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May 28, 2017: All Newsclips | Early Morning Clips

All - May 28, 2017

State Stories

KXAN - May 26, 2017

Supporters of telecom bill are mum on conflict of interest questions

On Jan. 10, 2017, lobbyist Mindy Ellmer tweeted a picture of her with long-time boyfriend Rep. Charlie Geren, R-Fort Worth, standing next to the Mayor of Fort Worth, Betsy Price. The caption read, “Happy to kick off the 85th with two of my favorite peeps.” More than four months later, Rep. Geren is a driving force for a bill critics say will save the telecommunication giant AT&T hundreds of millions of dollars while taking needed revenue from city coffers in Austin and beyond. Ellmer has an interest in the company’s success in Geren’s Texas House of Representatives. She holds a contract from AT&T worth up to $99,999 to try and influence lawmakers to vote on issues favorable to AT&T.

Dallas Morning News - May 27, 2017

Bathroom showdown: Legislative leaders square off over 'bathroom bill,' threaten special session

The battle over the so-called bathroom bill reached a fever pitch Friday evening, with the state's top legislative leaders refusing to compromise on this year's most divisive political issue. Just three days before lawmakers are scheduled to pack up for the year, House Speaker Joe Straus and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick reached a logjam over legislation to restrict restroom access for transgender Texans. The dispute ups the chance that legislators will be forced to come back to the Capitol for a special session on the issue. "I don't see a reason for a special session if we pass our must-pass bills in the next couple of days," Straus, R-San Antonio, told reporters called together for an evening news conference.

Dallas Morning News - May 28, 2017

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signs bill cutting cost of gun licenses, jokes about shooting reporters

Gov. Greg Abbott visited an Austin gun range Friday morning to sign a bill into law that would lower the cost of a gun license in Texas, giving the state one of the lowest fees in the country. Abbott took to the range with a 9mm handgun to celebrate, spending several minutes on target practice. After he finished, Abbott held up his target for the press in attendance and said, "I'm gonna carry this around in case I see any reporters." The Brady Campaign, a national group opposed to gun violence, criticized Abbott for his joke, calling it "dangerous and out of line" in light of recent attacks against journalists.

Dallas Morning News - May 27, 2017

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signs bill cutting cost of gun licenses, jokes about shooting reporters

Gov. Greg Abbott visited an Austin gun range Friday morning to sign a bill into law that would lower the cost of a gun license in Texas, giving the state one of the lowest fees in the country. Abbott took to the range with a 9mm handgun to celebrate, spending several minutes on target practice. After he finished, Abbott held up his target for the press in attendance and said, "I'm gonna carry this around in case I see any reporters." The Brady Campaign, a national group opposed to gun violence, criticized Abbott for his joke, calling it "dangerous and out of line" in light of recent attacks against journalists.

Dallas Morning News - May 26, 2017

Sweeping anti-abortion bill heads to Gov. Greg Abbott's desk

A sweeping anti-abortion bill is headed to Gov. Greg Abbott's desk after the Senate approved changes made by House lawmakers last week. Sen. Charles Schwertner, the bill's author, said the bill addresses concerns "expressed by thousands of Texans and will ensure the dignity and protection for the unborn child." The bill started as a two-pronged proposal: It would require fetal tissue from abortions or miscarriages to be buried or cremated and would prohibit "partial-birth" abortions. But some House members, frustrated by what they see as a lack of enthusiasm from leaders in the chamber to pass anti-abortion bills, used the measure as a way to revive legislation that had been left for dead.

Dallas Morning News - May 26, 2017

Bill to let UIL disqualify transgender athletes for steroid use dies in House

Transgender student athletes like Euless Trinity wrestler Mack Beggs don't have to worry about being disqualified for steroid use after a newly proposed law died this week in the Texas House. The legislation would have let the University Interscholastic League, the state's high school sports organization, declare athletes unfit to play if they're taking the hormone. Athletes with a doctor's prescription for a medical condition like gender dysphoria would still be at risk of disqualification under the bill. The bill passed easily in the Senate but died unceremoniously in the House Public Education Committee after failing to be voted out before a key bill passage deadline.

Dallas Morning News - May 26, 2017

DMN: One year after sexual assault report, 'duck and cover' Baylor still fails survivors of this tragedy

On this first anniversary of Baylor kinda-sorta confessing to its fundamental failure to protect young women from sexual violence, please pause and think of those who have paid the highest price: the still-unknown number of assault survivors. Listen to the words of one of those Jane Does, whom we spoke to just this week: "Everyone at Baylor wants to move on. They expect it to get better, but for the survivors, it doesn't get better. Baylor thinks we will forget, but we won't. We can't." It's on behalf of this survivor and all the others like her that this newspaper has consistently called for Baylor to provide written details of the investigation into its handling of sexual assault reports.

Dallas Morning News - May 27, 2017

Catch-all education bill heads to Gov. Abbott's desk

A catch-all education bill that allows kids to keep hot school lunches and voters to decide the fate of Dallas County Schools is headed to the governor's desk. If Gov. Greg Abbott signs the bill, it would make Texas one of at least two states with laws banning so-called lunch shaming in schools. The effort, a top priority for Rep. Helen Giddings, was added to a school policy bill by Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham. The Senate concurred with the House's lunch-shaming and Dallas County Schools amendments Saturday. "I am very, very excited that we were able to get this done," said Giddings, D-Dallas.

Dallas Morning News - May 27, 2017

Laredo lawmaker trying to revive fantasy sports legislation

A Laredo lawmaker is trying to bring back from the dead legislation that would allow fantasy sports companies to operate in Texas. Just before House members finished on Friday, Rep. Richard Raymond, D-Laredo, offered a motion to have the matter considered by lawmakers conferring on Senate Bill 2065. Raymond's motion passed 119-25, but his efforts could be a Hail Mary that even Dallas Cowboys legend Roger Staubach couldn't complete. Sen. Kelly Hancock, the bill's author, was blunt about the chance a fantasy sports amendment could be added.

Dallas Morning News - May 28, 2017

Property tax bill dies, signaling possible special session for the Legislature

A property tax overhaul is officially dead this legislative session — for now. The issue was a top priority for Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, but disagreements between the Texas House and the Senate have put the bill in an early grave. The House failed to appoint a conference committee to negotiate with the Senate on Saturday, stopping the bill in its tracks. "Unless House leadership appoints a conference committee to continue negotiations for much-needed property tax relief in Texas, the bill should be considered in need of a proper burial," said Sen. Brandon Creighton, R-Conroe, a co-author of the latest version of the property tax bill, Senate Bill 669.

Dallas Morning News - May 27, 2017

Texas lawmakers reach deal on voter ID revamp before going back to court over the law

The two chambers of the Texas Legislature appear to have reached a deal on a bill to revamp the state’s controversial voter identification law. A 10-person conference committee made up of five members from each chamber filed a final version of the bill Saturday. The deal keeps many of the changes the House proposed last week, including extending the time a person could use an expired ID to vote. Both chambers must approve the revised bill before sending it to Gov. Greg Abbott for signing. The Senate approved the negotiated version of the bill on a 21-10 vote Saturday night. The House is expected to vote on it Sunday.

Dallas Morning News - May 28, 2017

Lawmakers pass budget that offers clenched fist, aiding few at-risk Texans other than abused kids

A flat-lined state budget that offers slim rations to many of Texas' most vulnerable citizens, though it would strengthen efforts to protect abused kids, won final approval from lawmakers Saturday. Counting federal funds, the two-year budget would spend $216.8 billion. That's just 0.2 percent more than is being spent in the current cycle. The budget would have to be almost $235 billion — or spend nearly $18 billion more — to cover the 8.4 percent increase that the Legislative Budget Board has estimated would be necessary simply to cover population growth and inflation.

Dallas Morning News - May 27, 2017

What does billionaire Warren Buffett like about Texas? A look at his investments

No, it's not Dairy Queen. Yes, Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Inc. owns DQ, but the home of the soft-serve ice cream and the hamburgers that Texans call their own is actually headquartered in Minneapolis. But the Oracle of Omaha does have major holdings deeply rooted here, including companies that make boots and bricks, fly planes and run trains. But the Oracle of Omaha does have major holdings deeply rooted here, including companies that make boots and bricks, fly planes and run trains. Oh yeah, and there's that little shop in The Colony -- Nebraska Furniture Mart of Texas and the mega development surrounding it, Grandscape. Here is a map of Warren Buffett's Texas holdings.

Dallas Morning News - May 28, 2017

Abbott’s hiring freeze gets no credit as lawmakers plug holes in current Texas budget

Gov. Greg Abbott's hiring freeze may have saved some money, but it received Rodney Dangerfield treatment in an emergency spending bill that lawmakers sent him Friday: no respect. And no credit. In the "supplemental appropriations" bill, agencies are being told that money they didn't spend because they left positions unfilled has "lapsed." That means they no longer have authority to spend it. But in calculating the stopgap spending bill, the Legislative Budget Board and the comptroller's office gave no money resulting from the freeze back to lawmakers, to help them plug holes.

Austin American-Statesman - May 27, 2017

Gov. Greg Abbott signs court safety law named for Judge Julie Kocurek

Nearly 19 months after state District Judge Julie Kocurek was shot outside her West Austin home, Gov. Greg Abbott signed a law named in her honor that aims to boost security for judicial officers. “The craven attack against Judge Julie Kocurek is deeply troubling, and Texas must be committed to protecting those who uphold the rule of law in this state,” Abbott said Saturday in a statement. “With this new law, judges will have the proper security that creates a safe environment in which they can perform their duties.” Senate Bill 42, the Judge Julie Kocurek Judicial and Courthouse Security Act, was authored by Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, and carried in the House by Rep. John Smithee, R-Amarillo.

Austin American-Statesman - May 27, 2017

Texas Senate resurrects school finance, ‘school choice’ bill

House Bill 21, the school finance and school choice bill that was declared dead earlier this week, might have been resurrected. Without much discussion, the Texas Senate on Saturday appointed senators to a conference committee to hash out differences in the bill with members of the House, who were appointed on Wednesday. Without a compromise by midnight Saturday, HB 21 is dead — again. Senate Education Chairman Larry Taylor, R-Friendswood, later said that the conference committee is aimed at giving the House more time to agree to the Senate changes, specifically the one that would implement a so-called school choice system for special education students, which the House has ardently opposed. Taylor said that the odds of the House and Senate reaching a compromise is still “slim to none.”

Austin American-Statesman - May 27, 2017

Dan Patrick, Joe Straus share stage amid ‘bathroom bill’ showdown

Amid the legislative showdown over the so-called bathroom bill, the Republican “big three” of Texas state government — Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Speaker Joe Straus — shared the stage in the House on Saturday morning for a Memorial Day weekend event honoring Texans who have died while serving in the armed services. None acknowledged publicly what had happened the night before, when Patrick said he would force a special legislative session after Straus announced he would go no further in negotiating over bills that restrict transgender Texans from using the bathrooms of their choice.

Austin American-Statesman - May 26, 2017

Legislature keeps cuts to program for poor kids with disabilities

Over Democratic objections and against Texas House Speaker Joe Straus’ wishes, the Legislature this year won’t undo severe cuts adopted in 2015 to a program that serves low-income children with disabilities. The House on Friday voted 115-21 to go along with a Senate budget plan that declines to alter the dramatic reductions — totaling about $350 million in state and federal money last year and this year — in the rates paid by Medicaid to therapists who primarily serve children with conditions like Down syndrome, shaken baby syndrome and hydrocephaly. Advocates say the cuts are making the program untenable for therapists and will lead to fewer children being served.

Austin American-Statesman - May 28, 2017

In its 85th session, the Texas Legislature marched farther right

When state Rep. Jason Villalba was first elected to the Legislature in 2012, he was described as the future of the Texas Republican Party. Five years later, representing an affluent North Dallas district that Hillary Clinton carried and whose constituents include former President George W. Bush, Villalba is one of only three Hispanic Republicans in the Legislature. During his years in Austin, he has been a loyal and outspoken advocate for House Speaker Joe Straus and an unabashed admirer of Gov. Greg Abbott. Yet despite his talents and ambition, Villalba remains literally and figuratively a back bencher in the Texas House. Denied a chairman’s gavel, he is custodian of the House candy jar, his talents thwarted and ambitions blunted as he now closes out a session he calls “my toughest yet,” a self-described Reagan Republican out of step with the continued rightward march of his party.

Austin American-Statesman - May 27, 2017

Herman: Straus and Patrick and irreconcilable differences

Yeah, we kind of knew this political marriage — arranged by the voters of Texas — was destined for trouble. And Friday night, in escalating from what had been mostly behind-closed-doors unpleasantness, it seemed to heat up from possibly reconcilable differences to probably irreconcilable differences. As in some relationships, the flashpoint was bathrooms, though not the usual problems caused when someone leaves the seat up. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick believes state government should get more deeply involved in dictating the bathroom and locker room attendance of transgender folks. More important, he believes this is a front-burner, top-drawer, crucial issue for a majority of Texans, many of whom, he believes, think that allowing transgender folks to use the facility of their choice is a safety and privacy issue.

Austin American-Statesman - May 26, 2017

Joe Straus, Dan Patrick snipe on bathroom bill, special session

Speaker Joe Straus said the House will budge no further on transgender bathroom legislation and that the Senate can take the measure the House passed Sunday, which Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick did not feel went far enough, or leave it. “The House approved language last Sunday night that required schools to make private accommodations for students who want them,” Straus said Friday at a brief press conference after the House adjourned for the day. “It gave local educators room to handle these issues.” “For many of us, and especially for me, this was a compromise. As far as I’m concerned, it will go no further,” Straus said. “It is the right thing to protect our economy from billions of dollars in losses and, more importantly, to protect the safety of some very vulnerable Texans.”

Austin American-Statesman - May 26, 2017

Spokesman: Abbott has concerns about texting-while-driving ban

The texting-while-driving ban is not quite in the garage yet. A spokesman for Gov. Greg Abbott, who has had House Bill 62 on his desk for several days, gave an equivocal statement Friday about the governor’s intentions for the legislation. “The governor believes texting while driving has become deadly dangerous and that something must be done about it,” spokesman John Wittman said via email. “One thing Gov. Abbott wanted in a texting-while-driving ban was a preemption of the patchwork quilt of local regulations across the state, and he’s looking forward to digging into the details of HB 62.”

Austin American-Statesman - May 28, 2017

Wear: Texts, Uber and tolls: Transportation’s session in the shadows

Transportation was always destined to be something of a sideshow for the 85th Legislature, which with any luck will complete its business Monday. The center ring, it became obvious months ago, was to feature such matters as school potty protocols, and which jail guests Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez must out to federal authorities. That 82,000-mile network of state highways and bridges? Pshaw. Nonetheless, with a couple of committees and a cadre of legislative specialists consigned to transportation over there in the policy shallows, there was some real action in that arena. Here are the highlights, some of them subject to whether Gov. Greg Abbott chooses to pick up his pen in the coming three weeks and make law.

Austin American-Statesman - May 27, 2017

Legislature approves $216.8 billion state budget

Both houses of the Texas Legislature approved a $216.8 billion state budget for 2018 and 2019 on Saturday that does little to improve the state’s widely criticized school finance system, boosts funding for scandal-plagued child protection agencies and maintains the state’s $800 million commitment to border security. The House voted 135-14 to approve the budget, with all “no” votes coming from Democrats. Soon after, the Senate approved it in a 30-1 vote, sending the two-year spending plan to Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk. Sen. Sylvia Garcia, D-Houston, voted “no,” saying the budget didn’t represent the values of her district.

Austin American-Statesman - May 27, 2017

Most Texas House changes kept in voter ID bill

The voter ID bill emerged from conference committee Saturday with many of the House amendments intact — but with a compromise on the criminal penalty for lying on a document that allows registered voters to cast a ballot without a government-issued photo ID. The reworked bill will next be presented to the Senate and House for approval. If granted, Senate Bill 5 would go to Gov. Greg Abbott, who declared voter ID a late-session emergency item when the bill appeared to be sinking. Republicans say the bill would help ensure ballot integrity and fairness. Democrats say the bill still suppresses voting, particularly among minorities, and predicted it too would be struck down by the courts.

San Antonio Express News - May 27, 2017

With hurricane season about to open, officials and volunteers prepare for the worst

There are conflicting forecasts on whether a hurricane is likely to strike this year, but emergency responders in government, the private sector and volunteer groups across Texas are nonetheless readying for a direct hit. “We don’t know what’s going to happen, so we try to prepare for the worst-case scenario,” said Thomas Martinek, the American Red Cross disaster program manager in Corpus Christi. “It’s kind of overprepare and hope nothing happens.” New to the job, he has relied heavily on experienced volunteers to get ready in case the need arises to quickly mobilize and provide food and shelter for up to 150 people. Four Atlantic hurricanes — including two that will be major ones — were forecast in April by researchers at Colorado State University, where officials put the chances of one making landfall on the Gulf Coast at 24 percent, lower than usual. But a forecast released last week by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration calls for up to nine hurricanes, of which four could be major.

San Antonio Express News - May 27, 2017

Despite a stormy session, House Speaker Straus of San Antonio intends to run again

House Speaker Joe Straus said Saturday that he intends to run for a sixth term as leader of the chamber, signaling his plans as a tumultuous legislative session is drawing to its close. “That’s my intention,” Straus, R-San Antonio, said in an interview with the Express-News when asked whether he will run for another term. “But I never make a big splash or statement at the end of a session. I like to let the dust settle, let the governor have his veto period, make sure we’re not coming right back in a special session. “But that’s my intention,” Straus said.

San Antonio Express News - May 27, 2017

Bill making sweeping changes in annexation law heads to eleventh-hour fight

The race was on at the state capital Saturday to amend the most consequential piece of annexation legislation in nearly 20 years, as elected officials quarreled over whether to include an amendment in the bill to help protect military bases from encroaching development. SB 715, authored by state Sen. Donna Campbell, R-New Braunfels, was sent to conference committee earlier this week after the senator disagreed with amendments made by the Texas House. The bill, if passed, will require a vote before cities like San Antonio can annex unincorporated areas. It represents a massive overhaul of annexation law in the state.

San Antonio Express News - May 27, 2017

Straus issues ultimatum on bathroom bill

House Speaker Joe Straus issued a take-it-or-leave it proclamation to Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick on the issue of transgender access to public restrooms Friday, saying his chamber has compromised enough on the issue. Patrick said he would leave it, blaming Straus for the prospect of a special session on an issue that the lieutenant governor has made a dominant one in this regular session. “If the Senate wants to pass a bathroom bill, it can concur with the bill that we passed earlier this week,” Straus, R-San Antonio, said at a hastily called news conference. “It’s absurd that bathroom bills have taken on greater urgency than fixing our school finance system.”

San Antonio Express News - May 26, 2017

Trump budget would leave more uninsured Texans

Massive cuts to Medicaid and other poverty programs in President Donald Trump’s 2018 “taxpayer first” budget have cast a shadow of uncertainty over 4.7 million uninsured patients in Texas - one-sixth of the state’s population - who live close to or below the poverty line. Democrats, patient advocates and some industry groups say the predicament of the uninsured — Texas has the most in the country, including 275,000 in Bexar County — will become more widespread under Trump’s proposal to reduce planned Medicaid spending by $627 billion over the next decade, on top of $834 billion in cuts under Obamacare repeal legislation passed by the Republican-led House.

Houston Chronicle - May 27, 2017

Legislature appears at brink of a special session

The Texas Legislature moved to the brink of an almost certain special session on Saturday, after a series of opportunities to pass key legislative priorities evaporated in a continuing test of wills between Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and House Speaker Joe Straus. Lawmakers were able to muster enough unity to give final passage to the $216.8 billion state budget, but a big divide remains over the so-called bathroom bill, property-tax reform and a bill to keep the Texas Medical Board in operation past Jan. 1, 2018. Failure to pass the medical board measure would force a special session, legislators said. Negotiations broke down on Friday after Sens. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, and Joan Huffman, R-Houston, met with Straus to try to resolve lingering issues with the House on the bathroom bill, according to officials involved in the talks.

Austin American-Statesman - May 26, 2017

AAS: Legislature endangers all Texas children with ‘bathroom bill’ myopia

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Senate Republicans would have us believe that few issues require the immediate attention of state lawmakers more than regulating which bathrooms transgender Texans can use. Such urgency for a manufactured problem conjured by Republicans has nothing to do with safety and everything to do with mandating the type of bathrooms transgender Texans, including students, can use in schools and other public places. Instead of pushing such punitive policies that can be discriminatory, state legislators should be advancing solutions addressing the welfare of children in the state’s troubled foster care system and the education of more than 5 million children in its public schools.

San Antonio Express News - May 27, 2017

Patrick, Straus legislative battle highlights GOP war

Indignant that his property tax reform and bathroom bills were languishing in the House, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s threat in mid-May to force lawmakers into a special session epitomized the charge-ahead style that has made him a driving force in the Legislature. Across the Capitol, House Speaker Joe Straus’ moderate response also played to type in a regular session in which he often was forced to play defense. He rejected his counterpart’s bombast and spoke of “trying to come together the way the system was built to be.” But on Friday, with no agreement in sight on the proposal regarding transgender people’s use of public restrooms, Straus showed his steel in a contest that’s bigger than the two leaders and highlights a battle over the direction of the Republican Party.

Houston Chronicle - May 26, 2017

HC: The red line -- Texas Republicans should emulate Barry Goldwater's conscience of a conservative.

Where is the red line? Houston's Republicans in Washington need to start asking themselves this question. It is a question that former U.S. Sen. Barry Goldwater had to confront four decades ago. A gyre of scandal had engulfed President Richard Nixon. Impeachment talks were proceeding. The Republican Party looked to Sen. Goldwater of Arizona - Mr. Conservative himself - to help determine if Nixon could survive an impeachment conviction in the Senate and, if necessary, convince the president to resign. Goldwater worked with his colleagues to count the votes that had been tallied by Nixon's White House counsel. As the former presidential candidate made his way through the senators and their likely decisions, Goldwater added one more name to the list - his own.

Texas Tribune - May 28, 2017

Texas Legislature sends $217 billion budget to Gov. Abbott

Both chambers of the Texas Legislature voted Saturday evening to approve a $217 billion, two-year budget that would boost funding for the state's beleaguered child welfare agency, increase the number of state troopers on the Texas-Mexico border and avoid serious reforms to the state's much-criticized school finance system. The final vote in the House was 135-14. The vote in the Senate was 30-1. Scrounging for cash in a tight-fisted legislative session, budget leaders from both chambers agreed to a compromise that settled a bitter debate over how to finance the state budget. The two-year budget is shored up by both $1 billion taken from the state’s savings account, often referred to as the Rainy Day Fund, and an accounting trick that would use nearly $2 billion from a pot of funding intended for highway projects. The House had favored tapping the Rainy Day Fund and leaving the transportation funding alone. The Senate had taken the opposite position.

