesake of the Lyle School of Engineering at SMU. “There’s [Harvey] Weinstein and the blow up with the ‘Me Too’ movement. It’s not just Washington, but that’s in our face every day. If you listen to CNN, if you listen to Fox, it’s 24/7.”

National Stories

San Antonio Express-News - April 26, 2018

Trump’s campaign boss wants 2020 GOP convention in San Antonio

Brad Parscale, President Donald Trump’s campaign manager, wants San Antonio to host the 2020 Republican National Convention and has taken to Twitter to voice his frustration at the city’s lack of response to bid for the event. In an email to Mayor Ron Nirenberg on Wednesday, Parscale pressed for a response. “It is very important that I let the group here in DC know that San Antonio is going to pass on this opportunity. Many cities are killing to have this,” Parscale wrote. Parscale used his Twitter account Wednesday to express further frustration.

San Antonio Express-News - April 25, 2018

Former President George H.W. Bush moved out of intensive care at Houston hospital

Former President H.W. Bush has been transferred out of intensive care at Houston Methodist Hospital, according to a statement. Family spokesman Jim McGrath tweeted Wednesday that Bush, 93, had been moved into a regular patient room, where he's expected to continue his recover for several more days. "He is alert and talking with hospital staff, family and friends, and his doctors are very pleased with his progress," wrote McGrath.

Dallas Morning News - April 25, 2018

Leubsdorf: What Reagan can teach Trump about negotiating nukes

Based on his history as a deal-maker, and according to some reports, Trump sees an opportunity for the kind of headline-making agreement that would put his name in the history books. Jonathan Swan of Axios, one of the best-sourced reporters covering the White House, reported last weekend that a source who discussed North Korea with Trump said he thinks, "Just get me in the room with the guy, and I'll figure it out." Analysts repeatedly told us during the era of U.S.-Soviet arms negotiations that "the devil is in the details," and that may be even more true in dealing with the North Koreans. After all, they have a history of dangling the prospect of far more concessions than they ultimately accept. That's why Kim's announcement he was closing a nuclear test site and suspending long-range missile launches produced a cautious response from knowledgeable arms experts and even some administration aides.

Dallas Morning News - April 25, 2018

With foreign policy issues looming, the Senate should confirm Mike Pompeo to be Secretary of State

The last time a presidential cabinet nominee won Senate confirmation without first winning a Senate committee vote was 73 years ago, when we were still in a shooting war with Germany and Japan. Fortunately for Mike Pompeo it just feels like the political equivalent of World War II in Washington these days. He was narrowly voted out of committee after Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul flipped from his previous position and came out in support of President Donald Trump's nominee for Secretary of State. Next up is a full Senate vote, which Pompeo is expected to win and that we hope doesn't get caught up in any last minute wrangling.

Thomson Reuters - April 25, 2018

Migrant 'caravan' at U.S.-Mexico border prepares for mass crossing

Hundreds of Central American migrants from a caravan that crossed Mexico reunited in Tijuana on Wednesday and planned to cross the border together this weekend in defiance of threats by U.S. President Donald Trump to repel them. The timing of the migrants arrival could compromise a flurry of talks this week to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which Trump has repeatedly threatened to scrap if Mexico does not crack down on the flow of Central Americans through its territory. Busloads of migrants began arriving on Tuesday at a shelter that was a five minute-walk from the border and within sight of a U.S. flag waving under an overpass connecting the two countries.

Reuters - April 25, 2018

Ford accelerates cost-cutting plan, will drop most U.S. sedans

Ford Motor Co (F.N) on Wednesday outlined a plan to cut costs and boost profit margins at a faster pace than previously announced, which includes dropping traditional sedan models in North America that have become increasingly unpopular with consumers. The No. 2 U.S. automaker said it now plans to cut $25.5 billion in costs by 2022, up from $14 billion in cuts it announced last fall. Ford Chief Executive Jim Hackett told investors the company is undergoing “a profound refocus” of its operations and may exit unprofitable businesses. “We’ll restructure as necessary, and we’ll be decisive,” he said. “We’re going to feed the healthy part of our business,” and dispose of marginal operations, Hackett added.

True Pundit - April 25, 2018

Congressman Louie Gohmert Just Absolutely Wrecked Robert Mueller With Epic 48-Page Investigative Blowout; We Have it Here

"What I have accumulated here is absolutely shocking upon the realization that Mueller’s disreputable, twisted history speaks to the character of the man placed in a position to attempt to legalize a coup against a lawfully elected President,” writes GOP Congressman Louie Gohmert. Gohmert is referring to the exhaustive expose he just released called: Robert Mueller: Unmasked. And the GOP Representative does exactly that, shining a bright light on decades of Mueller misdeeds, stating: “Robert Mueller has a long and sordid history of illicitly targeting innocent people that is a stain upon the legacy of American jurisprudence. He lacks the judgment and credibility to lead the prosecution of anyone.”

The Hill - April 25, 2018

Republicans want Trump’s VA nominee to withdraw

Senate Republicans are hoping that President Trump’s pick to head the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) withdraws his name and spares them a messy confirmation fight. While some GOP lawmakers are characterizing the allegations of improper conduct against Navy Rear Adm. Ronny Jackson as “cheap shots,” they have serious concerns about his lack of management experience. “He’s totally unqualified,” said one Republican senator who expressed disbelief that Trump picked his personal physician, who now oversees a staff of 70, to head the federal government’s second-largest agency.

The Hill - April 25, 2018

Medical marijuana legislation gets support of key House Republican

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) has signed on to co-sponsor bipartisan legislation to simplify the medical marijuana research process. Goodlatte's spokeswoman, Kathryn Rexrode, told Bloomberg that Goodlatte would co-sponsor the bill with Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.). Gaetz on Tuesday was reportedly sending around a handout explaining his Medical Cannabis Research Act, which listed the Virginia Republican as a co-sponsor. A spokesman for the Florida congressman told Bloomberg that the bill was set to be introduced on Tuesday or Wednesday, and a news conference would be held by its sponsors.

Associated Press - April 25, 2018

Feds' delays imperil migrant children

The U.S. government risks placing migrant children in the custody of human traffickers because federal agencies have delayed crucial reforms needed to keep the children safe, according to the findings of a Senate subcommittee obtained by The Associated Press. Federal officials came under fire two years ago for rolling back child welfare policies meant to protect unaccompanied minors fleeing violence in Central America, and lawmakers said Thursday that the agencies had yet to take full responsibility for the children's care in the United States. Since the dramatic surge of border crossings in fall 2013, the federal government has placed more than 180,000 unaccompanied minors with parents or other adult sponsors in communities nationwide, where they are expected to attend school while they seek legal status in immigration court.

This article appeared in the San Antonio Express-News

Dallas Morning News - April 25, 2018

Cowen: The most interesting political discussions are no longer taking place in public and that's a shame

I see the main victims of political correctness as standing in the center or center-left. In fact, some intellectual superstars, such as Peterson or Steven Pinker, have thrived and received enormous attention by attacking political correctness. But if you don't have a big public audience, you work in a university, and you wish to make a point about race or gender that isn't entirely along "proper" lines, you will probably keep your mouth shut or suffer the consequences. Those intellectual victims are not mainly on the right, and it means the left has ended up somewhat blind on these issues. This underlying dysfunction is a big reason the left was so surprised by the election of President Donald Trump.

McClatchy Newspapers - April 25, 2018

Energy Sec. Rick Perry’s son owns an energy investment company. Is that a problem?

A private investment firm led by Energy Secretary Rick Perry’s son has notified the Securities and Exchange Commission that it’s seeking investors for a new energy fund, raising concerns about the potential for private businesses run by the offspring of high-ranking government officials to benefit from their parents’ policy decisions without the public being aware. Griffin Perry is one of three owners of Dallas-based Grey Rock Energy Partners, which runs pooled investment funds that take stakes in active U.S. oil and natural gas drilling projects on behalf of wealthy investors who can meet a hefty minimum investment threshhold. On April 19, the SEC published Grey Rock’s latest regulatory filing, which created Grey Rock Energy Fund III-B.

Newsclips - April 25, 2018

Lead Stories

Washington Post - April 24, 2018

Trump signals willingness to entertain ‘a new deal’ with Iran

President Trump signaled willingness Tuesday to consider what visiting French President Emmanuel Macron called “a new deal with Iran” that would address shortcomings in the existing nuclear pact, even as he continued to criticize the international agreement as “insane.” Trump also appeared to threaten a military attack if Iran menaced the United States and railed against the hundreds of billions of dollars he said the United States has wasted on Middle Eastern wars with “less than nothing” to show for the effort. “If Iran threatens us in any way, they will pay a price like few countries have ever paid. Okay?” Trump said during a news conference with Macron.

Politico - April 24, 2018

Legal Marijuana’s Big Moment

A couple of weeks ago, John Boehner was dining at one of his favorite Washington haunts, Trattoria Alberto on Barracks Row, when in walked Earl Blumenauer, the Democrat from Oregon known as one of the most fervent advocates for legal marijuana in Congress. In years past, the two men would have had little in common, but earlier that day Boehner announced he was joining the advisory board for Acreage Holdings, one of the largest marijuana corporations in the country. It stunned many in the political world because the former speaker, whose tastes favor merlot and Camel Ultra Lights, had on several occasions spent political capital to defeat legalization measures: In 2014, he supported the congressional blockade of the District of Columbia’s recreational marijuana program and the next year he opposed efforts to legalize marijuana in his home state of Ohio.

Austin American-Statesman - April 24, 2018

Texas business coalition challenges Austin’s sick-leave plan

The city’s new ordinance mandating that most private businesses in Austin provide paid sick leave to employees — heralded by supporters as the most progressive labor policy in Texas when it won approval two months ago — is facing a legal challenge to prevent it from ever taking effect. Proponents of Austin’s sick-leave rules, which are slated to begin Oct. 1, already faced the likelihood that some conservative state lawmakers would try to supersede the city’s authority by filing bills to overturn the new ordinance when the Legislature convenes again in January. But a coalition of business organizations, including the Texas Association of Business and the National Federation of Independent Business, are aiming to render the rules toothless regardless.

Dallas Morning News - April 24, 2018

Vice President Mike Pence will speak at NRA convention in Dallas

Vice President Mike Pence will be a keynote speaker at the National Rifle Association's convention in Dallas next month. The vice president will speak at the NRA Institute for Legislative Action leadership forum at the convention May 4 as part of a "powerful lineup of pro-freedom speakers," the association announced Tuesday. Other forum speakers include Gov. Greg Abbott, Sen. John Cornyn, Sen. Ted Cruz and NRA leaders. "It's an honor to have Vice President Pence address our members in Dallas," said Chris W. Cox, executive director of the institute, the NRA's lobbying arm. "He is a lifetime supporter of the second Amendment, and he has a long a record of fighting to defend our freedoms."

State Stories

Austin American-Statesman - April 24, 2018

Cornyn, Cruz, Abbott to speak at NRA Leadership Forum in Dallas on Friday

A trio of leading Texas Republicans – U.S. Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz, and Gov. Greg Abbott – will join Vice President Mike Pence in Dallas on Friday to speak at the National Rifle Association Institute for Legislative Action Leadership Forum. The association’s annual meetings website said the event is among the most politically significant in the country, and features leading Second Amendment advocates in government, media and entertainment. “The Forum is also a must-stop for candidates seeking the highest levels of elected office — including governor, congressman, senator, or president of the United States,” the website said.

Austin American-Statesman - April 24, 2018

First Reading: I went to the Chip Roy-Matt McCall debate, and then the debate came to me.

Sunday night I went to a Hill Country Democratic CD 21 forum/debate at a winery in Johnson City. Last night, I went to a Hill Country Tea Party Patriots Republican CD 21 forum/debate in a room at a senior citizen center in New Braunfels. And then, as you will see, the debate came to me. The tenor of the two debates was quite different. (I’m going to call them debates even though they might not, strictly speaking, debates, because there was some opportunity for the candidates to answer questions and mix it up.)

Austin American-Statesman - April 24, 2018

Texas oil and gas regulator: Science isn’t settled on global warming

Contrary to widely held conclusions by scientists, a senior official in Texas’ oil and gas regulatory agency said Tuesday “we don’t know whether man-made greenhouse gases are impacting our climate in a harmful way.” Wayne Christian, a Republican elected in 2016 to the state Railroad Commission, which oversees oil and gas operations, made the comment in an opinion piece for the Texas Tribune. Carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases act to trap heat from the sun in the Earth’s atmosphere, according to scientists, leading to a warming planet.

Texas Monthly - April 20, 2018

Red River Versus Rio Grande: Are There Two Standards?

When the Bureau of Land Management moved to take control of privately owned land along the Red River several years ago, Texas’s political leaders called it an “unconscionable” overreach of federal power, and pledged to protect private landowners, actively supporting Texans who were challenging the land grab in court. But those same politicians have mostly remained silent as the federal government appears to make a similar move in the Rio Grande Valley, where Texans could soon be forced to give up their land so President Donald Trump’s border wall can be built. Earlier this week, the Department of Homeland Security sent an email to lawmakers, a heads-up that the feds will soon be reaching out to landowners in the Rio Grande Valley to conduct “Rights of Entry for Survey” in preparation for building a border wall.

San Antonio Express-News - April 24, 2018

Paxton rules against Texas Ag Secretary Sid Miller’s ‘BBQ Bill’ rules

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton gave a thumbs down to Agricultural Commissioner Sid Miller’s rules implementing the so-called “BBQ Bill,” which had restaurants across the state smoking mad over what they said were burdensome new requirements for weighing brisket, sausage and other meats. Restaurants had under a 2017 law been exempt from an early 20th century statute requiring butchers, grocers and other sellers of meat to use precision scales to weigh food in front of customers at the time of purchase. But the regulation Miller rolled out a few months later removed the exemption for eateries, unless all food was consumed “on the premises.” It subjected barbecue joints with takeout business to burdensome new rules requiring costly scales and regular, on-site inspections.

San Antonio Express-News - April 24, 2018

After arrest of Valley organizer, immigrant community retreats to the shadows

MISSION — One morning in February, Eva Chavez awoke to an authoritative banging on her front door. Standing on the other side was an Hidalgo County sheriff’s deputy and a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent. Several people were rounded up that day in her neighborhood comprised of immigrant families living in patchwork homes. Immigration agents came looking for Chavez’s partner, and when he could not be found they took her in his place. “All I could think about was my son,” said the 50-year-old Chavez, a native of Mexico living unlawfully in the Rio Grande Valley for the better part of two decades. Her U.S. citizen son is 11 and has special medical needs. “He was home alone, confused and scared.”

San Antonio Express-News - April 24, 2018

$26.5 million related to settlement to help restore coast at McFaddin National Wildlife Refuge

Nearly 20 miles of shoreline at McFaddin National Wildlife Refuge will be restored with the help of $26.5 million in funds related to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, federal officials announced Monday. "This important investment will bolster a fragile stretch of shoreline that is critical to the coastal ecosystem and communities of southeast Texas," said Jeff Trandahl, executive director and CEO of the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, which made the announcement Monday. "The restored shoreline will also serve as a first line of defense against future storms."

Houston Chronicle - April 24, 2018

Report: Less than 20 percent of Harvey-flooded homes were in MUDs

Hurricane Harvey's floods were largely concentrated in areas that were developed before the adoption of modern detention regulations and prior to the release of national flood plain maps, according to a new analysis focusing on Municipal Utility Districts. The study was commissioned by the Association of Water Board Directors – Texas, a statewide educational and advocacy group for utility districts, to document flood damage to properties in MUDs across the Houston area and analyze their financial health.

Houston Chronicle - April 25, 2018

New FEMA program could lead to repeat flooding under an obscure paperwork change

The Federal Emergency Management Agency is proposing to directly acquire some of the most repetitively flooded structures in the country, but its latest plan also would allow these properties to be redeveloped and potentially flood again. This little-noticed effort to change to FEMA paperwork reverses a longstanding practice that bought-out properties remain as open space forever. Under current programs, FEMA offers grant money to state and local governments to acquire structures and the land they occupy. It also allows governments to offer grants for elevating or flood-proofing structures. The form change would allow homeowners to select a new path: Sell the home to FEMA at pre-flood market value, but keep the land, which then could be sold and redeveloped later.

Houston Chronicle - April 24, 2018

In plan to fix special education, Texas Education Agency will spend $212 million

The Texas Education Agency plans to spend nearly $212 million over the next five years in an attempt to fix systemic problems with special education in Texas schools, according to a final action plan released Tuesday. Finding funds for new programs is likely to be a major challenge when lawmakers return in January, but officials are confident they’ve already found the money to launch the program. TEA officials acknowledged that students with special needs lag far behind their peers in reading and math skills, and say their plan includes efforts to boost academic achievement as well as address corrective actions required by the U.S. Department of Education. The federal agency determined that the state illegally set up an 8.5 percent benchmark — some critics considered it a de facto cap — on the number of students receiving special education services, well below the national average of 13 percent.

Houston Chronicle - April 24, 2018

Texas president Greg Fenves named to College Football Playoff Board of Managers

University of Texas president Greg Fenves has been named to the College Football Playoff (CFP) Board of Managers. He will replace Oklahoma State University president V. Burns Hagis as the board's Big 12 representative. "I am looking forward to representing the Big 12 Conference as a member of the College Football Playoff Board of Managers," Fenves said in a statement. "My fellow members lead remarkable universities, and it will be an honor to join them on the governing board for the playoffs." As one of 11 board members – one president is selected from all 10 FBS conferences – Fenves will take on an active role in managing Division I Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) administrative operations for and will help govern the playoff's "business, property and affairs, including budgets, policies and operating guidelines."

Dallas Morning News - April 24, 2018

Texas governor orders emergency special election to replace Farenthold in Congress

Voters along the storm-stricken Gulf Coast won't have to wait until November to replace the disgraced Blake Farenthold, who resigned abruptly from Congress this month, too late for a special election to determine a successor. Gov. Greg Abbott on Tuesday ordered a June 30 emergency special election, calling it "imperative" to restore representation in the district. All the counties in the district remain under a state disaster declaration after Hurricane Harvey. "Hurricane relief efforts depend heavily on action at the federal level, which can only occur if Texans residing in disaster zones have full and effective representation in Congress," Abbott said in a statement along with the proclamation.

Dallas Morning News - April 24, 2018

Irving case shows sex trafficking happens in our backyards, and why we must use every tool to stamp it out

Still don't believe sex trafficking is going on close to your home? The recent arrests of two Irving residents underscores how prolific this insidious problem is in North Texas. The latest case began with a call to police from a woman who said she'd just escaped from an Irving house after being kidnapped in California. According to police reports, two people who lived at the home advertised her as a prostitute on a number of websites and drove her to motels to perform sex acts with customers. If that's not sufficiently awful, she told police that a juvenile victim also was at the home and made to work as a prostitute. Irving authorities say the trafficking had been going on for months.

Dallas Morning News - April 24, 2018

Texas has a big stake in swift NAFTA negotiations

Trade officials from Mexico, Canada and the U.S. shifted into overdrive last week to try to forge an updated agreement on the North American Free Trade Agreement. In what the Canadian foreign minister Friday called a "perpetual negotiating round," the three countries are trying to reach conceptual agreement on key divisive issues in the next few weeks. Texas will pay a heavy price if the negotiations stall, and Texas has much to gain from a good, modernized trade agreement with America's neighbors and two largest export markets. The contentious negotiations have added great uncertainty to Texas' and America's massive economic relations with Mexico and Canada. Now, because of the legislative schedule needed to get an agreement through the U.S. Congress before Mexico's presidential and congressional elections on July 1, the negotiators are sprinting ahead.

Dallas Morning News - April 24, 2018

Supreme Court questions whether it has jurisdiction in Texas gerrymandering case

For 70 minutes, the two parties in the Texas redistricting case argued over whether the state’s maps were discriminatory and need to be redrawn — and whether the U.S. Supreme Court should even hear the case. Tuesday's hearing is the latest chapter in the 7-year legal battle between the state and civil rights organizations and minority lawmakers. The outcome could dramatically change state politics and perhaps create an opening for Democrats to win more seats in the Texas House and in Congress. In August, a federal district court in San Antonio ruled that two of Texas' congressional districts and nine statehouse districts discriminated against blacks and Hispanics and need to be redrawn. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, asking it to block the lower court’s ruling.

Texas Tribune - April 25, 2018

Ramsey: It doesn’t matter what the Supreme Court says. Texas Republicans already won redistricting.

Political maps have 10-year lives, at best, and the current Texas redistricting case is already seven years old and counting. Even a definitive ruling later this year against the Republican-drawn maps for congressional and legislative seats would be academic, likely affecting only one of the five major elections conducted in this redistricting cycle. That’s not to say the current case — argued Tuesday in the U.S. Supreme Court — is unimportant. It could change the case law in some way, maybe even providing some clarity in future redistricting cases for obviously overwhelmed federal judges all over the country. Redistricting is complicated. The courts would rather keep their hands clean than to mess with political decisions made by elected officials. But elected officials continually cheat, trying to cut corners and stretch legal envelopes with clever and increasingly sophisticated technical tricks, the better to draw maps that favor their friends and hobble their enemies.

Texas Tribune - April 24, 2018

Beto O'Rourke to major Democratic super PAC donor: "Thanks, but no thanks"

U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke has a message for a California billionaire who is openly mulling spending big money on O'Rourke's U.S. Senate race: "Thanks, but no thanks." Tom Steyer, one of the biggest Democratic donors in the country, openly mulled on CNBC on Tuesday spending on O'Rourke's behalf via his environmental super PAC, NextGen America. "We are intrigued by Texas, and we are aware what we have to do in order to have an impact on a state that big. We need a lot of resources, but we have not made a decision to be involved with it," Steyer said.

Texas Tribune - April 23, 2018

Sanders: The conflict between city code and state law

On April 7, an estimated crowd of 300 people met in San Antonio to march to Olmos Park City Hall in protest of Olmos Park Police Chief Rene Valenciano and a recently overturned local ordinance that prohibited the carrying of loaded weapons. Very few of those protesting, however, were residents of Olmos Park itself. As reported by KENS5, “citizens from across Texas took to the Olmos Park streets.” Reporting on the vote to overturn the controversial ordinance for the San Antonio Express-News more than a week before, Emilie Eaton noted: “The activists, none of whom were Olmos Park residents, erupted in applause after the vote. They vowed to keep protesting and said they were planning another rally.” The episode — and the events that preceded it — has raised many important questions about local governance in Texas. To what extent should local governments be entitled to legislative powers over the areas they are elected to represent? Who should local governments be accountable to: those who elected them or those who travel across the state to protest legally unenforceable local ordinances, such as previously existed in Olmos Park?

Ft. Worth Star-Telegram - April 24, 2018

She got 5 years for voting illegally. This judge got probation for rigging his election

As news spread Monday that Tarrant Justice of the Peace Russ Casey pleaded guilty to tampering with a government record — in the wake of his signing off on fake signatures to secure a spot on the March 6 primary ballot — one question arose for many. Why did this elected official receive probation when women found guilty of election fraud received jail time? "We know that there is a great amount of racial disparity in sentencing, but this is a pretty stark comparison to illustrate that," said Emily Farris, a political science professor at TCU. "We know that voter fraud is fairly uncommon and pretty rare.