Texas Tribune - May 28, 2017

Lawmakers vote to fund veterinary medicine at Texas Tech

Texas Tech University's on-again, off-again plans to open a veterinary school in Amarillo might just be on again. Buried in the 900-plus page budget approved Saturday by state lawmakers is $4.1 million allocated to Tech for "veterinary medicine." That money appears to be start-up funding for a new vet school — even though Tech started the legislative session saying that plans for the school were "on pause." Tech originally announced in late 2015 that it wanted to open a school in Amarillo 2019. But the idea was met with fierce resistance by Texas A&M University, which has the only veterinary school in the state.

Texas Tribune - May 27, 2017

"Buy American" iron and steel bill gets legislative approval

Both the House and Senate approved a "Buy American" iron and steel bill on Saturday that will expand a provision already in effect for the Texas Department of Transportation and the Texas Water Development Board. The measure now only requires a signature from Gov. Greg Abbott. Senate Bill 1289 by state Sen. Brandon Creighton, R-Conroe, would require large state projects — such as buildings, roads and bridges — to purchase iron and steel from an American supplier if the cost doesn’t exceed 20 percent more than the price of cheaper, foreign imports. Under the bill, any country's iron and steel can be used if American suppliers aren't prepared to supply a project or there is a compelling state interest.

Texas Tribune - May 28, 2017

Convention of states-related bill hits Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk

A bill outlining the duties and limits of Texas delegates should a convention of states to amend the U.S. Constitution occur is headed to Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk for a signature. The measure, Senate Bill 21 by state Sen. Brian Birdwell, R-Granbury, was slightly amended in a legislative conference committee this week and approved by the House on Thursday. The committee reinstalled a Senate provision in SB 21 to allow only Texas lawmakers to serve as delegates at a convention — House members had modified the bill in April to allow citizens and the governor to be delegates, too — while keeping out language that would impose criminal penalties on delegates who cast an “unauthorized vote” without a green light from the Legislature.

City Stories

Austin American-Statesman - May 28, 2017

Surge in patients at new Austin VA clinic prompts review

Four years after the Department of Veterans Affairs outpatient clinic in Austin opened as the largest in the country, skyrocketing growth in the number of veterans using it has officials already looking at ways to prevent overcrowding and extend the lifespan of the facility. The Austin clinic is five years ahead of growth projections, said Christopher Sandles, hired in February to oversee the Central Texas Veterans Health Care System. The rapid growth is one of the top challenges facing the local VA, which has seen the number of veterans seeking help there increase 7 percent since 2015 to more than 89,000 this year, during which time staffing increased only 4 percent, Sandles said last week. Most VA regions grew 1 or 2 percent over that time.

WFAA - May 24, 2017

Higher education school for special needs to open in Plano

A non-profit called "My Possibilities" in Plano is doing everything it can to change options for a student with special needs. Last month, My Possibilities broke ground on a new campus called "My Possibilities University." Founders say it's the first of its kind in the United States and will bring a college-like atmosphere to 1600 students a year, when it's fully running. For years, families have found themselves with no support of continuing education after special needs students become adults. "When the bus stops coming, the opportunities stop too," said Charmaine Solomon, My Possibility's co-founder.

National Stories

Dallas Morning News - May 26, 2017

Brooks: The Four American Narratives

America has always been a divided, sprawling country, but for most of its history it was held together by a unifying national story. As I noted a couple of months ago, it was an Exodus story. It was the story of leaving the oppressions of the Old World, venturing into a wilderness and creating a new promised land. In this story, America was the fulfillment of human history, the last best hope of earth. That story rested upon an amazing level of national self-confidence. It was an explicitly Judeo-Christian story, built on a certain view of God’s providential plan. But that civic mythology no longer unifies. American confidence is in tatters and we live in a secular culture. As a result, we’re suffering through a national identity crisis. Different groups see themselves living out different national stories and often feel they are living in different nations.

Dallas Morning News - May 26, 2017

Suri: We owe it to our soldiers to better prepare for the next war

The men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country did so to preserve our security and freedom. We owe them more than periodic remembrances and statements of gratitude. We owe them an unshakable commitment to ensuring that current and future soldiers are sent into harm's way only when the nation's interests are clearly at stake. Too often our leaders have sent Americans to die in response to vague threats or in pursuit of unclear purposes. Memorial Day should remind us all to demand better foreign policy leadership. Our nation's founders opposed large standing military forces in peacetime because they feared it would encourage leaders to use them frequently. Powerful armies are a temptation for ambitious politicians.

Dallas Morning News - May 28, 2017

FEC finds Ted Cruz failed to properly disclose $1.1M in Goldman, Citi loans for 2012 Senate bid

Massively outspent during the 2012 Senate campaign, Ted Cruz dug deep into personal funds to keep up with millionaire Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst. He also took $1.1 million in loans — including $800,000 from Goldman Sachs, his wife's employer — that he didn't report to the Federal Election Commission. The issue came to haunt him during last year's presidential race. And on Thursday, FEC members voted unanimously to accept an audit finding that Cruz had not properly disclosed the loans to voters. It's unclear if he will face any penalty.

Associated Press - May 27, 2017

Back home after foreign trip, Trump faces slew of challenges

His whirlwind foreign trip complete, President Donald Trump faces a slew of political and policy challenges at home and mushrooming inquiries into allegations that Russia meddled in the U.S. election and had improper dealings with his campaign and associates. Trump returned to Washington late Saturday after a nine-day trip to the Middle East and Europe, his first trip abroad as president. Awaiting him were reports that his son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, spoke with Russia's ambassador to the United States about setting up secret communications with Moscow during the presidential transition. White House aides prepared for potential changes ahead, with the president mulling a staff overhaul amid frustrations over what he views as his communication team's failures to push back against allegations. A rally planned Thursday in Iowa was postponed due to "an unforeseen change" in Trump's schedule.

This article appeared in the Houston Chronicle

Austin American-Statesman - May 28, 2017

Cole: How to vote on health care if you’re a Christian lawmaker

Many political leaders who support the U.S. House or Senate version of a new health care bill proudly identify themselves as Christian — “pro-life” and “pro-family.” What puzzles me is how these leaders reconcile their personal values and commitments with embracing a plan that limits or excludes poor people as well as persons with pre-existing conditions. In other words, how is this plan anti-abortion, pro-family and consistent with their Christian beliefs and practices? In fact, this plan is an affront to Jesus because it excludes the most vulnerable people from coverage. Jesus did not waver in the priority he gave to those who were poor, hungry, sick, imprisoned or strangers. There is ample biblical evidence for making this claim.

Houston Chronicle - May 26, 2017

Trump considers staff changes, 'war room'

President Donald Trump and his advisers, seeking to contain the escalating Russia crisis that threatens to consume his presidency, are considering a retooling of his senior staff and the creation of a "war room" within the White House, according to several aides and outside Trump allies. Following Trump's return to Washington on Saturday night from a nine-day foreign trip that provided a bit of a respite from the controversy back home, the White House plans to far more aggressively combat the cascading revelations about contacts between Trump associates, including Jared Kushner, the president's son-in-law and senior adviser, and Russia. White House officials are also trying to find ways to revive Trump's stalled policy agenda in Congress and to more broadly overhaul the way the White House communicates with the public.

San Antonio Express News - May 27, 2017

S.A. web firm might be included in probe of the Trump-Russia ties

The FBI’s wide-ranging criminal investigation into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 presidential election may include scrutiny of the Trump campaign’s San Antonio-based digital operation overseen by senior White House adviser Jared Kushner. CNN reported that along with Kushner’s contacts with Russians and his relationship with fired national security adviser Michael Flynn, the FBI is looking at the campaign’s 2016 data analytics programs conducted largely out of San Antonio under the direction of local digital advertising executive Brad Parscale. In looking at possible ties with Russia, the FBI has collected data on computer bots — software that runs automated scripts over the internet — that pushed negative information on Hillary Clinton and positive information on Trump, the cable network reported.

Austin American-Statesman - May 28, 2017

Feds go quiet on push to protect rights of citizen-soldiers

Six months ago, members of Congress asked the Department of Labor to change rules that were shielding the identity of employers who routinely run afoul of a landmark law meant to protect the jobs of U.S. service members and reservists when they are called to duty. The House Veterans Affairs Committee opened an inquiry into the matter last year after an American-Statesman investigation into violations of the law in Texas found that a number of employers in the state repeatedly took action against workers — including firings, demotions and other disciplinary action — because of absences related to their military service. Yet the Labor Department refused to name the employers that violated the veterans’ rights. U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin, was among those who called for more accountability, saying that public disclosure of the names of the employers (including private firms and local governments) with violations would deter them from breaking the law.

All - May 26, 2017

Lead Stories

Austin American-Statesman - May 26, 2017

First Reading: Robert Morrow throws his jester’s hat in the ring for Texas GOP chair on an `Impeach Trump’ platform

The day after he body-slammed and punched a reporter for the Guardian, breaking his glasses and physicalizing Trumpian contempt for the media, Greg Gianforte was elected to Congress from Montana. Well, clearly Gianforte had the coolest name on the ballot. Never underestimate that. Gianoforte is so musical, so romantic. Meanwhile, Quist Wicks sounds like a new treat from the Frito-Lay snack lab. In declaring victory, Gianforte apologized for assaulting a seemingly mild-mannered reporter. I am glad. I am a reporter. I am mild-mannered. I wear glasses. I don’t want to be body slammed and punched doing my job.

Texas Tribune - May 25, 2017

Fearing 2018 losses, Texas Republicans in Congress want special session on redistricting

There are few things that strike more fear into the heart of a member of Congress than the word “redistricting.” That proved particularly true this week among Texas Republicans in Washington, thanks to a recent court ruling that came about just as talk was increasing in Austin that Gov. Greg Abbott may call a special session. Some Texas Republicans in Congress hope that any upcoming special session will include redrawing the state's 36 congressional districts as part of its agenda. The message coming out of Austin thus far: not going to happen. Several congressional Republicans told the Tribune they want Abbott to call a special session to redraw the Congressional lines.

Austin American-Statesman - May 25, 2017

No special session on redistricting, Ken Paxton tells court

There will be no special legislative session on redistricting, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton told a federal court Thursday. The announcement came in response to a question posed last week by a three-judge panel that will determine whether the state’s maps for 36 congressional districts and 150 state House districts were drawn in ways that discriminate against African-American and Latino voters. Was there any chance, the court asked, that Texas would call a special session to redraw the maps in light of the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision that found improper racial gerrymandering in two North Carolina congressional districts?

Associated Press - May 25, 2017

Hot Air Balloon Hunting OK in Texas

Texas lawmakers have approved the hunting of feral hogs and coyotes from hot air balloons. Texas' growing hog population causes millions of dollars' worth of damage to crops every year. Texas has an estimated two million feral hogs. Their high breeding rate and lack of natural predators has seen their population explode.

This article appeared in US News

Ft. Worth Star-Telegram - May 25, 2017

'Body slam every journalist,' Tarrant County tea party group tweets, quickly deletes

The day after a Montana congressional candidate was charged with assaulting a reporter at his campaign headquarters, the Northeast Tarrant Tea Party tweeted Thursday, “BODY SLAM EVERY JOURNALIST #Gianforte.” The @NETarrantTea Twitter account soon deleted the tweet. “We have several people who tweet for us,” Julie McCarty, president of the politically powerful NE Tarrant Tea Party, wrote in an email to the Star-Telegram. “I guess they thought this was funny, but it was in very poor taste so we removed it immediately.” She declined to name the person behind the tweet but said “that person will not be tweeting for us anymore.”

Dallas Morning News - May 25, 2017

As stores close and Amazon soars, are millions of retail jobs on the line?

Retailers are on pace to close over 8,000 U.S. stores this year, more than during the worst of the recession, and that could signal the start of a long decline. Some predict that retail jobs will fall sharply in coming years and mirror the arc of U.S. manufacturing. “More than 7.5 million jobs are at high risk,” warned a study released last week. Almost 1 in 9 workers nationwide are employed in retail trade so the stakes are high. Over 4.5 million Americans work as a retail salesperson, the top occupation in the country, and cashier is next on the list.

Texas Tribune - May 26, 2017

Ramsey: A test of negotiating skills for the state’s top three leaders

Texans are going to find out over the Memorial Day weekend whether there is much difference between the way government works in Austin and the way it works in Washington, D.C. State lawmakers are on the verge of a stalemate over bathrooms and property taxes that could prevent them from finishing their work on time this month — and could push them into one or more special sessions on issues they’ve grappled over for five months. Legislative gridlock is a natural condition in Congress, but state lawmakers in Texas are usually able to work through even the hardest fights. This one — which has stumped Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and House Speaker Joe Straus — could prove the exception to that rule.

Austin Business Journal - May 23, 2017

Austin's plastic bag ban can stay: Measure dies in Texas Legislature, along with other local pre-emption bills

Environmentalists are declaring victory at the Texas Capitol in the fight to give cities the right to ban single-use plastic bags at stores, one of the few victories this legislative session for local governments in their fight against state pre-emption. Those who track the issue say 16 cities, from Austin to tiny Kermit to Dallas, have bag bans. Senate Bill 103 was one of the earliest bills filed in the 2015 session, by Sen. Bob Hall, R-Rockwall, who said the choice of which types of bags to offer customers belong with local businesses.

Austin American-Statesman - May 25, 2017

Rep. Terry Canales says Sen. Charles Schwertner ‘lacks a spine’

In an angry speech on the Texas House floor, Rep. Terry Canales on Thursday tore into Sen. Charles Schwertner for derailing a bill that would have required governments to disclose how much they pay performers at parades following a controversial open-records fight over how much the city of McAllen paid singer Enrique Iglesias for a 2015 concert. Schwertner, a Georgetown Republican who killed the bill in the Senate, “dwells in the shadow of corporate greed,” Canales, D-McAllen, said. “It’s my understanding Sen. Schwertner is an orthopedic surgeon, which is ironic because he lacks a spine,” he said. The Iglesias concert has become a flashpoint in the debate over a controversial 2015 Texas Supreme Court decision in Boeing Co. v. Paxton that vastly expanded an exemption to the Texas Public Information Act allowing governments to withhold records involving private companies if their release could put the companies at a competitive disadvantage.

Houston Chronicle - May 25, 2017

ACLU joins Texas lawsuit against new 'sanctuary city' law

The American Civil Liberties Union and its Texas chapter have joined among the first lawsuits to be filed against the state challenging its new wide-reaching anti-"sanctuary cities" bill that critics contend will allow rogue police to target minorities and inquire about their immigration. El Cenizo, a small city in Webb County, filed the legal challenge earlier this month with the help of the United Latin American Citizens on behalf of several local elected officials who want a federal court to enjoin the law they say will force their law enforcement agencies and local employees to enforce federal immigration law. "We will not be part of Trump's deportation force," Raul Reyes, El Cenizo's mayor, said of President Donald Trump. "This lawsuit will give a voice to the people and families that live in fear because of SB4."

The Hill - May 25, 2017

Flurry of leaks alarms US allies

Current and former senior American officials are growing concerned that a deluge of leaks from the U.S. government will imperil some of the nation’s most important intelligence-sharing relationships. The exposure of sensitive forensic information from the U.K.’s investigation into the Manchester bombing is unprecedented, some national security experts say — and Britain is right to be furious. “They need to find out how this type of information got out. I think it does damage to our capability of sharing intelligence on issues that we have to share intelligence on,” former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright told The Hill.

Washington Post - May 25, 2017

Senate Republicans likely to change custom that allows Democrats to block judicial choices

Senate Republicans are threatening to change a custom that allows Democratic senators to block some judicial choices from their states, in an effort to speed along a conservative transformation of the federal judiciary. Leaders are considering a change to the Senate’s “blue slip” practice, which holds that judicial nominations will not proceed unless the nominee’s home-state senators signal their consent to the Senate Judiciary Committee. Republicans say they will make the change if Democrats throw up blanket opposition to President Trump’s nominees. Adherence to the custom has waxed and waned, depending on the views of Senate leaders. But the rule was strictly observed during the Obama administration, and GOP opposition to President Barack Obama’s nominees partly explains why Trump entered office with more than 120 judicial vacancies to fill.

Time - May 23, 2017

Davis: Texas Lawmakers Are Bullying Transgender Youth

Just a couple of weeks ago, as the Texas legislature entered the final days of its legislative session, House lawmakers from both sides of the aisle came together, tearfully, to pledge their support for “David’s Law,” a bill that addresses cyberbullying. Named for a San Antonio teen who took his own life after being bullied, the law would require public schools to establish cyberbullying policies and systems for anonymous reports. As Republican State Rep. Wayne Faircloth said, speaking in favor of the bill: “It is time to treat each other with respect, and that starts here in this House… We have to set the example here. It’s how we treat each other. It’s how we walk. It’s how we talk. It’s how we listen to seek to understand, to make a difference.”

State Stories

Texas Tribune - May 25, 2017

Dallas' failing pension fund poised for overhaul as bill heads for Abbott's desk

The pension overhaul bill that divided Dallas officials and first responders for months is now headed to Gov. Greg Abbott's desk. The Texas House on Thursday unanimously agreed with the Senate's changes to House Bill 3158. The House's Thursday vote means this legislative session's two divisive bills aimed at shoring up billions in shortfalls in the Dallas and Houston pension funds have cleared both chambers. Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings initially opposed the bill, drawing anger from first responders, who supported the bill aimed at preventing their retirement fund from becoming insolvent within a decade.

Texas Tribune - May 25, 2017

House, Senate strike deal on “Buy American” iron and steel bill

Members of a legislative conference committee made several changes to a “Buy American” iron and steel bill that would expand a provision already in effect for the Texas Department of Transportation and the Texas Water Development Board, according to a report released Thursday evening. Senate Bill 1289 by state Sen. Brandon Creighton, R-Conroe, would require large state projects — such as buildings, roads and bridges — to purchase iron and steel from an American supplier if the cost doesn’t exceed 20 percent more than the price of cheaper, foreign imports. Under the bill, any country's iron and steel can be used if American suppliers aren't prepared to supply a project or there is a compelling state interest.

Texas Tribune - May 25, 2017

Behind closed doors, Texas lawmakers strip funding for sex trafficking victims

In recent private negotiations between the Texas House and Senate about which public programs to fund and how to fund them, state lawmakers opted to kill a $3 million initiative to rehabilitate victims of sex trafficking. That ended hopes from child welfare advocates that 2017 would be the first year in recent memory in which state lawmakers might set aside funds specifically intended to help victims who were sold for sex. Though Texas leaders often boast of their efforts to end human trafficking, they have balked time and again at paying for victims' services, despite findings that many had previous contact with the state’s child welfare system.

Texas Tribune - May 25, 2017

Abbott appears undecided on signing texting-while-driving ban

Gov. Greg Abbott appears to be undecided on whether he will sign a proposed statewide ban on texting while driving that is now on his desk. Abbott's predecessor, Rick Perry, vetoed such a proposal in 2011, calling it a "government effort to micromanage the behavior of adults." It looks like Abbott's hangup on the latest effort, House Bill 62, is whether it does enough to pre-empt local ordinances regarding the practice. "The Governor believes texting while driving has become deadly dangerous and that something must be done about it," Abbott spokesman John Wittman said Thursday in a statement.

Texas Tribune - May 25, 2017

Tassin: School finance is dead. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick administered the poison.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick claims in his latest news release that he is “appalled that the Texas House” would reject the Senate’s version of House Bill 21, a major piece of school finance legislation. What’s really appalling is how the Senate mutilated the school finance bill as soon as it had the chance. State Rep. Dan Huberty, R-Houston, authored HB 21 in order to address the school funding system, which the Texas Supreme Court called “byzantine” and an “ossified regime ill-suited for 21st century Texas.” HB 21 may not have been perfect, but it did provide significant additional funding to help schools through the next two years — until the system could, hopefully, be “upended” by the Legislature as suggested by the court. But in the hands of the Senate and Patrick, HB 21 became nothing more than a vehicle for passing school vouchers, a major political item on Patrick’s “to do” list this session.

Austin American-Statesman - May 25, 2017

Will Gov. Abbott call a special session over bathroom bill and taxes?

Gov. Greg Abbott said on Thursday that he is not yet ready to talk about a special session to address what he considers insufficient efforts to restrict bathroom use by transgender people and rein in property taxes. The regular legislative session ends Monday. “We’ve got plenty of time to continue in this regular session. I think it is highly inappropriate for a football player playing in the fourth quarter to start talking about going into overtime. We have enough time to resolve these issues in regular session,” Abbott said after signing into law a bill that will crack down on teacher misconduct. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who presides over the Senate, said last week that he wants a special session called if the House could not pass bills that have cleared the Senate to provide property tax relief and limit transgender people from using bathrooms that conform to their gender identity in schools, universities and government buildings.

Austin American-Statesman - May 25, 2017

Bills aimed at restricting lobbyists die in Texas House

When meetings of the Texas House stretch late into the night, some legislators take breaks from the action by walking out the back of the House chamber, taking the elevator down to the basement and enjoying some food or a drink in what’s known as Club Geren. In Room GW.15, the office of state Rep. Charlie Geren, lawmakers, staffers and lobbyists mingle behind closed doors as the people’s business is conducted two floors above. Sometimes Geren pays for the food and alcohol. Sometimes the lobbyists pay, Geren said. The Fort Worth Republican, who first took office in 2000, is a trusted lieutenant of House Speaker Joe Straus, counted on to move legislation. But after he was tasked with quarterbacking a package of ethics reform bills demanded by Gov. Greg Abbott and swiftly approved by the Senate, three measures never made it to the House floor for a vote.

Austin American-Statesman - May 24, 2017

Herman: For Texas lawmakers, the end is nigh

The end is near. We can tell because lobbyists with pending legislation and nagging clients have been clogging the entry to the state House and lawmakers have been tweeting their souls. “It’s that time in session when you start thinking about jumping,” Rep. Drew Springer, R-Muenster, said in a closing-days tweet of an outdoor photo showing him perilously perched, legs hanging over the side, on the Capitol’s fourth floor. Don’t do it, Mr. Springer. The session will be end soon enough and you’ll be back in beautiful downtown Muenster — which we can only hope is down the road from Cheddar — before you know it.

Austin American-Statesman - May 25, 2017

School-rule amnesty in sex assault cases bill sent to governor

A college student who is a victim of or witness to a sexual assault would have amnesty for violating the school’s code of conduct at or near the time of the incident under legislation headed to Gov. Greg Abbott. The Texas Senate approved the measure on a 30-1 vote Thursday evening. Senate Bill 969, authored by Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, is intended to encourage reporting of sexual assault among college students. Under its provisions, a victim or witness could not be deemed in violation of the school’s code of conduct if he or she was engaged in underage drinking or another activity that would otherwise be a violation.

Austin American-Statesman - May 25, 2017

Texas Senate trims House bills to address STAAR, A-F rating system

The Texas Senate early Thursday passed stripped-down versions of House bills that would address state standardized tests and how the state evaluates school districts and campuses starting in 2018. House Bill 22, which passed 29-2, would reduce the number of categories from five to four in which schools and districts would be graded under the A-F accountability system. Those categories would evaluate how students perform on the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness, how schools and districts improve on the STAAR compared to similar campuses statewide, how schools and districts evaluate themselves on performance, and how schools and districts close academic gaps among racial and socioeconomic groups and students who are English and non-English speakers.

Austin American-Statesman - May 25, 2017

Abbott: How SB 7 protects students from predators in the classroom

Our schools should be safe places for our children and youth to learn and advance. The toughest challenges they face should be solving math problems and choosing a career and college path. With Senate Bill 7 now signed into law in Texas, we have taken much-needed steps to forever bar from our classrooms any teacher who would prey on our students and to penalize administrators who turn a blind eye to this abuse. Texas schools are filled with some of the best teachers in America who are genuinely called to the profession. I was honored to host many of these gifted educators at the Governor’s Mansion in April to thank them for their commitment and for the positive difference they make in their students’ lives each day.

Austin American-Statesman - May 25, 2017

Court: Texas must reveal execution drug supplier

A state appeals court ruled Thursday that Texas prison officials must identify the pharmacy that supplies the state with drugs used in executions. Prison officials have worked for years to avoid identifying the source of its lethal injection drugs, fearing the publicity would produce protests and threats from death penalty opponents that would deter suppliers from selling to the state. The Austin-based 3rd Court of Appeals, however, ruled that exceptions in the Texas Public Information Act didn’t apply to the information, sought in 2014 by three lawyers who represented death row inmates, because state lawyers could point only to vague threats of violence against suppliers.

Austin American-Statesman - May 25, 2017

New Texas law aims to crack down on teacher misconduct with students

Superintendents and principals who intentionally hide improper relationships between students and teachers will now face jail time. Gov. Greg Abbott on Thursday signed into law Senate Bill 7, one of the priority bills this legislative session that’s aimed at cracking down on the rising number of cases of improper relationships between students and teachers. “Unfortunately, a small number of teachers are tarnishing the image of some of our best and brightest teachers. Texas racked up a dubious ranking, a ranking that has an incredibly high number of inappropriate teacher-student relationships,” Abbott said during a news conference before signing the bill. “Unbelievably, some of these teachers … have faced no real consequences.”

Austin American-Statesman - May 25, 2017

Herman: Prayer that Texas lawmakers ‘rot and be blown away’ too much?

While we’re waiting to see what the Legislature does about bathroom and locker room usage by our transgender neighbors, you might want to know that God has been asked to train his considerable wrath upon those who oppose the so-called bathroom bill. But first, our word of the day: imprecatory. It’s new to me. I like learning new words. Looks like this one means “to invoke or call down (evil or curses), as upon a person.” So it’s a potentially useful word. I heard it from Steven Hotze of Houston, a longtime player in really, really conservative politics in Houston and Texas. He’s a big backer of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, a major backer of the bathroom bill you’ve heard too much about.

Houston Chronicle - May 24, 2017

Texas cities that will lose, gain the most residents fleeing from global warming

The effects of climate change are already being felt throughout the globe. ... A new study published on research journal Nature tracks how these effects might impact the U.S. population. Author Mathew E. Hauer examined 319 coastal U.S. counties and calculated which cities would have an increase or decrease from migrants fleeing the effects of climate change. Hauer predicted that by 2100, Texas will gain just under 1.5 million migrants relocating from climate change while Florida will lose a little over 2.5 million residents.

Houston Chronicle - May 25, 2017

Property taxes debated as levee district seeks to sell more bonds

At the entrance to Sienna Plantation, an upscale residential development in Fort Bend County, an electronic sign offers "Welcome Home" greetings and announces events ranging from a homeowners' association meeting to an adult softball game. On a recent sunny weekday, residents in Mercedes-Benzes and Jaguars glided past landscaping trucks in front of stately homes, passing signs with Sienna Plantation's motto, "Live Well, Play Hard, Have Fun." A billboard-sized sign promoting homes and a new elementary being built declares "Happy 20th Birthday Sienna!" with a photo of a woman blowing out pink candles on a cupcake. But there are smaller, less conspicuous signs required under state law to mark the boundaries of the water districts that financed the infrastructure for this vast subdivision and all its roads, parks and other amenities.

Houston Chronicle - May 24, 2017

Horse racing in Texas facing uncertain future

Another shutdown crisis looms for Texas horse and dog tracks. The Texas Senate recently approved two bills that would have boosted racing in Texas. However, the House has demonstrated no urgency in acting before the 85th Texas Legislature adjourns Monday. Mike Lavigne, a spokesman for Texas racing interests, said he anticipates no House action prior to adjournment. Andrea Young, Sam Houston Race Park's president and COO, declined comment on what might happen at SHRP if the House does not follow up on Senate action. "I don't speculate on future matters like that," Young said.

Houston Chronicle - May 22, 2017

Population Estimates for 2016 Reflect Slower Growth in Texas

Texas remains one of the fastest growing states in the United States, although the 2016 population estimates suggest that the annual rate of population growth in Texas has decreased slightly from 2015 to 2016 compared with the annual growth rate of 2013-2016. Texas’ population increased from 25,145,561 in 2010 to 27,862,596 in 2016. This is an increase of 2,717,035 persons or 10.8 percent between April 1, 2010 and July 1, 2016. This growth leads the nation in numerical increase as illustrated in the table below. For perspective, this increase in Texas is slightly higher than the combined 2016 total populations of Wyoming (585,501), Vermont (624,594), District of Columbia (681,170), and Alaska (741,894).

Houston Chronicle - May 25, 2017

Texas’ biggest companies, according to Forbes

In case you needed proof that everything is bigger in Texas, the state had quite the showing on Forbes' 2017 list of the world's largest public companies. Researchers ranked 2,000 companies based off their profits, sales, assets and market value. Of those companies, 565 of them hailed from the United States while 263 came from China. Together, both countries made up more than 40 percent of the list.

Dallas Morning News - May 25, 2017

Greytok: UT must fire former Baylor assistant coach Casey Horny

Tom Herman, the new Texas Longhorn football coach, has brought changes and excitement to a program desperate for success. But Coach Herman's many positive changes have been vastly outweighed by one enormous, avoidable travesty: hiring former Baylor assistant director of football operations Casey Horny. Coach Horny was a key player in the most outrageous scandal in the history of the NCAA, the rape scandal at Baylor football. Members of the Baylor Board of Regents told The Wall Street Journal that between 2011 and 2015, at least 17 women had accused 19 Baylor football players of rape. Regents also revealed to the Journal that at least four instances of gang rape had been reported.

Dallas Morning News - May 25, 2017

Texas Legislature grants doctors, patients the privelege of online office visits

Texans may soon be able to go to the doctor by turning on their smartphones or computers. After years of contentious debate, the Legislature has approved a telemedicine bill that now makes it legal in Texas for doctors to see patients via video, without having another health care professional with the patient or having seen the patient in the past. Last week, the House and Senate agreed on all the terms of the legislation, and it's expected to be signed by Gov. Greg Abbott. It's a victory for telemedicine, or telehealth, providers, who for years had fought the Texas Medical Board on the cutting-edge service. Texas would be the last state to allow telemedicine, though it's home to a company called Teladoc, a leading provider of the health service.

Dallas Morning News - May 25, 2017

Lawmakers finalize budget deal that leaves $11 billion unspent, shores up CPS, mental health, border security

House and Senate negotiators Thursday signed off on a two-year, $216.8 billion budget that would add nearly 600 more Child Protective Services workers, expand mental health services and keep state spending on border security at about $800 million. The budget also would continue a surge in Texas highway construction and provide $25 million in grants for police body armor. It would offer very little new money, though, for public schools, even as it leaves nearly $11 billion on the sidelines. It also would short the state-federal Medicaid program for the poor — again.

Dallas Morning News - May 25, 2017

Wilonski: The day the Texas Senate revived the bathroom bill, Dallas lost its X-Men TV series. Coincidence?

Janis Burklund, whose job it is to lure Hollywood to Dallas, fell asleep Tuesday night dreaming of superheroes running all over this city for years to come in The Gifted, this fall's new network television show about mutant kids on the run from the government. Landing a Fox series featuring Marvel Comics' mighty X-Men, whose pilot episode was filmed in and around Deep Ellum just weeks ago, was a good get for Burklund. It seemed a pretty easy sell, too: The new show's being run by Matt Nix, who shot The Good Guysfor Fox in Dallas in 2010. Nix liked being here, saying once that Dallas is "a great city to jump on the hood of a car." But by Wednesday morning, The Gifted was gone. And there was nothing Burklund could do about it.

Austin American-Statesman - May 24, 2017

Texas ranks high on veteran-friendly list, study says

If you’re a veteran looking for a job after retiring from your military career, or if you’re looking for Veterans Affairs healthcare, Texas is one of the best states in the nation, according to a new study from WalletHub. The study, released just in time for Memorial Day weekend, places Texas as the eighth-best state for military retirees. The study ranked states based on veterans per capita, the number of VA health facilities and job opportunities for veterans. Texas also placed fourth on a list of states with the highest amount of VA hospitals and hospital care.

Accounting Today - May 24, 2017

Texas passes insurance services tax exemption for CPAs

The Texas legislature has passed a bill granting an exemption to CPA firms allowing them to provide a limited amount of insurance services to clients without being subject to sales taxes. The bill passed the legislature May 9 and was signed into law by Governor Greg Abbott on May 22. It will take effect on Jan. 1, 2018. The Texas Society of CPAs lobbied for the bill after a CPA ran afoul of the Lone Star State’s sales tax collectors. In 2015 the state comptroller conducted a routine audit and found a CPA firm provided insurance services and owed back sales taxes.

San Antonio Express News - May 25, 2017

Abbott insists lawmakers can still avoid a special session

Gov. Greg Abbott said Thursday it’s still possible for lawmakers to avoid a special session, and pressed lawmakers to send him bills that put “real constraints” on local property taxes and afford students “privacy, safety and security” with a bill that would restrict the public restrooms that can be used by transgender people. “There’s still work that needs to be done. The good news is we still have time to get it done,” Abbott said, just days before the regular session ends Monday. The bathroom bill and property tax restrictions are longtime priorities of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who joined the governor at a ceremony Thursday to sign a bill cracking down on teachers who prey on students through inappropriate relationships.

Austin American-Statesman - May 25, 2017

State officials close to deal to expand Pedernales Falls State Park

A deal meant to protect the views in a popular Hill Country state park appears to be near completion, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department officials and a landowner said Thursday. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department will buy, at no more than half the market rate, 200 acres of private property on a bluff opposite Pedernales Falls State Park; landowner Mike Maples also will voluntarily mark an additional 70 acres as off-limits to development. In total, roughly 3,200 feet of riverfront will be preserved, according to parks officials.

San Antonio Express News - May 25, 2017

Before the Valley gets a longer border wall, it likely will see gates closing gaps in the existing fence

BROWNSVILLE - Pamela Taylor, 88, lives on a sliver of land between the Rio Grande and the border fence. A decade ago, as the path of the barrier was being hotly debated, Taylor worried she would be stranded in a no man’s land. The 18-foot bollard fence, built in some places as much as a mile north of the international line, required dozens of gates to access the property south of the fence. But before all of the gates were put in place, funding dried up and Taylor, along with many others, were spared. Now it appears their luck has run out. Earlier this month, tucked inside a $1.1 trillion omnibus spending bill, was $49 million for land acquisition and gates to close gaps in existing sections of border fence. A gate, Taylor says, that would seal off her home from the rest of the community.

Texas Tribune - May 26, 2017

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signs measure to reduce handgun license fee

Gov. Greg Abbott on Friday signed a bill into law significantly reducing the cost to get a license to carry a handgun, making Texas one of the states with the lowest fee in the nation. "The right to bear arms is something that is synonymous with the state of Texas. We are proud to expand the right to bear arms by lowering the cost of what you have to pay in order to get a license to carry," Abbott said. "Texans' ability to bear arms is going to be even bolder today than it's ever been before." The law, Senate Bill 16, reduces the first-time fee for a license to carry from $140 to $40 and the renewal fee from $70 to $40. A license to carry permit is valid in Texas for five years. The new fee will go into effect on Sept. 1.

Texas Tribune - May 26, 2017

Lawmakers say Driver Responsibility Program repeal unlikely this session

With three days left in the legislative session, efforts to abolish a Texas Department of Public Safety program that some say targets poor people appear to have failed. The Driver Responsibility Program, created in 2003 to help cover a budget shortfall, requires drivers convicted of certain traffic offenses, such as speeding and driving while intoxicated, to pay additional annual surcharges on top of any court fines and criminal penalties to maintain their driver’s licenses. More than 1 million Texas drivers have had their licenses revoked because of the program, and DPS has collected hundreds of millions of dollars since its inception, money that goes toward funding trauma centers.

Dallas Morning News - May 26, 2017

Olivera: Groups are preparing Latino immigrants for new Texas legislation

In the first several weeks of the Trump administration, immigrant rights organizer Ramiro Luna-Hinojosa saw a lot of fear in Latino immigrant communities. The anti-immigrant rhetoric that Donald Trump had campaigned on in the weeks leading up to the November election had been heard loud and clear by Latino immigrants — authorized and unauthorized alike — all over the country. Later, "the fear went down, and I felt more calm after a while," he said, remembering the anxiety and uncertainty he himself had felt. Luna-Hinojosa is a recipient of DACA status — deferred action for childhood arrivals.

Dallas Morning News - May 25, 2017

Immunity for Texas foster-care contractors slows bill to make CPS a standalone agency

The House on Thursday pushed back against a Senate move to grant broad immunity from personal-injury lawsuits to any of the lead contractors in GOP leaders' proposed new regional system for procuring foster-care beds and services. Several of the state's leading child advocates and a key House Democrat have strongly criticized the idea, saying it could endanger already traumatized children. Wichita Falls GOP Rep. James Frank, noting the immunity amendment was tacked onto his bill creating a standalone protective services agency, called it "an important change that we need to look at."

Texas Tribune - May 25, 2017

Matiella, Costigan: UT needs to cut the polluting

Last month, 177 faculty and staff from across the University of Texas system wrote to Chancellor Bill McRaven, urging him to reduce the climate-damaging methane pollution leaking from oil and gas facilities on land managed by the UT System. The letter was followed by a student government resolution making the same request. While many of us have seen the oil rig on the UT-Austin campus (on the corner of Martin Luther King and Trinity), most in our community know little about UT’s massive — and polluting — oil and gas operations out in West Texas. Hundreds of companies lease land from UT to drill for oil and gas. Managed by University Lands — which has a similar arrangement with the Texas A&M System — these 2 million acres of UT lands are home to more than 9,000 oil and gas wells.

Texas Tribune - May 25, 2017

Taylor: You can do business with terrorist regimes or with Texas, but not both

I will never forget the first time I walked into the 2nd Force Reconnaissance Company’s Headquarters at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. The building has a memorial to some of the 220 Marines killed by Iranian terrorists in Beirut, Lebanon, in 1983. The inscription read, 'They Came in Peace.' A few months later, while I was deployed as a Marine in northern Iraq, my unit confronted Iranian-funded agitators, spies and anti-American protesters. Texas’ divestment policies, which includes some prohibitions on the investment of public funds in Iran, have both tangible and symbolic significance. To date, over $9 million in state taxpayer dollars have been divested from Iran. This policy serves as a sign of Texas' commitment to an American foreign policy rooted in unwavering support for Israel, our strong ally in a dangerous and volatile Middle East. While politicians in Washington failed to stop former President Obama's disastrous Iran deal, Texas — under Gov. Greg Abbott’s leadership — again led the way.

Houston Chronicle - May 26, 2017

Texas approves feral hog hunting by hot air balloon

Texas lawmakers have approved the hunting of feral hogs and coyotes from hot air balloons. Texas' growing hog population causes millions of dollars' worth of damage to crops every year. Texas has an estimated two million feral hogs. Their high breeding rate and lack of natural predators has seen their population explode The state already allows the shooting of feral hogs from helicopters, but that is expensive and has not been very unsuccessful because the aircraft often scare the animals away. Hot air balloons are quieter and offer a more stable shooting platform. The bill requires the state to license hot air balloon hunting.

Houston Chronicle - May 25, 2017

Unreported officer-involved shootings may bring state fines

A bill that would penalize law enforcement agencies up to $1,000 a day for each day they fail to report an officer-involved shooting to the state now awaits the governor's signature before it becomes law. House Bill 245 is a follow-up to the 2015 House Bill 1036 - a similar bill sponsored by Rep. Eric Johnson, D-Dallas. Johnson wrote the bills after being troubled by the lack of transparency behind police shootings and inadequate data collection about those shootings by state and federal agencies. Last week the Texas House passed the new bill, 112 to 21. On Tuesday the Senate approved it 28 to 3, sending it Gov. Greg Abbott's desk.

Ft. Worth Star-Telegram - May 24, 2017

Trump border wall would cut through rare wetlands in parched Presidio

Terry Bishop, a lifelong farmer, decided a few years ago to convert about 10.5 acres of property that he owns along the U.S.-Mexico border into wetlands. The gesture was a favor to his hometown, Presidio, which needed property near the border where it could lay a pipe and discharge treated water from a nearby municipal plant into the Rio Grande. But it was also a way for Bishop to give something back to the Earth, which has been so good to him and his family over the years. In addition to growing alfalfa, Bishop, 63, is an amateur bird watcher. He admires the migratory animals of various shapes and colors that flock to his wetlands each day and flap their feathers in the shallow water. It is truly an oasis of greenery in an otherwise punishing desert terrain.

KEYE - May 25, 2017

Man-made earthquakes are rattling Texas

"As you look to the north in Oklahoma, our neighbor to the north, we're happy to have them own the record of the most earthquakes last year (2016). More than California by quite a few actually," said Dr. Scott Tinker, State Geologist of Texas. Dr. Tinker is based at the Bureau of Economic Geology in the Jackson School of Geosciences. It is the oldest and second-largest organized research unit at the University of Texas at Austin. Dr. Tinker says both Texas and Oklahoma are now trying to get out in front of the growing problem. Rancher John Chunn is helping to answer that question. He just partnered with the TexNet Seismological Network to allow the installation of a monitoring station on his property near Hondo. "We have 120 acres," said Chunn. "I want to be part of the science." The station is one of 22 new permanent earthquake monitoring stations being spread out across the state. These earthquake monitors are called "TexNet's seismic backbone."

Texas Observer - May 23, 2017

Bathroom Wars Prove Dan Patrick’s Dominance over Texas Legislature

There was something very peculiar about the proceedings of the Texas House Sunday night, even amid a session that has scored high in casual cruelty and procedural dishonesty. In short, the chamber acceded to a small-but-significant part of Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick’s proposed transgender bathroom law, as part of what seems to have been a deal to pass a budget and end Patrick’s threat of precipitating a special session, causing an indefinite extension of the Great Potty Crisis of 2017. House leadership took a bill designed to bolster public schools’ ability to plan for threats — mass shootings, terrorist attacks, etc. — and tacked on a provision that would prohibit transgender students from using facilities associated with their gender identity, offering them private changing facilities and single-stall bathrooms instead.

San Antonio Current - May 23, 2017

The Supreme Court Just Gutted Texas' Defense of Its Racially Gerrymandered Congressional Districts

A U.S. Supreme Court ruling in a North Carolina gerrymandering case likely just torched Texas officials' main defense in a similar challenge over the state's congressional lines. The 5-3 ruling strikes down two of North Carolina's congressional districts, which the state's Republican lawmakers had argued were drawn because of partisan politics, not race (it just so happens that black voters in the state overwhelmingly vote Democrat). The ruling may have set a new precedent by largely gutting that common excuse — that, so long as lines were drawn based on politics, and therefore unintentionally racist, there's nothing wrong. As Justice Elena Kagan wrote in the majority opinion, "the sorting of voters on the grounds of their race remains suspect even if race is meant to function as a proxy for other (including political) characteristics."

Houston Press - May 23, 2017

Flynn: Civil Rights Groups, Fearing Racial Profiling, Sue Texas Over SB 4

And so it begins: Civil rights groups and local government leaders have sued Governor Greg Abbott and the great state of Texas over the so-called "show me your papers" bill, Senate Bill 4. Alongside El Paso County and its sheriff, Richard Wiles, the Texas Civil Rights Project filed the federal lawsuit on behalf of the Texas Organizing Project Education Fund, alleging that SB 4 is a discriminatory, unconstitutionally vague bill that encourages racial profiling and violates protections against unlawful search and seizure. The plaintiffs have also named Attorney General Ken Paxton and Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steve McCraw as defendants.

Associated Press - May 25, 2017

Mentally ill languish in Texas jails despite funding hike

Though a judge deemed her mentally unfit to stand trial fourteen months ago, Jennifer Lampkin is still sitting in an Austin jail cell because there are no free spots for her at the state’s psychiatric hospitals. Lampkin, 35, has both intellectual disabilities and a mental illness, and without treatment, the court couldn’t reassess her competency to stand trial on an assault charge for allegedly slapping a child, which might at least allow her case to progress. “I don’t think she understands why she remains in jail,” said her attorney, Elsie Craven. “She’s stressed because she doesn’t know what’s going to happen. I don’t believe she’s getting the treatment she needs. How could she? She’s in jail.”

County Stories

Dallas Morning News - May 24, 2017

Murphree faces criticism for Facebook reaction to Manchester bombing

Denton County Sheriff Tracy Murphree lit a social media firestorm Tuesday after posting a Facebook response to Monday's deadly bombing in Manchester, England. In the post, which Murphree wrote Monday night, he warns against "Islamic Jihadists" who "want to kill you." He also warned against potential terrorist attacks in Denton County, though he said Tuesday he didn't have evidence of any recent terrorist threats in the area. The Islamic State extremist group claimed responsibility for the attack that left 22 people dead and dozens more wounded Monday at a pop concert in Manchester Arena. By Tuesday afternoon, the terrorist threat level in Britain rose to its highest level, indicating another attack could be imminent.

City Stories

Austin American-Statesman - May 25, 2017

Austin asks judge to toss ‘sanctuary cities’ suit

The city of Austin has asked a federal judge to toss Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s lawsuit over the Senate Bill 4 ban on so-called sanctuary cities from the courts. In a motion filed Wednesday, attorneys representing the city said Paxton’s lawsuit violates the Constitution and that it is out of bounds because SB 4 hasn’t yet taken effect. “The city has been consistent in expressing our concerns with SB 4,” a statement from the city said. “As the state’s lawsuit inappropriately seeks to preemptively punish the city for raising what we believe are legitimate constitutional issues with the law, we have asked the court to dismiss the suit against the city, mayor, city council and city manager.”