Corpus Christi Caller-Times - April 20, 2018

Moritz: Even if you don't believe polls, you shouldn't ignore them in Beto O'Rourke, Ted Cruz race

Back in January, we talked about not putting too much stock into polls that come out several months before an election because minds can change, candidates can stumble, and mostly because giant swaths of voters have plenty of more pressing and more present matters to occupy their minds. But one thing early-cycle polls are good for is grabbing the attention of that slice of the population that is hooked on politics. And if a politician can grab those people’s attention, grabbing a hold of their wallets is that much easier. The hook for that January piece was fresh data from Public Policy Polling, showing Democratic Congressman Beto O’Rourke just 8 percentage points behind incumbent Republican Ted Cruz in the race for the U.S. Senate that will be decided in November.

Newark Star Ledger - April 20, 2018

Dear Gov. Abbott: No sale. Love, Jersey

We open our pages to all voices, including those belonging to elected officials from distant states, because even they are entitled to their misconceptions. Accordingly, we allowed Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas to occupy this space Sunday, when he trolled his New Jersey counterpart in an attempt to siphon off our tax-phobic denizens and businesses. And that's fair game, because governors have been trying to poach assets from other states since time immemorial. But Abbott's overture was particularly offensive because it was based on, as they say in Texas, pure balooey.

Texas Observer - April 23, 2018

Barajas: Redistricting Guru Michael Li on Texas’ Gerrymandered Maps

The Texas Legislature is racist. Specifically, Texas lawmakers knowingly and intentionally pass voting laws that disproportionately harm minorities. Nine federal court rulings have more or less arrived at that conclusion since 2011. Last year, a federal three-judge panel found that lawmakers deliberately discriminated against minority voters by gerrymandering congressional and state House districts to “ensure Anglo control.” Texas has fought to keep using those maps, and in January the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear the state’s appeal. With oral arguments in the marathon legal case set for April 24, we chatted with redistricting guru Michael Li, senior counsel for the Democracy Program at NYU’s prestigious Brennan Center for Justice. Li, who grew up in Texas, has followed the case from the beginning.

Wall St. Journal - April 24, 2018

Pimco’s New Bond King Could Be a Robot in Austin

Pacific Investment Management Co. used to rely heavily on one man to make many of its key investment decisions. Now it’s betting a big part of its future on millions of lines of software code. Pimco will open a new office in Austin, Texas, later this year to help recruit more tech-savvy workers who might otherwise spurn the bond manager for traditional software companies, people familiar with the matter said. The Newport Beach, Calif.-based firm plans to grow its workforce by 10% this year, adding about 250 new staff. Many of those new employees will be engineers tasked with modernizing Pimco’s technology systems, from the tools used to harness new databases of information to the platforms that trade bonds electronically. The changes aim to sharpen investment ideas and lower costs.

County Stories

Houston Chronicle - April 24, 2018

Life-threatening pregnancy complications on the rise in Harris County

Life-threatening, pregnancy-related complications — the iceberg beneath the surface of the U.S. maternal health crisis — are on the rise in Harris County, according to a new report. The report not only confirmed the Harris County rate is worse than that of the state and nation, it found that it increased more than 50 percent between 2008 and 2015. Texas’ rate of life-threatening, pregnancy-related complications went up 15 percent in the same time period. “In subtle and unintentional ways, women’s health in Harris County has been subjugated to the health of babies so profoundly that the health of women of childbearing age is often not prioritized,” says the report, a project of the Houston Endowment.

Austin American-Statesman - April 24, 2018

President Bill Clinton coming to Bass Concert Hall on June 10

Bass Concert Hall will host “A Conversation with President Bill Clinton” at 7:30 p.m. June 10. Clinton will discuss “The President is Missing,” his new novel co-authored with bestselling writer James Patterson. This is the first time a president has collaborated with a bestselling novelist on a work of fiction. Tickets go on sale April 27 and range from $49.50 to $499.50.

Dallas Morning News - April 24, 2018

Dallas-area home prices growing at much lower rate

Dallas-area home prices rose at the slowest rate in six years in the latest nationwide housing market comparison. Dallas home prices were 6.4 percent higher than in February 2017 in the monthly Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller Home Price Index. The Dallas-area gain was just barely ahead of the nationwide average price increase of 6.3 percent in February from a year earlier. The greatest home price gains were in Seattle (up 12.7 percent), Las Vegas (11.6 percent) and San Francisco (10.1 percent).

City Stories

Austin American-Statesman - April 24, 2018

Zilker Park to get up to $2 million from ACL Fest promoter for upgrade

The company that puts on the Austin City Limits Festival each year is kicking in at least $1.5 million to upgrade a portion of Zilker Park. The area off of Stratford Drive on the west end of Zilker Park, where the grass and gravel meet MoPac Boulevard, is commonly used as an area for auxiliary parking especially during the busiest days at the park. Unlike some of the previous projects funded by the partnership between the Austin Parks Foundation and C3 Presents, the Stratford project will be less about embellishment and more about improving functionality. The improvements will also be limited by environmental restrictions in the area.

Austin American-Statesman - April 24, 2018

Grumet: Why Austin isn’t getting as much affordable housing money as you might think

Facing an urgent need to fund more affordable housing in Austin, the City Council set its sights on some tax dollars it figured no one would miss. New tax dollars. Specifically, the shiny new tax revenue that materializes when government-owned land, which doesn’t pay property taxes, becomes private housing, commercial or mixed-use developments that do. The City Council decided in 2000 that as city lands were sold for development, 40 percent of the city tax revenue from those sites should go into Austin’s housing trust fund.

Houston Chronicle - April 24, 2018

Following skirmish, HISD trustees adjourn without partnership vote

Houston ISD board members adjourned late Tuesday without voting on a controversial measure to give up control over 10 low-performing schools after the meeting turned physical and police escorted members of the public — nearly all of whom opposed the plan — out of the room. Chanting "no more sellouts" and shouting at trustees, most of the roughly 100 community members in attendance watched angrily as officers began physically pulling disruptive residents out of the room. The skirmish came after HISD Board of Trustees President Rhonda Skillern-Jones declared a recess in the middle of the meeting due to repeated public outbursts. If trustees choose to meet again, they likely will not return until Saturday at the earliest. Trustees typically provide at least 72 hours advance notice of any public board meeting. The vote had been expected to be narrow, with several trustees already voicing support or opposition for the proposal.

Houston Chronicle - April 24, 2018

Binkovitz: Houston supports pre-K for all. Will it happen?

In 2015, when the Texas state legislature approved a $118 million pilot project that would help expand and improve pre-K offerings across the state, it did so at the urging of Governor Greg Abbott. The legislation was one of five emergency items Abbott highlighted in that year's State of the State address. But it faced problems in the beginning. So many districts applied for the grants that came with stricter program requirements that the amount per student went down significantly – so much that some districts gave the money back. Then, in the next legislative session, lawmakers decided not to renew the program but keep the new, higher measures it was meant to support.

Dallas Morning News - April 24, 2018

Dallas partnering with the district attorney to create homeless diversion court makes sense

For nearly a generation, politicians dealt with crime under the rationale of "lock them up and throw away the key." The justice system was dominated by mandatory minimum sentences, three-strikes laws and politicians who possessed a "get tough on crime" mindset. But that culture has shifted for the better in recent years as leaders increasingly support reforms that keep people out of jail for minor offenses and that address the prevailing system's disparate impact on minorities and the poor. The city of Dallas can take another step in this constructive direction as council members vote Wednesday on whether to authorize an agreement with the Dallas County district attorney's office to use the J. Erik Jonsson Central Library's auditorium to run a homeless diversion program for one year.

San Antonio Express-News - April 24, 2018

Chasnoff: Trump makes it easy to write a script for Cornyation

The real challenge in writing a script for Cornyation, the Fiesta sketch show that parodies politics and popular culture, is not making a coherent statement in four minutes or less. It’s doing so in extremely bad taste. Alas, in the era of President Donald Trump, this challenge has been erased. One Trump tale in particular, the ongoing Stormy Daniels debacle, is so suited for the Cornyation stage, I needed not stray from reality in adapting it. Already the story has elements of lurid melodrama — the doomed villain, the sly temptress, the scorned wife — all wrapped in a cracking bizarre fever dream of sex, money and power. With sharks. If anything, Trump’s personal and presidential disaster was too lewd even for Cornyation. Yes, I had to tone it down.

National Stories

San Antonio Express-News - April 24, 2018

Supreme Court hears arguments in Texas racial gerrymandering case

Lawyers for Texas and a broad coalition of African-American and Latino rights groups clashed Tuesday before the U.S. Supreme Court in a protracted redistricting dispute alleging that the state's Republican lawmakers intentionally drew their latest political maps to marginalize minority voters. But one of the main points of contention in the 70 minute hearing was whether the case belongs before the Supreme Court at all, with lawyers for the minority groups arguing to let a panel of federal judges in Texas first decide whether to change political boundaries that they invalidated in 2017. Justice Sonia Sotomayor, one of the leading liberals on the bench, peppered Texas Solicitor General Scott Keller about the timing of the state's appeal to the Supreme Court, which the minority groups say was intended to short-circuit the lower court's move to have the Legislature draw new political maps or have the courts hold new redistricting hearings.

Financial Post - April 23, 2018

Solomon: China has declared economic war against us — and we’re helping them win

China is systematically hollowing out the West’s industries, not just toys and T-shirts, as was the case decades ago, but increasingly strategic industries vital to national security. China isn’t succeeding simply because of its comparative advantage in cheap labour. It’s succeeding because of its comparative advantage elsewhere — in its ability to overwhelm target industries using the power of the state. Take steel, where China now controls 50 per cent of the world’s production, and where — until U.S. President Donald Trump imposed tariffs on steel imports — it was one to two years away from collapsing what was left of America’s steelmaking capacity. China became the world’s largest steel exporter more than a decade ago on the strength of energy subsidies, which allowed it to undercut competitors by 25 per cent. Or take aluminum, another target of Trump’s tariffs, where similar energy subsidies propelled China into control of 56 per cent of the world’s production.

Dallas Morning News - April 24, 2018

Goldberg: Trump's fiery rhetoric is the right tone for North Korea

Responding to reports that North Korea said it "no longer needs" nuclear tests, Jim Hanson, president of the generally pro-Trump Security Studies Group, credited President Donald Trump. "No one was expecting anything to come of Trump's fiery rhetoric, except people who understand that diplomacy works better with a credible threat of military force backing it up," Hanson told Fox and Friends over the weekend. "It's brought Kim (Jong Un) to the table in ways none of President Trump's predecessors were able to do." Even though the nuclear-test freeze is mostly symbolic, this strikes me as entirely defensible. Trump critics who don't like his "fiery rhetoric" and unpredictability, myself included, should concede that it has its benefits on occasion.

Dallas Morning News - April 24, 2018

Granof: The U.S. debt is an unsolvable crisis

Trending stories recently have included foreign policy, airplane safety and Michael Pompeo's likelihood of becoming secretary of state. Less has been reported about the just released Congressional Budget Office report that forecasts an explosion of federal debt to levels far greater than seen in any year since the end of World War II. In the immortal words of Capt. Louis Renault of Casablanca fame, "I'm shocked." Yet, our elected officials seem reluctant to do anything, and the American people are mostly silent on the subject. Why? Perhaps because the solutions are simply too unpalatable for any of us to consider.

Washington Post - April 24, 2018

Supreme Court says corporations can’t be sued under centuries-old law for overseas human rights abuses

The Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that foreign corporations cannot be sued under a centuries-old law for their alleged complicity in human rights atrocities that occur overseas. The 5-to-4 ruling split the court along ideological grounds, and it was the second time the court had cut back the reach of the 1789 Alien Tort Statute. Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote for the court’s conservatives. “Courts are not well suited to make the required policy judgments that are implicated by corporate liability in cases like this one,” he wrote, adding, “Congress, not the judiciary, must decide whether to expand the scope of liability under the ATS to include foreign corporations.”

Politico - April 24, 2018

Trump praises Kim Jong Un as 'very honorable'

After months of deriding Kim Jong-Un as "little rocket man," a "maniac," and a "madman," President Donald Trump on Tuesday praised the North Korean dictator as a "very open" and "very honorable" negotiator. "We're having very, very good discussions," Trump said during a bilateral meeting with President Emmanuel Macron of France in the White House Cabinet Room. "Kim Jong Un was — he really has been very open. I think very honorable, from everything we're seeing." Asked to clarify his compliments at a joint press conference with Macron later on Tuesday, Trump said the tone of his yet-to-be-scheduled historic sit-down with Kim is "going to be very positive," and refused to speculate on the outcome the meeting. “I hope that we will be able to deal in a very open and honorable fashion with North Korea,” he said.

Reuters - April 24, 2018

Busloads of migrants from 'caravan' arrive at U.S.-Mexico border

Dozens of Central American migrants from about 600 traveling in a “caravan” through Mexico arrived at the border city of Tijuana late on Tuesday despite warnings it would be futile to try to cross to claim asylum in the United States. By evening, two busloads of men, women and children arrived in Tijuana, a city that grazes southern California. U.S. President Donald Trump has ordered officials to repel them. The arrivals spilled into the streets and gazed toward San Diego, visible at spots through a rusty barrier or across a pedestrian bridge, exhausted after their trek that began a month ago near Mexico’s southern border with Guatemala.

Associated Press - April 24, 2018

Judge rules against ending program to protect Dreamers

A federal judge ruled Tuesday against the Trump administration's decision to end a program protecting some young immigrants from deportation, calling the Department of Homeland Security's rationale against the program "arbitrary and capricious." U.S. District Judge John D. Bates in Washington wrote that the decision to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA, "was unlawful and must be set aside." Bates wrote that DHS' decision "was predicated primarily on its legal judgment that the program was unlawful. That legal judgment was virtually unexplained, however, and so it cannot support the agency's decision."

Associated Press - April 24, 2018

Republican wins US House race in Arizona GOP stronghold

Republican Debbie Lesko won the special election in Arizona's 8th Congressional District on Tuesday, keeping the U.S. House seat in GOP control but by a much narrower margin than expected. The former state senator defeated Hiral Tipirneni, a former emergency room physician who had hoped to replicate surprising Democratic wins in Pennsylvania, Alabama and other states in a year where opposition to President Donald Trump's policies have boosted the party's chances in Republican strongholds. Trump won the district by 21 percentage points in 2016, but early returns show Lesko winning by just 6 percentage points. Republican political consultant Chuck Coughlin called the margin "not good" for national Republicans looking at their chances in November.

This article appeared in the San Antonio Express-News

New York Times - April 24, 2018

Sharma: A Strong Economy Won’t Make You Popular These Days

With Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron visiting Donald Trump this week, much of the commentary has focused on how wildly different the staid German chancellor and the globally minded French president are from the mercurial American president. But the three do share one trait: They are all unpopular at home despite the good economic times. This is new. For most of the postwar era, voters in the big democracies rewarded leaders for strong economies and punished them for policies that hurt growth. Now the link between good politics and good economics seems to have broken. Last year, the global economy was finally accelerating out of the long torpor that followed the financial crisis of 2008. Unemployment hit lows not seen in decades, and inflation all but disappeared. Yet by January, my index of approval ratings for leaders in 20 major democracies showed their average rating hitting a new low of just 35 percent, down from a peak of more than 50 percent a decade ago.

Washington Post - April 24, 2018

‘What makes it stop?’ Veterans lament the ongoing turmoil surrounding Trump’s pick for VA secretary

Ronny L. Jackson’s imperiled nomination to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs underscores the agency’s deep-seated struggle to overcome years of scandal and return its focus to serving a constituency that, historically, has remained above the political fray. “This is complete and total chaos after years of complete and total chaos,” said Paul Rieckhoff, founder and chief executive of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, an advocacy group. “Our veterans deserve so much better. Our whole country does. Especially in a time of war.” Jackson, a one-star Navy admiral serving as President Trump’s physician, has been accused of improperly dispensing medication and maintaining a hostile work environment while overseeing the White House medical staff. He has denied any wrongdoing. Senate lawmakers have postponed his confirmation hearing while they determine whether the allegations have merit.

Houston Chronicle - April 24, 2018

Trump voters driven by fear of losing status, not economic anxiety, study finds

Ever since Donald Trump began his improbable political rise, many pundits have credited his appeal among white, Christian and male voters to “economic anxiety.” Hobbled by unemployment and locked out of the recovery, those voters turned out in force to send Trump, and a message, to Washington. Or so that narrative goes. A study published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences questions that explanation, the latest to suggest that Trump voters weren’t driven by anger over the past, but rather fear of what may come. White, Christian and male voters, the study suggests, turned to Trump because they felt their status was at risk. “It’s much more of a symbolic threat that people feel,” said Diana C. Mutz, the author of the study and a political science and communications professor at the University of Pennsylvania, where she directs the Institute for the Study of Citizens and Politics. “It’s not a threat to their own economic well-being; it’s a threat to their group’s dominance in our country overall.”

Dallas Morning News - April 24, 2018

Schnurman: Why Wall Street shrugged off Southwest's first fatal accident

When investors heard the news about Southwest Airlines, they started selling. Southwest’s stock price dropped 6.6 percent, the biggest intraday decline in more than seven months. Other airline stocks quickly followed and the industry fell more than any group on the S&P 500 index. But this wasn’t last week, when an engine blew during a Southwest flight and the debris broke a window, killed a passenger and led to an emergency landing. The stock drop was a month earlier, after Southwest lowered estimates for a financial measure. Instead of revenue per seat mile increasing 1 to 2 percent, as initially projected, it would be flat for 2018.

Dallas Morning News - April 24, 2018

DMN: Don't be fooled by D.C. sideshow, the West is taking significant steps to fence in the Russian bear

In the daily combat that passes for American politics, it can be easy to lose sight of what is really happening. And in many ways, that is what is happening in regard to Russia. We'll postulate here that Russia is more of a menace on the world's stage than any of us wants. And that menace goes beyond meddling in our elections. The days of the Soviet threat are gone, but we are now seeing the return of a forward-leaning Russian state. Given this reality, we decided to look into how the United States and its allies are dealing with Vladimir Putin's Russia. What we found is that even while President Donald Trump might sow confusion among some political observers — given his panache for reversing course — what used to be called The West is taking significant steps to fence in the Russian bear.

Newsclips - April 24, 2018

Lead Stories

Bloomberg - April 23, 2018

Pompeo Wins Surprise Support by Senate Panel to Lead State Department

A divided Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted in favor of Mike Pompeo to be the next secretary of state, paving the way for the CIA director to gain approval from the full Senate later this week and handing a victory to President Donald Trump. The committee on Monday backed Pompeo’s nomination after Senator Rand Paul, a Kentucky Republican, reversed his earlier opposition. Paul had come under pressure from fellow Republicans -- including Trump -- to ensure Pompeo didn’t become the first secretary of state nominee rejected by the committee since at least 1925.

Austin American-Statesman - April 23, 2018

Sid Miller’s political consultant hit up campaign donor for $29K loan

A San Antonio businessman says Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller’s top political consultant, Todd M. Smith, told him he could get appointed to an advisory role on health care policy in return for contributing to Miller’s campaign. Then Smith hit the businessman up for a personal loan of $29,000, according to a promissory note the two signed. “I gave $1K to Miller with the assurance of some type of position with Sid Miller’s rural health program wherein I could help provide guidance and counsel of better access to health care in Texas by promoting PA practice,” Richard Branson, a physician assistant who owns Atlantic Medical in San Antonio, wrote in an email.

CNN - April 23, 2018

Former President George H.W. Bush in intensive care

Former President George H.W. Bush, who just buried his wife first lady Barbara Bush on Saturday, is in intensive care, CNN has learned. "President Bush was admitted to the Houston Methodist Hospital yesterday morning after contracting an infection that spread to his blood. He is responding to treatments and appears to be recovering. We will issue additional updates as events warrant," spokesman Jim McGrath said in a statement. Bush, 93, was admitted to the hospital on Sunday morning with an infection that led to sepsis, which can be life-threatening, according to a source close to the former Republican President. He was in critical condition, the source said.

Associated Press - April 23, 2018

Weissert: Dems' chances may rest on flipping GOP strongholds in cities

As Dallas has evolved from reliably red to deeply blue, joining many other big cities, one enclave has remained the beating heart of country club conservatism — home to Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, oil tycoon T. Boone Pickens and former President George W. Bush. Just north of downtown, it's where suits-and-cowboy-boots culture meets the high-powered banking circuit and Southern Methodist University's immaculately manicured campus. Still, this longtime Republican stronghold could now help determine whether Democrats can break the GOP's control of Congress.

This article appeared in the Houston Chronicle

State Stories

Austin American-Statesman - April 23, 2018

Paxton to Abbott: Suspension of election law okay to cope with Harvey

To the extent election law prevents or delays the recovery of Texas’ coastal areas in the long aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, Gov. Greg Abbott can suspend that law, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton announced Monday. Tying the ravages of Hurricane Harvey with the abrupt resignation of U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Corpus Christi, Abbott had asked Paxton for his opinion on whether Abbott can call a special election for Farenthold’s replacement earlier than would be allowed under Texas law.

Austin American-Statesman - April 23, 2018

Yeti says NRA’s claims are ‘inaccurate’

Austin-based Yeti says claims made by the National Rifle Association over the weekend are “inaccurate” and that the company is “unwavering in our belief in and commitment to the Constitution of the United States and its Second Amendment.” In an email to its members, the NRA claimed Yeti “suddenly, without prior notice” indicated it no longer wished to do business with the NRA Foundation. Not so, says Yeti. The maker of coolers and thermal mugs says the NRA has twisted its words. “A few weeks ago, Yeti notified the NRA Foundation, as well as a number of other organizations, that we were eliminating a group of outdated discounting programs,” Yeti said in a written statement Monday afternoon.

Austin American-Statesman - April 23, 2018

Herman: Texas Gov. Greg Abbott ignites war of words with N.J. governor

Once again, a GOP leader, through the use of bellicose rhetoric, has talked us into a war of words with a foreign power with nukes and a hard-to-understand language. Let us hope this does not escalate into a war of weaponry. You’re thinking President Donald Trump vs. North Korea (which has nuclear weapons). I’m writing about Gov. Greg Abbott vs. New Jersey (which has nuclear power plants). Before delving into specifics in this War Between Two States, it behooves us to stipulate some facts about Jersey: Its residents are, by law, deemed too inept to pump their own gas; two of its three pro sports teams refuse to put the word “Jersey” in their names; and what should be the University of New Jersey masked that fact by giving itself an Ivy League-sounding name — Rutgers.

Dallas Morning News - April 23, 2018

Texas' low teacher pay is 'shameful,' largest educators lobby says

Texas remains in the bottom third of states in per-student funding of public schools but is holding steady. On teacher pay, though, its ranking among states has slipped, the country's largest teachers lobby reported Monday. This school year, average pay is $53,167 in Texas, compared with a national average of $60,483, according to the National Education Association. The group stressed that local property taxpayers are picking up more of the school tab in Texas than in most states.

Dallas Morning News - April 23, 2018

Texas craft beer thrives because of good regulation

Craft beer is thriving in Texas. If you've read or seen anything about Texas beer lately, it was probably the announcement of a new craft brewery opening, the introduction of a new craft beer flavor, or the launch of a new craft beer coming in Texas market from out of state. Despite the incredible craft brewery success story, some people in the alcohol industry seek dramatic changes to the system that would ultimately favor foreign multinational corporations and severely limit the beer brands available to Texas consumers. The fact is that craft beer is prospering and growing faster in Texas than almost any other state or country because — not in spite — of our regulatory system.

Dallas Morning News - April 23, 2018

Giddings: My next act is empowering black women

Since announcing my retirement from the Texas Legislature, the most frequently asked question I get has been a few simple words. Whether visiting with friends or in conversations with reporters, the question is the same: What's next? While not certain what the future would hold in terms of my public service, I did know for sure that at least a portion of my efforts would be spent working to empower women. Throughout my time in the Texas House of Representatives, we witnessed incredible progress on so many issues. We've changed attitudes about mental health care, criminal justice and the rights and dignities of disenfranchised communities. Unfortunately, one area where we have seen woefully insufficient progress is the elevation and empowerment of women leaders, particularly women of color.

Dallas Morning News - April 23, 2018

Russian hackers may have targeted a Democrat's Texas Senate campaign website

A Dallas Democrat running for the state Senate discovered Saturday that Russians may have hacked his campaign website. Candidate Kendall Scudder pulled down the website Saturday afternoon after coding in Russian and references to Russian websites were found embedded in the server. Google Analytics also found several visits on the website from internet users in Russia and Ukraine. Scudder, who will face incumbent Republican Sen. Bob Hall in November, said in a news release Sunday that his campaign communications director noticed fraudulent activity in late March, when visitors were informed that "attackers" were trying to redirect them to a fake website. His staff fixed the problem, he said.

Dallas Morning News - April 23, 2018

Texas governor has power to order emergency special election to replace Farenthold, AG Paxton says

Voters along the storm-stricken Gulf Coast may not have to wait until November to replace the disgraced Blake Farenthold, who resigned abruptly from Congress this month, too late for a special election to determine a successor. In a nonbinding opinion issued Monday, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said that Gov. Greg Abbott has the authority to use the Hurricane Harvey disaster as the basis to declare the vacancy an emergency and hold an election before November. That would allow him to suspend state election law and set a special election in coming months. Under state law, a special election couldn’t be held until Nov. 6. But Abbott, who sought the attorney general’s legal input, asserted that’s “not soon enough.”

San Antonio Express-News - April 23, 2018

SAEN: White in governor’s race runoff

Former Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez and Andrew White, son of the late Gov. Mark White, were the two left standing in a crowded field after last month’s Democratic primary in the governor’s race. For the May 22 runoff election, we again recommend White as more qualified and likely to pose more spirited competition for Gov. Greg Abbott in the November general election. We believe the state is best served by competitive races up and down the ballot. They make for a more robust debate of all the issues facing the state. On these there is little difference substantively between Valdez and White, but after interviews, we discerned that White has a better grasp of these issues. The successful Houston businessman simply speaks with more specifics on these topics.

Houston Chronicle - April 22, 2018

Bailes: Legislators looking at state’s mental health needs

As your State Representative, I am approached with a wide range of issues on a daily basis. I feel as if it is important to let you know what is happening in and around our district. Through committee testimony and conference presentations this past week, a great focus has been put on our veterans and work on mental health issues. I have also included a brief update on National Guard deployment to our border. I want to give you an update on mental health throughout our state, a recent Land and Resource Management Committee hearing, a committee on which I serve, and the Texas National Guard deploying to our borders.

Houston Chronicle - April 23, 2018

Texas agriculture commissioner errs in interpreting barbecue bill, ruling finds

Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller went too far when his agency drew up rules to carry out his interpretation of a 2017 barbecue bill that led to him battling BBQ businesses over regulating food scales and a $35 annual fee, Attorney General Ken Paxton wrote in an opinion Monday. The attorney general’s non-binding opinion states that a court would likely find rules Miller wrote are invalid because customers buying food for “immediate consumption” are required to eat on the premises for the restaurant to qualify for an exemption that eases regulation of their weigh scales. The rule goes “beyond what the statute requires,” according to the opinion. The battle over barbecue stems from Miller tapping a long-ignored state law regulating and certifying weigh scales at places like barbecue restaurants, yogurt shops and other places where food is weighed. Frustrated lawmakers and restaurant lobbyists teamed up in 2017 to roast the commissioner’s use of the law by convincing the Texas Legislature to exempt the regulations for establishments that sell food for “immediate consumption.”

Texas Tribune - April 24, 2018

From the Chinese government to the Koch Brothers, outside donors receive scrutiny at Texas universities

Texas Tech University’s Free Market Institute has found itself in liberals’ crosshairs before, and it takes just a glance down the institute's list of funders to know why. Appearing almost a dozen times, next to donations that total $5.5 million over four years, is the Charles Koch Foundation. The conservative-leaning John Templeton Foundation, which gave nearly $1.7 million, is also listed amid a catalog of mostly redacted names that The Texas Tribune obtained through an open records request. University leaders and the funders themselves say donors exercise no influence over the institute’s research or academic programs. Benjamin Powell, the institute’s director, said it's staffed with “highly productive scholars" who "compare favorably with other faculty on campus and at peer institutions on standard, non-ideological, scholarly metrics."

Texas Tribune - April 23, 2018

Judge dismisses Dallas Republicans' lawsuit to kick Democrats off the November ballot

A Dallas judge has dismissed a case that aimed to kick more than 80 area Democrats off the November ballot, putting an end to a dispute that could have upended the midterm elections in one of the state’s Democratic strongholds. The Dallas County Republican Party sued in January, alleging that Carol Donovan, the Democrats’ county chair, did not sign the candidates’ ballot applications before submitting them, as required by law. But State District Judge Eric Moyé ruled Monday that Dallas County Republican Party Chairwoman Missy Shorey did not have standing to bring the lawsuit, handing Donovan and the Democrats a win.

Texas Tribune - April 24, 2018

Report: Women at Texas community colleges aren’t getting the kind of birth control they want

Austin Community College student Katran Packard said she was hoping not to get pregnant before her expected graduation in December. "And now we're having a baby in December," said the business administration student and mother of two. For Packard, 28, it's been a battle to find effective birth control for the past several years. While living in Austin, she got Depo-Provera shots — an effective form of birth control — at a Planned Parenthood clinic. After moving about 80 miles away to Caldwell in 2011, she was unable to continue the injections because the clinic was too far away and she could no longer afford them. Instead, Packard said, she turned to condoms and the withdrawal method to avoid pregnancy.

Texas Tribune - April 18, 2018

Johnson: Lupe Valdez lacks the understanding of public policy necessary to defeat Abbott

Televised debates are one of the easiest and cheapest ways for Democrats to get our message out and to increase voters’ awareness of our candidates. In a state this large, this expensive to campaign in, and in which Democrats have not won statewide in 24 years, passing up publicity worth millions of dollars is politically negligent. And yet Lupe Valdez is doing exactly that by refusing to debate Andrew White. Reporters have offered the conventional political explanation that she doesn’t want to risk her lead by making a mistake in a debate. But in its attempts to be even-handed by treating this as a normal political calculation, the press is avoiding saying what many Democrats are increasingly aware of: Lupe Valdez, despite her admirable years of service and compelling life story, simply lacks the minimal policy knowledge expected from a major party’s gubernatorial nominee and she has shown no signs of improving. She’s not refusing to debate because she fears an “oops” moment; she’s refusing because for her the entire debate would be an “oops” moment.

NBC News - April 18, 2018

An oops moment for Democrats in touchy Texas primary

Sometimes a misfired email is just a misfired email, and sometimes — well — there's a bit more to the story. The DCCC, the campaign arm of House Democrats, sent out a corrected version of a press release Wednesday morning after implying support for a candidate who is still facing off against a fellow Democrat in an unusually sensitive primary runoff. That candidate, Texas Democrat Lizzie Fletcher, was initially included on a press release including the organization's “red-to-blue” candidates — Democrats running in competitive red districts who receive priority support from the national group, several of whom are also locked in competitive primaries. A corrected version of the press release, sent six minutes later, omitted Fletcher's name. A DCCC aide told NBC News "This was a communications staff drafting error in a press release.” But it's not exactly a secret that the DCCC would prefer Fletcher as the Democratic nominee in the race, rather than her primary runoff opponent, Laura Moser.

Washington Post - April 20, 2018

Richards: The political contradictions of the Lone Star State

Cecile Richards, born and raised in Texas, has been a lifelong activist for women’s rights and social justice, including more than a decade as president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America and Planned Parenthood Action Fund. She is the author of “Make Trouble: Standing Up, Speaking Out, and Finding the Courage to Lead — My Life Story.” No matter how confounding the politics or embarrassing the legislature, Texas will always be home. That recognition — familiar to Texans the world over — runs through Lawrence Wright’s homage to the state. Wright, a Pulitzer Prize winner, screenwriter, playwright and staff writer for the New Yorker, has long been one of the Lone Star State’s most compelling storytellers. “God Save Texas” picks up where Wright’s past chronicling of all things Texas leaves off, pulling back the curtain on the inexplicable contradictions of my birthplace. But for anyone hoping that Wright will solve the mystery of how such a populist, neighborly state became the test bed for the most racist, homophobic and anti-women’s-rights laws and policies in the country, we will have to wait for Volume 2. “God Save Texas” is more of a plea than a prophecy.

WOAI - April 18, 2018

Texas: State with highest percentage of obese children in the nation

According to a new study, Texas is the third "worst state for children's healthcare." With "Every Kid Health Week" kicking off on April 23, WalletHub released a new report on 2018’s Best & Worst States for Children's Health Care. The report compares the 50 states and the District of Columbia across indicators of cost, quality and access to children’s health care. According to the report, Texas ranked the state with the highest percentage of obese children, tied with Mississippi.

Fox News - April 19, 2018

Texas Gov. Abbott to tax-burdened New Jersey residents: 'Come to Texas'

Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott is urging tax-burdened New Jersey residents to move to the lone star state, following the release of New Jersey's budget proposal calling for tax hikes in the state where rates are already among the highest in the nation. In an op-ed for the New Jersey Star Ledger, Abbott welcomed residents of the Garden State down south. “Hey, Jersey, don’t move to Fla. to avoid high taxes, come to Texas. Love, Gov. Abbott,” the column is titled. Abbott outlined the budget proposal unveiled by newly sworn-in Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy, which requests a $2.7 billion increase from the prior year’s budget. Abbott wrote that the “tax hikes include raising the sales tax and applying that tax to everything from ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft to online room booking.” The plan also is set to raise income taxes on those making more than $1 million per year.

County Stories

San Antonio Express-News - April 23, 2018

San Jacinto County judge indicted in connection with July break-in

Coldspring residents near the courthouse square Monday afternoon were surprised to see San Jacinto County Sheriff Greg Capers leading County Judge John Lovett out of the courthouse in handcuffs. Lovett was arrested at 12:23 p.m. after charges stemming from a July 2017 incident went before the grand jury and Lovett was indicted. “The grand jury returned a true bill for an indictment against John Lovett on the counts of burglary, tampering with an official government instrument and forgery,” Capers said.

Houston Chronicle - April 23, 2018

More stringent rules would have reduced Harvey's damage, residents say in Kinder survey

Two-thirds of Houston-area residents say more stringent regulations would have reduced the catastrophic damage caused by Hurricane Harvey and the floods that followed. That was one of the findings of the 37th annual Kinder Houston Area Survey released Monday. The survey also found that 40 percent of respondents were affected directly by Harvey, which dropped more than 50 inches of rains in some spots. Traffic congestion once again topped the list of major problems identified by respondents.

Dallas Morning News - April 24, 2018

Dallas-area home prices growing at much lower rate

Dallas-area home prices rose at the slowest rate in six years in the latest nationwide housing market comparison. Dallas home prices were 6.4 percent higher than in February 2017 in the monthly Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller Home Price Index. The Dallas-area gain was just barely ahead of the nationwide average price increase of 6.3 percent in February from a year earlier. The greatest home price gains were in Seattle (up 12.7 percent), Las Vegas (11.6 percent) and San Francisco (10.1 percent).

National Stories

Politico - April 23, 2018

Paul backs Pompeo, ensuring confirmation as secretary of state

Mike Pompeo won a favorable vote Monday from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee after Sen. Rand Paul flipped to endorse him, paving an unexpectedly easy path for the CIA director to win confirmation as secretary of state as soon as this week. Pompeo appeared all but guaranteed to draw an unfavorable recommendation from the committee, with Paul firmly opposed, until the Kentucky Republican opted to vote ‘yes‘ after getting a personal appeal from President Donald Trump. Had Paul not changed his stance, Pompeo was on track to become only the third nominee in two decades to get a negative report in committee — and likely the first in that time to win a vote in the full Senate.

Axios - April 20, 2018

14 states can't guarantee accurate election results

Multiple states lack the ability to guarantee the accuracy of election outcomes in the event of a suspected breach. The big picture: Five states — Louisiana, Georgia, South Carolina, New Jersey and Delaware — have no paper trails of votes. The other nine are in better shape, but still do not have all their counties’ machines spitting out a paper record. Show less The backstory: This is due to the direct recording electronic machines (DREs) these states use in some counties, which don’t cough up a paper copy of cast ballots. Why it matters: Russia is likely hacking again this year, according to intelligence directors. And a hacker who wanted to insert doubt in the outcome of an election would just have to target the counties and states that lack 100% verification capabilities.

The Hill - April 23, 2018

14 states hit record-low unemployment

Fourteen states have set new records for low unemployment rates in the last year, nearly a decade after the recession put millions of Americans out of work. The states hitting new unemployment lows run the ideological gamut, from conservative Texas to liberal California, suggesting a recovery stronger than any particular political persuasion. In March, eight states saw new record lows, including Hawaii (2.1 percent), Idaho (2.9 percent), Kentucky (4 percent ), Maine (2.7 percent), Mississippi (4.5 percent), Oregon (4.1 percent) and Wisconsin (2.9 percent).

Associated Press - April 24, 2018

Motive elusive after van driver kills 10 on Toronto sidewalk

Police in Canada's biggest city are piecing together witness accounts and surveillance video trying to determine why a driver plowed a rented van along a crowded sidewalk, killing 10 people and injuring 15 in what many said seemed a deliberate attack. A 25-year-old suspect was quickly captured in a tense but brief confrontation with officers a few blocks away from where his van jumped the sidewalk Monday and continued for a mile, leaving people bloodied and dead in his wake. But authorities so far had not disclosed a possible motive or cause even as the police chief agreed with witnesses that it seemed intentional. "The incident definitely looked deliberate," Police Chief Mark Saunders told reporters at a late-night news conference.

This article appeared in the San Antonio Express-News

New York Times - April 23, 2018

The Fight for Wisconsin Is On as Outside Money Pours Into Senate Race

The attack ads began in early 2017, planting doubts well ahead of the 2018 midterm elections. Against ominous background music and storm clouds, the Republican-financed spots hit Tammy Baldwin, Wisconsin’s Democratic senator, over the Affordable Care Act, Iran and veterans’ health care. By July, a Milwaukee radio station was carrying audacious ads about Ms. Baldwin’s support for abortion rights. “Did you know one out of three babies aborted in America are black? One out of three. And Tammy Baldwin is a big reason why,” the ad said. “That could be the next Frederick Douglass or Rosa Parks or Martin Luther King they’re aborting.”

Washington Post - April 23, 2018

Supreme Court considers power of agency judges and who should appoint them

In 2012, the Securities and Exchange Commission said the “Buckets of Money” strategy that Raymond J. Lucia pitched at investment seminars violated anti-fraud statutes. An SEC administrative law judge held a hearing and fined Lucia $300,000 and barred him from working as an investment adviser, a decision the commission affirmed. Lucia’s case was at the Supreme Court on Monday, not challenging the decision of the administrative law judge — although Lucia does — but arguing that the judge was improperly appointed to his job, something that could have a much larger impact on the federal government.

New York Times - April 20, 2018

Hundreds of Immigrant Children Have Been Taken From Parents at U.S. Border

On Feb. 20, a young woman named Mirian arrived at the Texas border carrying her 18-month-old son. They had fled their home in Honduras through a cloud of tear gas, she told border agents, and needed protection from the political violence there. She had hoped she and her son would find refuge together. Instead, the agents ordered her to place her son in the back seat of a government vehicle, she said later in a sworn declaration to a federal court. They both cried as the boy was driven away. For months, members of Congress have been demanding answers about how many families are being separated as they are processed at stations along the southwest border, in part because the Trump administration has in the past said it was considering taking children from their parents as a way to deter migrants from coming here.

Houston Chronicle - April 23, 2018

Hough: Work rules for public assistance are shortsighted

The Trump administration has asked federal agencies to strengthen and expand existing work requirements for Americans who receive public assistance through programs such as Medicaid and food stamps (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP). Federal agencies have 90 days to review their current systems and propose policy changes. Helping and empowering Americans living in poverty to be independent from public benefits is a worthy but complex goal. However, this effort is based on a simplistic analysis of public assistance and will harm the most vulnerable among us.

New York Times - April 20, 2018

‘Yes, I’m Running as a Socialist.’ Why Candidates Are Embracing the Label in 2018

There was no question on primary night in Texas last month that Franklin Bynum would win the Democratic nomination to become a criminal court judge in Houston. The 34-year-old defense attorney had no challengers. But for his supporters who packed into a Mexican restaurant that evening, there was still something impressive to celebrate. Many in the crowd were members of the Democratic Socialists of America, or D.S.A., a group that has experienced an enormous surge of interest since the election of President Trump, even in conservative states. And Mr. Bynum was one of their own — a socialist who, along with at least 16 others, appeared on the ballot in primary races across the state of Texas. “Yes, I’m running as a socialist,” Mr. Bynum said. “I’m a far-left candidate. What I’m trying to do is be a Democrat who actually stands for something, and tells people, ‘Here’s how we are going to materially improve conditions in your life.’”

NBC News - April 17, 2018

Galen: How Republicans and Democrats prevent independent candidates from getting on the ballot

Republican and Democratic hegemony over American politics began more than 150 years ago when the Whigs folded in the 1850s and were replaced by the GOP, at the time the anti-slavery party. In the decades since, we have seen a few independent or third-party efforts flare up, but never for long and never very successfully. As the two parties’ duopoly formed at the ballot box, they used their official authority to restrict and prevent political outsiders from fully participating in national and local elections. Across the country, these limitations and barriers to entry remain strong as Republicans and Democrats use arcane rules and outdated laws to make sure most voters only have two choices — and not particularly good choices at that.

PolitiFact - April 23, 2018

PolitiFact: Ted Cruz says Facebook shut down Chick-Fil-A appreciation page. Facebook also restored it.

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, fresh from questioning Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg at a hearing, asserted that Facebook inappropriately killed an appreciation day for Chick-Fil-A, the chicken restaurant that serves customers in more than 150 Texas places. ... Cruz wrote that Facebook shut down a "Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day." This claim delivers only half the bird--we mean, story. In 2012, Facebook says, it responded to an objection by removing an events page encouraging turnout at Chick-Fil-A restaurants. But the appreciation day page didn’t violate Facebook’s community standards, the company says, and it was put back online within 12 hours; the celebration occurred after all. On balance, we rate Cruz’s claim Half True.

Houston Chronicle - April 23, 2018

Turner, Gamez, Haseeb: Black children earn less over time than white children. Why?

A new study conducted by researchers at Stanford, Harvard and the U.S. Census Bureau reports that African-American boys grow up to earn less than their white counterparts, even when they are raised in similar environments. The researchers reported that African-American children born to parents in the top income bracket are more likely to fall to the bottom income bracket than remain in the top. In comparison, white children born in the top bracket are five times as likely to remain in the top. This is probably not shocking to most of us. Headlines for the past few weeks have glossed over the study's main points that examine "wealth, poverty and economic opportunity." Multiple factors might contribute to the wealth and income gap. Interestingly, the gap appears to be much less between whites and some racial groups.

Newsclips - April 23, 2018

Lead Stories

Wall St. Journal - April 22, 2018

Trump Will Tell Kim Jong Un That Dismantling Nuclear Arsenal Must Precede Economic Benefits

President Donald Trump will urge North Korea to act quickly to dismantle its nuclear arsenal when he meets North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and isn’t willing to grant Pyongyang substantial sanctions relief in return for a freeze of its nuclear and missile tests, administration officials said. Those two closely related questions—the pace of Pyongyang’s nuclear dismantlement and the timetable for sanctions relief—stand to be the major issues of the summit. “When the president says that he will not make the mistakes of the past, that means the U.S. will not be making substantial concessions, such as lifting sanctions, until North Korea has substantially dismantled its nuclear programs,” a senior Trump administration official said on Sunday.

The Hill - April 22, 2018

Impeaching Rosenstein? Some Republicans are talking about it

GOP leaders have been silent on the calls from key House conservatives to censure or impeach Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein — a move that would fire up the GOP base, but could also turn off moderate and independent voters in the midterm elections. In recent weeks, leading conservatives have been aggressively ramping up their threats to impeach or hold Rosenstein in contempt of Congress over a stalled request for documents — and the release of former FBI Director James Comey’s memos seems unlikely to quiet them. “Rosenstein has a number of other issues, and that’s really getting documents to Congress that we’ve asked for,” Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on Thursday. “He needs to get serious about that.”

Associated Press - April 23, 2018

Koch network success in Trump era draws Democratic pushback

The sprawling network funded by the billionaire Koch brothers is having a very good run with President Donald Trump in the White House and Republican control of Congress. Tax cuts are now signed into law. A conservative judge is seated on the Supreme Court. And many governmental regulations, including those on labor and environmental practices, are facing rollbacks. That success is starting to get attention. Democrats are increasingly questioning how far the network's influence extends into the White House, casting the groups' backing by industrialists Charles and David Koch as puppeteers behind Trump's agenda and hoping to rouse their own donors to fight back. The network in turn is ratcheting up its focus on areas where it aligns with Democrats— most notably immigration legislation — and reviving calls for bipartisanship.

This article appeared in the San Antonio Express-News

Silicon Hills - April 21, 2018

Pot Pioneers Gather in Austin to Explore Texas Market Opportunities

Pioneers in pot see a huge market developing nationwide for legal cannabis, and they think it’s not if, but when, legal marijuana will become a huge market in Texas. That’s the big takeaway from the first ever Austin Cannabis Entrepreneur conference held last Thursday and Friday at the Hyatt Regency downtown. “I think we are ahead of the curve in Texas,” said Hugh Forrest, programming director at South by Southwest, who created the conference. “It is a market that is being disrupted and that’s what entrepreneurs like.”

State Stories

Austin American-Statesman - April 20, 2018

UT boosts financial aid for low- and middle-income students

The University of Texas has expanded its annual spending on financial aid by $5 million to help students from low- and middle-income families. Starting this fall, incoming freshmen from Texas with family incomes as high as $100,000 could be eligible for grants depending on financial need as determined by a federal formula that takes the size of the family and other matters into account. The new program, dubbed the Texas Advance Commitment, is funded by recurring proceeds from the Permanent University Fund endowment allocated by the UT System Board of Regents.