Houston Chronicle - May 25, 2017

HC: Turner's moment -- With Abbott's OK, a pension reform plan will end a threat to the city's financial future.

Give Mayor Sylvester Turner credit. In less than 18 months, Turner has pulled off what once seemed an impossibly complicated task. The Texas Legislature has given its blessing to a complex and arduously negotiated deal that will begin digging Houston out of its multi-billion-dollar pension debt hole. Plenty of people deserve praise, from the pension fund leaders who agreed to concessions to the state lawmakers from both parties who ushered the deal through the Legislature. But this is Turner's moment, and it is his finest hour.

Austin American-Statesman - May 25, 2017

Ride-hailing services Lyft, Uber return to Austin on Monday

Ride-hailing services Uber and Lyft say they will return to Austin on Monday. Drivers who have worked for Lyft in the past were notified of the company’s return in a text message sent Thursday morning, while an Uber spokesman confirmed his company’s return in an email to the American-Statesman. Lyft and Uber pulled out of Austin a year ago, citing displeasure with a new, city-mandated screening process for drivers that included fingerprinting. But a bill passed by the Texas Legislature this month would override local ordinances, like the ones in Austin, Houston and elsewhere, making it possible for Lyft and Uber to return on their terms. Going forward, those ride-hailing services can now rely on the name-based and document-based background checks they prefer.

Austin American-Statesman - May 25, 2017

Suburbs lead the way in Austin region’s growth

Austin has long been the poster child for explosive growth, but new Census Bureau data released Thursday signals that the city’s growth rate is starting to mellow out as its surrounding suburbs boom. Austin added more than 20,000 people each year from 2011 to 2015, but the new data shows that it added only 17,738 in the most recent year — a gain of 1.9 percent, its smallest increase in six years. And the city’s share of the greater metro area’s growth, 30 percent in 2016 compared with 43 percent in 2011, also made up the smallest portion in six years.

Austin American-Statesman - May 26, 2017

San Marcos mayor: City will ‘vigorously oppose’ Trump’s proposed cuts

The loss of a federal development grant program that has been a cornerstone for fast-growing Central Texas cities, especially those recently struck by historic flooding, would be “devastating” for San Marcos, Mayor John Thomaides said Thursday. The Community Development Block Grant Program, which provides funding for urban development projects, including disaster relief, is among a plethora of programs on the chopping block in President Donald Trump’s 2018 budget proposal released this week.

Laredo Morning Times - May 23, 2017

Mother of unarmed man shot by Laredo police officer says authorities are lying

The mother of an unarmed man shot by a Laredo police officer Monday said authorities are not telling the truth about what transpired. Rosa Mendoza, 52, said she believes the 23-year veteran cop shot her son, Edwin Mendoza, for no reason. “I feel distraught as a mother to see what my son is going through. Police are telling their story. That’s a big lie,” she said. Rosa Mendoza was not present at the time of the shooting. She said she heard an account of the incident from one of the men who was with her son when he was shot.

San Antonio Express News - May 24, 2017

Chasnoff: The mayor’s divisive campaign

Although she serves in a nonpartisan office, Taylor votes in Democratic primaries. Before she ran for mayor in 2015 — while still serving as interim mayor, having pledged not to run in order to secure the council’s appointment — Taylor was widely expected to succeed former state Rep. Ruth Jones McClendon as a Democrat. Yet, the mayor’s inaction on Confederate monuments isn’t the only way in which she has diverged from her Democratic peers. Another example is her fraught relationship with the LGBTQ community, a relationship that went south in 2013 when she voted against updating the city’s nondiscrimination ordinance. At the time, Taylor explained her opposition by suggesting that people might choose to be gay. “I feel that proponents of the ordinance are not just focused on equality, but they are looking for acceptance, endorsement, blessing,” she told me then, “and that’s not mine to give, that’s not the council’s to give.”

National Stories

Mother Jones - May 23, 2017

What the Supreme Court's Gerrymander Ruling Means for the Future of Voting Rights

Sweeping into power in statehouses across the country in the 2010 wave election, Republicans had the good fortune to arrive at the time of decennial redistricting. This meant that many political maps in 2011 were drawn by GOP-controlled legislatures, particularly, but not exclusively, in the South. These legislatures did not hesitate to draw maps that favored Republicans. North Carolina, for example, created districts that gave Republicans a 10-3 advantage in its congressional delegation for the next six years, even as the statewide vote was split roughly equally between Democrats and Republicans. Numerous lawsuits have been filed over those maps, raising serious questions about gerrymandering, politics, and race. Using race to draw district lines is unconstitutional without a compelling government interest—for instance, to protect the voting power of minorities—while partisan gerrymandering is considered permissible, at least up to a point. But given that party affiliation these days breaks down largely along racial lines, when do attempts to secure party dominance morph into racial gerrymandering?

Barron's - May 24, 2017

Valliere: What’s the Market Saying About Trump’s Budget?

It happens every year: All the special interest groups in Washington rip the new budget as cruel and mathematically ignorant, and the press laps it up because simple sound bites make for good copy. But the verdict we focus on is from the markets -- which yawned, as usual, at this latest budget controversy. For nearly two decades, deficit Cassandras have warned that red ink would drive interest rates and inflation much higher -- but that simply hasn’t happened. Even with a tightening labor market and a national debt that exceeds $20 trillion, the Treasury 10-year bond yield is stuck at around 2-1/4 percent.

Dallas Morning News - May 25, 2017

Cruz uses Franken attacks to raise campaign cash

Sens. Ted Cruz and Al Franken have never been best friends. Despite their shared affinity for impersonations, the Texas Republican and Minnesota Democrat have polar opposite views on public policy and have clashed repeatedly over the past few years. But now the simmering personal animosity between the two senators has bubbled to the surface. Franken divulges his disdain for Cruz in his forthcoming book, Giant of the Senate, devoting an entire chapter — titled “Sophistry” — to the Texas senator. According to excerpts of the book, set to be released May 30, Franken describes Cruz as “singularly dishonest” and “exceptionally smarmy.”

Dallas Morning News - May 25, 2017

Cornyn sees Trump plan to extend border wall by 60 miles as flawed 'piecemeal' approach to security

A host of Texas officials in both parties call President Donald Trump's vision of a "big, beautiful wall" along the Southwest border wasteful and impractical. On Wednesday, Sen. John Cornyn opened a new line of criticism after Trump asked Congress for $1.6 billion to expand the wall by 60 miles along the Rio Grande and to replace 14 miles of fencing in California. "What I'd like to see is a real plan rather than a piecemeal approach," Cornyn said, calling it a flawed approach to border security to emphasize wall construction without a comprehensive plan. "I don't see the benefit to doing this on a piecemeal basis, and it's harder for Congress to know is this really going to work."

The Hill - May 24, 2017

Senate feels pressure for summer healthcare vote

Senate Republicans are under mounting pressure to pass an ObamaCare repeal-and-replace bill before the congressional recess in August. While Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is wary of committing to a specific deadline after the House struggled to pass a bill, the White House wants the upper chamber to hit the gas. Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price and House GOP lawmakers are publicly nudging the Senate to vote before lawmakers leave town at the end of July.

Wall St. Journal - May 24, 2017

House GOP Tries to Keep Border-Adjusted Tax Alive

The tax idea that has sparked a monthslong corporate lobbying battle got its moment in the spotlight Tuesday, but its political future still looks dim. Backers of border adjustment—taxing imports while exempting exports—are trying to rebuild support for the idea, which has come under attack from corporations, some antitax conservatives and Senate Republicans. The proposal now sits in limbo, where House Republicans insist that it’s essential to a major rewrite of the U.S. tax code, but where the political obstacles seem nearly insurmountable. The Trump administration has been ambivalent and has said it can’t back the plan in its current form. “It doesn’t create a level playing field,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Tuesday at a separate event in Washington.

The Hill - May 25, 2017

Senate Intel heads get broad subpoena power in Russia probe

The leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee now have broad authority to issue subpoenas in the Russia investigation without a full committee vote, Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) said Thursday. The panel voted unanimously to give Burr and Vice Chairman Mark Warner (D-Va.) the blanket authority for the duration of the investigation into Russia's election meddling and possible collusion with President Trump's campaign. The two Senate leaders must be in agreement in order to issue an order. The committee recently issued its second round of subpoenas in the investigation to businesses associated with former national security adviser Michael Flynn, whom Trump forced to resign in February.

The Hill - May 25, 2017

High court ruling opens next front in gerrymandering wars

The Supreme Court’s Monday decision to strike down a North Carolina congressional district map is being hailed as a victory for voting rights advocates — though some caution that the path ahead for Democrats fighting gerrymandering has just become more treacherous. The court’s decision in Cooper v. Harris found that North Carolina’s legislature had improperly considered race when it drew two congressional districts after the 2010 census. Justice Elena Kagan wrote the majority opinion with three liberal colleagues. Justice Clarence Thomas, the anchor of the court’s conservative wing, joined them. “The Supreme Court has now made it abundantly clear to Republican legislators that their cynical game of using race as an excuse to gerrymander is over, and that the courts are not going to sit by when challenges are brought,” said Marc Elias, the Democratic lawyer who argued the case.

Reuters - May 25, 2017

Despite vow, Trump Organization not tracking all profits from foreign governments

President Donald Trump's businesses say it would be "impractical" to require customers representing foreign nations to identify themselves, raising questions about how Trump will fulfill a pledge to donate all profits from overseas governments to the U.S. Treasury. The umbrella Trump Organization sent a pamphlet to the general managers at each hotel, golf course, social club, and winery owned or operated by Trump, saying it would only donate profits from guests who declare they represent foreign governments. The pamphlet was sent to the House of Representatives Oversight and Reform Committee in response to a request for information on how the Trump Organization was fulfilling the pledge Trump made in January.

Washington Post - May 25, 2017

The Daily 202: Five fresh setbacks for Republicans, who just can’t catch a break

THE BIG IDEA: Republicans just cannot catch a break, but many of their wounds are self-inflicted. -- Greg Gianforte, the Republican nominee in today’s special congressional election in Montana, has been charged with misdemeanor assault after allegedly “body slamming” a reporter for the Guardian. Gianforte, who has been seen as the favorite in the race to succeed Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, faces a maximum $500 fine or six months in jail if he is convicted, Dave Weigel reports from Montana. In an audio recording published by the Guardian, reporter Ben Jacobs can be heard asking Gianforte to respond to the Congressional Budget Office's new score of the American Health Care Act. After Gianforte tells Jacobs to ask his spokesman, the candidate loses it and begins to scream: “I’m sick and tired of you guys! … Get the hell out of here! Get the hell out of here!”

Dallas Morning News - May 25, 2017

DMN: Don't wait for another hate-warped gun rampage to force action on Confederate memorials

We cannot erase history. We shouldn't want to. Our shared past informs our present; it sets the course for our future. This erasure-of-history argument offers a reasoned answer to calls for the removal of divisive references to painful events. It influences the debate over whether to remove Confederate symbols and memorials from dozens of southern cities, Dallas included. It wasn't just feverish Lost Cause romanticists who opposed the recent removal of four statues that have been familiar New Orleans landmarks for a century. Historians and preservationists have voiced legitimate concerns over a well-intended if too-zealous eagerness to re-create our public environment with every shift in cultural sensibilities. This newspaper, for example, has called for adding context to, rather than removing, Confederate statues in Austin.

New York Times - May 25, 2017

Trump Budget Takes Broad Aim at Undocumented Immigrants

President Trump’s first budget offers up dramatic policy shifts and hundreds of millions of dollars to clamp down on undocumented immigrants living in the United States, denying them tax credits, jobs and haven while funding a deportation force and flights home for those being removed. The proposals, part of the $4.1 trillion blueprint the White House released on Tuesday, offer the clearest indication yet of how Mr. Trump, who campaigned on a promise to build a southern border wall to keep immigrants from illegally entering the United States and hunt down and banish those who are already here, intends to carry out his crackdown. In a budget marked by steep cuts to social safety net programs, it is one of the few areas besides the military where the president proposes to increase funding.

Washington Post - May 25, 2017

At Trump’s urging, states try to tilt Medicaid in conservative directions

Wisconsin is preparing to recast its Medicaid program in ways that no state has ever done, requiring low-income adults to undergo drug screening to qualify for health coverage and setting time limits on assistance unless they work or train for a job. The approach places BadgerCare, as the Wisconsin version of Medicaid is known, at the forefront of a movement by Republican governors and legislatures that is injecting a brand of moralism and individual responsibility into the nation’s largest source of public health insurance. From Maine to Arizona, some states are seizing on an invitation by the Trump administration to redesign a program that was created as part of the 1960s Great Society and now covers 69 million Americans.

Politico - May 25, 2017

Visas to Muslim-majority countries down 20 percent

President Donald Trump’s "Muslim ban" may be tied up in court, but newly released figures show his administration is issuing fewer visas to visitors from Arab and Muslim-majority countries. Data posted online this week by the State Department showed that non-immigrant visas granted to people from nearly 50 Muslim-majority countries were down almost 20 percent in April compared to the 2016 monthly average. When only Arab countries were considered, non-immigrant visas were down nearly 30 percent in April compared to the 2016 monthly average. Visas issued to the six countries targeted by Trump's March 6 travel ban — Iran, Syria, Sudan, Somalia, Libya and Yemen — declined even further, down 55 percent compared to the 2016 monthly average.

Politico - May 25, 2017

Appeals court keeps block on revised Trump travel ban; administration vows SCOTUS appeal

President Donald Trump's revised travel ban executive order suffered another legal defeat Thursday, prompting the administration to vow an appeal to the Supreme Court. In a 10-3 vote that broke essentially along party lines, judges of the Richmond-based 4th Circuit Court of Appeals refused to disturb a lower court ruling that halted Trump's plan to deny visas to citizens of six majority-Muslim countries. Chief Judge Roger Gregory said in the court's majority opinion that the order was unconstitutional because it was deeply imbued with bias against Muslims — hostility the court identified as a staple of Trump's campaign trail rhetoric.

Politico - May 25, 2017

How Obama not so subtly undercuts Trump

When they realized former President Barack Obama was going to be in Berlin the same day President Donald Trump was going to be in Brussels, Angela Merkel was the one who called the White House to break the news. The German chancellor invited Obama to the event in front of the Brandenburg Gate last year, before the election. Officially part of a multi-day gathering sponsored by the Protestant church in Germany, focused on youth and highlighting an exchange program between Berlin and Chicago, it was really about letting Obama boost his friend ahead of her fall reelection campaign and begin the international phase of his own post-presidency.

Dallas Morning News - May 25, 2017

FBI focusing on Jared Kushner, Trump's son-in-law and adviser, in Russia investigation

Investigators are focusing on Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump's son-in-law and adviser, as part of their probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 election, according to people familiar with the investigation. Kushner, who held meetings in December with the Russian ambassador and a banker from Moscow, is being investigated because of the extent and nature of his interactions with the Russians, the people said. The Washington Post reported last week that a senior White House official close to the president was a significant focus of the high-stakes investigation, though it did not name Kushner.

Politico - May 26, 2017

Rex Tillerson: US takes ‘full responsibility’ for Manchester leaks

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson Friday said his country takes “full responsibility” for leaks of the British investigation into the Manchester attack Monday night. “We take full responsibility for that and we obviously regret that that happened,” Tillerson said at a press conference with British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson in London. “The President has been very strong in his condemnation and has called for an immediate investigation and prosecution of those who are found to have been responsible for leaking any of this information to the public,” he said.

Politico - May 26, 2017

Problem Solvers insist it's not too late for tax reform

The answer to how Steve Mnuchin and Mick Mulvaney spent Thursday on Capitol Hill giving very opposed explanations of President Donald Trump’s tax plan is that there isn’t really much of a plan at all yet. That’s according to Rep. Tom Reed (R-N.Y.), one of Trump’s earliest endorsers in Congress and still so close with the president that he helped craft the 13 bullet points released that were touted as the beginning of the “biggest tax cut in history.” Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, said the plan would generate money from growth and deductions, while Mulvaney, the Office of Management and Budget director, said that since all the money needed to cover the cuts would come from spurred growth, deductions and other elements could help plug the $2 trillion gap in the proposed budget.

Washington Post - May 26, 2017

The GOP inherits what Trump has wrought

The angry forces that propelled President Trump’s rise are beginning to frame and define the rest of the Republican Party. When GOP House candidate Greg Gianforte assaulted a reporter who had attempted to ask him a question Wednesday night in Montana, many saw not an isolated outburst by an individual, but the obvious, violent result of Trump’s charge that journalists are “the enemy of the people.” Nonetheless, Gianforte won Thursday’s special election to fill a safe Republican seat. “Respectfully, I’d submit that the president has unearthed some demons,” Rep. Mark Sanford (R-S.C.) said. “I’ve talked to a number of people about it back home. They say, ‘Well, look, if the president can say whatever, why can’t I say whatever?’ He’s given them license.”

Washington Post - May 26, 2017

Republican wins Montana election one night after being charged with assault

Republican businessman Greg Gianforte won Montana’s sole House district in a special election Thursday, keeping a seat in Republican hands despite facing assault charges for allegedly attacking a reporter who’d asked him about the GOP’s health-care bill. In his victory speech, Gianforte admitted to the attack and apologized for it. “I shouldn’t have treated that reporter that way,” he told supporters at his rally here. The victory, called by the Associated Press, offered some relief for Republicans, who have struggled to sell their Obamacare overhaul, the American Health Care Act. But it was a closer call than the party had expected when it tapped the multimillionaire to run in a state President Trump carried by 20 points — and when Democrats nominated folk singer Rob Quist instead of an experienced politician.

Washington Post - May 26, 2017

Shane: Leaks -- A Uniquely American Way of Annoying the Authorities

British leaders were infuriated this week when the name of the Manchester concert bomber was disclosed by American officials, and further outraged when The New York Times ran investigators’ photographs of the bomb remnants. After Prime Minister Theresa May complained bitterly to President Trump, he denounced the leaks on Thursday and vowed to find and punish the leakers. But when it comes to keeping secrets, Mr. Trump is hardly a model. He blithely passed on to the Russians sensitive counterterrorism intelligence from Israel — and publicly seemed to confirm the breach after his staff denied it. Speaking by phone to the widely scorned president of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, Mr. Trump revealed the presence of two nuclear submarines off North Korea, a highly unusual disclosure. Is there something particularly American about leaking? Some national allergy to protecting government secrets?

Associated Press - May 26, 2017

US growth in Jan.-March upgraded to still-slow 1.2 pct. rate

The U.S. economy began 2017 with a whimper — though not quite as weak a whimper as the government had first estimated. The gross domestic product — the broadest gauge of the economy — expanded in the January-March quarter at a 1.2 percent annual rate, the government said Friday. That was better than its initial estimate of a 0.7 percent rate but far below President Donald Trump's growth targets, which most economists consider unrealistic. The government's upgraded estimate of first-quarter growth reflected new-found strength in consumer spending, business investment and state and local government spending.

This article appeared in the San Antonio Express News

Dallas Morning News - May 26, 2017

Galbraith: How JFK may have handled today's problems

Invidious comparison is cheap work. But we should also remember that Kennedy and Donald Trump were alike in one key respect: They sought dialog and detente with our greatest adversary, then the Soviet Union, today the Russian Federation, on grounds of shared interests in peace and coexistence. Unlike today's Democrats, JFK didn't demonize the Russians and advanced no illusory schemes to destabilize or defeat the Soviet regime. He knew that to depict any foe as unmitigated evil opens the door to a war of annihilation, which none would survive. So he spoke, instead, at American University in July 1963 of how we all breathe the same air and are all mortal.

All - May 25, 2017

Lead Stories

Politico - May 25, 2017

GOP leaders play it safe as Trump scandals grow

The controversy over Donald Trump’s relationship with Russia is mushrooming into an all-consuming Washington melodrama and full-fledged criminal investigation. But don’t look to GOP congressional leaders to ditch the president. Speaker Paul Ryan and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell are taking a cautious approach to Trump’s Russia scandal, pointedly refraining from criticizing the president and tiptoeing around the topic — or simply avoiding it. It’s a strategy intended to avoid intraparty fights over Trump’s controversial presidency and sidestep confrontation with a president of their own party who has yet to sign key GOP agenda items like repealing Obamacare and cutting taxes.

Roll Call - May 24, 2017

Pence’s Battleground Stops, PAC Raise Eyebrows Amid Trump Scandals

Vice President Mike Pence has quietly spent his weekends visiting key battleground states, raising eyebrows in political circles about just what the ambitious politician is up to as scandals threaten Donald Trump’s presidency. Last weekend provides a glaring — and fascinating — example. The former Indiana congressman and governor returned to the Hoosier State to deliver the commencement address at Notre Dame. But his route back home included stops in two perennial presidential battlegrounds: Pennsylvania and Ohio. And those stops — which followed other weekend travel through swing states and light red counties — came just days after Pence shocked the political set by establishing his own political action committee.

Newsweek - May 24, 2017

Anti-LGBT bathroom bill said to cost Texas $216 million so far

Texas’s “bathroom bill” hasn't become law yet, but it's already costing the state—to the tune of more than $200 million in bad publicity—according to a new report. Texas Competes, a group of business leaders that support LGBT rights in the state, reviewed press coverage of Texas’s bathroom bill between January 10, 2016 and May 22, 2017. The bill made headlines again on Monday after the Texas House passed an amendment to an unrelated education bill that prohibits transgender students from using bathrooms that correspond with their gender identities. Texas legislators who support the amendment say it protects the privacy and safety of students. Another possible black eye for the state came on Sunday, when the Texas Senate passed a bill that would allow state-funded adoption agencies to discriminate against prospective adopters on the basis of religion.

Dallas Morning News - May 24, 2017

Leubsdorf: Why the Trump voter fraud commission is dangerous

Washington's preoccupation with Donald Trump's tweets and the multiple probes into his campaign's possible ties to the Russians have diverted attention from an array of problematic administration actions: removing restrictions on coal mining and offshore oil drilling, rolling back worker safety rules, reviewing protection of public lands. One that poses an especially dangerous long-term impact is his creation of a commission, headed by Vice President Mike Pence, to investigate Trump's unproven claims of widespread voter fraud. It's an unnecessary cure for a nonexistent problem that could encourage moves to limit voting by many Republican-controlled states like Texas.

Austin American-Statesman - May 24, 2017

First Reading: In ‘Giant of the Senate,’ Al Franken suspends the ‘unwritten rules’ to write about how much he loathes Ted Cruz

Cruz responded this afternoon to what Franken had written about him. From Politico: “Al is trying to sell books and apparently he’s decided that being obnoxious and insulting me is good for causing liberals to buy his books,” Cruz said in an interview. “I wish him all the best.” Franken is not the first author to dwell on Cruz. He also features prominently in Roger Stone’s The Making of the President 2016, whose animus toward Cruz is at least the equal of Franken’s.