Austin American-Statesman - April 22, 2018

Federal money to connect Texas schools to fiber at risk, officials say

Delays and denials by the federal government are putting Texas schools at risk of losing millions of dollars in potential subsidies that would help pay for installing high-speed fiber internet in classrooms, according to state officials. Last year, state lawmakers approved $25 million to help school districts over the 2018-19 budget period replace or install fiber-optic cable, arguably the fastest, most reliable and scalable form of internet access available. In return, the federal government promised to match the state money dollar-for-dollar through the E-Rate Program, administered by the Federal Communications Commission through a nonprofit organization called the Universal Service Administrative Company, or USAC. Texas will shell out $6 million this year and, based on applications from school districts, the state is estimated to pay $16.4 million next year.

Houston Chronicle - April 22, 2018

Teens who escaped Texas juvenile prison captured in Montgomery County

The pair of teenage felons who may have scaled a "no-climb" fence to escape from an understaffed juvenile prison between Austin and Houston were captured in Montgomery County Sunday evening, less than 24 hours after breaking out. Two Houston-area 16-year-olds - Brice Ryan Karalis and Bryan Ernando Villanueva - slipped out of their dorm at the Giddings State School around 9 p.m. Saturday and stole an unlocked car, officials said. It wasn't clear they had made it outside the fence of the Lee County facility until a Texas Juvenile Justice Department staffer spotted two youth fitting their description in a local park just before 11 p.m. the evening of their escape. "I'm not shocked," said state Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, who has long been critical of the state's scandal-plagued juvenile justice system. "I'm not impressed - in case you haven't picked up on it - by the operation of the campuses, particularly Giddings," Whitmire said. "We got two kids - how in the hell did they get over the razor wire?"

Houston Chronicle - April 22, 2018

Grieder: Texans are tired of being insulted

Ben Carson, the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, spoke at a press conference Friday at a fire station in Southside Place in central Harris County. He was joined by a number of state and local leaders, including Gov. Greg Abbott, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, and U.S. Rep. John Culberson, all of whom are Republicans. The subject at hand was housing relief for Texas residents affected by Hurricane Harvey. Houston and Harris County are set to receive $2.3 billion of the $5 billion the department is sending to the state for that purpose. City and state leaders have yet to decide how those funds should be spent, but it seems unlikely that Southside Place will see much of a cut. Like neighboring West University Place, it’s a standalone city and one that didn’t experience widespread flooding.

Houston Chronicle - April 22, 2018

Falkenberg: U.S. Supreme Court will decide how Texas battle lines are drawn

We Texans don’t suffer fools, and we’re even less fond of thieves. Years ago, when some thieves ran across retiree Joe Horn’s Pasadena lawn with a bag of loot from his neighbor’s house, Horn fatally shot them both in the back. He not only escaped indictment, many Texans cheered him on and a few had his name emblazoned on their bumpers. “Honk if you love Joe Horn,” the stickers read. But I’ve got a question for those Texans who believe death can be an appropriate penalty for stealing a bag of loot. What should we do with a thieving, cheating bunch of politicians who continuously, decade after decade, rob the people of this state of their sacred voting rights?

Houston Chronicle - April 22, 2018

Major additions in the works for Texas’ public lands

A pair of land transactions in opposite corners of Texas promise to expand the amount of public lands and public hunting, along with fishing and other outdoor recreation opportunities in the state. The transactions will protect almost 20 square miles of some of the most critically imperiled wildlife and fisheries habitat in Southeast Texas and add 25 square miles of Rio Grande-bordering Trans-Pecos landscape to the state’s largest wildlife management area. Earlier this month, The Conservation Fund transferred an 8,169-acre parcel of the 12,376-acre Sabine Ranch in Jefferson County to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The almost 13-square-mile tract, holding critically imperiled coastal prairie and wetlands and a portion of the largest remaining intact freshwater marsh in the state, becomes part of the adjacent 59.000-acre McFaddin National Wildlife Refuge.

Houston Chronicle - April 20, 2018

Prairie View A&M inaugurates Ruth Simmons as new president

The applause was thunderous and the cheers loud as Ruth Simmons strolled to the stage Friday in Panther Stadium to be sworn in as the eighth president at Prairie View A&M University. Purple and gold spotlights shone on the 72-year-old as she reflected on her journey from a young child growing up in Fifth Ward to one who has been lauded for her professional and academic achievements. "I believe in a way that my path to Prairie View was written in the heavens," Simmons said choking up during her inauguration speech. "For how else can I explain the improbable way I came to this task? How can I turn away from doing for other young people what was done for me?"

Dallas Morning News - April 20, 2018

DMN: Lawmakers must act as Texas students slip behind on reading, lose momentum on math

How long can Texas remain a good place to raise children if its leaders continue to let slide its commitment to education and to allow the consequences of its irresponsibility to continue piling up? Not long, we fear. The results from the most recent national assessments of how well Texas students in grades four and eight are learning to read and do math show we are losing ground — a decline whose effects will be felt first by the students themselves as they move into adulthood and eventually by everyone who depends on a strong Texas economy. Students here are falling "significantly below" the national average in reading. When it comes to math, we're slipped into a steady pattern of being merely average, ending what had been a years-long run at stronger results.

Dallas Morning News - April 20, 2018

Schnurman: How to make Texas great? Import lots of talent from other countries and states

All the bluster about a border wall can overwhelm an important truth: Texas needs immigrants, and lots of 'em. They’re a key reason the state’s population has grown twice as fast as the nation’s, and the Texas economy has become a juggernaut. From 2000 to 2017, immigrants filled 40 percent of new jobs in Texas, according to a recent report by researchers at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. Maybe it’s not surprising that immigrants account for over half the workers in construction, landscaping and housekeeping. But they also make up a major share of Texas’ medical scientists, software developers, physicians and engineers.

San Antonio Express-News - April 22, 2018

Fikac: Valdez debating whether to give White a forum in Democratic showdown

Former Dallas County sheriff Lupe Valdez says she’s fine with the idea of debating Houston businessman Andrew White as they fight for the Democratic nod for governor, particularly if “the people” want her to do so. But if you’re one of those debate-loving people, it’s not clear how you would get the message to her. Valdez came in first in the primary and so is considered the frontrunner in the May 22 runoff. When I asked her about White pressing for a debate, she said that she is devoting her time to listening to voters. “It’s more important for me to get out to the voters. It’s more important to me to listen to what they have to say. It’s more important to me to care about the individual that needs public education, that needs health care. That’s where I need to be,” she said.

Texas Tribune - April 22, 2018

Texas law allows police to keep details about deceased suspects confidential

As alarmed customers stared out the windows of a downtown Austin restaurant and beer pub during lunchtime that day in January 2017, Austin Police Officer Iven Wall parked his patrol car in the middle of the street, jumped out and radioed for help. “He’s got a gun, and he’s in the back seat,” Wall said to dispatch. Zachary Anam, a 19-year-old shoplifting suspect who was handcuffed in the back of Wall’s cruiser and bound for police headquarters, had managed to retrieve a pistol and apparently told Wall he was suicidal.

Texas Tribune - April 23, 2018

Ramsey: A poll showing a close race in Texas, if most Texans voted

You probably saw the new Texas political survey from Quinnipiac released last week — the one that had Democrat Beto O'Rourke running just a few percentage points behind Republican Ted Cruz in this year’s U.S. Senate race. Heady stuff, or scary stuff, depending on your team. It’s a highly regarded polling operation, but there are a couple of caveats that ought to figure into your jubilation/trepidation. The biggest is that the poll included a lot of Texans who have never been in a voting booth, and likely never will be.

Odessa American - April 20, 2018

Landgraf: Improving Permian Basin roads

We’ve all seen it. Crumbling roads, over-sized trucks striking overpasses, traffic congestion and fatal traffic accidents are all troubling effects of the oil and gas boom that only promises to get bigger. That’s why I requested that the Texas House Committee on Energy Resources evaluate the evolution of frac sand mining in the Permian Basin and how it may impact county infrastructure and oil and gas development. Additionally, the Texas House Committee on Transportation is investigating the impact energy exploration and production have on state and county roads. Both committees will soon be making recommendations about how to improve highways in energy-impacted areas like the Permian Basin.

County Stories

Dallas Morning News - April 22, 2018

Tarrant County judge to appear in court to face accusations of forging signatures to get on ballot

A Tarrant County judge is scheduled to appear in court Monday to face a charge that he tampered with government records. The Tarrant County Sheriff's Office has investigated complaints that voters' names were forged on the petition to place Justice of the Peace Russ Casey on the March 6 ballot to represent Precinct 3 in northeastern Tarrant County, KXAS-TV (NBC5) reported. Candidates for some races must get at least 250 voters to sign a petition to get their names on a ballot. Casey had more than 300 names for his bid for re-election. But when his challenger, Lenny Lopez, looked at the petition in January he noticed a number of signatures looked similar, NBC5 reported.

Dallas Morning News - April 20, 2018

Testimony ends in trial to determine if Dallas County discriminates against white voters

Testimony ended Thursday in the landmark redistricting case over whether Dallas County discriminates against white voters. The four-day trial — Ann Harding vs. Dallas County — featured analysis by local and national redistricting experts and video of two raucous county Commissioners Court meetings. U.S. District Judge Sidney Fitzwater will wade through the evidence and issue a ruling. That could take months because the judge will receive 50-page closing arguments from lawyers on both sides and hear final oral arguments in late May or early June. The lawsuit, filed in 2015, contends that the electoral boundaries county commissioners developed in 2011 dilute the white vote. Democrats enjoy a 4-1 advantage on the Commissioners Court. The districts are led by three Democrats — John Wiley Price, who is black; Elba Garcia, who is Hispanic; and Theresa Daniel, who is white. County Judge Clay Jenkins, also a Democrat, is white and is elected countywide. Mike Cantrell, also white, is the only Republican on the court.

City Stories

Austin American-Statesman - April 20, 2018

Writer, activist and San Marcos icon Bill Cunningham dies at 69

A San Marcos mainstay, Bill Cunningham was often seen roaming around the city, donning a fedora and sunglasses, and talking books, history and general coolness. A writer, activist and former Texas State University regent, Cunningham died Thursday. He was 69. He was remembered by friends and family as thoughtful, witty and well-loved. “Bill was kind of an icon in San Marcos, an icon of ‘cool,’ I’d like to say, just a true gentleman,” San Marcos Mayor John Thomaides said Friday. “We are all devastated by his loss. He leaves a huge legacy in this city.” Cunningham died from complications after a fall. He left behind a wife, Nevin, and son, Andrew.

Austin American-Statesman - April 22, 2018

Quintero: Austin policies are making affordability crisis worse

Paying more for housing? Blame City Hall. In spite of paying regular lip service to affordability, city officials continue to push big government policies that make it more expensive to live in Austin. In fact, officials are exploring a new one now. Earlier this month, Austin’s Code Department began seeking public input on a proposal requiring certain homes and apartments to install insect screens on their doors and windows. Exactly which property owners will be affected is not clear, though recent comments suggest it could be almost anyone. “It will depend on the feedback. So, if the community members suggest this should only be for new homes, we will take that into consideration.

Austin American-Statesman - April 22, 2018

Smith: “No more cane on the Brazos” or affordable housing in Austin

How hard is it to find affordable housing these days? Let’s start in Sugar Land, where the old bones of more than 30 newly disinterred, turn-of-the-20th-century prison inmates can no longer afford their final resting places. The bodies have to move to make way for the local school district’s “new career center.” Figures. The poor souls no doubt finished their careers as forced labor convicts, the sort who sang as they worked, “No more cane on the Brazos,” where you can “find a dead man on every road.” In Austin, as in so many urban areas in Texas and around the country, people are experiencing a so-called “housing cost burden.” That’s think-tank jargon for “the rent is too damn high!” We’re all going to need new careers if we want to keep living in the city.

Houston Chronicle - April 22, 2018

HISD partnership proposal met with skepticism, questions

A long-awaited proposal from Houston ISD to temporarily surrender control over 10 of its lowest-performing schools is facing mixed reviews ahead of a crucial vote Tuesday. Case in point: the president of Houston’s largest teachers union, Zeph Capo, blasted the proposal to allow Energized For STEM Academy to run all 10 schools as ill-conceived and hastily arranged, saying he has “no confidence that this is in the best interest of children.” Meanwhile, Board of Trustees President Rhonda Skillern-Jones defended the arrangement as “the best choice of all the bad choices” available to HISD, which faces forced campus closures or a state takeover of its locally elected school board without a partnership.

National Stories

Associated Press - April 22, 2018

Hillary Clinton, not on ballot, is star of GOP midterm plan

Almost 18 months have passed since Hillary Clinton lost the presidency. She holds no position of power in government. And she is not expected to run for office again. Yet Clinton is starring in the Republican Party's 2018 midterm strategy. With control of Congress up for grabs this fall, the GOP's most powerful players are preparing to spend big on plans to feature Clinton as a central villain in attack ads against vulnerable Democrats nationwide. The strategy, which already has popped up in races in Pennsylvania, Indiana and North Dakota, illustrates the resilience and political potency of Republican voters' antipathy for Clinton. As difficult as it's been for Democrats to move past the Clinton era, it may be even harder for Republicans.

This article appeared in the Houston Chronicle

Washington Post - April 22, 2018

Romney faces clearer path to GOP Senate nomination despite convention setback

Mitt Romney seemed to be on a smooth path to Utah’s U.S. Senate seat, with the backing of President Trump, the blessing of retiring Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R) and a popularity with Republicans that he earned as their 2012 presidential nominee. Until Saturday. Delegates at the GOP’s state convention denied Romney their nomination as Mike Kennedy, a three-term state representative who entered the race just weeks earlier, edged out the establishment favorite with 50.88 percent of the vote to 49.12 percent. The close result secured ballot slots for Romney and Kennedy in the June 26 primary that Romney backers insist is a mere speed bump in his political revival.

New York Times - April 21, 2018

Bruni: The Republicans’ Big Senate Mess

West Virginia may be the wackiest theater in the battle between Republicans and Democrats for control of the Senate, but across the country, the fight is getting messier, Republicans are confronting unanticipated obstacles and the outcome is growing harder to predict. Republicans have a mere 51-49 advantage in the chamber, and they’re still favored to hold onto that majority, a state of play that confounds casual observers, who wonder how a predicted blue wave wouldn’t wash away such a tiny gap. Easy: Of the 35 senators who are up for re-election, 26 are Democrats and only nine are Republicans. Ten of those Democrats are defending their seats in states that Trump won in 2016, and in five of those states — West Virginia, North Dakota, Montana, Indiana and Missouri — the president’s victory margin was enormous and he maintains an approval rating significantly higher than his national number. Meanwhile, only one Republican, Senator Dean Heller of Nevada, is defending his seat in a state that Hillary Clinton won.

Houston Chronicle - April 20, 2018

Cornyn says Trump's OPEC tweet off the mark as oil rises on Mideast tension, not conspiracy

President Trump's early morning tweet on Friday accusing OPEC of artificially raising oil prices "very high" isn't exactly right, Texas U.S. Sen. John Cornyn said. On the sidelines of a luncheon in Houston on Friday, the second ranking Republican in the U.S. Senate said it's more likely that oil prices cruised above $68 a barrel this week because of simmering tensions in the Middle East. Energy markets have been roiled in recent weeks by Syria's civil war, a conflict oil traders have long feared could spill over to the region's major oil-exporting countries.

Politico - April 22, 2018

GOP split as banks take on gun industry

Major banks are cutting off business with the gun industry, roiling Republicans who want to respect the financial decisions of private institutions while still showing their unyielding support of the Second Amendment. Some Republicans, enraged at moves by Citigroup and Bank of America to distance themselves from some retailers and gun manufacturers, have called on government agencies to cancel contracts with the banks and defer deregulation proposals that would benefit them. But other Republicans want to keep their hands off, saying lenders are free to decide who they do business with.

New York Times - April 22, 2018

Public Servants Are Losing Their Foothold in the Middle Class

The anxiety and seething anger that followed the disappearance of middle-income jobs in factory towns has helped reshape the American political map and topple longstanding policies on tariffs and immigration. But globalization and automation aren’t the only forces responsible for the loss of those reliable paychecks. So is the steady erosion of the public sector. For generations of Americans, working for a state or local government — as a teacher, firefighter, bus driver or nurse — provided a comfortable nook in the middle class. No less than automobile assembly lines and steel plants, the public sector ensured that even workers without a college education could afford a home, a minivan, movie nights and a family vacation.

Milwaukee JournalSentinel - April 19, 2018

Wisconsin Supreme Court takes up challenge to legality of state's caps on medical malpractice payments

The more than $9.5 million award paid to a Milwaukee woman who lost all four of her limbs as a result of medical malpractice will not be enough to cover all of her future healthcare costs, her attorney told the state Supreme Court on Thursday. "These people didn't get enough money to cover their future medical bills," Daniel Rottier said in arguing that Ascaris and Antonio Mayo should be allowed to exceed the state's $750,000 cap on non-economic damages such as pain and suffering and loss of companionship. A Milwaukee County jury in 2014 awarded the couple $25.3 million — of which, $16.5 million was for non-economic damages — after it decided that staff at Columbia St. Mary's hospital erred in 2011 when it failed to inform Ascaris Mayo, then 50, that a simple antibiotic could be used to treat severe abdominal pain that later was discovered to have been caused by a Strep A infection.

Dallas Morning News - April 22, 2018

Roark: Digital curiosity is killing our souls

For all its promise to connect and improve our lives, the information age has let us down. Our social media, Wikipedia, digital world, where anything and anyone we want to know is at our thumbs, has left us as depressed, anxious and isolated as we've never been as a culture. We can try to war against it by spending less time on our devices and more time with, you know, actual people. But what I'd propose is that we get to the heart of why we are so intoxicated by knowledge. What we need is a lesson in church history, recovering what Christianity deemed to be a sin for millennia: curiosity. To our modern contexts and imaginations, the word "curiosity" probably means something different. In the church historically, though, the sin or vice of curiosity has less to do with being smart, skeptical or critical and more to do with what St. Augustine called the "concupiscence of the eyes."

Dallas Morning News - April 21, 2018

Southwest Airlines tragedy brings stepped-up inspections of widely used jet engine

The maker of the jet engine that blew apart on Southwest Airlines Flight 1380, marring the U.S. commercial airline industry's nine-year run without a fatality, is calling for stepped-up inspections of fan blades on older engines of that type. The Federal Aviation Administration quickly followed suit Friday and ordered emergency ultrasonic inspections of one of the world's most popular jet engine types, the CFM56-7B made by CFM International Inc. The FAA's action comes amid questions about whether the agency should have acted faster in light of a 2016 emergency landing caused by a midair engine failure on a Southwest flight using the same type of engine.

Austin American-Statesman - April 20, 2018

First Reading: Flash-bang grenades: On Ted Cruz’s incendiary political rhetoric.

The TIME 100 is supposed to be a list of the 100 most influential people of 2018. Each of the hundred gets a little write-up by some other pretty influential person. And so our own Texas Sen. Ted Cruz did the blurb for President Trump. Here is what Cruz wrote: "President Trump is a flash-bang grenade thrown into Washington by the forgotten men and women of America. The fact that his first year as Commander in Chief disoriented and distressed members of the media and political establishment is not a bug but a feature.

Dallas Morning News - April 22, 2018

In Mexico's first presidential debate, all eyes and attacks were on leading candidate Lopez Obrador

Mexican presidential front-runner Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador entered the first of three presidential debates with a double-digit lead over five opponents who wasted no time in pounding him on issues ranging from corruption to his promise to offer amnesty to criminals. The pledge, made last December, became a target for Lopez Obrador's opponents, hoping to pounce on a weak point by the candidate who has dominated polls and attention for the entire campaign, and even before it officially began. Lopez Obrador was quick to try and rephrase his promise, saying, "Amnesty does not mean impunity ... We have to attend to the original problems that led to the issue" such as combating poverty.

Houston Chronicle - April 19, 2018

A marriage used to prevent deportation. Not anymore.

For decades, marriage to a U.S. citizen has been a virtual guarantee of legal residency, the main hurdle being proof that the relationship is legitimate. But with the Trump administration in fierce pursuit of unauthorized immigrants across the country, many who were ordered deported years ago are finding that jobs, home and family are no longer a defense — not even for those who have married Americans. As the Trump administration arrests thousands of immigrants with no criminal history and reshapes the prospects of even legal immigrants — an overdue corrective, officials say, to the lenient policies of the past — many who have lived without papers for years are urgently seeking legal status by way of a parent, adult child or spouse who is already a citizen or permanent resident. In a growing number of cases, however, immigrants with old deportation orders that were never enforced are getting the go-ahead after an interview by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the agency that handles residency and citizenship, only to be arrested by ICE.

Dallas Morning News - April 20, 2018

Miniter: Justice Gorsuch argues originalism as he strikes law to deport immigrants convicted of violent crime

An important debate underway in this country is happening among conservatives on the U.S. Supreme Court over what is called "originalism," an approach that involves looking at the original meaning of the U.S. Constitution. The late Justice Antonin Scalia was a guiding light among originalists. So it is more than a little interesting to see Justice Neil Gorsuch, appointed by President Donald Trump to fill Justice Scalia's seat, engage in a detailed debate in a recent decision with Justice Clarence Thomas, another leading light among originalists. The case at issue, Sessions v. Dimaya, dealt with the constitutionality of a law that said an immigrant may be deported if convicted for "any" felony that "by its nature, involves a substantial risk that physical force . . . may be used." Thomas would have upheld the law. By contrast, in siding with the majority, Gorsuch said the law fails to provide due process because it is too vague to give people notice of what the law requires of them.

CNN - April 23, 2018

Former President George H.W. Bush in intensive care

Former President George H.W. Bush, who just buried his wife first lady Barbara Bush on Saturday, is in intensive care, CNN has learned. "President Bush was admitted to the Houston Methodist Hospital yesterday morning after contracting an infection that spread to his blood. He is responding to treatments and appears to be recovering. We will issue additional updates as events warrant," spokesman Jim McGrath said in a statement. Bush, 93, was admitted to the hospital on Sunday morning with an infection that led to sepsis, which can be life-threatening, according to a source close to the former Republican President. He was in critical condition, the source said.

The Hill - April 23, 2018

14 states hit record-low unemployment

Fourteen states have set new records for low unemployment rates in the last year, nearly a decade after the recession put millions of Americans out of work. The states hitting new unemployment lows run the ideological gamut, from conservative Texas to liberal California, suggesting a recovery stronger than any particular political persuasion. In March, eight states saw new record lows, including Hawaii (2.1 percent), Idaho (2.9 percent), Kentucky (4 percent ), Maine (2.7 percent), Mississippi (4.5 percent), Oregon (4.1 percent) and Wisconsin (2.9 percent).