Dallas Morning News - May 24, 2017

House sends governor bill bailing out wobbly health care plan for retired Texas teachers

House members on Wednesday approved and sent to the governor a plan for rescuing Texas' insolvent health insurance program for retired teachers. For the House, it was a slimmed-down bailout. The bill would add about $484 million of new money into the Teachers Retirement System of Texas' "TRS-Care" plan over the next two years — $350 million from the state and $134 million from school districts. Earlier, the House had offered $500 million from the state, out of rainy-day dollars. The Senate, which has insisted the state savings account only should be used for "one-time expenses," would not go along.

Dallas Morning News - May 24, 2017

Texas still missing out on $1 billion a year from online shopping sales taxes

As online shopping continues to grow, there are still thousands of online retailers who aren’t collecting sales taxes, leaving states missing out on billions in revenue. A bill that could change that was dusted off last month and reintroduced in Congress. The Marketplace Fairness Act of 2017 proposes to require online sellers to collect sales tax the same as local stores even if they don’t have a physical presence in a state. The National Conference of State Legislatures pushed for the bill to be introduced again, after it overwhelmingly passing the Senate in 2013 but failed in the House. The conference has estimated that states collectively are missing out more than $25 billion in sales taxes. But that’s an old estimate.

Dallas Morning News - May 24, 2017

In Dallas' Hispanic communities, fear seeps into everyday routines

Dinorah Sierra planned to reward her 12-year-old son, Daniel, with a trip to the movies after she learned he had done well on his school exams. But the day before their outing, a nervous and protective Daniel abruptly asked her to cancel their plans. The sixth-grader worried that a bill signed into law May 7 by Gov. Greg Abbott allowing law enforcement officers to question the status of almost anyone they encounter might ensnare his mom, who isn't authorized to live here. “He told me, ‘It’s OK. Let’s just wait until it comes out on Redbox, so you don’t have to drive that far,’ ” said Sierra, 53. The scene in Sierra’s East Dallas home is a familiar one to many Hispanics in Texas who fear that the anti-immigration policies of President Donald Trump will trickle down and adversely affect their everyday lives.

Washington Post - May 24, 2017

A majority of the country thinks that President Trump is abusing his power

There’s some debate over what metric provides the best assessment of the political future of President Trump. Is it the strength of support in his base? Is it the opposition from Democrats? Is it how independents feel? Is it how Republicans feel? I happen to subscribe to a mix of the latter two metrics. If Republicans waver on Trump, that could inspire members of his own party to speak out more strongly against Trump before the House primaries next year. If independents continue to be unusually skeptical of him, that could make Republicans in tough House races bail on him even more rapidly. Trump’s broad unpopularity means that there may be more close races than we might have expected a few months ago. A new Quinnipiac University poll released on Wednesday suggests that, since a surge in opposition early in his presidency, strong opposition to or support for Trump’s job performance has been fairly steady — suggesting no great erosion that would cause increased nervousness about those elected officials yet.

State Stories

Dallas Morning News - May 24, 2017

More money for Texas public schools dies, a casualty of lawmakers' vouchers fight

The two-year state budget nearing passage contains almost no new money for public schools, a victim of infighting over school vouchers. Although $530 million of new school money was announced on House and Senate negotiators' decision documents late Saturday, that was premature — and inaccurate, the chief House budget writer, Rep. John Zerwas, said Wednesday. "There is no money in the bill" for slightly enhanced school funding, said Zerwas, a Richmond Republican. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick quickly blamed that on House members. They "buckled under the demands of education bureaucrats" by killing off what would be the first use in Texas of state funds for private-school tuition, he said in a written statement.

Dallas Morning News - May 25, 2017

Frisco, McKinney in battle for nation's fastest-growing city, but a Texas rival edges them out

Once again, Texas’ sprawling suburbs dominate the U.S. Census Bureau’s list of the 15 fastest-growing large cities in the country. Between 2015 and 2016, Conroe — a Montgomery County suburb just past The Woodlands on Interstate 45 north of Houston — grew 7.8 percent, more than any city with more than 50,000 residents, data released this week shows. That’s also more than 11 times the nation’s growth rate, 0.7 percent. The numbers add fuel to an economic hot streak that officials have been parlaying into still more residents and businesses. Experts have said for years that new Texans are lured by a booming job market and cheaper costs of living than they’ll find on the coasts.

Dallas Morning News - May 24, 2017

For Texans with shocking medical charges, bill that governor signed can't come soon enough

When Jay Garnett began to feel severe chest pain during a workout about a year ago, his son called 911. Garnett was having a heart attack. An ambulance rushed him to the nearest hospital in Denton, where doctors saved his life. The 58-year-old entrepreneur from Argyle says he had health insurance. So when the $124,000 medical bill came in the mail a few weeks later, he immediately submitted his claim. But things did not turn out as he anticipated. “Insurance won’t pay the bill,” he said flatly in a phone call. The ambulance had taken him to a hospital that was not in the network of hospitals his insurer works closely with.

Dallas Morning News - May 24, 2017

McGaughy: Texas lawmakers play chicken over bathroom bill — who'll blink first?

Who will win in the war over bathrooms? This year, there have been a lot of skirmishes over whether public restroom use should be restricted based on biological sex. Now, with just five days left in the 2017 legislative session, the final battle has yet to be waged. It’s a fight that pits Republicans against each other, one that could force the Legislature into a special session and determine whether Texas becomes the second state after North Carolina to pass a “bathroom bill.” With so many unknowns — including who will be the victor — what's clear is the decisions made this week are sure to affect the lives of tens of thousands of transgender Texans and their families for years to come. Right now, neither side is backing down.

Dallas Morning News - May 24, 2017

Food fight renewed in Texas House over Dallas lawmaker's school lunch bill

A conservative lawmaker fired back at a Dallas representative's last-minute move to save her "lunch shaming" legislation on Wednesday. Rep. Helen Giddings, D-Dallas, filed a bill that would require school districts to develop a grace period for kids whose lunch accounts run low, as well as a system to notify parents. Her bill was killed earlier this month by the Freedom Caucus, a group of conservative lawmakers who struck down many bills that had been on track for easy passage. She successfully added it to a bill on school board policies that passed the House on Wednesday.

Ft. Worth Star-Telegram - May 24, 2017

At Big Bend, Mother Nature has already built a border wall

As far as Louis Harveson is concerned, Mother Nature built a “big, beautiful wall” along the Rio Grande so the Trump administration wouldn’t have to. That natural wall is Santa Elena Canyon, a gorgeous set of cliffs framing the Rio Grande on both sides of the international border. At their tallest point, they rise up to 1,500 feet above the shallow water, according to the National Park Service. Many photographs of river rafters paddling their way through Big Bend are taken at this spot. “Probably the most impressive border wall I have ever seen,” said Harveson, director of the Borderland Research Institute based at Sul Ross State University in Alpine, about two hours north of Big Bend National Park.

Ft. Worth Star-Telegram - May 25, 2017

Wall of contention

Many Texans who live along the U.S.-Mexico border support President Donald Trump, but their affection for the New York real estate mogul-turned-politician comes with a caveat: They do not want a wall. The Star-Telegram recently visited a 325-mile stretch of the Lone Star State’s boundary with Mexico to gauge attitudes toward the proposed wall. The trip included stops in Presidio, Big Bend National Park, Del Rio and Eagle Pass in late April, and visits with a farmer, a rancher, a wildlife biologist, a sheriff and people from many other walks of life. The reasons for their opposition to the wall are as varied as the communities that sit along the Rio Grande.

San Antonio Express News - May 24, 2017

Texas Senate tries a Hail Mary on bathroom, tax restrictions

The Texas Senate tried to save its bathroom and property-tax rollback bills by attaching them to legislation on county issues Wednesday, but the effort is headed to certain death in the House. Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, said Wednesday that he will let House Bill 4180 die rather than allow it to be used as a vehicle for the Republican-driven measures. “I knew this would happen, because it happened last session,” said Coleman. “No one has to worry about anything they attached to it. … The reality is there are some bills I’m going to kill twice. I’m happy.”

San Antonio Express News - May 24, 2017

Texas lottery winners could stay anonymous

Texas lawmakers have voted to allow big state lottery winners to remain anonymous. The Senate approved the measure Wednesday night and sent it to Gov. Greg Abbott for his consideration. The bill allows individuals who win prizes of at least $1 million to choose to remain anonymous and prohibit the release of all personal information to the public.

San Antonio Express News - May 24, 2017

Democratic San Antonio lawmaker thanks Republican senator for backing bill

In a legislative session marked by tough fights, there was a tender moment in the Texas Senate on Wednesday when Sen. José Menéndez expressed thanks for a bill that could benefit seriously ill people like his wife. The bill would ease access to investigational stem cell treatment for people who have a severe chronic disease or terminal illness. House Bill 810 is by Rep. Tan Parker, R-Flower Mound, and Sen. Paul Bettencourt, R-Houston. “Some of these diseases that just don’t have cures, all you want is to be able to have a little quality of life so that you can be there with your family, so I want to say thank you,” Menéndez, D-San Antonio, told Bettencourt.

Austin American-Statesman - May 24, 2017

TxDOT sunset bill’s fate remains unclear as session ebbs

The fate of the Texas Department of Transportation’s must-pass sunset bill remains uncertain with just five days left in the legislative session. Sen. Robert Nichols, R-Jacksonville, the sponsor of Senate Bill 312, decided earlier this week that he could not concur with some of the changes made in the bill by the House before it approved the bill May 17. So the Senate appointed five members to a conference committee, including Nichols and Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, to work with the House on a compromise. The House and the bill’s sponsor there, Rep. Larry Gonzales, R-Round Rock, as of Wednesday had not appointed its conferees. Gonzalez said only that he expected to have House members appointed soon, but could not say when. The bill, under House rules, would need to be in final form by early Saturday in order to pass both houses in time.

Austin American-Statesman - May 25, 2017

Texas Senate passes revised A-F school ratings, but House likely to push for bigger changes

Texas lawmakers will have to iron out significant differences on how to fix the new A-F grading system for schools after the Senate passed its version early Thursday morning. The Senate's plan would keep overall summary grades for schools but scale the accountability system down a bit and launch it next year as planned. It reduces the areas in which schools are graded from five to four. The Senate must vote on it once more before sending it to the House, which is unlikely to accept the changes. The two chambers would then attempt to compromise.

Austin American-Statesman - May 24, 2017

His open-government bills dead, Kirk Watson tries another path

Hoping to salvage something after his major open-government bills were killed in the Texas House, Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, asked for — and received — permission from the Senate late Tuesday to work on the issue in preparation for the 2019 Legislature. The Austin Democrat’s resolution, approved shortly before midnight, calls for the creation of a joint House-Senate committee to study open-government laws and recommend changes to increase transparency and honesty. The House is expected to consider an identical measure by Rep. Todd Hunter, R-Corpus Christi, whose bills on streamlining the Texas Public Information Act also stalled.

Austin American-Statesman - May 24, 2017

Olivares: Why we sued to stop SB4, the the “show me your papers” law

Our great state is home to millions of immigrants from across the world. Every one of them deserves to live free of harassment and discrimination — and with human dignity. However, our vision of a multicultural, thriving Texas is under threat with perhaps the most discriminatory piece of anti-immigrant legislation in the United States: the “show me your papers” law, Senate Bill 4. SB 4 makes Texas less safe by encouraging racial profiling and forcing local police to act as federal immigration agents. On Monday, the Texas Civil Rights Project (TCRP), representing the Texas Organizing Project Education Fund and working closely with El Paso County, sued to stop the law.

Austin American-Statesman - May 24, 2017

Abbott: How SB 4, not fearmongering, will make Texas safer

As law enforcement officers and elected officials, it is our sworn duty to protect and serve our communities and uphold and enforce the laws of our country and great state. We take that responsibility seriously. It is a high calling. We feel compelled to speak out about Senate Bill 4, which bans “sanctuary cities” and was signed into law by the governor to decrease fear and uncertainty about what the law really does. Whether driven by misunderstanding or by purposeful fearmongering, those who are inflaming unrest place all who live in Texas at greater risk. Here is the truth: Regardless of your immigration status, if you have not committed a crime and you are not subject to an Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainer, you have nothing to fear about the change in Texas law.

Austin American-Statesman - May 24, 2017

Therapists, parents urge state officials to restore Medicaid money

Concerned about planned cuts in Medicaid therapy services for disabled children, throngs of parents and therapists pleaded on Wednesday with state officials to reverse course. In the latest pounding for home health care aides and therapists, the Texas Health and Human Services Commission proposed the cuts after the Legislature in 2015 directed the agency to save money by reducing rates for Medicaid acute care therapy. The hearing comes as lawmakers grapple in the last week of the legislative session with whether to hold fast to those cuts or restore some funding.

Austin American-Statesman - May 25, 2017

Texas Senate approves priority House bills to address foster care woes

The Texas Senate unanimously passed a priority House bill Wednesday that would make several changes to the foster care system, including keeping children at risk of entering foster care with their parents. House Bill 7, filed by Rep. Gene Wu, D-Houston, would, among several other provisions, bar a court from taking children away from parents on the grounds that they home-schooled their children, were economically disadvantaged, had reasonably disciplined their children or had been charged with a nonviolent misdemeanor. Under the bill, a case against a parent also can be dropped if the court hasn’t made a ruling within a year.

Austin American-Statesman - May 24, 2017

Transgender bathroom issue continues to roil Legislature

Determining which bathrooms transgender Texans can legally use continues to roil the Legislature as the session enters its crucial final days. Already the subject of two all-night hearings, passionate protests and numerous news conferences, the transgender bathroom issue made a conspicuous appearance at 1:15 a.m. Wednesday, emphatically capping a 13-hour day in the Texas Senate. Seeking to ban transgender-friendly restrooms in all local government buildings, a Republican amendment was proposed for a safety-net bill meant to rescue locally important legislation from oblivion before the session ends Monday.

Austin American-Statesman - May 24, 2017

Herman: Late-night deadlines and legislative shenanigans

There’s nothing like good, thoughtful legislating, and it’s quite possible what went on Tuesday night and Wednesday morning at Your State Capitol was nothing like good, thoughtful lawmaking. The House worked a long day toward a midnight drop-dead deadline for action on Senate bills. From here on in, it takes a bit of legislative creativity — sort of like the kind the Senate copiously engaged in early Wednesday morning — to get stuff done. Things got interesting and fast-paced late Tuesday afternoon after the House finished a six-hour debate leading to approval of a voter ID measure aimed at cleaning up a previous voter ID measure that ran into trouble at the courthouse.

Austin American-Statesman - May 24, 2017

Special House-Senate panel expected to review higher ed funding

The state’s approach to funding the University of Texas, Texas A&M University and other institutions of higher education would undergo a top-to-bottom review by a special committee of the Legislature under a recommendation by House and Senate budget negotiators. Such a review could lead to major changes in how legislative appropriations are divvied up among the schools. Of course, any such exercise would be politically fraught, as lawmakers tend to defend the interests of schools in their districts. The call for an interim joint select committee, with five members appointed by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who presides in the Senate, and five appointed by House Speaker Joe Straus, will be included in Senate Bill 1, the proposed budget for the next two years that each chamber will consider in the coming days.

Austin American-Statesman - May 24, 2017

Texas parks projects on hold after snub by Legislature

New work to address overdue repairs at Texas state parks and efforts to open new parks to the public appear to be on hold after lawmakers at the Capitol have signaled unwillingness to give more money to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. “We knew this was going to be a very fiscally constrained session going into it,” agency Executive Director Carter Smith told Texas Parks and Wildlife commissioners at a workshop Wednesday. “The opportunities for growth were going to be an uphill challenge at best.” Beyond its normal budget, the agency had asked for at least $75 million to address deferred maintenance — the agency estimates it actually needs hundreds of millions of dollars to fix aging, failing infrastructure; the Legislature has agreed to provide $17 million.

Austin American-Statesman - May 24, 2017

Senate moves to bar guns from state psychiatric hospitals

The Texas Senate amended a bill Wednesday to allow the state psychiatric hospitals to ban guns on their premises, including the Austin State Hospital and nine other facilities. The amendment by Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, was added to House Bill 435, which seeks to allow volunteer emergency workers to carry licensed handguns while on the job.

Austin American-Statesman - May 24, 2017

In late change, abortion-related measure stays on animal cruelty bill

In a confusing turn of events Wednesday, an abortion-related amendment that had gutted an animal cruelty bill was removed — briefly and, it turns out, improperly — by the Texas House. The amendment, added Tuesday by Rep. Tony Tinderholt, R-Arlington, kept the killing and torturing of pets as a state jail felony, which has a maximum punishment of two years in jail, instead of a third-degree felony with up to 10 years in prison. Tinderholt, who said he has three dogs and a cat, noted that abortion regulations recently approved by the House would subject doctors who perform a “partial-birth” or a “dismemberment” abortion to a state jail felony.

Austin American-Statesman - May 24, 2017

Texas House gives final approval to bill aimed at fixing voter ID law

The Texas House on Wednesday gave final approval to a bill aimed at fixing the state’s 2011 law requiring voters to show photo identification following court rulings that have found the law to be racially discriminatory. The 93-55 vote, with Democrats opposing the measure, comes a day after the House gave initial approval to Senate Bill 5, which would codify some changes imposed on Texas for the November 2016 election by a federal court. The changes include allowing people without identification to vote if they sign affidavits saying they had a reasonable impediment to acquiring one.

Texas Tribune - May 25, 2017

Suburbs of Houston and Dallas top list of fastest-growing cities in U.S.

Texas suburbs made up half of the country’s 10 fastest growing cities with three cities outside Houston and Dallas topping the list, new census figures show. Rapid growth in Conroe, Frisco and McKinney made those suburbs the three fastest-growing cities in the country among those with a population larger than 50,000, according to population estimates released Thursday by the U.S. Census Bureau. Their population growth — counted between July 2015 and July 2016 — outpaced Georgetown and New Braunfels, which topped the list last year.

Austin American-Statesman - May 24, 2017

House, Senate disagreement on ‘vouchers’ kills school funding bill

The prospect of Texas public schools getting any additional money over the next two years is gone. The Texas House on Wednesday took yet another overwhelming vote against so-called school choice, which would redirect state money to help students pay for private school tuition. Senate Education Chairman Larry Taylor, R-Friendswood, said the move killed House Bill 21, which over the last few weeks has turned from the Legislature’s most promising school finance bill into a school choice measure. “I’m sorry they chose to kill House Bill 21, but that’s the choice they’ve made,” Taylor said.

Texas Tribune - May 25, 2017

Former child bride lobbies for bill to save others from her nightmare

On Oct. 17, 1983, Trevicia Williams was married. She was 14 years old. Before that day, she had been a ninth-grader at Aldine Senior High School in Houston. She was at the top of her class and had had plans to be a prosecuting attorney. Williams, now 47, recalled being picked up from school by her mother one afternoon and being told she was getting married. She was then brought before a justice of the peace and married off to an ex-convict and current registered sex offender — 12 years her senior. She said she never received an answer from her mother on why she was forced into the marriage.

Texas Tribune - May 25, 2017

Texas Senate approves bill tweaking A-F school grades

The Texas Senate early Thursday approved a bill that would tweak a plan to grade school districts — two and a half hours after a midnight legislative deadline. The Senate voted 29-2 to pass its version of House Bill 22, which would make changes to a plan for grading school districts on an A-F scale. Sen. Larry Taylor, R-Friendswood, the bill's sponsor, made some compromises to appease educators but did not include several of the provisions they want the most — including a delay to the start date of the rating system from 2018 to 2019 and a limit on how much of their grades depend on standardized tests.

Houston Chronicle - May 25, 2017

Tomlinson: Patent decision bad for East Texas hospitality

Business travelers are the mainstay of the hospitality business and the U.S. Supreme Court just dealt a blow to East Texas hoteliers and restaurateurs. The number of out-of-town attorneys and paralegals trekking to Tyler and Marshall will likely plummet now that the Court has limited where patent trolls can use the judiciary to extort money from major corporations. While there are legitimate disputes over patents, there is an entire class of company that does nothing but buy patents and then sue companies for infringing on them. Sometimes the patent is for something that is so common sense there really shouldn't be a patent covering it. Companies that bring these suits are called patent trolls.

Houston Chronicle - May 25, 2017

Cornerstone of Turner's agenda heads to governor's desk

The Texas House sent Houston's pension reform package to the governor's desk Wednesday, marking what Mayor Sylvester Turner hopes is the beginning of the end of a 16-year fiscal crisis, and giving him a landmark achievement in his second year in office. Turner, who has made passing the reforms the centerpiece of his tenure, alternated between grins and gravitas Wednesday night. He cheered the bill's passage, but also warned that more work lay ahead, a clear nod to a series of referendums looming this fall. "There is no challenge that this city cannot address, no mountain we cannot climb if we stand together," the mayor said, flanked by dozens of police and municipal workers, civic leaders and senior aides.

Quartz - May 24, 2017

A Texas billionaire wants to build a supersonic business jet

A 12-seat business jet may be the first civilian airplane to break the speed of sound since the Concorde’s last flight in 2003. Aerion Corp., a plane maker backed by Texas billionaire Robert Bass, an heir of an oil fortune and the company’s chairman, this week said it plans to power its needle-nosed AS2 planes with General Electric engines. It’s a crucial piece of machinery that will propel the plane to top speeds of Mach 1.5, or one-and-a-half times the speed of sound. Elite travelers could fly from New York to London in a little over four hours, instead of around seven, or from San Francisco to Tokyo in just under seven hours compared to more than 10 hours on business jets today, the company said.

Texas Observer - May 24, 2017

Endangered Science -- Can Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar oversee objective scientific research into rare species?

In 2010,the Obama administration announced that it was considering the dunes sagebrush lizard — a skittish, 3-inch reptile found in the West Texas oil patch — for the endangered species list. At the time, the Permian Basin was in the early days of a bonanza unleashed by high oil prices and fracking. The shy little lizard was seen as a potential party-pooper. The next year the Midland Reporter-Telegram announced its “Newsmaker of the Year”: “It’s that d*** sagebrush lizard!” Then-state Representative Warren Chisum, a gregarious creationist from the Panhandle, warned that the listing would “inflict severe economic damage.” Combs wrote to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that listing the lizard could have “significant and even disastrous economic impacts.” With the backing of the oil and gas industry, Chisum inserted an amendment into the massive state budget bill in 2011. That little-noticed maneuver abruptly shifted the oversight of endangered species from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department to Combs’ office. Combs wasted no time engineering a program to attack the Endangered Species Act. Her first move was to put the Texas Habitat Conservation Foundation, a nonprofit founded by the Texas Oil and Gas Association, in charge of an effort to prevent the dunes sagebrush lizard from being listed.

Texas Tribune - May 24, 2017

School finance legislation is pronounced dead

An effort to overhaul the state’s beleaguered school finance system has been declared dead after the Texas Senate Education Committee’s chairman said Wednesday that he would not appoint conferees to negotiate with the House. “That deal is dead,” Larry Taylor, R-Friendswood, said. Taylor’s remarks come after his counterpart in the House, Dan Huberty, R-Houston, gave a passionate speech in which he said he would not accept the Senate’s changes to House Bill 21 and would seek a conference committee with the Senate.

Texas Tribune - May 24, 2017

Another top TABC honcho departing amid controversy

There’s been another departure from the upper echelons of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission, which has been dogged by reports of extravagant spending, mismanagement and heavy-handed regulation. One of three TABC commissioners who oversee the troubled agency, Steven Weinberg of Colleyville, abruptly quit Tuesday, The Texas Tribune has learned. The move came just hours after Weinberg effusively praised embattled director Sherry Cook, whose abrupt retirement in April was hailed by Gov. Greg Abbott as a “good start” in cleaning up the problems at the TABC. Cook officially left the agency on Tuesday, the same day Abbott’s office got Weinberg’s resignation letter.

Texas Tribune - May 24, 2017

House backs Giddings measure targeting "lunch shaming"

After several failed attempts and compromises during the legislative session — and a heated debate with members of the House Freedom Caucus on Wednesday — Rep. Helen Giddings succeeded in getting the House to pass a measure that targets "lunch shaming" in schools. The proposal, which was tacked on as an amendment to Senate Bill 1566, would require local school boards to develop a grace period policy that ensures students without enough money in their school lunch accounts have some time to resolve the issue.

Texas Observer - May 24, 2017

Texas Bill Could Send People to Jail for Driving a Woman to an Abortion, Lawmaker Says

Representative Joe Moody, a former prosecutor, was sure there’d been a mistake. The sweeping anti-abortion bill that passed the Texas House May 19 could allow nearly anyone involved in the process of an unlawful abortion to be charged with a state jail felony, Moody said. That includes the doctor who performed the abortion, but also the person who drove the woman to the clinic, the receptionist who booked the appointment and even the bank teller who cashed the check that paid for the procedure. “I’m not trying get into policy; I believe this is an unintended consequence of the law,” Moody said on the House floor Friday evening as he introduced an amendment to Senate Bill 8 that would limit who can be prosecuted.

Temple Daily Telegram - May 25, 2017

New bus seat belt costs concern local districts

Local school authorities are concerned about the cost of a new law requiring seat belts on Texas school buses, signed by the governor Monday. The new law, Senate Bill 693, requires that new buses purchased by Texas school systems have three-point (including both shoulder and lap straps) safety belts for all passengers and the driver. This regulation does not apply to school buses that are model year 2017 or earlier. The National Highway Safety Administration estimates that adding seat belts to buses could cost between $7,346 and $10,296 per bus.

County Stories

KRGV - May 24, 2017

McAllen Undergoing Groundwater Contamination Cleanup Since 2008

MCALLEN – Toxic chemicals remain underneath Hidalgo County homes and businesses 20 years after its discovery. A 2008 CHANNEL 5 NEWS investigation found a toxic lake floating on top of 19 acres of groundwater under 23rd Street in McAllen. The state promised a cleanup, but their efforts still continue up to this day. In 2008, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality told CHANNEL 5 NEWS they knew about the issue since the 90s.

Dallas Morning News - May 24, 2017

Dallas County plan to disarm domestic abusers seizes just 60 guns in 2 years — a fraction of goal

Domestic abusers in Dallas County have surrendered just 60 guns since 2015 under a program designed to disarm thousands of violent offenders. That's a tiny fraction of the 700 to 800 firearms county officials expected to collect each year when the initiative launched two years ago. State and federal law prohibits convicted abusers and anyone subject to a protective order from owning a gun. But the law does not dictate what they do with those weapons. The Dallas County program allows abusers to turn over their guns to the Sheriff's Department, which stores the firearms at its gun range.

City Stories

Austin American-Statesman - May 24, 2017

Austin visitors bureau embroiled in open records fight

Embroiled in an open records dispute with a local civic activist, Austin’s convention and visitors agency on Wednesday reversed course and released a number of operational documents after a lawsuit was filed demanding access to the information. The agency – recently renamed Visit Austin after being known for years as the Austin Convention and Visitors Bureau – was sued Tuesday in state District Court in Austin by Bill Bunch. Bunch is executive director of the Save Our Springs Alliance, an environmental watchdog group, but said he filed the lawsuit as an individual. Bill Aleshire, an Austin attorney who specializes in open government litigation, is representing Bunch.

Texas Tribune - May 24, 2017

Houston pension bill heads for governor's desk, but firefighters are still mad

The Texas House on Wednesday approved the controversial Senate version of a bill that aims to overhaul Houston’s failing pension funds — over the passionate objections of current and former firefighters. Senate Bill 2190, which passed in a 103-43 vote, now heads to Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk. But the months of rancor between firefighters and Houston officials promise to linger long after the legislative session ends Monday. Meanwhile, Dallas leaders appear to have coalesced around the Senate's version of that city's pension bill.

Dallas Morning News - May 24, 2017

Jeffers: West Dallas voter fraud is product of failed political leadership

The residents of West Dallas must be tired of being sold out, even as parts of the neighborhood are improving. After years of neglect, the Singleton corridor is now bustling because of the Trinity Groves development. Blight in many places has given way to economic vitality. That means the area's growth has to be managed in order to protect the residents who have lived there for years, many of them in poverty. Now, just as much as ever, there's a need for quality political leadership and sound public service to steer West Dallas in the right direction.

San Antonio Express News - May 25, 2017

San Antonio ranks third among largest U.S. cities with biggest population gains

San Antonio ranked third among the 15 U.S. cities that recorded the largest numeric increases in population last year, according to new estimates released late Wednesday by the U.S. Census Bureau. The Alamo City gained 24,473 residents between July 2015 and July 2016, bringing its total population to 1,492,510, based on the latest census data. However, that surge wasn’t significant enough to move the needle for San Antonio on a national scale. It remains the seventh-most populated city in the country.

San Antonio Express News - May 25, 2017

San Antonio reaches settlement over city’s payday-lender law

San Antonio has settled long-running criminal and civil battles over a city ordinance regulating payday and auto-title lenders. A few businesses that opposed the ordinance, which took effect in 2013, have now registered with the city as “credit access businesses” and agreed to pay $60,000 to cover the city’s costs, including investigative expenses. A civil lawsuit brought by one of the companies seeking to have the law declared unconstitutional has been dropped. In addition, the city has agreed to dismiss criminal cases against the businesses, which had been charged with failing to register with the city and for refusing to present business records. Identical charges against one of the business’s store managers also are being dropped.

National Stories

Washington Post - May 24, 2017

Uninsured ranks still to grow by tens of millions under latest House health-care bill, CBO says

Health-care legislation adopted by House Republicans earlier this month would leave 23 million more Americans uninsured within a decade, the Congressional Budget Office projected Wednesday — only a million fewer than the estimate for the House’s earlier bill. The finding, which drew immediate fire from Democrats, patient advocates, health industry officials and some business groups, could complicate Republicans’ push to pass a companion bill in the Senate. The new score, which reflects a series of last-minute revisions Republicans made to win over several conservative lawmakers and a handful of moderates, calculates that the American Health Care Act would reduce the federal deficit by $119 billion between 2017 and 2026.

Vox - May 24, 2017

Another Obamacare insurer just quit, leaving 25 Missouri counties with no options

Another health insurer will quit the Obamacare marketplace next year, leaving 19,000 Obamacare enrollees with no options in 2018. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas City announced Wednesday that it will not sell coverage on the Obamacare marketplaces next year. The plan has experienced significant losses in recent years and is scared off by the current uncertainty over the health law’s future. “Like many other health insurers across the country, we have been faced with challenges in this market,” Blue KC chief executive Danette Wilson said in a statement. “Through 2016, we have lost more than $100 million. This is unsustainable for our company. We have a responsibility to our members and the greater community to remain stable and secure, and the uncertain direction of this market is a barrier to our continued participation.”

Dallas Morning News - May 24, 2017

'Exceptionally smarmy:' Cruz fires back after Franken mocks him in new book

Sens. Ted Cruz and Al Franken have never been best friends. Despite their shared affinity for impersonations, the Texas Republican and Minnesota Democrat have polar opposite views on public policy and have clashed repeatedly over the past few years. But now the simmering personal animosity between the two senators has bubbled to the surface. Franken divulges his disdain for Cruz in his forthcoming book, Giant of the Senate, devoting an entire chapter — titled “Sophistry” — to the Texas senator. According to excerpts of the book, set to be released May 30, Franken describes Cruz as “singularly dishonest” and “exceptionally smarmy.”

Houston Chronicle - May 24, 2017

Different sides see CBO report differently

It took no time for the warring factions over health care reform to forge opposite interpretations of the Congressional Budget Office's latest estimates. The federal agency on Wednesday predicted that under the Republican law narrowly passed in the House three weeks ago, the number of Americans without insurance would increase by 14 million by next year and could reach a total of 51 million people by 2026. That is slightly less than the 10-year number the CBO estimated when it analyzed a previous version of the Republican measure in March. Across Texas and in Washington D.C., both those who supported the Republican health care law and those who have decried it were swift Wednesday afternoon to claim that these new CBO findings verified their positions.

Washington Post - May 24, 2017

How a dubious Russian document influenced the FBI’s handling of the Clinton probe

A secret document that officials say played a key role in then-FBI Director James B. Comey’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation has long been viewed within the FBI as unreliable and possibly a fake, according to people familiar with its contents. In the midst of the 2016 presidential primary season, the FBI received what was described as a Russian intelligence document claiming a tacit understanding between the Clinton campaign and the Justice Department over the inquiry into whether she intentionally revealed classified information through her use of a private email server. The Russian document cited a supposed email describing how then-Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch had privately assured someone in the Clinton campaign that the email investigation would not push too deeply into the matter. If true, the revelation of such an understanding would have undermined the integrity of the FBI’s investigation.

Washington Post - May 24, 2017

Why did Russia become such a big issue only after November? In part because of who won.

The chairman and ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee informed reporters on Tuesday afternoon that the committee would issue subpoenas to businesses associated with former national security adviser Michael Flynn, subpoenas that, unlike those issued to Flynn personally, couldn’t be batted away by invoking the Fifth Amendment. At the news conference addressing that decision, a reporter asked the two about testimony earlier in the day from former CIA director John Brennan. “Today former DCI John Brennan said that there was ‘blatant interference’ in the 2016 election,” the reporter said. “He says there were contacts and interactions between Russian officials and Trump campaign officials and a number of other things that were revealed today. If he can say that today, after the election in an open hearing, why wasn’t the American public informed of these facts before the election in November of last year?”

Washington Times - May 24, 2017

Obama admin knew gang members were part of illegal immigrant surge: Whistleblower

The Obama administration knowingly let in at least 16 admitted MS-13 gang members who arrived at the U.S. as illegal immigrant teenagers in 2014, a top senator said Wednesday, citing internal documents that showed the teens were shipped to juvenile homes throughout the country. Sen. Ron Johnson, chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, said a whistleblower turned over Customs and Border Protection documents from 2014 detailing the 16 persons who were caught crossing the border. “CBP apprehended them, knew they were MS-13 gang members, and they processed and disbursed them into our communities,” Mr. Johnson, Wisconsin Republican, said.

The Hill - May 24, 2017

Trump, Clinton campaign aides launch their own bids

Campaign aides and state chairs from the 2016 presidential race are stepping out from behind the scenes for their own runs for office, looking to build on the momentum from their former presidential hopefuls’ bids. Affiliation with a high-profile politician doesn’t always guarantee electoral success. Two office-seekers affiliated with President Trump’s presidential campaign flamed out earlier this year in congressional primaries in Georgia and Kansas. But there are still a number of figures who worked on the presidential runs of Trump, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton or Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) who want to use their campaign chops as a springboard into higher office. Here are five former presidential campaign figures who have either launched bids or are weighing ones. Ed Meier (D-Texas), Clinton policy aide: Meier, who served in a variety of roles in Clinton’s campaign and her State Department, is running to unseat powerful House Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions (R-Texas).

Washington Post - May 24, 2017

Another elected official cites ‘the Internet’ in defense of his bad arguments

Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Tex.) offered a head-slapping defense of a conspiracy theory he touted on CNN: It was something that he’d seen on the Internet. Farenthold was suggesting that questions about any link between Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign and Russian actors was “deflecting away from some other things that we need to be investigating in.” “There’s still some question,” he said, “as to whether the intrusion at the server was an insider job or whether or not it was the Russians.” CNN’s John Berman interrupted. “I’m sorry,” he said. “The insider job — what are you referring to here? I hope it’s not this information that Fox News just refused to be reporting.”

Washington Post - May 25, 2017

Senate Republicans have all the evidence they need to reject the House-passed health-care overhaul

The Republican bid to overhaul the health-care industry took one small step forward Wednesday and then essentially went two steps backward. For a week now, some congressional insiders had been whispering that the critical “score” from the Congressional Budget Office, on the legislation that narrowly passed the House earlier this month, might not provide any real deficit savings. Such a finding would have violated the Senate’s more arcane rules for considering budgetary items under fast-track rules — and it might have forced House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) to redraw the legislation and hold another vote.

Houston Chronicle - May 25, 2017

British outrage over alleged US leaks in the Manchester bomb investigation

British indignation over alleged American leaks of investigative material related to the Manchester bombing will likely create a charged environment Thursday when British Prime Minister Theresa May meets later with President Donald Trump. May said Thursday morning she would "make clear" to Trump when they meet later in the day at a NATO summit in Brussels that "intelligence that is shared between our law enforcement agencies must remain secure." Leaks from the ongoing investigation - including the publication of crime-scene photos in the New York Times and the naming of the suspected bomber by U.S. broadcasters - have provoked ire from British officials. The breaches could undermine the extremely close intelligence sharing between the United States and Britain.

Politico - May 24, 2017

The Issue Democrats Wish Would Go Away

The progressive hope in Thursday’s special election to represent Montana’s at-large House district can be seen in an ad caressing a gun he lovingly calls “this old rifle.” In another spot, Democratic nominee Rob Quist pulls a shiny bullet from his barn coat pocket, locks and loads, and fires at a TV airing a spot questioning his Second Amendment bona fides. “I’ll protect your right to bear arms,” Quist pledges, “because it’s my right too.” None of this is subtle, but Quist’s break with the Democratic Party platform hasn’t produced a peep from the activist left; the gun issue wasn’t even raised before MoveOn.org decided to endorse him. Are progressives knowingly practicing hard-headed electoral pragmatism? Or, as is more likely, are they ducking a divisive and frustrating issue for as long as possible, until another horrific mass shooting produces a fresh wave of outrage?

Politico - May 24, 2017

Mulvaney: Debt ceiling deadline could come sooner than expected

Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney warned Wednesday that Congress may have to raise the debt ceiling sooner than previously expected. “My understanding that the [tax] receipts, currently, are coming in slower than expected and you may soon hear from [Treasury Secretary Steven] Mnuchin about a change in the date,” Mulvaney told the House Budget Committee. “We look forward to working with the Hill on the best way to go about this.”

San Antonio Express News - May 24, 2017

Architect of Dodd-Frank repeal bill agrees to key change

The architect of House legislation that would repeal much of the Dodd-Frank law enacted after the financial crisis agreed Wednesday to make a key change to the bill, clearing the way for the full House to take up the measure in coming weeks. Rep. Jeb Hensarling of Texas, the Republican chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, said he has agreed to cut from the bill a provision that would have removed a cap on the fee that stores pay large banks when costumers use a debit card. Retailers strongly opposed removing the cap, and that opposition has raised concerns for lawmakers hearing from merchants back in their home districts. Congress capped the fees as a way to lower the costs for businesses that accept debit cards. The cap was established through what is often referred to as the Durbin amendment, named for Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill.

Houston Chronicle - May 24, 2017

Tomlinson: No need to punish poor or raise taxes to get people off welfare

President Donald Trump's goal of moving people off Medicaid and food stamps is commendable. His methods, though, are unsound. Supporters say pulling the safety net out from under 14 million Americans will appeal to the selfish and merciless as tough love, and many will gleefully count their tax savings. But such an approach would spread suffering, particularly because most of the people losing benefits under Trump's budget proposal will be impoverished pregnant women and children. Luckily, Congress will draft something very different, and there are three ways of achieving Trump's goals that do not punish the poor or raise taxes.

New York Times - May 24, 2017

Top Russian Officials Discussed How to Influence Trump Aides Last Summer

American spies collected information last summer revealing that senior Russian intelligence and political officials were discussing how to exert influence over Donald J. Trump through his advisers, according to three current and former American officials familiar with the intelligence. The conversations focused on Paul Manafort, the Trump campaign chairman at the time, and Michael T. Flynn, a retired general who was advising Mr. Trump, the officials said. Both men had indirect ties to Russian officials, who appeared confident that each could be used to help shape Mr. Trump’s opinions on Russia.

Associated Press - May 25, 2017

US jobless claims rose slightly to 234,000 last week

Slightly more people sought U.S. unemployment benefits last week, but jobless claims remained at historically low levels. THE NUMBERS: Applications for weekly unemployment aid rose 1,000 to 234,000, the Labor Department said Thursday. The four-week average, a less volatile figure, fell 5,750 to 235,250. That's the lowest level since April 14, 1973. Applications are a close indication for layoffs. They have been below 300,000, a historically low figure, for 116 weeks. That's the longest such streak since 1970. The number of people receiving aid fell to 1.8 million, compared with 2 million in the same week last year. The figure has fallen 11 percent in the past year. THE TAKEAWAY: The ultra-low figures add to evidence that companies are holding onto workers and hiring at a steady pace.

This article appeared in the Houston Chronicle

CBS News - May 24, 2017

Trump approval rating takes a dive, polls show

The past few weeks have not been kind to President Trump's poll numbers. Mr. Trump began the month of May with approval ratings that were underwater, but not dramatically so. In the RealClearPolitics average of polls on May 3, his approval rating was at 43.6 percent, and his disapproval rating was at 51.3 percent – a net disapproval of under eight percent. Today, however, Mr. Trump's approval rating in the same polling average stands at 40.4 percent, and his disapproval rating stands at 54.0 percent – a net disapproval of nearly 14 percent. In a Gallup poll released Tuesday, 38 percent of respondents said they approve of the president's job performance, while 56 percent said they disapprove.

Dallas Morning News - May 24, 2017

Kass: Media has been largely negative on Trump

Whenever I mention that the news media leans ridiculously far to the left, that it has lost half the country with its attitude and that the tone of the coverage of President Donald Trump is over-the-top hostile, I get the same darn reaction. The eye roll. That big Anderson Cooper CNN eye roll, often accompanied by a few theatrical sighs. And when I leave the newsroom, it gets even worse on social media. But now Harvard University's Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy has come out with a study of media coverage of the Trump White House in its first 100 days.

Dallas Morning News - May 25, 2017

Pew: Refugee arrivals in U.S. decline sharply, as world crisis grows

As promised by the administration of President Donald Trump, the number of new refugees arriving in the U.S., especially Texas, is in sharp decline, says the Pew Research Center. Portions of a controversial executive order by Trump cut by half the number of planned refugee arrivals this year. That prompted a Texas refugee resettlement drop of nearly 70 percent from October to April of this year. “Texas has historically been at the top or near the top in refugees,” said Phillip Connor, author of the Pew report released Thursday. Connor noted that drops have been seen in states around the country.

Dallas Morning News - May 24, 2017

Cornyn sees Trump plan to extend border wall by 60 miles as flawed 'piecemeal' approach to security

A host of Texas officials in both parties call President Donald Trump's vision of a "big, beautiful wall" along the Southwest border wasteful and impractical. On Wednesday, Sen. John Cornyn opened a new line of criticism after Trump asked Congress for $1.6 billion to expand the wall by 60 miles along the Rio Grande and to replace 14 miles of fencing in California. "What I'd like to see is a real plan rather than a piecemeal approach," Cornyn said, calling it a flawed approach to border security to emphasize wall construction without a comprehensive plan. "I don't see the benefit to doing this on a piecemeal basis, and it's harder for Congress to know is this really going to work."

Dallas Morning News - May 24, 2017

Williamson: Trump's budget shows his top priority is refusing to deal with reality

President Donald Trump has produced a very silly budget proposal. Thankfully, presidential budget proposals have all the effect of a mouse passing gas in a hurricane — Congress, not the president, actually appropriates funds and writes the tax code. Presidential budget proposals are not received as actual fiscal blueprints but as statements of priorities, and so we must conclude that Trump's top priority is refusing to deal with reality. Here's the situation: About 80 percent of federal spending is consumed by five things: 1. National defense; 2. Social Security; 3. Medicare; 4. Medicaid and other related health-care benefits; 5. Interest on the debt. Trump wants to increase spending on defense by about 10 percent while shielding Social Security and Medicare from cuts. Short of a default, he doesn't have any choice but to pay the interest on the debt. So that leaves things pretty tight.

Houston Chronicle - May 25, 2017

NOAA predicts above normal hurricane season

The nation's climate agency Thursday predicted an above-normal 2017 hurricane season with 11 to 17 named storms, five to nine of them hurricanes and two to four Category 3 or higher hurricanes. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicted a 45 percent chance of the hurricane season that begins June 1 being above normal, a 35 percent chance of a normal season and a 20 percent chance of a below normal season. An average season is 12 named storms, six hurricanes and 3 major hurricanes. ... Colorado State University in April predicted 11 named storms, four hurricanes and two major hurricanes. Bell said NOAA does not issue an April prediction because conditions could significantly change by June. The university is scheduled to issue a revised prediction June 1.

All - May 24, 2017

Lead Stories

Austin American-Statesman - May 23, 2017

PolitiFact Texas: Is Dan Patrick right about homeowner savings from tax-rate proposal? Pants On Fire!!

Patrick said legislation targeting local tax rate growth will result in the average Texas homeowner saving $20,000 a year over 20 years. That’s an absurd amount. Even if we look at what Patrick purportedly meant to say — $20,000 over 20 years — we find fatal flaws in the assumptions underlying that calculation. To reach that amount, one must assume that every city, county and special taxing district will raise tax rates by 8 percent every year without this legislation in place and by 5 percent a year with it. Neither assumption aligns with recent history, making the total savings figure highly suspect, at best a wild guess. Pants on Fire!