Newsclips - April 22, 2018

Lead Stories

Dallas Morning News - April 21, 2018

Redistricting redux -- Supreme Court to hear arguments in 7-year-old Texas gerrymandering case (graphics)

Next week, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear a case to determine whether Texas needs to draw new electoral maps to give minority voters an equal voice. The outcome could have massive ramifications for North Texans. Experts say it could dramatically change state politics and perhaps create an opening for Democrats to win more seats in the Texas House and in Congress. But if one expert deems the 7-year-old case “the most complex redistricting contest I’ve ever been involved in,” how are you supposed to follow it?

Washington Post - April 21, 2018

Democrats say looser marijuana laws attract young voters, and some Republicans are catching on

Democrats are increasingly embracing looser restrictions on marijuana — and a growing number of high-profile Republicans are joining them, marking a shift in the politics of cannabis. As Democrats try to regain control of Congress in the November elections and make gains in state races, some strategists are wagering that being firmly on the side of easing marijuana laws will help boost turnout among millennials, a key bloc in the party’s coalition. Many of those voters have sat out recent midterms. While pot enthusiasts celebrated their unofficial “4/20” holiday on Friday, Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) announced his support for decriminalizing marijuana at the federal level. Echoing others who have revised their positions, Schumer said his thinking had “evolved.”

Austin American-Statesman - April 20, 2018

It’s taken more than a year, but UT System moving to sell 300 acres in Houston

More than a year after University of Texas System Chancellor Bill McRaven scuttled a plan to develop a campus of sorts on about 300 acres acquired in Houston, the system is moving to put the property on the market. The system issued a “request for qualifications” Friday seeking potential buyers for all or a significant portion of the property. “Alternatively, developers would need to provide a development concept, extend infrastructure, and then buy tracts constituting all or significant portions of the property,” the system said in a news release. The ill-fated acquisition of the property for more than $200 million likely will go down as McRaven’s biggest misstep in his chancellorship, which began in January 2015. The retired four-star admiral and Navy SEAL will step down at the end of May for health reasons and to focus on writing, teaching and other pursuits.

Washington Times - April 20, 2018

DNC: Fundraising woes tied to 2016 conspiracy

The Democratic National Committee, in a lawsuit filed Friday, blamed the party’s fundraising woes during the 2016 presidential race on an nefarious plot, engineered by the Trump campaign, Russian officials and WikiLeaks, to disrupt the election. The Trump campaign countered that lawsuit is a “sham” attempt to makeup for their lackluster fundraising. Filed in federal court in Manhattan, the lawsuit says the “illegal conspiracy” between the three groups undercut the party’s message and “sowed discord within the Democratic Party at a time when party unity was essential to electoral success.” ... The Trump campaign fired back. “This is a sham lawsuit about a bogus Russian collusion claim filed by a desperate, dysfunctional, and nearly insolvent Democratic Party,” said Brad Parscale, President Trump’s campaign manager. “With the Democrats’ conspiracy theories against the President’s campaign evaporating as quickly as the failing DNC’s fundraising, they’ve sunk to a new low to raise money, especially among small donors who have abandoned them.”

Washington Post - April 21, 2018

Kane: Disruptive conservative groups lose their punch with Trump in charge

Five years ago, a loose constellation of conservative groups upended Republican politics and sometimes appeared to call the shots for the GOP in Congress. Now, those disrupter groups have been sidelined by the greatest disruption in American politics: President Trump. Republicans rarely talk about these outside groups, who have abandoned their past practice of challenging GOP incumbents in primaries. Almost no one pays attention to the conservative voting scorecards that proliferated a few years back. “All of them are less powerful because we have the president, and that would have been true with any president, but it’s really President Trump that drives these sorts of things now,” said Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), a 15-year veteran who regularly supports leadership.

State Stories

Dallas Morning News - April 20, 2018

Does Beto O'Rourke believe in miracles? When it comes to his uphill race against Sen. Ted Cruz, he does

Beto O'Rourke, buoyed by stout fundraising and a surprisingly favorable poll, has a renewed belief in miracles. More than ever before, the Democratic congressman from El Paso is talking like beating incumbent Sen. Ted Cruz is no longer a pipe dream. "Who knows about polls these days," O'Rourke told The Dallas Morning News before a rally at the Rustic restaurant and bar Thursday night. "I hear everyone is skeptical of polls. I kind of feel that way myself, but if nothing else, it shows that this is possible." ... O'Rourke also paid tribute to Victor Morales, the Crandall High School teacher who in 1996 drove thousands of miles across Texas in a white pickup to win the Democratic nomination for Senate. Morales, with little campaign cash, beat U.S. Rep. John Bryant of Dallas in a runoff before losing the general election to incumbent Republican Phil Gramm.

Dallas Morning News - April 20, 2018

'Merit or on quota?' Former Texas official questions biracial teen's Harvard acceptance

A former member of the Texas State Board of Education took a shot Friday at a biracial California teen who was accepted to Harvard University. George Clayton of Richardson replied to a tweet posted by Drake Johnson of Marina, Calif., in which Johnson wore a Harvard sweater and announced he would be attending the Ivy League school. "It's official, I'm Harvard bound #harvard2022," the senior tweeted. ... According to his Twitter bio, Clayton is running again for a spot on the state board, but there is no record of him filing for candidacy. He previously held the District 12 seat from 2010 to 2012, when he defeated conservative Geraldine "Tincy" Miller in a surprising upset. Miller took the seat back in 2012 and announced in December she would retire when her term ended.

Dallas Morning News - April 20, 2018

Jeffers: Judge to rule Monday on GOP suit seeking to remove dozens of Dallas County Democrats from ballot

State District Judge Eric Moyé will decide Monday whether a lawsuit that would kick more than 80 Democrats off the November general election ballot should proceed. On Friday, lawyers for the Democrats targeted for removal argued that the case should be dismissed for several reasons — including their contention that the plaintiff, Dallas County Republican Party Chairwoman Missy Shorey, does not have standing to file a suit that would remove Democrats from the ballot. When the case was filed, Republicans sought to have a judge remove 127 Democrats from the ballot because Dallas County Democratic Party Chairwoman Carol Donovan did not sign their candidate petitions.

Dallas Morning News - April 21, 2018

Fifth official in Texas Health and Human Services Commission departs amid contracting problems

Another top official is leaving the Texas Health and Human Services Commission in the wake of contract mismanagement — the fifth since the contracting problems came to light. Ron Pigott, the agency's deputy executive commissioner for procurement and contracting services since 2015, has resigned, agency spokeswoman Carrie Williams confirmed in an email. He previously was over procurement at the Texas Comptroller's office. "We're moving forward," Williams said. "These are opportunities to bring in new brainpower and continue to make the agency stronger."

Dallas Morning News - April 20, 2018

McLarty, Moniz: 5 ways to modernize NAFTA by focusing on energy

Surrounded by roaring crowds at his rallies, candidate Donald Trump assailed multilateral agreements and threatened to rip up NAFTA, characterizing it as "the worst trade deal ever." Indeed, Trump's suspicion of trade dates back to the 1980s when he first began to engage on the issue. As president, he continues to be suspicious. On day three of his presidency, he withdrew the U.S. from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (although he may be having second thoughts) and more recently slapped harsh tariffs on steel and aluminum imports — sparing Mexico and Canada only for now. Despite the push to achieve an "agreement in principle" on the North American Free Trade Agreement for last week's Summit of the Americas, the temptation to withdraw remains. In a recent cabinet meeting, the president told reporters, "We are fairly close on NAFTA and if we don't make the right deal, we'll terminate NAFTA and we'll make the right deal after that."

Austin American-Statesman - April 20, 2018

Texas case is 1 of 3 redistricting fights before high court

In addition to the Texas redistricting case, the U.S. Supreme Court is weighing two other legal battles that could change the way political lines are drawn in all 50 states. The high court has already heard oral arguments this term over whether lawmakers in Wisconsin and Maryland created political districts that were improperly gerrymandered along partisan lines, producing maps that gave one party an unfair advantage in elections. A third partisan gerrymandering case out of North Carolina also is waiting in the wings at the Supreme Court, and observers are watching closely to see if the nine justices place any limits on drawing district lines that provide one party with outsized political influence.

Austin American-Statesman - April 20, 2018

Herman: Robocalls, RVs and cushinons. Yes, cushinons.

It’s odds and ends day. We’ll touch on robocalls and a knotty question for everybody’s favorite indicted Texas attorney general. And cushinons. Yes, “cushinons,” which are coming soon to an Austin neighborhood. Stay tuned to find out if a is an amusing French pastry, a tasty Asian appetizer or a nettlesome skin eruption that can be topically treated by ointment or salve. First, an update: My fellow Texans, we’ve dropped to No. 2 in a particular category. I recently reported that we topped the nation in incoming robocalls last year with an astounding 3.4 billion, according to the National Consumer Law Center, which wants lawmakers and regulators to crack down on those annoying — some legal, some not — interruptions of life.

Austin American-Statesman - April 20, 2018

Abbott seeking to call a special election to replace Rep. Farenthold

Gov. Greg Abbott has asked Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton for a legal opinion on whether Abbott can suspend state election law to call a special election “as soon as is legally possible” to fill the congressional seat left vacant when embattled U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Corpus Christi, resigned two weeks ago. In a letter to Paxton on Thursday, Abbott said he is concerned that state and federal law may not allow an election earlier than September. Abbott writes in the letter that “it is imperative to restore representation” to the voters of the 27th Congressional District, which stretches from Corpus Christi to Bastrop and Caldwell counties, chiefly because they are still seeking federal relief from Hurricane Harvey damage. Abbott noted that all of the district’s 13 counties are covered by his most recent disaster declaration for areas affected by Harvey.

Austin American-Statesman - April 21, 2018

U.S. Supreme Court wades into Texas political district fight

When explosive population growth gave Texas four additional seats in Congress after the 2010 census, the GOP majority in the Legislature determined that three of those districts would be drawn to ensure the election of Republican candidates. The congressional district map Republicans produced, however, was met with numerous lawsuits and a series of court rulings that said the GOP achieved its electoral goals by discriminating against minority voters — not only in districts for the U.S. House but in boundaries drawn for the Texas House as well. The matter is now before the U.S. Supreme Court, which will hear arguments Tuesday in a case that will determine whether Republicans crossed the line by diluting the strength of minority voters or improperly using race to gerrymander two congressional districts and nine state House districts.

Houston Chronicle - April 20, 2018

Prisoners in solitary more likely to be black, even as overall use of isolation decreases in Texas

The Texas prison system has shifted more than 4,000 inmates out of solitary confinement over the past decade - but those who are still there are more likely to be African-American, according to Texas Department of Criminal Justice data. At the end of the 2008 fiscal year, 17.7 of the prisoners in administrative segregation were black; by the end of the last fiscal year, 24.7 percent were black. Over the same time frame, the portion of administrative segregation inmates who are white decreased by 4 percentage points and the portion who are Hispanic dropped by just over 3 percentage points. Across all groups, the number of inmates in administrative segregation dropped.

Houston Chronicle - April 20, 2018

Huntsville prison hunger strike ‘essentially’ over, officials say

Ten days after it began, the hunger strike at a Huntsville prison is "essentially" over, according to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. Though Wynne Unit prisoners reported that as many as 50 inmates participated in the strike at one point, only one was still refusing food as of Friday morning, prison spokesman Jeremy Desel confirmed. The decision not to eat came on the heels of a lockdown in one wing of the prison, which officials said stemmed from an uptick in disciplinary infractions, including feces-throwing, contraband and assaults on staff and other inmates.

Houston Chronicle - April 21, 2018

Grieder: Texas voters aren’t used to having so many options

Shortly after Donald Trump was elected president of the United States, I met up with my friend Joseph Kopser, who mentioned that he was considering running for Congress in Texas’s 21st District. I was delighted by this prospect because I’m familiar with the district, which is currently represented by Republican Lamar Smith. It encompasses the part of Central Texas that I consider my home turf, including parts of Travis and Bexar counties and a swath of the Texas Hill Country. I therefore knew that Kopser would be a serious challenger to Smith, who has held the seat since 1987, when I was in kindergarten. It’s considered a safe red seat, but Republicans are not a monolith, and the Republicans I know who live in that district are not necessarily opposed to voting for a Democrat. It depends who the Democrat is.

Houston Chronicle - April 20, 2018

Wallace: Beto O’Rourke turns to…Trump?

On a college campus, at a meeting hall packed with legions of liberal Democrats whipped up into a frenzy about calls for universal health care and an end to college debt, Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke got more than 1,000 of his faithful supporters to cheer the name “Donald J. Trump.” Never mind that Trump is sporting an approval rating in the single-digits among Democratic voters. The Democrat, whom U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz is trying to paint as a liberal backed by Hollywood elites, turned Trump into an applause line at Texas Tech University. O’Rourke — as he did in more than a dozen other speaking engagements from Houston to Midland over the last several weeks — talked about Trump signing a bill that included a provision O’Rourke had nurtured and helped turn into law.

San Antonio Express-News - April 20, 2018

Texas job growth continues, unemployment rate stays at 4 percent

Texas’ job growth continued in March for the 21st consecutive month with 32,000 jobs added. The largest job growth came in the trade, transportation and utilities industries, which added 7,500 jobs, according to a Texas Workforce Commission report released Friday. Professional and business services added 6,200 jobs and construction added 3,800 jobs. “Private-sector employment remained strong over the month with 30,600 jobs added in March,” said Commissioner Ruth R. Hughs. “Texas is a state that continues to welcome new employers and support home grown businesses, offering them the tools they need to succeed and grow.”

San Antonio Express-News - April 20, 2018

State panel slaps Bexar judge who called man “Mr. Maggot”

The State Commission on Judicial Conduct issued sanctions against Bexar County Probate Judge Kelly Cross for, among other acts, calling a disabled man with infected wounds “Mr Maggot” or “Maggot Man,” comparing a disabled child’s IQ to that of a ball point pen, and demeaning other mentally disadvantaged wards of the state. The commission handed Cross a “public admonition” and instructed her to obtain one hour of instruction from a mentor, focusing on judicial demeanor and courtroom decorum. Cross, a first-term Republican, won her March primary race with 64 percent of the vote, but faces attorney Oscar Kazen, a Democrat, in the November general election. In 2016, Cross fired Kazen as an associate probate court judge and replaced him with her staff attorney, Art Rossi, a fellow Republican.

San Antonio Express-News - April 21, 2018

In Democratic runoff for governor, White is fighting but Valdez is favored

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew White has unveiled an ambitious plan to expand gambling and improve education, proposed a statewide network of self-driving cars and called for debates with opponent Lupe Valdez — an idea supported by party star Beto O’Rourke. Valdez, the former Dallas County sheriff, hasn’t done any of that as the May 22 runoff looms. She has addressed core issues in broad terms, but has yet to outline detailed policy proposals. It’s unclear when she will do so. Valdez also hasn’t shown any eagerness to duel verbally with White before Democrats choose their standard-bearer for the November battle against Gov. Greg Abbott — although she said that “of course” she wants to debate the Republican incumbent if she is her party’s nominee.

Texas Tribune - April 20, 2018

Texas students walk out of classes, continuing momentum of gun violence protests

For one minute and 13 seconds on Friday, students across Texas stood in silence outside of their schools after walking out of class. The 13 seconds were in honor of 13 lives lost during the Columbine High School shooting in Colorado that occurred exactly 19 years before Friday's walkouts. "We’re just trying to get everyone out of being scared of talking,” Alpine High School senior Anna Downing said in a phone interview after she walked out. Fueled by the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, students in Texas and across the country walked out of their classes Friday, protesting gun violence in America. The shooting caused an eruption of conversation and protest about gun violence among middle and high school students around the country.

Texas Tribune - April 19, 2018

Valoir: Sex-ed must be “medically accurate and complete”

As part of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018, Congress significantly changed sex education requirements for the nation. The new educational emphasis is on “sexual risk avoidance,” and the content is enormously different from the prior law, which encouraged abstinence-only sex-ed. Sex-ed now must be “medically accurate and complete,” and so arguably can no longer stop at “don't do it.” By contrast, the prior law's "exclusive purpose" was abstinence education, which prevented schools that accepted government funding from teaching family planning and disease prevention. The new law opens the door for all Texas schools to provide comprehensive sex education or, for those who are not ready for such a change, to move from abstinence-only to abstinence-plus-marital education as promoted by Treble-Up. This grassroots organization is dedicated to reducing teen pregnancy in Texas and provides a free booklet on family planning in a marital context.

Texas Tribune - April 19, 2018

Keough: Who can benefit from state-legal medical marijuana — and how

It’s a new era for Texas, with a certain kind of medical cannabis now available to qualifying patients. In recent weeks, state-licensed providers have opened for business under the state’s landmark Compassionate Use Act (Senate Bill 339), which allows qualified physicians to prescribe low-THC medical cannabis to patients diagnosed with intractable epilepsy. Many Texans are wondering how to go about qualifying for and obtaining medical cannabis under this law. As a neurologist and epileptologist who is approved by the Texas Department of Public Safety to prescribe medical cannabis under the CUA, allow me to illuminate the potential of this kind of medical cannabis for certain patients and clarify the process of qualifying for low-THC cannabis under Texas law.

Ft. Worth Star-Telegram - April 21, 2018

Kennedy: Meet the local heroes and villains in 'God Save Texas'

Fort Worth is the home of Texas' best museums. Arlington, though, is at risk of damage from Tea Party Republicans and wild hogs. Texas is a wondrous place, but a wacky one. Pulitzer-winning author Lawrence Wright does his best to explain in the new book, “God Save Texas.” The state's most powerful politician, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, is a recovering sportscaster. Leaders divide sharply, even among Republicans, over whether to spend more or less on children and education.

Ft. Worth Star-Telegram - April 20, 2018

Greene: A top citizen complaint being aggressively addressed

Among of the most frequent of citizen complaints that many North Texas cities share is the constant need to deal with the deteriorated conditions of older city streets. It doesn’t seem to matter that more money is spent on street work all the time. Or maybe it’s because people don’t know how high a priority cities place on work to make daily travel on their roads as smooth as possible. In Arlington, for example, the outcome of the last bond election held in 2014 found 75 percent of voters saying yes to $160 million for street improvements. Spread over five years, that comes to $32 million annually for every phase of street work from design to project completion.

Roll Call - April 13, 2018

Don’t Mess With Texas Landowners on Border Wall, Lawmakers Warn

Two Texas lawmakers — one Republican, one Democrat — warned Homeland Security Department officials Thursday that it won’t be easy to build President Donald Trump’s border wall in the Lone Star State if private landowners have anything to say about it. GOP Rep. John Carter, chairman of the House Appropriations Homeland Security Subcommittee, and Democratic Rep. Henry Cuellar, whose district sits on the border with Mexico, laid out a host of reasons why landowners on the border could stifle — temporarily, at least — DHS efforts to make Trump’s hallmark campaign promise a reality. “I’ve been warning people since day one,” Carter said at a subcommittee hearing on Trump’s fiscal 2019 budget request for Customs and Border Protection, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement. “You’re gonna need a lot of lawyers.”

County Stories

Dallas Morning News - April 20, 2018

Travis County opioid drug overdoses on the rise, 2006-16 data show

The rate of opioid overdose deaths in Travis County, including those from heroin and prescription pain medication, nearly doubled from 2006 to 2016, according to data released by the Austin Public Health Department. In 2006, Travis County averaged four deaths per 100,000 residents. The rated jumped to 7.5 deaths per 100,000 residents in 2016. The figures, from a report in the latest edition of the Travis County Medical Society Journal, were released Tuesday amid what health experts are describing as a nationwide opioid overdose epidemic. In 2016, more than 42,000 people in the United States died from prescription opioids, heroin and fentanyl — more than any other year on record, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Austin American-Statesman - April 21, 2018

Rodriguez, Elfant: We’re suing to stop the hijacking of Travis County votes

After seven years — and three election cycles — of litigation, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear the Texas congressional redistricting lawsuit against then-Gov. Rick Perry and the state of Texas beginning this week. As two of the plaintiffs in this lawsuit, we sought to reverse unconstitutional gerrymandering and minority voter disenfranchisement in Travis County. Texas Republicans have harmed minority voters, specifically in Travis County, through outrageously gerrymandered districts that give Republican candidates an advantage in our otherwise “blue” slice of Texas. They used race as a tool to further their partisan interests and targeted minority voters for not voting the way Republicans wanted them to vote. Our lawsuit attempts to stop the hijacking of Travis County votes and protect future minority voting rights. Lower courts have ruled that the Republican-drawn maps we’re fighting are indeed unconstitutional, and that the Texas Legislature intentionally discriminated against minority voters.

City Stories

Austin American-Statesman - April 20, 2018

Austin job growth stays strong, absorbs influx of new workers

The Austin area’s unemployment rate climbed slightly in March compared with February but remained below its level a year ago, as local businesses continued adding jobs at a pace swift enough to soak up the influx of new workers into the region. The local civilian labor force topped 1.19 million people last month, up by about 45,000 since March 2017, according to the Texas Workforce Commission. Despite the rise, the number of people in the labor force without jobs still slipped by 1,100 over that time, to 36,800. The trends brought the March unemployment rate in the Austin metro area — which includes Travis, Williamson, Hays, Bastrop and Caldwell counties — to 3.1 percent, up from 3 percent in February but below the March 2017 rate of 3.3 percent.

Dallas Morning News - April 21, 2018

National testing scores show that Dallas ISD must continue its crucial reforms

It was disconcerting to learn that Dallas Independent School District fourth grade reading scores remained flat from 2015 to 2017, according to new results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress. However, current district progress in third grade reading scores are expected to change this trend in 2019. Since 2015, Dallas ISD third grade reading scores at the state's "meets" standard have grown 8 percentage points (from 28 percent to 36 percent) versus 5 percentage points (from 39 percent to 44 percent) for Texas overall. With the increasing demand for Dallas to create a skilled workforce to meet the needs of our growing region, it is more important than ever to sustain and expand public and private investments in early childhood education.

Houston Chronicle - April 20, 2018

Possible charter partner revealed for HISD's struggling schools

Energized For STEM Academy Inc., an organization run by NAACP Houston Branch President James Douglas and former Houston ISD trustee Paula Harris, has been selected as the potential partner to run 10 long-struggling HISD schools at risk of triggering major state sanctions this year. HISD trustees are scheduled to vote Tuesday on negotiating and executing a contract with Energized For STEM Academy, which already runs seven in-district charter schools in HISD, to take over operations of the 10 schools ahead of the 2018-19 school year, according to a public meeting notice posted Friday. District officials haven't released terms of a contract, but it's expected Energized For STEM Academy would be responsible for hiring, governance and operations at each school.

National Stories

Wall St. Journal - April 20, 2018

Democrats Sue Trump Campaign, Russia, WikiLeaks Over 2016 Election

The Democratic National Committee sued the Russian government, the Trump campaign and WikiLeaks on Friday, accusing them of a wide-ranging conspiracy to interfere in the 2016 presidential election to defeat Democrat Hillary Clinton. The lawsuit alleges the defendants conspired before the election to hack into the DNC’s computer network and strategically leak the stolen information to bolster Donald Trump’s chances of winning the election. The conspiracy sought to undermine Mrs. Clinton’s campaign because Mr. Trump’s presidency was expected to benefit Russian political and financial interests, which would, in turn, benefit Mr. Trump’s financial interests, the lawsuit alleged. The DNC accused the Trump campaign of having “repeated secretive communications” with Russian agents and WikiLeaks.

New York Times - April 21, 2018

Fearing Chaos, National Democrats Plunge Into Midterm Primary Fights

In districts from Southern California to Little Rock, Ark., and upstate New York, the party has begun interceding to help the Democrats it sees as best equipped to battle Republicans in the fall. The approach is laced with peril for a party divided over matters of ideology and political strategy, and increasingly dominated by activists who tend to resent what they see as meddling from Washington. A Democratic effort to undercut a liberal insurgent in a Houston-area congressional primary in March stirred an outcry on the left and may have inadvertently helped drive support to that candidate, Laura Moser, who qualified for the runoff election next month. But in some areas, Democratic leaders have concluded it is worth enduring backlash to help a prized recruit or tame a chaotic primary field.

Washington Post - April 21, 2018

Wealthy donors spend millions to boost top super PAC supporting Senate Democrats, filings show

Wealthy Democratic donors are showing their muscle, as their seven-figure checks helped the top Senate Democratic super PAC post its best fundraising haul of the 2018 cycle last month, new federal filings show. Of the $14 million raised in March by Senate Majority PAC, which works to elect Senate Democrats, $9.6 million came from six individual donors who gave at least $1 million each, according to records filed with the Federal Election Commission on Friday evening. So far this year, the group has raised $22.1 million — exceeding the $21.8 million it raised in 2017 and bringing its total fundraising to $43 million for the 2018 cycle, filings show.

Houston Chronicle - April 21, 2018

Barbara Bush honored at funeral for devotion to family, giving back

Barbara Pierce Bush, the wife and mother of U.S. presidents, was laid to rest Saturday following a funeral service in Houston where mourners affectionately remembered her as a tough but loving family matriarch who believed in helping others. In a solemn ceremony lightened by frequent laughter and joyful hymns, a procession of American political icons, family members and friends honored Bush at the service at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church on the city’s west side. As four former presidents looked on from the front row, including her beloved husband and eldest son, eulogists remembered the Texas matriarch as the dedicated, resilient and sharp-witted cornerstone of a great American family. Speakers recalled Bush’s love and compassion for all —her family, her many friends, her countrymen — and her deep religious faith. About 1,500 people attended the 80-minute private service, which was followed by a private burial hours later at the Bush presidential library in College Station.

Austin American-Statesman - April 21, 2018

Abortion wars are heating up ahead of November elections

Mississippi's governor just signed a law, more restrictive than in any state, banning abortions after 15 weeks. Iowa's state Senate is trying to go even further and stop abortions at around six weeks. And 20 Ohio legislators have proposed outlawing all abortions, even if the woman's life is in danger. In many state capitols, Republican lawmakers are backing unusually strict antiabortion laws. Many are emboldened by President Donald Trump, who has been more supportive of their agenda than any president in decades. Conservative lawmakers also are eager to get more restrictions on the books in case November's elections bring a surge of Democrats hostile to them. Federal courts have immediately blocked many of these antiabortion laws, including Mississippi's. But they still have a purpose: to set up legal challenges to Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion nationally, at a time when Trump could appoint the justice who helps overturn it.

Wall St. Journal - April 20, 2018

Justice Department Watchdog Probes Comey Memos Over Classified Information

At least two of the memos that former FBI Director James Comey gave to a friend outside of the government contained information that officials now consider classified, according to people familiar with the matter, prompting a review by the Justice Department’s internal watchdog. Of those two memos, Mr. Comey himself redacted elements of one that he knew to be classified to protect secrets before he handed the documents over to his friend. He determined at the time that another memo contained no classified information, but after he left the Federal Bureau of Investigation, bureau officials upgraded it to “confidential,” the lowest level of classification. The Justice Department inspector general is now conducting an investigation into classification issues related to the Comey memos, according to a person familiar with the matter. Mr. Comey has said he considered the memos personal rather than government documents. He has told Congress that he wrote them and authorized their release to the media “as a private citizen.”

Washington Post - April 21, 2018

Under attack, the FBI becomes a partisan battleground

In its 110 years, the FBI has weathered storm and scandal. It has had moments that make Americans proud of its crime-fighting and anti-terrorist activities. Yet its most celebrated and longest-serving leader, J. Edgar Hoover, for whom the imposing headquarters on Pennsylvania Avenue is named, is remembered in large part for the abuses of power that took place during his reign. What is occurring today is different. It is more like the crumbling of the foundations of an agency that on its best days personifies the finest in government service and law enforcement. Like much about today’s political environment, the problems began before President Trump was elected but have become far worse during his time in office. There can be no strong foundation at the FBI when the pillars of leadership are all under assault, starting at the very top — the Justice Department. Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from the Russia investigation, which later became special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, possible collusion by Trump campaign associations and now much more. Sessions’s recusal is, in Trump’s eyes, the original sin for which he has never forgiven the former senator.

New York Times - April 21, 2018

As Rod Rosenstein Battles to Protect Mueller, His Tactics Could Cost the Justice Dept.

He has a reputation as a principled lawyer. He has worked for both Republican and Democratic attorneys general. He has a jugular instinct in courtroom battles but a distaste for political ones. Now Rod J. Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, is confronting the political fight of his career. Amid sustained criticism by President Trump and rumors that he will be fired, Mr. Rosenstein is also maneuvering to defuse demands by Republicans in Congress that Democrats say are aimed at ousting him from his job — and from his role as protector of the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III. So far, he appears to be succeeding. But in trying to deflect those attacks, some say, Mr. Rosenstein has risked eroding the Justice Department’s historic independence from political meddling. The consequences could persist long after he and the rest of the Trump administration are out of power.

New York Times - April 19, 2018

Edsall: The Democrats’ Gentrification Problem

“The state of housing affordability in the expensive coastal metros is driving a wedge between two factions of the American left,” Issi Romem, a fellow at the Terner Center for Housing Innovation at the University of California, Berkeley, wrote in an email to me. In a paper published earlier this month, “Characteristics of Domestic Cross-Metropolitan Migrants,” Romem looked at the income and education levels of families moving in and out of 441 metropolitan areas. He found that "Domestic migration across U.S. metropolitan areas is selective: in-migrants to expensive metros tend to have higher incomes and educational attainment than out-migrants, while the opposite is true in the least expensive metros. This pattern contributes to the process of polarization across U.S. metros."

Dallas Morning News - April 21, 2018

Parker: Ted Cruz says he's Texas tough, but he keeps voting against our interests

Ted Cruz must hate Texas. He talks the talk about being Texas tough, but he doesn't walk the walk because he votes against Texas all the time. As of late he's been voting against border security, building fighter jets in Fort Worth and helping ranchers keep their herds healthy. He even voted against fixing two dams that flooded Houston during Hurricane Harvey. His alleged hometown. You see, when Cruz voted against the $1.3 billion spending bill to fund the government last month he claimed it was a "monstrosity." But what Cruz didn't say — and got away with scot-free at the time because the bill passed — was that he voted against all kinds of stuff — in Texas. Just like last year.

Washington Post - April 21, 2018

Gun control advocates push to make voter registration the legacy of Parkland shooting

When Lorena Sanabria, who survived a shooting that left 17 people dead at her Florida high school, awoke on her 17th birthday this month, the first thing that crossed her mind was: “I’m one year closer to being able to vote.” The massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in February sparked a renewed interest in gun control, with students who survived the attack leading rallies, marches, walkouts and campaigns for gun legislation. People across the country, and the world, participated in hundreds of events demanding action on gun violence. Now, leaders are hoping the momentum from the March for Our Lives movement will lead to a more enduring next phase: getting young people to the voting booth in November, an effort to change not just policy in Washington, but the people who set it.

Dallas Morning News - April 19, 2018

Wehmeyer: Church leaders wonder if evangelicals can recover from their identity crisis

I've just returned from a private gathering of about 50 evangelical leaders outside Chicago, where I had hoped for an answer to the question that drove my last column, "Should I divorce the evangelicals?" The leaders, whom I joined at Wheaton College on Monday and Tuesday, head some of the movement's prominent seminaries, colleges and churches, and represent a diverse group of evangelical institutions. Their mission was not to bash President Donald Trump or draft a political platform Jesus might like. Instead the discussion was full of prayer, repentance and painful conversations about how the church has aligned itself so closely with Trump that the gospel, once synonymous with good news, has lost its meaning.

Austin American-Statesman - April 21, 2018

Mexicans in U.S. to play big role in July election, but hurdles remain

The Texas midterms aren’t the only elections going on this year in the Lone Star State. Four months before Texans elect their governor, senators and representatives, Mexicans living in the U.S. will help decide their next president. Although Mexicans living outside of Mexico have been able to participate in that country’s past two presidential elections, this will mark the first time Mexican citizens don’t have to return to their country to register. Instead they can request their voting credentials through a consulate or embassy, a change that could make Mexicans living abroad a voting bloc to be reckoned with in the July 1 election. So far, more than 500,000 Mexican immigrants have requested their credentials from the National Electoral Institute of Mexico, the entity in charge of organizing the federal elections.

Newsclips - April 20, 2018

Lead Stories

Associated Press - April 19, 2018

Trump legal team in Russia probe gets Rudy Giuliani

Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, an outspoken supporter of Donald Trump since the early days of his campaign, is joining the team of lawyers representing the president in the special counsel's Russia investigation. With the addition of Giuliani, Trump gains a former U.S. attorney, a past presidential candidate and a TV-savvy defender at a time when the White House is looking for ways to bring the president's involvement with special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation to a close. The president has been weighing whether to sit for questioning by Mueller's team, and his legal team has repeatedly met with investigators to define the scope of the questions he would face. Giuliani will enter those negotiations, filling the void left by attorney John Dowd, who resigned last month.

This article appeared in the San Antonio Express-News

The Hill - April 17, 2018

Budget chairman floats plan to eliminate his own committee

The chairman of the Senate Budget Committee is floating the idea of getting rid of the Budget panel altogether, according to Republican sources. Senate Budget Committee Chairman Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) has noted that mounting deficits are making it much tougher to pass a spending blueprint, the sources say. Enzi’s seemingly radical suggestion comes as a special bipartisan committee prepares to hold its first hearing on reforming the budgetary process, which Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), a former House Budget Committee chairman, this weekend called “irreparably broken.”

Austin American-Statesman - April 19, 2018

Appeals court blocks Texas ‘revenge porn’ law

A state appeals court has struck down a 2015 law that made it a crime to post “revenge porn” — intimate photos and videos from a previous or current relationship — on the internet without consent. The Tyler-based 12th Court of Appeals, in a ruling handed down Wednesday, said the law violated the First Amendment by restricting expression based on the content of the photographs and video that is shared online. The law also was vague, infringing on the rights of third parties who might unwittingly share intimate images, the court ruled. The Office of State Prosecuting Attorney will take the lead in responding to the ruling by asking the appeals court to reconsider its decision and, if that is unsuccessful, asking the Court of Criminal Appeals to invalidate the ruling, said Stacey Soule, head of the agency.

Dallas Morning News - April 19, 2018

With LBJ East at a political impasse, regional officials table revised plan to include tolled lanes

The first step toward solving the impasse for tens of thousands of drivers stuck daily on 10.8 miles of Interstate 635 in northeast Dallas could be admitting political impasse. On Thursday, members of the Regional Transportation Council tabled a revised plan to include tolled lanes as a way to help pay for the $1.8 billion freeway improvements project known as LBJ East. The freeway and Interstate 35 in Austin are seen as among the most-needed transportation projects in the state. However, they were taken off the Texas Department of Transportation's to-do list in December because tolls were part of the funding equation.

State Stories

Dallas Morning News - April 19, 2018

No, a Trump judicial nominee in Texas didn't call immigrants 'maggots'

Did a Trump court nominee in Texas call undocumented immigrants “maggots” while running for Congress in 2012? Or was it just his drawl that caused a brief and misguided uproar? The Justice Department maintained Thursday that Michael Truncale was referring to entitlement programs as “magnets” that lure migrants to the United States. “He does not actually say `maggots.' Obviously, that would be an offensive slur,” said Drew Hudson, a Justice Department spokesman. “What he’s actually saying is 'magnets,' not maggots. What he’s talking about are entitlement programs.” Truncale, a nominee for a trial court in the Eastern District of Texas, made the remark while running for Congress in 2012.

Dallas Morning News - April 19, 2018

Mexicans help create, not take jobs away from Texans, SMU study says

Far from taking jobs away from Texans, Mexicans are helping create additional employment opportunities, providing valuable labor for a growing economy and helping the deepening integration with Mexico, according to the Texas-Mexico Center at Southern Methodist University. The findings of the first research study by the center come as the Trump administration cracks down on unauthorized immigrants, referring to them as criminals and calling for a wall between both countries. The center's study called for "freer migration" across the border and fewer barriers to international crossings, touting Texas as an example of cooperation with Mexico.

Dallas Morning News - April 19, 2018

Watchdog: It doesn't look good: These guys wear two hats when it comes to your taxes

Last week, when I launched my opening shot in The Watchdog's 2018 war against unfair property taxes, I called the system rigged, unfair and broken. ... I want to show you what's allowed through the dual roles of two particular public servants. ... It also shows the inherent weakness in the state's setup, but one that can be easily corrected. Rudy Durham is mayor of Lewisville. Durham is also chief appraiser in charge of the Denton Central Appraisal District. The other is Charles Stafford, a member of the Denton ISD board of trustees. Stafford is also chairman of the board of directors of the Denton appraisal district. ... State Sen. Paul Bettencourt, R-Houston, who introduces property tax bills in the Legislature (that lose), says he's going to try again in 2019. He wants these dual roles stopped. "We want everybody to be separate," he told me. Durham, he says, "is going to have to choose. Be chief appraiser or mayor. Pick one and be done with it."

Dallas Morning News - April 19, 2018

Lieber: ICYMI, a Texas state official sent you an apology note last week

There are 10,000 more licensed Texas agents this year than last year — 137,000 in all. In each of the past four years, between 8,000 and 10,000 new agents have come on board. That kind of growth would cause problems for any state licensing agency. In this case, the Texas Real Estate Commission fell behind in answering its phone calls, mail, application processing and complaints. ... Last week, the head of TREC sent a global apology letter addressed "To The Consumers and License Holders of Texas." You're a consumer, so that includes you. What? You didn't get his note? I figured. That's why I'm sharing it again. "There have been significant issues with the quality of customer service we are providing to consumers and to our license holders," he admits in the first paragraph. "I take personal responsibility for addressing these issues."

Dallas Morning News - April 19, 2018

DMN: Report on pregnant teens in Texas foster care is both indictment and opportunity

At first blush, it's just another file for the backlog of things that need fixing in our state's beleaguered foster care system: A devastating new report finds that teens in foster care are at far greater risk of becoming pregnant than those in the general population. This is a fresh source of shame for a state where the overall teen pregnancy rate is already among the nation's highest. Girls in foster care are a dismaying five times more likely than that to become pregnant. Statistically, one in 20 teen girls in the state's custody becomes pregnant in a given year. The advocacy group Texans Care for Children found not only that girls ages 13 to 17 in state care run a much higher risk of pregnancy, but that they are less likely to receive competent counseling about healthy relationships and sexuality. Some, said the director of a rare foster program for pregnant or parenting teens, "don't even seem to know how they got pregnant in the first place."

Dallas Morning News - April 19, 2018

Eddington: For a state that bucks the feds, Texas sure has a lot of immigration check points

The Lone Star state has a rich history and cultural heritage, with many firsts to its credit. But there's one not-so-glorious distinction bestowed upon this state by the federal government: Texas has more internal Customs and Border Protection checkpoints than any other state in the Union. A new Cato Institute project, Checkpoint: America, provides the maps and related information to prove it. What it also provides are accounts of the naked brutality and disregard for constitutional rights that are also a feature of these checkpoints. The case of Greg Rosenberg is a prime example. Rosenberg immigrated to the United States from Armenia during the first decade of the 21st century. Rosenberg grew up in what was then Soviet-occupied Armenia.

San Antonio Express-News - April 19, 2018

Garcia: New poll helps both O’Rourke and Cruz

Ted Cruz and Beto O’Rourke both want the same thing. No, Cruz doesn’t line up with O’Rourke on the need for universal health care, cost-free higher education and criminal justice reform. For his part, O’Rourke doesn’t share Cruz’s ardor for corporate tax cuts and a coast-to-coast border wall. And they certainly don’t wish for the same outcome in their U.S. Senate race, which finds Cruz, the Republican incumbent, staring down a challenge from O’Rourke, a Democratic congressman from El Paso. But both men want O’Rourke to be perceived as a serious threat. After all, the big enemy for Cruz in this campaign is complacency, the sense among his fellow Republicans that his re-election will be as automatic as every other post-1994 statewide race for the GOP. The big enemy for O’Rourke is hopelessness, the chronic affliction that infects Texas Democrats as soon as the leaves start falling from the trees in even-numbered years.

San Antonio Express-News - April 19, 2018

Alamo up in arms over new unofficial app

Call it the battle of the unofficial Alamo app. The keepers of the historic shrine have taken up legal arms against the makers of Experience Real History: Alamo Edition, a new augmented reality app that transports users to the Alamo compound as it appeared in 1836. Alamo CEO Douglass McDonald said that not only is the app not endorsed by the Alamo or the Texas General Land Office, which oversees the San Antonio landmark, it also is an unauthorized commercial product that conducts commercial activities while on the Alamo grounds. “We are going to pursue all available options to stop them” said McDonald, who noted that the General Land Office has referred the matter to its intellectual property counsel, Austin-based law firm Pirkey Barber.

San Antonio Express-News - April 19, 2018

Texans taking action against robocalls, seeking penalties of as much as $1,500 per call

Federal telecommunication law allows consumers to sue telemarketers that violate the law, which prohibits sales or collection calls to cell phones without consumers’ written permission. Over a recent 17-month period, Texas consumers have filed 107 such lawsuits, the seventh most in the nation, seeking penalties of as much as $1,500 for each annoying call that they’ve received. More than 3,100 similar cases have been brought across the country during that time period, an increase of nearly 50 percent from the previous 17 months, according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Consumers are winning, too. Pivotal Payments, a Texas payment processor, last year agreed to pay $9 million to settle a lawsuit that accused the company of failing to ensure the company it hired to make marketing calls to 1.9 million consumers complied with federal law. Dish Network, the satellite television company, was ordered by a federal judge in North Carolina last year to pay $61.5 million to thousands of consumers on the national "Do Not Call" registry who received subscription pitches. And Wells Fargo reached a $14.8 million deal last year to settle a class action lawsuit over automated calls to cell phones to sell car loans.

San Antonio Express-News - April 19, 2018

Straus endorses Allison to succeed him in Texas House

House Speaker Joe Straus on Thursday endorsed Steve Allison in the runoff for the Republican nomination in his north Bexar County district. Straus, who announced in October he was not seeking re-election, called Allison “the one candidate in this race who has proved himself ready to serve in the Texas House.” Allison faces Matt Beebe, Straus’ two-time primary opponent, in a May 22 runoff. “Steve is a man of strong character and sound judgment, and I have no doubt that he will be an effective voice for our community,” Straus said in a statement.

San Antonio Express-News - April 19, 2018

When engine blew, Boerne-area woman became ‘rock star’ pilot

The seat belt sign was still on as 144 passengers and five crew members were settling in aboard a flight from New York to Dallas when registered nurse Peggy Phillips heard a noise and guessed, correctly, that an engine had exploded. At the controls Tuesday morning was Tammie Jo Shults, a longtime Boerne-area resident and former Navy fighter pilot who suddenly had to guide Southwest Airlines Flight 1380 to an emergency landing on its one remaining engine. The Boeing 737 was shaking and shuddering. Pieces of the engine had shattered a window and injured a passenger, and the rapid decompression sucked her partially through the window before others pulled her back.

Houston Chronicle - April 19, 2018

McAllister: Plenty of reasons for Texas to legalize marijuana

So, it’s 4/20 once again — April 20, the unofficial weed celebration day — and the use of marijuana is now a far cry from just a few teens in California meeting up under the bleachers to smoke a joint. In many states, it’s now just as common as “beer thirty” or it being “5 O’clock somewhere.” We have to face the fact that, for many Americans, the most dangerous thing about weed is getting caught with it. But we can change that - yes, even here in Texas. Legalization has many benefits for Texans whether they are marijuana users or not. It will bring in tax revenue, eliminate a dangerous black market, reduce opioid misuse and roll back a racist criminal justice system.

Austin American-Statesman - April 19, 2018

Poll: Most Texas voters back legal status for unauthorized immigrants

Sixty percent of Texas voters support the National Guard being used to patrol the U.S.-Mexico border, but a majority oppose a border wall and support a pathway to citizenship for immigrants living in the country illegally, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released Thursday. A majority of the survey respondents also held liberal views on gun control and marijuana, the pollsters reported. Hispanic voters are divided — 51 percent in favor and 48 percent opposed — on deploying the National Guard. White voters are in favor of the deployment, 68 percent to 28 percent, and black voters oppose it, 59 percent to 39 percent, the poll said.

Austin American-Statesman - April 19, 2018

TxDOT to forgive $1.3 billion in unpaid toll fees and fines

The Texas Department of Transportation will waive more than $1.3 billion in fines and late fees owed by those who drove on its toll roads since 2007, agency officials say, a response to a cap in such fees imposed last year by the Legislature. The decision, made by TxDOT Executive Director James Bass in recent weeks and announced Wednesday at a House Transportation Committee, does not affect the underlying tolls owed by those drivers. TxDOT officials said Thursday that about $147 million in tolls remain in arrears, from about 2.2 million drivers. Bass said customers owing fees and fines might not be able to see the change immediately online.

Austin American-Statesman - April 19, 2018

Thousands of Central Texas students rally in National School Walkout

When LASA High School sophomore Emma Rohloff hears about another school shooting, she isn’t so much scared or angry anymore as she is tired. She’s tired when she hears what she says is rhetoric about why there shouldn’t be stricter gun laws. Tired that nothing more has been done to stop gun violence. At 15, Emma is one of Austin’s organizers of the latest National School Walkout, the latest in a string of student-driven protests fueled by the February high school shooting that killed 17 people in Parkland, Fla. Planned for Friday, the event is timed to the anniversary of the Columbine High School massacre in 1999, when two teens killed 12 students and one teacher before killing themselves in one of the worst school shootings in U.S. history.

Austin American-Statesman - April 19, 2018

El Paso-area lawmaker asks DPS to reconsider use of “illegal aliens”

A hearing this week at the Capitol about border security was heavy on matters of dollars-and-cents. But at one point duing the meeting of the Texas House Appropriations Committee on Wednesday, a raw issue involving terminology around immigration and border matters surfaced. State Rep. Mary González, D-Clint, asked Department of Public Safety Director Steve McCraw if the agency could reconsider referring to unauthorized immigrants as illegal aliens. “As a leader do you believe that language is really important and reflective of the work that we do?”