Washington Post - May 22, 2017

Supreme Court limits locations of patent lawsuits

A unanimous Supreme Court on Monday made it more difficult for companies to sue for patent infringement in courts that they consider friendly to their cause. The justices affirmed a ­decades-old ruling that said such lawsuits should be filed in the judicial district where the alleged offender is incorporated. It reversed a ruling of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit that gave plaintiffs greater leeway and resulted in a huge number of cases being filed in a receptive federal court in east Texas. [ Supreme Court debates limits on where patent suits may be filed ] Justice Clarence Thomas, writing for the court, said that subsequent actions by Congress and other courts had not altered the Supreme Court’s 1957 decision that a lawsuit alleging patent infringement must be filed where the defendant “resides,” and a corporation resides only in its state of incorporation.

Austin American-Statesman - May 23, 2017

Sid Miller calls barbecue deregulation effort ‘horse hockey’

Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller has started a food fight at the Capitol, and the food being slung has a decidedly smoky flavor. At stake is how much brisket is on your plate. In an opinion piece published Tuesday in the Texas Tribune, Miller says he wants Gov. Greg Abbott to veto a bill that would exempt from state inspection weights and scales at barbecue joints and other restaurants that sell food. House Bill 2029 has passed the Texas House 146-1 and Texas Senate 31-0

Texas Tribune - May 20, 2017

McKinnon: The Texas coup: How did Republican leadership become so anti-business?

For 100 years, Texas has been a pro-business state — and even more so since then-Gov. George W. Bush led a Republican sweep of statewide offices in 1998. Back then, the GOP advanced a pro-business agenda and ushered in policies that definitively declared, “Texas is open for business.” The result was what is now known as the Texas Miracle. Business flocked to the state. The job market and investments diversified. So-called “destination school districts” saw enrollments skyrocket. Taxes were low, but essential services and basic needs for Texans were met. Families flourished. State pride ran deep. We used conservative governing to help improve people’s lives. During my 40 years in Texas, if you were a Republican, you were most certainly a pro-business politician. But today, many in the state's GOP leadership are moving away from, even ignoring, the business community. That is surely not their intention, but it surely will be the result.

Texas Tribune - May 24, 2017

Field to replace former Texas GOP Chairman Mechler takes shape

The field to replace former Texas GOP Chairman Tom Mechler is taking shape. The three most-discussed potential candidates had all made up their minds by the end of Tuesday, with a two-way race emerging between Houston-area businessman Rick Figueroa and Travis County GOP Chairman James Dickey. Mark Ramsey, a member of the State Republican Executive Committee from Spring, had been encouraged to run but announced Tuesday night he was taking a pass. "It is one of the most difficult decisions I’ve ever made, as I’m sure Tom’s was," read a letter from Ramsey, the chief of staff to state Rep. Valoree Swanson of Spring.

Houston Chronicle - May 23, 2017

Craft brewers call Texas Legislature's passage of measure 'disheartening'

A bill that would force Texas breweries, once they've grown beyond a state-limited size, to sell and buy back their own beer before offering it in their own taprooms has now passed both houses of the state Legislature. "To say that today's outcome was incredibly disheartening would be to put it mildly," the Texas Craft Brewers Guild said in a statement following a 19-to-10 vote in the Senate. The House approved the measure May 6. House Bill 3287 has been blasted as "anti-competitive," "anti-beer" and a potential job killer by an unlikely coalition that includes Anheuser-Busch InBev and the state's 200-plus craft brewers, which often find themselves at odds with the global giant.

Dallas Morning News - May 23, 2017

Fix for troubled Dallas Police and Fire Pension System passes Senate

The Texas Senate unanimously passed a bill Tuesday that seeks to fix the broken Dallas Police and Fire Pension System. The bill barely made it out of committee last week but was saved by last-minute negotiations between the city, police and fire associations and pension officials. "This is not just a Dallas issue. This is about the future of our entire state," said Sen. Don Huffines, R-Dallas, who helped negotiate the Senate's version of the bill. "The men and women of Dallas police and fire deserve this bill." The Dallas pension fix, originally House Bill 3158 from Rep. Dan Flynn, R-Van, was sponsored by Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas, in the Senate. The Senate's version seeks to make the pension system solvent in the next 46 years; the House's version would have done it in 40.

San Antonio Express News - May 23, 2017

Prosecutors in Paxton case argue against removing judge

Special prosecutors assigned to Attorney General Ken Paxton’s high-profile criminal securities fraud case pushed back against the Republican’s attempts to boot the judge from the case Tuesday, telling the 5th District Court of Appeals the move is unwarranted. It’s “deja vu all over again,” read the filing by special prosecutors, stealing the phrase from New York Yankee legend Yogi Berra in arguing that Paxton has repeatedly turned to the appellate court to complain about the lower court and should again be denied.

Houston Chronicle - May 19, 2017

Congress watchers single out Culberson's west Houston seat

Political prognosticators in Washington have put U.S. Rep. John Culberson's west Houston district on the national political radar, while a slew of Texas Democrats have officially declared their interest in challenging the Republican next year. On Friday, the Cook Political Report singled it out as a race to watch. The upscale district, a Republican stronghold since they days when it was represented by then-future President George H.W. Bush, rarely sees competitive congressional races. But Hillary Clinton's narrow win in the district in last November's presidential election prompted speculation about its changing urban demographics, which could favor Democrats in the future.

New York Times - May 24, 2017

Ex-C.I.A. Chief Reveals Mounting Concern Over Trump Campaign and Russia

John O. Brennan, the former C.I.A. director, described on Tuesday a nerve-fraying few months last year as American authorities realized that the presidential election was under attack and feared that Donald J. Trump’s campaign might be aiding that fight. Mr. Brennan, in testimony before the House Intelligence Committee, said he was concerned by a series of suspicious contacts between Russian government officials and Mr. Trump’s associates. The C.I.A. learned about those meetings just as it was beginning to grapple with Russian hackers and propagandists trying to manipulate the presidential race.

State Stories

Austin American-Statesman - May 23, 2017

Senate resurrects ban on abortion insurance

The Texas Senate revived a stalled abortion measure late Monday night by adding it as an amendment to a bill on insurance information for doctors. House Bill 3124 was amended to add language from Senate Bill 20, which would ban abortion coverage in private insurance plans as well as plans offered to state employees and participants in the Affordable Care Act. Abortion coverage would have to be purchased in supplemental plans. Sen. Larry Taylor, R-Friendswood, moved to add the abortion language, gaining support from all Republicans and one Democrat, Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr. of Brownsville.

Waco Tribune - May 23, 2017

Waco Tribune: Texas House leaders blocking your right to know

Leave it to Texas House Republican leadership to serve up the definition of political hypocrisy: Saturday they shepherded through legislation requiring that city and county governments give their constituents more information about proposed property-tax increases. So far so good. But at the same time, they are quietly allowing legislation to die that would let those same taxpayers learn just how their hard-earned tax dollars are spent on privately contracted services. Democratic state Sen. Kirk Watson pressed two key bills on transparency this legislative session: SB 407 would reverse a 2015 Texas Supreme Court ruling twisting the very meaning of the Public Information Act and now allowing businesses and governmental entities to withhold information about their contracts with each other by claiming such information might put them at a competitive disadvantage in the future.

Austin American-Statesman - May 23, 2017

Texas House abortion-related amendment guts animal cruelty bill

Voting to add an abortion-related amendment Tuesday, the Texas House pulled the teeth from a bill intended to enhance criminal penalties for torturing and killing pets. Senate Bill 762 sought to raise the penalty to a third-degree felony, which has a punishment of up to 10 years in prison, for the worst types of animal abuse. Rep. Tony Tinderholt, R-Arlington, was outraged by the attempt to increase the punishment, saying abortion regulations recently approved by the House would make it only a state jail felony, with up to two years in jail, for abortion doctors who perform a “partial-birth” or a “dismemberment” abortion.

Austin American-Statesman - May 24, 2017

Texas Senate’s late bid on transgender bathrooms called DOA

Republicans in the Texas Senate, thwarted from enacting far-reaching limits on transgender-friendly bathrooms, voted at 1:15 a.m. Wednesday to extend restroom regulations to all local government buildings. The ban on transgender bathrooms was added as the 48th and final amendment to House Bill 4180, a catch-all measure intended to act as a safety net for locally important bills in danger of dying in the closing days of the legislative session. “I looked for days for some vehicle to put this amendment on,” said Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham, author of the amendment. Soon afterward, the author of HB 4180 declared the amendment, and the entire bill, dead on arrival in the House.

Austin American-Statesman - May 23, 2017

Herman: GOP, in charge for now, faces perilous future

Not long ago I had the eye-opening opportunity to hear a presentation here in Austin from Robert P. Jones, the CEO of the Washington-based Public Religion Research Institute and author of a 2016 book about something about which we’re all familiar. Yes, it’s hard to offer something eye-opening about something about which we’re all familiar. But Jones, in words and numbers, makes a compelling in-person case to support the title of his book, “The End of White Christian America.” The stats and trends are undeniable. America is changing. It might become better. It might become worse. But it is becoming different.

Austin American-Statesman - May 23, 2017

Texas House tentatively approves allowing guns in school parking lots

The Texas House on Tuesday tentatively approved a measure that would allow school employees to store guns in their cars parked on school property. The provision, along with several others related to public schools, was tacked onto Senate Bill 1566, which would make changes to how school boards operate. The gun amendment originally was proposed in standalone House Bill 1962 by Rep. Cole Hefner, R-Mt. Pleasant, but the bill hasn’t made it to the House floor. Tuesday was the deadline for the House to tentatively approve bills for the session.

Austin American-Statesman - May 23, 2017

Texas Senate approves bill aimed at identifying postpartum depression

The Texas Senate on Tuesday approved a bill aimed at increasing identification of postpartum depression among mothers participating in federally backed health care programs for low-income families. Under House Bill 2466 by Rep. Sarah Davis, R-West University Place, mothers who bring their kids in for checkups can get screened for postpartum depression by their children’s pediatricians. The measure applies to mothers of children enrolled in the Children’s Health Insurance Program or Medicaid. Postpartum depression has been linked to negative consequences for children, according to legislative research, and is less likely to be identified and treated among low-income mothers.

Austin American-Statesman - May 24, 2017

TxDOT sunset bill’s fate remains unclear as session ebbs

The fate of the Texas Department of Transportation’s must-pass sunset bill remains uncertain with just six days left in the legislative session. Sen. Robert Nichols, R-Jacksonville, the sponsor of Senate Bill 312, decided earlier this week that he could not concur with some of the changes made in the bill by the House before it approved the bill May 17. So the Senate appointed five members to a conference committee, including Nichols and Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, to work with the House on a compromise. The House and the bill’s sponsor there, Rep. Larry Gonzales, R-Round Rock, had not appointed its conferees as of early Wednesday morning.

Austin American-Statesman - May 23, 2017

Judge Julie Kocurek Act headed to governor

A bill to improve security for judges and courthouses – named for an Austin judge who survived a 2015 assassination attempt outside her home – is on its way to Gov. Greg Abbott. The Judge Julie Kocurek Judicial and Courthouse Security Act completed its final legislative step when the Senate concurred with a minor House change with little discussion late Monday. Kocurek lent more than her name to Senate Bill 42. She testified about “the most terrifying moments” of her life and the security needs the shooting exposed. Her teenage son, Will, spoke about trying to get between the shooter and his mother in the driveway of their West Austin home.

Austin American-Statesman - May 23, 2017

Texas House tentatively passes Senate bill to address maternal deaths

The Texas House tentatively approved Tuesday night a Senate bill that would require further study into the state’s high rate of pregnancy-related deaths. Senate Bill 1929, originally filed by Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham, would require the Maternal Mortality and Morbidity Task Force to study disparities in maternal morbidity. The bill also would require the Health and Human Services Commission to submit every other year to top state officials and the Legislature how it plans to bring down such rates and to apply for grants to identify and treat postpartum depression.

Austin American-Statesman - May 23, 2017

Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway could face fines over Texas dealership law

It’s a good thing Warren Buffett has deep pockets. The billionaire’s holding company – Berkshire Hathaway Inc. – could be liable for civil fines in the range of $350,000 a day if an ongoing investigation by the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles determines it to be in violation of Texas law prohibiting the owner of an automobile manufacturer from also owning automobile dealerships in the state. Berkshire Hathaway owns Berkshire Hathaway Automotive, which is based in Irving and operates 35 new-car dealerships in Texas, and it also owns Forest River Inc., an Indiana-based manufacturer of recreational vehicles.

Texas Tribune - May 23, 2017

Texas House backs voter ID overhaul, with changes

The Texas House on Tuesday tentatively approved legislation to overhaul the state’s embattled voter identification law, moving it one step closer to Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk. Senate Bill 5 would in several ways relax what some had called the nation’s most stringent ID requirements for voters — a response to court findings that the current law discriminated against black and Latino voters. The 95-54 vote followed a six-hour debate that saw fierce pushback from Democrats, who argued the legislation wouldn’t go far enough to expand ballot access and contains provisions that might discourage some Texans from going to the polls. Democrats proposed a host of changes through amendments, a few of which surprisingly wriggled through.

Texas Tribune - May 24, 2017

Texas Senate looks to resurrect bathroom, property tax bills

The Texas Senate, hoping to resurrect its versions of bathroom and property tax proposals dear to Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, grafted both of them onto unrelated county affairs legislation early Wednesday and tentatively voted to send the package back to the House. The House can reject the legislation outright, or offer to go to a conference committee to try to work out the differences. Patrick has threatened to kill must-pass legislation in order to get his way on the two issues — an action that would force lawmakers into a 30-day special session with an agenda set by Gov. Greg Abbott. They were among 48 legislative additions to a House bill and part of a late effort to save Senate legislation that didn't survive a Tuesday House deadline.

Texas Tribune - May 24, 2017

Bills exempting tampons from Texas sales tax went nowhere this session

Ahead of this year's legislative session, seven lawmakers – six Democrats and one Republican – filed measures with the same goal: exempting tampons and other menstrual products from sales tax. The proposals followed similar moves by several other states. Yet in Texas, the bills proved to be dead-on-arrival. “The real bottom line to me is that women are being unfairly taxed, period,” said state Sen. Sylvia Garcia, a Houston Democrat. “This is not something we have an option, that’s frivolous or cosmetic. This is medically necessary.”

Texas Tribune - May 23, 2017

Even under Trump, state budget writers deliver big on border security funding

It’s apparently going to take a little bit longer to make America great again. At least on the Texas-Mexico border. Despite initial hopes by some budget writers that Texas could possibly scale back its funding on border security after President Trump was elected, lawmakers are poised to again spend $800 million for state border security efforts for the 2018-19 fiscal years. Lawmakers budgeted the same amount in 2015, a record for Texas at the time (they budgeted about $550 million the session before), saying it was needed because the Obama administration had abdicated its responsibility to secure the border.

Texas Tribune - May 24, 2017

Ramsey: Killing Texas ethics legislation without leaving fingerprints

When lawmakers really want to make a mark, they vote. Sometimes, it doesn’t even matter if they win — they just want demonstrate their position on a particular issue. When lawmakers really don’t want to make their mark, they don’t vote. Think about that as we add three high-profile bills on officeholder ethics to the list of this year’s unsolved legislative murders. Senate Bill 502 was last seen leaving the House’s General Investigating & Ethics Committee on its way to the mysterious House Calendars Committee. It checked out of the first committee and never checked into the second, disappearing like a boat in the Bermuda Triangle.

Texas Tribune - May 24, 2017

Conference committee approves convention of states-related measure

If Texas puts together a delegation for a convention of states to amend the U.S. Constitution, only state lawmakers would be eligible. That's the gist of a compromise members of the House and Senate came to on Tuesday to strike a deal over Senate Bill 21. The bill now heads back to both chambers for final approval, and if it gets the nod from each one by Sunday, it will head to Abbott’s desk for a signature. The conference committee reinstalled a Senate provision in the bill that would allow only state lawmakers to serve as delegates — House members had modified the bill in April to expand membership to citizens and the governor — while keeping out language that would impose criminal penalties on delegates who cast an "unauthorized vote" without the Legislature's blessing.

Texas Tribune - May 23, 2017

Dozens of Abbott appointees surpass donor threshold targeted by stalled "pay for play" bill

Legislation that would have ended “pay for play” appointments by the Texas governor has stalled at the Capitol, which seems like good news for big political donors hoping Gov. Greg Abbott will appoint them to state boards and commissions. At least 71 of Abbott’s nearly 800 current appointees appear to have donated more than $2,500 to the governor’s campaign account since 2013, giving a combined total of at least $8.6 million, according to a Texas Tribune analysis of campaign finance reports and a list of Abbott appointees received from the governor's office through an open records request. The legislation would not affect current appointees.

Texas Tribune - May 24, 2017

Paxton, prosecutors tangle over court's jurisdiction to oust judge

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton's months-long effort to remove the judge in his securities fraud case is coming to a head in a Dallas appeals court. Prosecutors say the 5th Court of Appeals has no jurisdiction to get rid of the judge, George Gallagher, because he has moved the case out of its reach — to Harris County. But Paxton's lawyers say there is no evidence the case has been sent there yet, making the 5th Court of Appeals the appropriate place to push for Gallagher's removal. The 5th Court of Appeals paused the case earlier this month to give all sides an opportunity to hash out the dispute. A number of responses stemming from that decision were due Tuesday.

Texas Tribune - May 23, 2017

House votes to end jail time for being too poor to pay fines

Legislation that would make it easier for poor people to satisfy traffic tickets with alternatives to payment cleared the Texas House on Tuesday on a vote of 75-70. The bill needs to be approved by the Senate again before moving to Gov. Greg Abbott's desk. Senate Bill 1913, by state Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, would allow courts to ask defendants if they are too poor to pay for traffic tickets; fines for other low-level and fine-only offenses; or court costs. After making that determination, courts would be allowed to reduce or waive fines and costs and offer community service as an alternative.

Texas Tribune - May 23, 2017

House members issue loud demand for Senate action

Some members of the Texas House on Tuesday issued a loud demand for the Senate to take action on their bills — or else. "When the Senate won't respect us, they need to expect us," state Rep. Harold Dutton, D-Houston, said, shortly before asking his colleagues to open the House chamber doors so senators could hear their protest. House members then roared with disapproval, just the latest example of tensions flaring between the two chambers in the final days of the legislative session. The last day of the session is Monday.

Texas Tribune - May 23, 2017

Grieving mom “humbled” and “relieved” after Senate passes autopsy bill

As the Texas Senate passed a bill on Tuesday that would ensure parents can view their deceased child's body before an autopsy is conducted, a grieving mother shed tears from the gallery. Lara McDaniel, who brought the idea for the legislation to her lawmakers, lost her son, Wyatt, in an accident four years ago. She wasn't allowed to see his body until three days after his death — after an autopsy had been conducted. Currently, parents need permission from a justice of the peace or medical examiner to see their deceased child if his or her death occurs outside a hospital or health care institution.

Houston Chronicle - May 22, 2017

Education culture wars stifle GOP Legislature

The fate of millions of dollars in education funding and school bathroom policies for transgender children hung in limbo Monday as lawmakers braced for the last full week of a legislative session marked by power grabs over contentious cultural battles in the Republican-controlled Legislature. State lawmakers are set to adjourn May 29, but they have yet to resolve issues that have driven a wedge between the two chambers. The continued infighting, which often involves social issues like religion and class conflicts, could affect millions of public school students or spark a special session that could keep lawmakers in Austin into the summer.

Houston Chronicle - May 23, 2017

HC: Support McRaven -- The UT System leader deserves time and the regents' backing to fulfill his vision.

Forty years ago this month, a son of a World War II Spitfire pilot who attended college on a track scholarship picked up his diploma from the University of Texas and celebrated his commission in the U.S. Navy. William McRaven would rise to the rank of admiral and oversee the daring SEAL raid against Osama bin Laden. But many of his fellow Longhorn alums now remember him best for the inspirational commencement address he delivered to the graduating Class of 2014.

Houston Chronicle - May 23, 2017

Federal lawsuit accuses CPS of discriminating against black children, families

A federal civil rights suit in Houston accuses Child Protective Services of discriminating against African-American children, saying they are likelier to be separated from their parents and extended families than white children. The suit was filed earlier this year by an Arizona woman who was denied custody of a young nephew, who instead was approved for adoption by a white foster family in Houston. The suit brought a group of community activists Tuesday to the federal courthouse in Houston, where they decried generations of "robbed and stolen opportunities for kinship families" through what they contend is a pattern of discrimination by CPS.

Houston Chronicle - May 23, 2017

Trump proposes slashing Gulf royalty payments to Texas, other states

President Donald Trump wants the federal government to stop sharing oil and gas royalties from the Gulf of Mexico with Texas and other states along the Gulf Coast. In his budget proposal for 2018, the White House proposes eliminating a decade old program that was set to deliver $275 million to Texas, Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi next year. Texas Governor Greg Abbott did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The funding goes in part to maintaining wetlands that are fast disappearing along the Gulf Coast.

Houston Chronicle - May 23, 2017

How will Texas continue to pay for its highways?

Texas is a highway state. This reality stems from the need to meet the mobility demands of both sprawling metropolitan regions and vast rural areas. Paying for the state's massive system of highways has always been a challenge, however. Estimates from the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) put the state's highway expansion and maintenance needs alone at nearly $383 billion by 2040. Existing public funding, projected to be $70 billion over the next decade, will not be able to cover that cost without unprecedented funding increases after 2026. While Texans are clearly amenable to paying for better roads — two recent state referendums added $2 billion annually to state highway funds — voters and politicians alike have balked at the idea of new toll roads and the public-private partnerships that are often used to facilitate their formation.

Houston Chronicle - May 23, 2017

Patterson: Conservatives' 401(k) push is big risk for public-sector employees

It used to be that being "conservative" meant being cautious about untested change, preferring tinkering instead of complete overhaul to institutions that developed over time to serve particular public needs. If the current Texas Legislative session is any guide, that definition no longer applies to self-identified "conservatives" who seek to dismantle traditional retirement plans for police, firefighters and municipal employees. Their push toward 401(k) style plans is a radical approach with unproven benefit. As background, the Texas Legislature established the defined-benefit plan for Houston firefighters in state law in 1937. The Houston municipal and police pension systems were established in state law in 1943 and 1947, respectively.

Houston Chronicle - May 23, 2017

Food bank asks for help fighting food shaming in Texas schools

Capitalizing on outrage over "food shaming" in Texas schools, the Feeding Texas food bank is launching a campaign asking the public to help pay down school lunch tabs that parents of poor students are unable to pay off. It's part of a effort sparked by the Texas House derailing legislation earlier this month that would have granted a two-week grace period to children without money on their lunch accounts while schools reach out to parents to make the account current. Children who run out of money are given a sandwich or cereal instead of the lunch being served to other students. More than 78,000 students in the Houston area collectively owed more than $673,000 for unpaid meals, the Chronicle reported last month. Only four of 32 school districts surveyed did not serve different food to students who ran out of money on their accounts.