Texas Tribune - April 20, 2018

Ramsey: The Texas Senate’s Republican supermajority, on the bubble

This isn’t necessarily about something that is going to happen when the 86th Texas Legislature convenes next January. But it could happen, and it’s a great peek into how political chess works. Texas Republicans have a 20-11 advantage in the state Senate. That’s just enough, under current Senate rules, to proceed with debate on bills even when all 11 Democrats are in opposition. That situation is the setup for the November election and for the legislative session that follows. If you’re with the Republicans, you’re hoping for the status quo — an election where none of the Republican seats on the ballot ends up in the hands of a Democrat. One in particular — Konni Burton of Colleyville — represents a district that, in a bad year for Republicans, could conceivably be won by a Democrat.

Texas Tribune - April 19, 2018

Abbott wants special election for Farenthold seat as soon as possible

Gov. Greg Abbott wants to hold a special election to replace former U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Corpus Christi, as soon as possible. That's according to a letter he sent Thursday to Attorney General Ken Paxton, seeking guidance on whether the governor can suspend certain laws he believes are standing in the way of a timely special election. The letter amounts to Abbott's first public comments on the subject since Farenthold suddenly resigned earlier this month, leaving the governor to ponder how long the Coastal Bend-area district could go without representation given that it is still reeling from Hurricane Harvey. Abbott made clear Thursday he believes there is no time to waste.

Texas Tribune - April 20, 2018

Texas teachers' pay is average. But their pensions are among the lowest in the country.

Hey, Texplainer: How do employment benefits for Texas educators compare to those in other states? This question has been a point of contention between lawmakers and educators for many years. Texas teachers say they’re frustrated due to a lack of state funding for public education. But lawmakers say the uncertainty surrounding the budget makes it hard to allocate better benefits for educators. If you look at the raw numbers, Texas ranked 27th in the nation for teacher pay in 2016, according to the National Education Association. On average, Texas teachers earned $51,890 — roughly $6,500 below the national average.

Rio Grande Guardian - April 17, 2018

ACLU launches app to help ‘over-policed’ communities

The ACLU Border Rights Center, the ACLU of Texas and Quadrant 2, Inc, has announced the launch of MigraCam, a smartphone application designed to help people living in “over-policed communities.” The announcement comes just a couple of weeks after President Trump said he was sending the National Guard to states in the southwest to help with border security. Through the new app, immigrants and border residents can send video evidence of enforcement actions to their family members via email and text. Astrid Dominguez, director of the ACLU’s Border Rights Center, said the MigraCam features include a video with Know Your Rights information, location sharing, customizable pre-filled message, and notifications. She said the app is free on the Android and iTunes app stores in English and Spanish and can be used in border regions and across the United States.

Texas Observer - April 19, 2018

Barajas: Blake Farenthold and the Consequences of Extreme Gerrymandering

Blake Farenthold’s frat bro image started with a photo from an adult pajama party that surfaced a month before his unlikely rise to Congress in 2010. Thanks to Farenthold, the image of a portly, rosy-cheeked man stuffed into a duck-pattern onesie posing next to a young lingerie-clad waitress is now forever burned into the collective memory of Texas politics. A lawsuit lodged against the Corpus Christi Republican, filed not long after BuzzFeed revealed that Farenthold’s computer consulting business bought up domains like “blow-me.org,” further fueled the congressman’s party boy reputation. The complaint, by former communications director Lauren Greene, alleged that Farenthold’s excessive drinking and office sex-talk had created a toxic work environment where he’d dish to staffers about his “sexual fantasies” and “wet dreams” (Greene also alleged Farenthold cracked a thinly veiled joke about her having semen on her skirt).

Waco Tribune-Herald - April 12, 2018

Perryman: Texas exports would be in cross hairs of trade war with China

The situation between the United States and China is tense with new tariffs, threats of more tariffs and growing fears an all-out trade war may actually ensue. There has been some sign of softening in the rhetoric between the two nations, but till there’s real dialogue and meaningful change, the risk of escalation remains. Because the world’s two largest economies are involved, the stakes are especially high. The World Bank estimates that in 2016, U.S. Gross Domestic Product was more than $18.6 trillion, while China’s was almost $11.2 trillion. It falls off quickly from there, with Japan at $4.9 trillion and Germany at $3.5 trillion. Clearly, what goes on in the United States and China will affect economic conditions worldwide.

Texas Observer - April 18, 2018

Payday Lenders Are Working Hard to Keep Texas the ‘Wild West’ in Trump Era

Texas is often called the “Wild West” of predatory lending, an anything-goes wonderland where payday and auto title loan businesses can charge low-income people vertigo-inducing fees whenever they desperately need a cash advance to, say, keep the lights on or make rent. Last week, payday lending groups filed a federal lawsuit in Austin that aims to ensure Texas remains a profitable place for the industry. The two trade groups — the Consumer Service Alliance of Texas and the Community Financial Services of America, the largest national association for payday lenders — are suing to block new rules by the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) that advocates say would protect borrowers across the country from predatory lending practices, especially in Texas.

Corpus Christi Caller-Times - April 17, 2018

Moritz: Blake Farenthold resigned to avoid rebuke by Ethics Committee, according to congresswoman

Embattled former Congressman Blake Farenthold resigned earlier this month after being warned the House Ethics Committee was about to rule against him in its inquiries related to his sexual harassment settlement and on whether he used government resources for political purposes, according to the office of a former colleague. U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier's office confirmed Tuesday that Farenthold was given a heads-up that the ethics panel had reached its decision in the investigations it launched in December related to the $84,000 settlement the Corpus Christi Republican paid a former aide using taxpayers' money. The warning was first reported by the Huffington Post's Washington Bureau.

County Stories

Austin American-Statesman - April 19, 2018

Judge Julie Kocurek testifies she ‘wanted to die’ after 2015 gun attack

State District Judge Julie Kocurek said she wanted to die after she was ambushed by gunfire outside of her West Austin home in November 2015. Kocurek testified for about 75 minutes Thursday in the trial of alleged shooter Chimene Onyeri, who witnesses said tried to kill Kocurek before she could send him to prison on a probation violation. Kocurek is off the stand while the court is in recess. Prosecutors for the federal government are soon expected to rest their case and turn over the case to Onyeri’s defense.

Austin American-Statesman - April 20, 2018

Defendant Onyeri testifies, admits to shooting Judge Kocurek

The two people central to Chimene Onyeri’s alleged shooting of state District Judge Julie Kocurek took the witness stand Thursday — and one of them started sobbing. It was not the person who was nearly killed in front of her teenage son. Kocurek was composed as she presented gripping testimony about her road to recovery from four gunshot blasts in November 2015, revealing that at the darkest point “I felt so damaged and I wanted to die.” Testifying for more than an hour before a packed courtroom of prominent lawyers and her judicial peers, Kocurek touched on the 20-some surgeries required to patch skin on the left side of her body and the therapy sessions she needed to “restore life.” She was happy to report that her hand is doing much better.

Houston Chronicle - April 17, 2018

Gov. Abbott: Dredging of San Jacinto River could begin in May

Governor Greg Abbott received applause from a crowd of Kingwood residents at Los Cucos Mexican Restaurant Monday night when he announced dredging of the San Jacinto River will begin in two weeks. After the governor authorized funding from the state’s hazard and mitigation fund to conduct a study of the entire riverbed to figure out what type of sand dredging could be done to alleviate flooding in March, Abbott said that study has now been completed and will be released sometime this week. “The study has been completed — it will be issued this week. And we have to have the study before you can do this next thing and that is to put it out for contract and get bids on it,” Abbott said. “We expect it to be dredging in two or three weeks from today.”

Rio Grande Guardian - April 19, 2018

Hidalgo County joins multi-state lawsuit opposing census citizenship question

EDINBURG, RGV – As expected, Hidalgo County is to join nationwide litigation opposing the inclusion of a citizenship question in the 2020 Census questionnaire. Hidalgo County Commissioners Court today voted to join the multi-state lawsuit and hire attorney Rolando Rios to represent the county. Rios, who is based in San Antonio, has represented the county twice in past Census challenges. He represented the county in challenging the 2010 census results and in a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Commerce over the 2000 census.

City Stories

Houston Chronicle - April 19, 2018

On Southwest flight, League City man’s military training helped avert disaster

When Darren Ellisor got out of the military, his parents thought they could stop worrying. Their youngest son had made it through 10 years in the Air Force unscathed. He’d piloted planes over war zones in Iraq, flown Air Force II and done reconnaissance missions after 9/11. But Tuesday morning it was as a civilian that Ellisor, a father of four from League City, evaded death at 32,000 feet when one of two engines exploded on the Southwest Airlines flight he was co-piloting with Captain Tammie Jo Shults. “You never think of this happening on American airlines,” said his father, Earl Ellisor. “I never worried about it.”

Dallas Morning News - April 19, 2018

Dallas Morning News columnist James Ragland bids farewell

Here's the headline: I am leaving The Dallas Morning News to check off some other interests on my bucket list. I began this journey on Jan. 7, 1985, with an internship that was supposed to be a pit stop on my way to law school. But the gig led to an enticing job offer, which morphed into a 33-year career here and at The Washington Post. I did none of it alone. One can't survive in this or any long-term endeavor without a little help along the way. I had many angels guiding and encouraging me.

Houston Chronicle - April 18, 2018

Turner rules out partnering with HISD on struggling schools

Mayor Sylvester Turner has ruled out any partnership with Houston ISD to turn around 10 chronically under-performing schools, saying Wednesday he will not be part of the school district's forthcoming proposal aimed at avoiding a state takeover. HISD administrators have recommended temporarily giving up power over governance, hiring and other operations at the 10 campuses to an outside organization in an attempt to stave off school closures or replacement of the district's school board. The district's proposal is due to the Texas Education Agency by April 30. Administrators have not named any potential partners that would take control, and trustees are not expected to vote on proposals until next week.

National Stories

Washington Post - April 19, 2018

Inspector general referred findings on McCabe to U.S. attorney for consideration of criminal charges

The Justice Department inspector general referred his finding that former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe repeatedly misled investigators to Washington’s top federal prosecutor, who will determine whether McCabe should be charged with a crime, according to people familiar with the matter. The referral to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia occurred some time ago, after the inspector general concluded McCabe had lied to investigators or his boss, then-FBI Director James B. Comey, on four occasions, three of them under oath. The U.S. attorney’s office met with McCabe’s legal team in recent weeks, though it was not immediately clear whether prosecutors there were conducting their own investigation or believed criminal charges are appropriate.

New York Times - April 19, 2018

6 Takeaways From the Comey Memos

Memos written by the former F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, that were released on Thursday revealed several new details about his relationship with President Trump and the president’s first chief of staff, Reince Priebus. Though much of what the memos describe was already public, the documents themselves provided an intimate portrait of the early months of the Trump White House and how the president and Mr. Priebus confronted leaks, the prospect that the national security adviser was under investigation and allegations about Mr. Trump’s ties to Russia. Mr. Comey depicts Mr. Trump as a man engrossed to the point of distraction with political rivalries and fears that bureaucrats and government officials, including in the F.B.I., were trying to undermine his legitimacy.

Washington Post - April 19, 2018

Comey memos offer new details on his interactions with Trump as the FBI’s Russia probe intensified

President Trump expressed concerns about the judgment of his national security adviser Michael Flynn weeks before forcing him to resign, according to memos kept by former FBI director James B. Comey that recount in detail efforts by Trump to influence the bureau’s expanding investigation of Russia. The memos also reveal the extent of Trump’s preoccupation with unproven allegations that he had consorted with prostitutes while in Moscow in 2013. Trump, according to the memos, repeatedly denied the allegations and prodded Comey to help disprove them, while also recalling being told by Russian President Vladimir Putin that Russia has the most beautiful prostitutes.

Wall St. Journal - April 19, 2018

Jenkins: The Comey Coverup

In his memoir, James Comey cites a “development still unknown to the American public to this day.” This mysterious development, he says, was central to his decision to intervene publicly in the Hillary Clinton email case. Now this is strange because the big mystery was apparently disclosed in a flurry of reporting by the New York Times, Washington Post and CNN a year ago. His insistence in his book that the secret is likely to remain classified for decades also seems a bit hilarious when so much of the story was spontaneously declassified by anonymous leakers last spring, likely including Mr. Comey or people working for him. ... In brief, an intercepted Russian document cited a Democratic Party email that, in turn, referred to a private conversation in which Attorney General Loretta Lynch assured a Clinton aide that Ms. Lynch would sit on the email investigation. In his book, Mr. Comey says of this unnameable intelligence that political opponents of Mrs. Clinton could use it to cast “serious doubt” on the credibility of the Justice Department investigation.

Bloomberg - April 19, 2018

Rosenstein Tells Trump He’s Not a Target in Mueller, Cohen Probes

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein told President Donald Trump last week that he isn’t a target of any part of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation or the probe into his longtime lawyer, Michael Cohen, according to several people familiar with the matter. Rosenstein, who brought up the investigations himself, offered the assurance during a meeting with Trump at the White House last Thursday, a development that helped tamp down the president’s desire to remove Rosenstein or Mueller, the people said. After the meeting, Trump told some of his closest advisers that it’s not the right time to remove either man since he’s not a target of the probes. One person said Trump doesn’t want to take any action that would drag out the investigation.

Houston Chronicle - April 19, 2018

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz signs letter urging overhaul of Congress' sexual harassment policy

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz was the lone Republican to sign a letter released Thursday by male senators calling for an overhaul of sexual harassment policies in the U.S. Senate. The letter, addressed to U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer of New York, affirms support for an earlier letter sent by the women of the U.S. Senate in March calling for an overhaul of the chamber's workplace misconduct rules. "If we are to lead by example, the Senate must revise current law to give the victims of sexual harassment and discrimination a more coherent, transparent, and fair process to tell their stories and pursue justice without fear of personal or professional ruin," the men's letter stated.

Associated Press - April 19, 2018

Reports: Wells Fargo to be fined $1B as early as Friday

Federal regulators plan to fine Wells Fargo as much as $1 billion as early as Friday for abuses tied to its auto-lending and mortgage businesses, The New York Times and other news outlets reported, citing unnamed sources. The potential $1 billion fine would be largest ever imposed by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, the bank's main national regulator, and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the federal watchdog bureau set up after the Great Recession. The fine against Wells Fargo had been expected. San Francisco-based Wells Fargo said last week that it was negotiating with federal regulators to pay as much as $1 billion in fines to settle various charges.

This article appeared in the San Antonio Express News

National Journal - April 19, 2018

‘Disappointing’ First-Quarter House Fundraising Alarms Republicans

More than two-dozen House Republicans have been outraised by a Democrat for two quarters in a row, and for eight of them it was their third time. In total, more than 40 GOP incumbents brought in less than at least one challenger during the first three months of the election year, bringing into sharp focus the extent of the energy brimming from the minority party’s grassroots. With Democrats having already picked up a Republican-leaning seat in a special election this year, some top House Republicans said members need to get with the program and start preparing for the worst.

Associated Press - April 19, 2018

Hundreds of school walkouts planned on Columbine anniversary

Another wave of student walkouts is expected to disrupt classes Friday at hundreds of schools across the U.S. as young activists press for tougher gun laws. The protests were chosen to line up with the 19th anniversary of the Columbine High School shooting, which left 13 people dead in Littleton, Colorado. At 10 a.m., students plan to gather for moments of silence honoring the victims at Columbine and other shootings. From there, some students will head to rallies at their statehouses. Others will stay at school to discuss gun violence. Some are holding voting registration drives.

This article appeared in the San Antonio Express News

Houston Chronicle - April 19, 2018

Senate confirms Trump pick as NASA administrator over Democratic objections

The Senate on Thursday narrowly confirmed Rep. Jim Bridenstine, R-Okla., as NASA administrator, despite deep concerns from Democrats that he lacks the scientific and management expertise to lead the space agency. The vote to install the three-term lawmaker was 50-49. President Donald Trump had initially tapped Bridenstine for the post last year, but his nomination stalled amid Democratic criticisms, as well as some reticence from Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., who said Thursday that NASA should be led by a professional with a background in space. But Rubio ultimately sided with all other Republicans to confirm Bridenstine as the NASA chief in spite of his hesitations, arguing that Trump deserves to have his team in place across the administration.

Dallas Morning News - April 19, 2018

Why some fan blade inspections still aren't required after similar 2016 Southwest Airlines engine failure

On Wednesday, the FAA said a rule-making process that began in August to require inspections of blades in the engines would be finalized within two weeks. European aviation regulators put a rule requiring the inspections in place last month. Airlines said they’d already begun the inspection process before Tuesday’s accident, based on the manufacturer’s recommendation, although not all of the affected blades had been reviewed by every airline. ... It’s unclear if earlier enactment of the formal rule would have made a difference in Tuesday's case. Dallas-based Southwest said the engine that failed on Flight 1380 hadn't had enough takeoffs and landings to trigger a speedier ultrasonic inspection of the blades under the proposed rule.

Politico - April 19, 2018

How Rand Paul could still stop Pompeo

President Donald Trump is convinced Rand Paul won’t let him down. But the Kentucky Republican is showing no signs of backing off his fight to stop Mike Pompeo from becoming secretary of state. After a telephone call with Trump on Wednesday and a hastily scheduled meeting with Pompeo on Thursday, Paul still hasn’t changed his stance against Pompeo. If the senator goes all out and gets Democrats on the Foreign Relations Committee to join him, it could kill Pompeo’s nomination right then and there. Republicans are hopeful Paul wouldn’t stick it to Trump like that. And the panel’s Democrats haven’t said they’re ready to join hands with Paul just yet. But Pompeo’s backers are furious at the libertarian-minded Kentuckian for empowering liberal Democrats and opposing the president who beat Paul in the 2016 GOP primary over a critical staff appointment.

Citylab - April 13, 2018

Is Housing Inequality the Main Driver of Economic Inequality?

A growing body of research suggests that inequality in the value of Americans’ homes is a major factor—perhaps the key factor—in the country’s economic divides. Economic inequality is one of the most significant issues facing cities and entire nations today. But a mounting body of research suggests that housing inequality may well be the biggest contributor to our economic divides. Thomas Piketty’s influential book, Capital in the Twenty-First Century, put economic inequality—and specifically, wealth inequality—front and center in the global conversation. But research by Matthew Rognlie found that housing inequality (that is, how much more expensive some houses are than others) is the key factor in rising wealth.

Wall St. Journal - April 18, 2018

Koch-Backed Groups Push for Immigration Deal for ‘Dreamers’

Groups funded by the billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch are launching an advertising campaign starting Sunday to push Congress to reach a deal providing legal status for a swath of young, undocumented immigrants whose fate has been in flux for years. The campaign, which consists of television and digital ads, is aimed at spurring a solution for the young immigrants, referred to by supporters as Dreamers. The funding for the ads, estimated by the groups to be in the seven figures, comes from the Libre Initiative and Freedom Partners. They are part of the Koch network, a major supporter of conservative causes and candidates. The Koch network has recently signaled it may be open to working with Democrats on areas on which they have common ground such as immigration.

Houston Chronicle - April 19, 2018

HC: Congress must rein in our “infinite war”

The AUMF of 2001 gave the executive branch explicit authority to pursue the perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks, but in the years since, presidents of both parties have expanded their interpretation of the bill to cover a wide array of armed conflicts that seem to have little to do with the attacks. In some, like Yemen, the United States finds itself fighting on the same side as al-Qaida, a proposition that surely would have seemed peculiar to the authors of the bill. But because the AUMF, and a related act dealing with Iraq in 2002, mark the last time the people’s representatives had a meaningful say in the boundaries of the seemingly perpetual conflicts in which the United States has enmeshed itself, Congress has effectively blessed the proposition that the president can take the country to war by himself, for reasons that he is free to determine. One reason for this would seem to be that questions of war are hard, and politically risky. Better to let the president take care of it. But that’s exactly why the Founding Fathers gave this power to Congress — to facilitate a necessary debate over the country’s course of action.

Newsclips - April 19, 2018

Lead Stories

San Antonio Express-News - April 18, 2018

Texas farmers hit hard by Chinese sorghum tariffs

News China was slapping U.S. grain sorghum with tariffs of 179 percent immediately drove down prices and has Texas farmers scrambling for new markets. “This is a show stopper, I mean this hurts growers,” said Wayne Cleveland of the Texas Sorghum Producers said Wednesday. “It stops trade. A 179 percent tariff stops grain sorghum from moving.” The Chinese Commerce Ministry on Tuesday announced it would require importers to post bonds of 178.6 percent on the grain following its preliminary ruling that U.S. sorghum was being sold at artificially low prices. The grain terminal at the port of Corpus Christi on Tuesday stopped accepting sorghum, as virtually all of the exports were for China.

Austin American-Statesman - April 18, 2018

A top Texas health official resigns amid contracting issues

State lawmakers on Wednesday rebuked Texas Health and Human Services Commission officials for bungling millions of dollars in contracts, a problem revealed this month. Lawmakers called the contracting problems a systemic failure of the agency, which has struggled for years to follow proper procurement processes. Officials inaccurately scored an estimated $600 million worth of contracts in recent months. Hours before Health and Human Services Commissioner Charles Smith testified before the Texas House Appropriations Committee, agency officials said Chief Operating Officer Heather Griffith Peterson resigned, effective Wednesday.

Washington Post - April 18, 2018

Trump vows to cancel or walk out of meeting with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un if it’s not ‘fruitful’

President Trump voiced optimism Wednesday about his potential summit with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, but he vowed to cancel the meeting or walk out if there are signs it “is not going to be fruitful.” Trump also said his administration is negotiating with Pyongyang for the release of three Americans who remain captive in the North and suggested that they could be freed as part of a diplomatic thaw between the two nations, which do not have formal government relations. “If I think it’s a meeting that is not going to be fruitful, we’re not going to go,” Trump said at a joint news conference with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, after two days of meetings at Mar-a- ­Lago, the president’s winter resort. “If the meeting, when I’m there, is not fruitful, I will respectfully leave the meeting.”

Weekly Standard - April 18, 2018

Koch Network to Launch Ad Campaign for Dreamers

Republican mega-donors Charles and David Koch are launching a seven-figure ad campaign to call on Congress to pass a lasting solution to protect Dreamers from deportation. The LIBRE Initiative and Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce, two groups within the powerful Koch network, announced the national, multiplatform advertising campaign campaign Tuesday night. The ad, featuring former presidents Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush, will air nationally on Sunday, beginning with a spot on NBC’s Meet The Press.

State Stories

San Antonio Express-News - April 18, 2018

New poll shows Gov. Abbott leads either Democrat by only single digits, as White touts casino-funded education plan

As a new poll showed Gov. Greg Abbott with just a single-digit lead over either Democrat vying to face him, Andrew White sought to improve his chances of winning the party nod with a plan to pump billions more into public education. White’s plan would be funded in part by revenue from casinos that he wants to allow at destinations including the Retama Park horse track in Selma, an idea that has died in the Legislature before. The gambling expansion would require a constitutional amendment, according to an expert, which would need approval by two-thirds of the Legislature and by voters statewide.

Austin American-Statesman - April 18, 2018

Austin bombings response a model for future attacks, McCaul says

U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Austin, said the investigation into the Austin bombings last month that combined the forces of local, state and federal law enforcement agencies might become a model for how major attacks on civilians should be handled in the future. Interim Austin Police Chief Brian Manley on Wednesday testified before the U.S. House Homeland Security Committee, which McCaul chairs, about his experience working with federal authorities during the rash of deadly bombings. Boston Police Commissioner William Evans, who worked with federal agents after the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing and the subsequent investigation, and Washington Metropolitan Police Chief Peter Newsham also spoke on Capitol Hill about how collaborations among law enforcement agencies have improved in the past five years.

Austin American-Statesman - April 18, 2018

Texas facing a challenge in push to improve straight-to-college rate

Barely half of Texas high school graduates enroll directly in college, but 65 percent will need to do so by 2030 for the state to meet goals intended to produce an educated populace and a skilled workforce, Higher Education Commissioner Raymund Paredes said Wednesday. The rate in Texas has slipped in recent years, from 54 percent in 2014 to 53 percent in 2015 and 52 percent in 2016. The figure for 2017 won’t be available until May. “We know it could be cause for concern. We can’t tell if it’s a trend or an anomaly,” Paredes, the chief executive of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, said in a conference call with news reporters.

Austin American-Statesman - April 18, 2018

State officials detail increased National Guard deployment to border

At least 762 Texas National Guard troops are now deployed to the border, state officials announced at a legislative hearing Wednesday. The figure — up from 130 in March — shows how Texas has stepped up operations in response to President Donald Trump’s call for broader border security operations. Speaking to the Texas House Committee on Appropriations, Angela Isaack, manager of the Legislative Budget Board, said deployment will increase by 300 each week until the total deployment reaches 1,400. The Texas National Guard troops are chiefly being deployed around El Paso and the Rio Grande Valley, the Texas Military Department’s adjutant general Maj. Gen. John Nichols, told lawmakers.

Austin American-Statesman - April 18, 2018

AAS: Ethics panel would benefit Austin, but don’t rush it

It’s still a work in progress, but the Charter Review Commission’s proposal to establish an independent ethics panel to investigate – and if necessary prosecute — alleged violations of Austin’s campaign-finance rules and other ethics-related matters is headed in the right direction. We do offer some cautions: Whatever the final product is, it should not be rushed through the City Council or put before voters without public hearings or rigorous debate, as it would amend the city charter, Austin’s incorporating document that spells out the powers and limitations of city government. It’s also worth noting that charter review members should craft a more balanced way of choosing the people who would sit on an independent ethics panel to avoid the body from being controlled by any one city department or the City Council.

Dallas Morning News - April 18, 2018

Texas GOP congressman leads DACA push that hinges on rare 'queen of the hill' tactic

Rep. Will Hurd of Texas is part of a last-ditch effort by a bipartisan group of lawmakers to protect young immigrants from deportation. On Wednesday, the San Antonio Republican joined Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-N.M.) and California Reps. Pete Aguilar and Jeff Denham in announcing that they’re attempting to force the House to debate four proposals for the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA. President Donald Trump scrapped the program last fall. The group says they have the backing of nearly 240 House members, well over the 218 needed to invoke a rarely used procedure known as the “queen of the hill” rule. Members would vote on a resolution to bring four bills to the floor without committees or leadership. The bill with the highest number of votes exceeding 218 would be sent to the Senate.

Dallas Morning News - April 18, 2018

'We failed': Texas social services czar apologizes profusely for contract flubs

Gov. Greg Abbott's top appointee over social services profusely apologized to legislators Wednesday for his agency's failure to take care of the basics as it awards lucrative health-insurance and other contracts to private companies. On two recent contracts, bid evaluators and other officials at the Health and Human Services Commission botched their job of "tabulating scores, quality control and making sure that people obtain the appropriate approvals prior to moving forward" with a bid solicitation, Executive Commissioner Charles Smith told a legislative panel. "We failed," he said.

Dallas Morning News - April 18, 2018

Mitchell: STEM challenge: Are demography and geography destiny?

Q: What's the link between STEM education, demography and geography? A: The first law of geography says that everything is related, but near things are more related. Typically, we don't really think about the world that way. The whole idea is to understand that geography matters. Everybody wants an education and everybody wants a good one, but there's something about a place that seems to be impactful in terms of learning and opportunity. Q: So how does this shape educational strategy? A: If you want a weather report, you wouldn't ask for one for Texas, you'd ask for one for Dallas-Fort Worth, Austin, San Antonio. The state is responsible for education, but they usually do a one-size-fits-all strategy based on the data, when they should be taking local weather reports. The methodology allows us to see the same variable relationships across a state and make a case that in certain geographies, there's a strong relationship, for example, between poverty and biology learning, or poverty and math learning, or race and disciplinary practices.

Dallas Morning News - April 18, 2018

George W. Bush on the death of his mother, Barbara: 'It's the end of a beautiful life'

Former President George W. Bush on Wednesday offered thanks for the condolences pouring in over the death of his mother, Barbara, saying that "our entire family are very grateful for people's prayers and sympathies." "It's the end of a beautiful life," he said on Fox Business Network's "Mornings with Maria." The former first lady, wife of former President George H.W. Bush, died in Houston on Tuesday night at age 92. Her death came just two days after the family announced she would stop medical treatment for chronic health issues. She had been hospitalized several times in the past year for heart problems.

Dallas Morning News - April 18, 2018

Sisco: It's high time for the STAAR test to burn out

Texas public school students are well into the spring semester, or more accurately, the STAAR semester. Teachers are packing STAAR goody bags, showing cutesy films, and sponsoring pep rallies to encourage each child and teen to do his or her best on STAAR. Yet, none of these motivational tools overrides the implication that if students do not do well, the consequences will be disastrous for the student, school and district. Each district's spring calendar is a spiderweb of testing dates, as students take practice tests, tests and retests for STAAR. To prepare for these tests, teachers, at the behest of their superiors, pour hours upon hours of valuable class time into test prep and remediation — drill and kill. Kill the teachers' enthusiasm and creativity and kill the students' desire to learn, all in the name of a test for which they will officially sit only once during the school year, but whose ramifications make school administrators quake with fear.

Dallas Morning News - April 18, 2018

Andrew White proposes expanding gambling in Texas to fund 'education emergency'

Declaring an "education emergency" in Texas, gubernatorial candidate Andrew White wants to expand casinos and horse racing to help fund schools. White, the son of late Democratic Gov. Mark White, told reporters at a news conference Wednesday that he would expand gambling in the state so that the extra money can go toward public schools and scholarships for high school students. That would generate an estimated $3 billion of revenue, he said. "Texans are driving hours out of state to gamble in Louisiana and invest in Louisiana schools, and Oklahoma's health care and New Mexico's highways," he said. "Let's keep that money in Texas and invest in our own schools."

Dallas Morning News - April 18, 2018

NJ Gov. Murphy to Texas Gov. Abbott: Back off from our people and companies

In New Jersey, we are moving in a new direction, and we're making exciting progress. We're working hard to be the state of good value for money and good values for all our people. That's why it was quite a shock recently for me to see Texas Gov. Greg Abbott openly attack my home state in an opinion piece published in our state's largest newspaper. For too long, New Jersey put the wealthy and big corporations ahead of ordinary people, and it failed miserably. Now, we're moving New Jersey in a stronger and fairer direction, and Abbott would greatly benefit from taking a closer look at our strategy. I understand Texas pride. Heck, I respect that. But let's be clear, as governor of New Jersey, I won't let anyone get away with taking a cheap shot at my state.

Dallas Morning News - April 18, 2018

New poll that deems Cruz-O’Rourke race ‘too close to call’ leaves Texas experts scratching their heads

A new poll that has Democrat Beto O'Rourke within striking distance of Texas Sen. Ted Cruz set off a flurry of fundraising pleas Wednesday while raising the eyebrows of some skeptical Lone Star State political analysts. In its first-ever Texas poll, Quinnipiac University deemed the Senate race “too close to call” in reporting that 47 percent of Texas voters surveyed back Cruz and 44 percent support O’Rourke, an El Paso congressman. The pollster surveyed 1,029 self-identified registered voters this month and reported a margin of error of 3.6 percent. "Together, this grassroots campaign has continued to show what's possible when you reject [political action committees], special interests and politics as usual," O'Rourke said in a statement, while the Cruz campaign issued warnings over the risk of a blue wave.

Texas Tribune - April 19, 2018

In 2010, Blake Farenthold beat a Texas Democrat who seemed invincible. Will a Republican face the same fate in 2018?

In early October 2010, Washington political analyst David Wasserman began to sense the political winds were turning turning toward Republicans in such a big way that he posed an absurd scenario to Democrats across town: Was Solomon Ortiz in trouble? Ortiz, a Democrat, represented Texas' 27th congressional district and had easily coasted to re-election for decades. His Republican opponent was a brash radio host named Blake Farenthold making his first run for office. But Wasserman, armed with a GOP internal poll showing Ortiz down by eight points, felt compelled to ask a perplexed Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee staffer if there may be an actual race unfolding down in Corpus Christi. “He’s fine,” the operative wrote of Ortiz. Except Ortiz was not fine.

Texas Tribune - April 19, 2018

The next local control fight? Like Uber before, city regulations for AirBnB and HomeAway are in the crosshairs

When the Zaataris moved to Texas from Lebanon, part of the draw was the American Dream. In Austin, they're working toward that dream in the real estate business. The young couple wants to grow their family — “I’m negotiating for three,” Ahmad Zaatari joked — but they rely on the income from their short-term rental property to support the one child they already have. But with overburdensome regulation, some argue, “the City of Austin wants to shut them down.” That claim appears in glossy detail in a promotional video compiled recently by one of Texas’ most influential conservative think tanks. The video closes: “The Zaatari family believed in the American Dream. The Center for the American Future is fighting to keep it alive.”

KXAN - April 18, 2018

TxDOT to waive $1.3 billion in late fees for toll drivers

The Texas Department of Transportation announced Wednesday that it's waiving $1.3 billion in late fees for toll drivers who failed to pay their bills on time. The state agency says it assessed those fees between 2007 and March 1, 2018 — the date a new law capping toll fees went into effect. "March 1 is a new day and is being considered to be a new day in the system and so rather than trying to carry forward two different violation policies within the system, the decision has been made where [we are] only moving forward with the current one, in compliance with Senate Bill 312," TxDOT executive director James Bass said Wednesday before the House Committee on Transportation. "All of the earlier late fees are no longer being pursued."

Corpus Christi Caller-Times - April 17, 2018

Moritz: Blake Farenthold resigned to avoid rebuke by Ethics Committee, according to congresswoman

Embattled former Congressman Blake Farenthold resigned earlier this month after being warned the House Ethics Committee was about to rule against him in its inquiries related to his sexual harassment settlement and on whether he used government resources for political purposes, according to the office of a former colleague. U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier's office confirmed Tuesday that Farenthold was given a heads-up that the ethics panel had reached its decision in the investigations it launched in December related to the $84,000 settlement the Corpus Christi Republican paid a former aide using taxpayers' money. The warning was first reported by the Huffington Post's Washington Bureau.

KXAN - April 17, 2018

Disaster declaration unlocks state and federal dollars

When Gov. Greg Abbott issued a drought-related disaster declaration on Friday, he opened the door for agriculture producers to receive state and federal relief. Drought conditions spurred the declaration, which covers 72 counties in the Panhandle and Central Texas. "I want to assure the citizens of Texas that we will do all we can to respond to this threat and ensure their safety and the protection of their property," Abbott said. "I encourage those in these counties to heed the warnings of local officials and do all they can to stay out of harm's way. Texas is no stranger to wildfires, and will be prepared to respond as needed."

Construction Citizen - April 18, 2018

Educators and Industry Leaders Huddle to Bolster the Workforce in the Petrochemical and Construction Industries

Educators from all over Southeast Texas gathered in Houston this month to talk with leaders in the petrochemical and construction industries about improving their collaborative efforts to put people to work in high-paying careers. “Our regional economy is dynamic and ever-changing,” said Brazosport College President Millicent Valek as she kicked off the 2018 Regional Faculty Summit presented by the Greater Houston Partnership’s Upskill Houston, the Community College Petrochemical Initiative, and PetrochemWorks. It was also supported by supported by JPMorgan Chase, the United Way of Greater Houston, Philips 66, the US Chamber of Commerce Foundation, and Educate Texas.

County Stories

Dallas Morning News - April 18, 2018

Jeffers: John Wiley Price described as racist in redistricting trial alleging voter discrimination against whites

John Wiley Price is one of North Texas' most identifiable civil rights activists. During his years inside and outside government, he's boldly advocated for blacks getting a bigger share of jobs and contracts, even protesting in front of media companies in favor of more diversity. During a federal trial this week involving allegations that the county discriminates against white voters, Price was described by a witness as a racist, using his 2011 "All of you are white. Go to hell" rant at a county commissioners court meeting as evidence. It's part of a strategy by plaintiffs' lawyers to depict the county commissioners court, with Price the ringleader, as a body that seeks to erode the influence of white residents. If you follow the theory of the lawsuit, a racist environment led the commissioners court to push through a 2011 redistricting plan that they contend discriminates against white voters.

Austin American-Statesman - April 18, 2018

Travis County opioid drug overdoses on the rise, 2006-2016 data show

Travis County from 2006 to 2016 saw a steady uptick in drug overdose deaths, including those from heroin and prescription pain medication, according to data released this week by the Austin Public Health Department. Drug overdoses have killed an average of 127 people each year in Travis County in the period studied, the health department said. An average of 53 deaths, or 42 percent, resulted from using opioids such as heroin, methadone and other narcotics, the data show. Such deaths account for the highest percentage of overdose deaths. The next most common drugs resulting in deaths were cocaine and prescription drugs like Xanax, which from 2006 to 2016 accounted for 14 and 13 percent of overdoses, respectively, according to the data.

City Stories

Dallas Morning News - April 18, 2018

Villalba: Segregation in Dallas poses an immediate and existential crisis

From the perch of my seventh-floor Uptown office, I can see the gleaming vista of a vibrant and growing city. Cranes dot the landscape, local restaurants buzz with activity and newly established greenspaces add color and depth to the glass and concrete business centers of downtown. But as the economic engine that powers the city of Dallas continues to churn, the essential strands of DNA that bind us together as a city have fractured and separated in such a way that it has become clear that Dallas faces an immediate and existential crisis. The Communities Foundation of Texas, with the assistance of the Center for Public Policy Priorities, presented to various city leaders and civic organizations what Sarah Cotton Nelson, the chief philanthropy officer of the foundation, called a "comprehensive analysis of economic opportunity in Dallas County."

Houston Chronicle - April 18, 2018

Man spotted on roof of St. Martin's Episcopal Church days before Barbara Bush's funeral

Houston police are searching for a man who was on the roof of a St. Martin's Episcopal Church building Tuesday night in advance of former first lady Barbara Bush's public visitation and funeral service there later this week. After an officer spotted the man, he got away, police said. Search teams were unable to find him in the area around the church, at Woodway and Sage. Bush died Tuesday surrounded by family in her Houston home. Her public visitation will be at the church on Friday between noon and midnight, and her funeral, which is invitation only, will be held on Saturday.

National Stories

Weekly Standard - April 18, 2018

Koch Network to Launch Ad Campaign for Dreamers

Republican mega-donors Charles and David Koch are launching a seven-figure ad campaign to call on Congress to pass a lasting solution to protect Dreamers from deportation. The LIBRE Initiative and Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce, two groups within the powerful Koch network, announced the national, multiplatform advertising campaign campaign Tuesday night. The ad, featuring former presidents Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush, will air nationally on Sunday, beginning with a spot on NBC’s Meet The Press.

Washington Post - April 18, 2018

Scott: Starbucks incident is a reminder that ‘liberal’ companies with ‘woke’ leaders also have racism issues

When two black men were arrested in a Philadelphia Starbucks after an employee called the police, calls for a boycott spread through social media and elevated conversations about implicit bias against people of color. Starbucks's executive chairman, Howard Schultz, said he was “embarrassed” and “ashamed” of how the employee handled the incident. “I think you have to say in looking at the tape that she demonstrated her own level of unconscious bias,” he told Gayle King on CBS “This Morning.” “And in looking at the tape, you ask yourself whether that was racial profiling.”

Dallas Morning News - April 18, 2018

Border standoff ends as Jerry Brown-- berated by Trump--agrees to send California troops, with conditions

An impasse between California and the Trump administration over the president's demand for National Guard at the border ended Wednesday night with a deal to mobilize troops on condition they have nothing to do with immigration enforcement or a border wall. Gov. Jerry Brown announced that he would mobilize to 400 California guardsmen at least through Sept. 30. On Monday, the nation's Border Patrol chief said that Brown had so far rejected President Donald Trump's request for troops -- an assertion that Brown aides and the state's National Guard insisted was untrue. In their view, it was federal authorities who had so far refused to agree to limits Brown set forth two weeks ago.

Salon - April 18, 2018

Tesfaye: Paul Ryan’s parting gift to the rich: Yet another Republican tax cut?

On Monday, President Donald Trump traveled to Florida where he praised the GOP tax law for driving one of the "greatest booms" to the U.S. economy. But job growth has actually slowed since Trump took office. Introducing his bill to discount capital gains taxes, in effect, to account for inflation, Ted Cruz claimed, “We’re seeing the economic benefits of this tax cut, even just a few months into it. Over four million Americans have already gotten pay raises or bonuses directly as a result of the tax cut.” But most Americans have not noticed a larger paycheck since the law was enacted, according to a CNBC poll released in March. A recent analysis from the pro-reform group Americans for Tax Fairness found that 433 corporations out of the Fortune 500 have not offered any bonuses or wage increases to employees since the passage of corporate tax cuts. Instead, the analysis found, companies spent 37 times as much on stock buybacks. ... On Tax Day 2018, just one week after House Speaker Paul Ryan announced his retirement at the age of 48 — after spending his entire adult life on the government “dole” — Republicans have once again laid bare their true intentions. Passing a deficit-busting tax bill was intended to explode the national debt and thereby endanger future funding for the tattered remnants of the social safety net that survived welfare reform in the 1990s — including Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.

Politico - April 18, 2018

Lowry: The Republican High-Water Mark

f Republicans aren’t losing their congressional majority this coming fall, they are doing a good job of acting like it. Dozens of Republicans are leaving the House in an epic exodus, and last week Paul Ryan said he is resigning as House speaker at the end of this Congress, and not even run for his congressional seat again. If the high-water mark of Republican power came on the day last December that congressional Republicans and President Donald Trump celebrated the passage of the tax bill on the White House lawn, Ryan’s announcement is a clear sign that Republican clout has begun to recede.

Houston Chronicle - April 18, 2018

Congress takes up legislation to improve urban flood maps

One of the lessons Houstonians learned from Hurricane Harvey last August was that urban flooding often happens outside recognized floodplains. Congress, awakened by the torrent of floods and hurricanes in 2017, is now looking at legislation that would update local flood maps and help the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) manage future floods. The bipartisan Flood Mapping Modernization and Homeowner Empowerment Pilot Program Act of 2018, introduced Wednesday in the House and Senate, would provide $5.5 million for demonstration grants to cities to improve mapping technologies and provide better data to Congress and FEMA.

San Antonio Express-News - April 18, 2018

Remnants of migrant caravan move toward US-Mexico border

The remnants of a migrant caravan of Central Americans that angered President Donald Trump were continuing their journey north through Mexico toward the U.S. border Wednesday. Organizer Irineo Mujica, speaking from the western Mexico city of Guadalajara, said about 500 migrants had been riding trains north since departing Mexico City last weekend. The caravan that left the Guatemala-Mexico border in late March grew to more than 1,000 migrants who found safety travelling in numbers. In Mexico City, Mujica had said the capital was the caravan's last official stop, but many of the migrants feared going solo on the dangerous final leg north and decided to keep travelling en masse. Some who had split off to press on alone reported back about kidnappings and having their papers for safe passage torn up. "That caused the group to regroup," he said.

Dallas Morning News - April 18, 2018

Allen: We failed to heed Reagan's warnings about our poor education system

It's been 35 years. With the passage of that much time, and the human promise that it carried, the problems and deficiencies identified in 1983's clarion call for action should have been corrected. The call came from the National Commission on Excellence in Education (NCEE) in its report A Nation at Risk: The Imperative for Educational Reform. That report and its findings demonstrated the inextricable link between education and America's economic competitiveness and national security. We were losing our edge, and our shirt, to other countries. In a growing global economy we were losing to such friends as Japan and Germany. In the midst of the lingering Cold War we were also losing to our fiercest competitors, namely Russia and China, which had made education, particularly in math and the sciences, national priorities.

New York Times - April 16, 2018

Female Senators, Their Ranks Increasing, Reflect on Breaking Into the Boys’ Club

It has been 86 years since Hattie Wyatt Caraway of Arkansas became the first woman elected to the United States Senate, and women remain woefully underrepresented in the chamber. Women make up nearly 51 percent of the United States population but just 23 percent of the Senate, an all-time high, nonetheless, after Tina Smith was sworn in as the new senator from Minnesota in January. They form something of a tight-knit club. They have bipartisan dinners that make their male colleagues jealous. They have banded together to solve seemingly intractable problems; in 2013, when Senator Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas, led a move to shut down the government, the women of the Senate cut a bipartisan deal to reopen it. And they have pushed their colleagues to tackle issues like sexual harassment, domestic violence and sexual assault in the military.

Dallas Morning News - April 18, 2018

California professor under fire after calling Barbara Bush a 'witch,' 'amazing racist'

A professor at a California university has drawn public condemnation after calling Barbara Bush a racist and a witch on Twitter following the 92-year-old former first lady's death Tuesday. Randa Jarrar, who is in the English department of the University of California, Fresno, has since made her Twitter account private, but a series of tweets was captured by the Fresno Bee and other news organizations. Less than an hour after Bush's death was announced, Jarrar tweeted: "Barbara Bush was a generous and smart and amazing racist who, along with her husband, raised a war criminal. [Expletive] outta here with your nice words." At a news conference Wednesday, university Provost Lynnette Zelezny said the incident was under review.

KUHT - April 13, 2018

Consumers See Many Brands Through Political Lens (audio)

How a brand is seen depends more and more on the politics of its consumers. That’s the finding of a study by Rice Business professor Vikas Mittal, which was recently published in the Harvard Business Review. Together with co-authors Ashwin Malshe of the University of Texas at San Antonio and Shrihari Sridahar of Texas A&M, he surveyed 5,881 retail customers with strong political ideologies and gauged their perception of 45 retail brands.

Texas Monthly - April 11, 2018

Ramos: American Troops and Mexican Politics: Are We Underestimating Our Neighbor?

I admit to taking it personally last week when President Donald Trump announced that he was ordering the American military to fortify the border with Mexico. After all, I am someone with family on both sides of the border. By contrast, my Mexican cousins in the business world hardly seemed fazed by Trump’s move. That’s because a decade earlier, they had begun shifting their business contacts away from the United States and toward China and the Middle East. Trump’s border threats reinforce Mexican distrust of American political motivations at precisely the moment when building trust has never been more possible and more desirable. While the United States continues to be Mexico’s largest trading partner, Mexicans have increasingly sought to engage the global economy beyond its northern neighbor.