Houston Chronicle - May 23, 2017

Shifting more state functions to nonprofits raises transparency questions

In February, when Land Commissioner George P. Bush testified before a Texas House subcommittee about the details of a private nonprofit organization's management of the treasured Alamo, he assured lawmakers and the public that their business would comply with transparency laws that allow the public to know what's going on. Weeks later, though, his own agency declined to make public meeting minutes and other operational details about the Alamo Endowment and the Alamo Complex Management Company. The reason: "The Endowment and the ACM are GLO contractors, not governmental entities," Hadassah Schloss, Bush's open government director, wrote days later after a request for the information by the Houston Chronicle seeking a ruling from Attorney General Ken Paxton about whether the information should be kept secret.

Houston Chronicle - May 22, 2017

Abbott announces early results of violent crime initiative for Houston area

Gov. Greg Abbott announced Monday that one month after pledging resources to fight violent crime in Harris County and the city of Houston more than 450 arrests have already been made. The statement from Abbott doesn't include how this compares to previous months, but he said the arrests include 26 suspects from various robbery crews. The announcement comes after the governor's brief visit in early April to announce an operation dubbed Operation North Star. During that visit Abbott said that crime in Harris County and Houston was increasing at "an alarming rate," citing a recent wave of violent and notable murders in the region.

Houston Chronicle - May 23, 2017

Just one vote left for Houston pension reform package

Houston's pension reform plan is one vote away from the governor's desk with the final approval of the Texas Senate Tuesday evening. The upper chamber gave Mayor Sylvester Turner's landmark proposal the same 25-5 margin of victory it received three weeks ago when the proposal came to the Senate floor the first time. The reform package is expected to reach a final vote in the House on Wednesday. Three amendments friendly to firefighters – who oppose the reforms – that had been added in the House were stripped Sunday night by a conference committee tasked with reconciling the bill's two versions.

Dallas Morning News - May 23, 2017

The art of the schmooze: Trump pal from Dallas enjoys special access to White House

The guy with the slicked-back red hair, bodyguard build and quick-draw handshake glided through the hotel ballroom with his buddy Donald Trump Jr., schmoozing with GOP leaders and pointing out the Texas flag on Trump’s belt buckle. Gentry Beach, ebullient stock trader and proud son of Highland Park, had become a rising star in Republican fundraising almost overnight. He was one of two Texans Trump singled out from the stage of the Dallas Omni at the March event. Not only did they raise millions of dollars for the campaign, Trump said, but they also spent seven months with him on the road, doing everything from “taking selfies to carrying my bags.”

Dallas Morning News - May 23, 2017

Dallas lawmaker announces new effort to fight 'lunch shaming' of kids

A new program aims to stop kids from facing the pain, embarrassment and blow to self-esteem that comes when their lunch is taken away at school because of insufficient funds in their accounts. Rep. Helen Giddings, D-Dallas, announced a new effort Tuesday to collect donations that will help pay for delinquent lunch accounts at schools that are doing the right thing to stop "lunch shaming." The move came after a political maneuver killed her bill aimed at stopping the practice, and she received an outpouring of support from those "appalled by this bold disregard for the well-being of our children," she said.

Dallas Morning News - May 24, 2017

Senate to reject compromise 'bathroom bill' as House Democrat kills late-night attempt to revive it

The Texas Senate will reject the so-called bathroom bill passed in the House late Sunday and request a special committee to work out a compromise on the legislation. Sen. Larry Taylor, R-Friendswood, confirmed to The Dallas Morning News late Tuesday he wouldn't accept changes made to his Senate Bill 2078, asking the House to appoint the conference committee. Then just before 1:30 a.m. Wednesday, the Senate tacked its original bathroom bill onto a catch-all piece of legislation meant as a cleanup bill for local county governance. The Senate hasn't voted on the catch-all bill yet — lawmakers lacked enough votes to pass it immediately — but its House author is planning to kill it out of retribution.

Dallas Morning News - May 24, 2017

Marshall law: How patent suits shaped a small East Texas town before Supreme Court's ruling

When the lawyers come to town, locals say they can tell. Cars fill up the courthouse parking lot and more are Lexuses instead of pickups. Businesspeople in suits join locals at popular lunch spots. And at the town’s only shoe shop, steel-toed boots are pushed aside so workers can polish pairs of black and brown loafers that arrive all at once. Marshall may be a small town in far East Texas, but in the world of patent litigation, it has been a giant. The Eastern District of Texas — which includes a federal courthouse in Marshall — draws more patent cases than any of the 93 other districts in the U.S. Of all patent cases in the country, 1 in 4 were assigned to a single Marshall judge in recent years.

Dallas Morning News - May 23, 2017

Abbott plows more money into bid to halt foster kids from sleeping in CPS offices

Gov. Greg Abbott on Tuesday ordered Texas' protective services agency to quickly spend about $3.5 million in a bid to halt abused children from sleeping in state office buildings. Abbott asked the Department of Family and Protective Services to rush the money out the door to provide placements for kids removed from their families but rejected by foster-care providers. Once again, an increasing number of children in Child Protective Services' custody are being forced to sleep in offices and hotels under 24-hour supervision by already-slammed CPS workers.

Dallas Morning News - May 23, 2017

Texas Senate revives proposal to ban abortion coverage through primary insurance plans

Sen. Larry Taylor revived his proposal to require women to purchase separate insurance plans for abortion coverage, attaching the provision Monday night to a bill concerning data that insurance providers collect about physicians. The measure would prohibit abortion coverage under primary care plans through private insurers and the Affordable Care Act. Implementing such a restriction has been a priority for GOP Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick. The Senate initially approved the bill late Monday with a 20-11 vote. A final vote was expected Tuesday, at which point the bill will head to the House for consideration.

Dallas Morning News - May 23, 2017

Giovanetti: Texas leaders are failing to pursue conservative principles, and the thwarted sale of Oncor is a perfect example

We're in the final days of the 85th Texas Legislature, and as a conservative, I find myself experiencing a disconcerting level of déjà vu. In yet another legislative cycle, Texas voters have sent a substantial cadre of conservative legislators to Austin, and yet again, anything resembling a free-market agenda has barely budged. It's becoming a familiar pattern: Conservative politicians campaign promising radical change on spending, education, taxes and regulation. Voters send them to Austin, where they spend four months trying to expand firearms and limit abortion, and then when the Legislature is done, Republican and tea party groups all over the state laud them for being "conservative champions." Wash, rinse, repeat.

Dallas Morning News - May 23, 2017

Texas House overhauls voter ID bill, setting up showdown with Senate

The Texas House on Tuesday made major changes to a bill aimed at revamping the state’s controversial voter identification law, setting up a showdown with the Senate in the final week of the legislative session. Senate Bill 5 is a high priority for some state leaders — including Gov. Greg Abbott, who declared it an emergency item Sunday night. It would show that the state tried to address issues with the 2011 law before an upcoming federal district court hearing in a years-long legal battle over it. Texas' voter ID law is considered one of the strictest in the country.

San Antonio Express News - May 23, 2017

House annexation bill would affect S.A.’s relationship with military bases

A bill that would limit cities’ ability to annex unincorporated areas by giving residents a chance to vote on the issue was approved by the Texas House, angering city officials across the state. SB 715, authored by state Sen. Donna Campbell, R-New Braunfels, could allow unincorporated subdivisions to veto city annexation plans and freeze the boundaries of Texas cities. The bill is on its way to the Senate, which can concur with added amendments from the House or create a conference committee to reach a compromise on the bill. “The reason this country was founded was because people wanted the right to vote,” state Rep. Dan Huberty, R-Houston, the bill’s House sponsor, said. “Do we represent our mayors and city councils, or do we represent our constituents? People that we represent have the right to decide what city they live in.”

Associated Press - May 23, 2017

Bill could turn back page, return power to Texas board of ed

The often-combative Texas Board of Education would expand its ability to reject textbooks it doesn't like, rolling back limits that have been in place for more than two decades, under a proposal on the verge of clearing the state Legislature. Some fear the bill's benign language would, intentionally or not, return broad influence to a veteran bloc of social conservatives on the 15-member, elected board. That same group previously has attempted to deemphasize lessons on evolution and climate change, and insist that publishers edit classroom materials to better conform to Republican ideology. How impactful is the textbook market in Texas? Large enough that changes made for the state can affect what's taught nationwide, though modern, electronic classroom materials have made it easier to tailor lessons to individual states and school districts — thus diluting Texas' national influence some in recent years.

This article appeared in the San Antonio Express News

Associated Press - May 23, 2017

Texas Senate OKs mandating reports on abortion complications

Texas lawmakers are moving closer to requiring the collection of more-detailed reports about complications from abortions performed statewide The state Senate late Tuesday approved 22-9 a bill mandating that medical clinics report abortion complications, and that the state health department produce an annual report on that data. The measure needs final Senate approval, likely to come Wednesday. It was already approved by the House, but would head back to that chamber because of changes the Senate made.

This article appeared in the San Antonio Express News

Associated Press - May 23, 2017

Texas OKs fines for police not reporting civilian killings

The Texas Senate has approved a bill seeking new accountability standards for police departments reporting when an officer kills a civilian — sending it to the governor. Senators passed the measure by Dallas Democratic Rep. Eric Johnson 28-3 on Tuesday. Earlier this month, the House first defeated the bill 71-70, but then moved to reconsider and easily approved it.

This article appeared in the San Antonio Express News

San Antonio Express News - May 24, 2017

Bathroom legislation heading to committee

The Texas transgender “bathroom bill” likely is headed to a conference committee as the Senate is slated to reject the House’s version that affected only schools. Passionate arguments about the House proposal touted as restricting which school restrooms transgender students can use gave way Tuesday to arguments over whether the legislation would actually restrict much of anything. “I don’t think it’s near strong enough,” said Rep. Jonathan Stickland of Bedford, a member of the tea party aligned Texas Freedom Caucus who, like almost all House Republicans, voted for the proposal. That sentiment was far from universal in the House, but importantly, it’s shared b

San Antonio Express News - May 23, 2017

House approves changed voter ID bill; Democrats still likely to challenge it in court

After a six-hour debate, the Texas House voted Tuesday to overhaul the state’s 2011 voter ID law, among the strictest in the nation, but not before adding major changes to the Senate-backed legislation that has emerged as one of the top priorities for lawmakers in the session’s last week. A legal challenge from Democrats is likely if the bill clears the Legislature, as expected, and is signed into law by Gov. Greg Abbott.

San Antonio Express News - May 23, 2017

Texas moves to soften voter ID law after judge finds bias

A weakened Texas voter ID law moved closer to Republican Gov. Greg Abbott's desk on Tuesday, watering down an original version that a judge compared to a "poll tax" and ruled had intentionally discriminated against minorities. Republicans are pushing changes with urgency: the Texas Legislature has less than a week left to pass bills before adjourning until 2019, and federal courts that have confronted the state over voting rights in recent years are watching. The new version passed by the GOP-controlled Texas House doesn't expand the list of acceptable photo identifications — meaning gun licenses remain sufficient proof to vote, but not college student IDs. In April, U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos again ruled that the strict requirements disadvantaged minorities, effectively dampening the electoral power of Texas' surging Hispanic population.

San Antonio Express News - May 22, 2017

SAEN: Texas Southern erred in canceling Cornyn’s speech

Texas Southern University erred in a big way by canceling U.S. Sen. John Cornyn’s commencement speech. It’s a diverse world shaped, thankfully, by a wide range of opinions, viewpoints and philosophies. To live in a world shaped exclusively by agreement would be dull and cyclical. And yet that’s just the message Texas Southern sent to its graduates by canceling Cornyn’s speech. The university said it’s better to avoid diversity of thought and opinion than listen to each other. It’s better to coddle than to respectfully confront and engage.

Texas Observer - May 22, 2017

Two North Texas Evangelicals Ask: Who Would Jesus Deport?

As Texas Republicans and President Donald Trump enact the most sweeping anti-immigrant measures in decades, they’ve been met with fierce criticism from most major religious groups. Not white evangelicals, though. After playing a key role in Trump’s victory, evangelicals are the only religious group to back the president’s Muslim ban by a large majority. Dallas megachurch pastor Robert Jeffress likely spoke for many when he called for the United States to “say no to immigration and refugees until government starts performing its God-given responsibility of securing the borders.”

KUT - May 23, 2017

Climate Change Could Take Center Stage In Texas Congressional Race

It’s still a long time before the congressional midterm elections in November 2018. But a lot of candidates are already showing interest in running. And many of them are embracing an environmental message that, traditionally, has been kept on the sidelines. Ask Derrick Crowe why he had jumped into the Democratic primary for District 21, which includes a big part of Austin, and he starts talking climate change right out of the gate. “I have a 2-year-old son, his name's Henry, and he's never known a year that wasn’t the hottest year in [modern] history on the planet," he says, "and that alarms me."

US News - May 23, 2017

Texas Swagger Gaining Clout

Lloyd Potter is a numbers guy whose role as Texas state demographer keeps him ever-mindful of the state's population boom, especially along what's called the Texas Triangle, a sector linking the metro areas of three of the nation's 10 largest cities (Dallas, Houston and San Antonio) with a top-10 wannabe (Austin) at No. 11. Texas already is the country's second largest state in both geographic size and human numbers. Yet its rising population, along with newly minted Texans from other states, is positioning the Lone Star State to gain more electoral votes and House seats after the 2020 Census. Four of its metro areas are among the country's largest in population and many of its counties are among the fastest-growing. With 38 electoral votes and 36 members in the U.S. House today, Texas is poised for greater national influence in the future -- and may well find renewed cause for that Texas swagger.

County Stories

Dallas Morning News - May 23, 2017

Politically correct Americans 'better wake up' to terrorist threat, Denton County sheriff warns

An outspoken North Texas lawman took to Facebook after Monday's deadly bombing in England to warn residents a similar attack could happen here. "This is what happens when you disarm your citizens," Denton County Sheriff Tracy Murphree wrote. "When you open your borders without the proper vetting. When you allow political correctness to dictate how you respond to an enemy that wants to kill you." At least 22 people were killed and more than 50 were injured in the explosion outside an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester. The Islamic State claimed the attacker — whom police identified as 22-year-old Salman Abedi, who was born in Manchester — as one of its own.

City Stories

Dallas Morning News - May 23, 2017

Former Garland schools HR director admits to abusing visa program, issues apology

Former Garland ISD human resources director Victor Leos appeared in federal court Tuesday and told a judge that he is guilty in a scheme to abuse work visas to recruit hundreds of teachers. Leos, 63, has admitted to receiving kickbacks, travel and other benefits while using H-1B visas to attract bilingual teachers from Mexico, Central and South America and the Philippines. Leos agreed to prosecutors' claims that from about 2007 to 2012, he recruited and hired foreign teachers that Garland ISD did not necessarily need. Victor Leos, former human resources director for Garland ISD.(Garland ISD) Victor Leos, former human resources director for Garland ISD. (Garland ISD) Leos' attorney, Robert H. Rogers of Dallas, released a statement on his client's behalf after the arraignment hearing. "Mr. Leos apologizes to Garland Independent School District and to all of the teachers and students of the district for his conduct," the statement said.

Dallas Morning News - May 23, 2017

Shared sacrifice and real compromise save the Dallas police pension — for now

Victory has a hundred fathers, the saying goes, so there’s a lot of credit to pass around for the rescue of the Dallas Police and Fire Pension System. After many months of work in Dallas and Austin, a bill to stabilize and reform the pension will soon become law. Last week, leading players from both sides held a news conference to celebrate the final breakthrough, and they deserve congratulations for resolving one of Dallas' top problems. The pension fix shifts oversight power to Dallas, the primary goal for the city. It protects benefits for current and future retirees, and ensures that Dallas will continue to contribute heavily to keep the plan solvent, which were essential commitments to police and firefighters.

Austin American-Statesman - May 23, 2017

TxDOT to pay $8.9 million for Southeast Austin site to combine offices

The Texas Department of Transportation, looking to consolidate several of its Austin facilities, will pay $8.9 million for 49 acres of vacant land in Southeast Austin, assuming that the Texas Transportation Commission approves the sale this week. The wooded land, near East Stassney Lane and Burleson Road, would become the home of about 2,200 TxDOT workers now housed in three leased buildings on East Riverside Drive, at the agency’s venerable Camp Hubbard site along North MoPac Boulevard (Loop 1) at West 35th Street, and at a warehouse on Centimeter Circle, a short street in a complex of commercial buildings in North Austin. That location is also the site of TxDOT’s print shop. In addition, TxDOT plans to move to the new site the contents of a rented warehouse on West Braker Lane.

Austin American-Statesman - May 23, 2017

Austin’s ‘ban the box’ rule dodges bullet at Senate

Austin’s “ban the box” ordinance, which prevents companies from asking job applicants to acknowledge their criminal history early in the hiring process, dodged a bullet Tuesday at the Texas Senate. Sen. Joan Huffman, R-Houston, had deleted the original wording of House Bill 91 in committee, replacing it with a ban on such ordinances, telling the Senate that she did not believe it was government’s place to tell private businesses how to make hiring decisions. Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas, called a point of order, noting that the bill no longer matched its caption, which said HB 91 was about “occupational licensing requirements and an applicant’s criminal history.”

National Stories

Houston Chronicle - May 24, 2017

DePillis: Trump budget appears to zero out consumer watchdog agency

The Trump administration would kill the watchdog agency established to protect consumers from unscrupulous financial companies by eliminating its funding. The White House budget submitted to Congress Tuesday contains no money for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, created in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis after millions of Americans fell victim to predatory mortgage lending. The agency scrutinize banks, payday lenders, debt collectors and other financial services on behalf of consumers. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, however, has drawn the ire of industry since its founding in 2011 for fining bad actors and writing tough new rules on lending practices. Republicans have said they want to "rein in" the agency.

Houston Chronicle - May 22, 2017

Texas businessman (and friend) flies to DC to oppose Kevin Brady's border tax plan

Tony Noun, the owner of Texas Auto 290 in Hempstead, Texas, is going to Washington on Monday to kill what he considers a very bad deal: the so-called border "adjustment" tax championed by his congressman, House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady, a Republican from The Woodlands. For Noun, it's nothing personal, just business. Noun, a founder of United Republicans of Texas, former state House candidate, and an immigrant from Lebanon, considers himself a friend of Brady. He has supported Brady in past elections. But he's "vehemently" opposed to the border tax.

Politico - May 23, 2017

Trump slips infrastructure plan into budget

The Trump administration finally laid out its long-promised vision for a $1 trillion national infrastructure plan Tuesday — with nary a peep of fanfare and the president not even in the country to talk it up. It arrived as a six-page fact sheet packaged with President Donald Trump’s $4.1 trillion proposed 2018 budget. As expected, it laid out a vision for $200 billion in direct federal spending over the next decade on needs such as roads, bridges, tunnels, railroads and expanded broadband, along with incentives for states, cities and private investors and efforts to reduce the burdens of regulations.

Politico - May 23, 2017

Heffernan: Trump Is America’s Most Honest President

I. Never. Mentioned. The Word. ‘Israel,’” said President Donald Trump, drawing out the syllables, performing hard eye contact with the dozens of cameras, as Israel’s prime minister stood by in a brief press conference in Jerusalem on Monday. Trump spoke in that “make no mistake” way, with notes of the old tune, “I did not have sexual relations with that woman.” If cameras can cringe, these seemed to. Then Benjamin Netanyahu’s stony face hit a new level of stoniness; he drew close to his body the open arms with which he had promised to welcome Trump one day earlier. In an Internet minute, video of Trump’s claim ricocheted around Twitter.

Washington Post - May 23, 2017

Trump advisers call for privatizing some public assets to build new infrastructure

The Trump administration, determined to overhaul and modernize the nation’s infrastructure, is drafting plans to privatize some public assets such as airports, bridges, highway rest stops and other facilities, according to top officials and advisers. In his proposed budget released Tuesday, President Trump called for spending $200 billion over 10 years to “incentivize” private, state and local spending on infrastructure. Trump advisers said that to entice state and local governments to sell some of their assets, the administration is considering paying them a bonus.

Washington Post - May 23, 2017

Justice Department asks in budget proposal that cities be forced to detain illegal immigrants

The Justice Department is pushing as a part of its budget proposal to change federal law so that local jurisdictions can be forced to detain suspected illegal immigrants upon request. The move would give the administration far more leeway to make good on its promise to crack down on “sanctuary cities” — although it would surely meet resistance from some local law enforcement agencies that do not want their officers used to enforce immigration law. “Having states and local jurisdictions enforce federal immigration law terrorizes immigrant communities and makes the whole community less, not more, safe, as police chiefs around the country recognize,” said Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the ACLU’s national Immigrants’ Rights Project.

Washington Post - May 24, 2017

The White House and congressional Democrats both think they’re morally right on the budget. They can’t both win.

White House budget director Mick Mulvaney appeared in front of the House Budget Committee on Wednesday, and the stark differences in the way Democrats, congressional Republicans and the Trump administration view government spending became clear within the first 15 minutes. In short: The Trump administration says huge cuts in government spending are critical to cut the deficit, and are a moral imperative. Mulvaney repeatedly came back to his argument that the government has a moral responsibility to spend taxpayer dollars wisely, arguing that government spending in many areas is ineffective and wasteful. Democrats couldn't disagree more.

Austin American-Statesman - May 24, 2017

First Reading: John Kasich can be prickly. The winner of one Texas electoral vote appears at BookPeople

From an April 30, 2015 Molly Ball profile of Kasich in the Atlantic: The Unpleasant Charisma of John Kasich: He’s tamed the federal budget and brought Ohio’s economy back from the brink. His next target might be the White House—and he could be 2016’s most interesting candidate. The thing about John Kasich is, he’s kind of a jerk. Lobbyists in Columbus warn their clients before meeting the governor not to take it personally if he berates them. A top Ohio Republican donor once publicly vowed not to give Kasich a penny after finding him to be “unpleasantly arrogant.” As a congressman, Kasich sometimes lashed out at constituents—one who called him a “redneck” in a 1985 letter got a reply recommending he “enroll in a remedial course on protocol”—and when Kasich was thrown out of a Grateful Dead concert for trying to join the band onstage, he allegedly threatened to use his clout to have the band banned from D.C. As I was writing this article, Kasich’s press secretary, Rob Nichols, helpfully emailed me the thesaurus entry for “prickly,” sensing that I would need it.

Houston Chronicle - May 24, 2017

McNaughton-Cassill: We can't ignore mental illness; it won't just go away

Ironically, I was sitting in a meeting about mental health on my campus at the University of Texas at San Antonio when the first texts came in about the recent horrific attack at UT-Austin - four students stabbed, one fatally, outside their campus gym. And just two days later, in Dallas, there was a murder-suicide on a community college campus. In both cases, news accounts mentioned mental illness. These types of tragedies create particular challenges for clinical professionals. On one hand, we want people to recognize and respond appropriately to signs of mental distress. On the other, we need people to realize that the majority of violent crimes are NOT committed by people who are mentally ill.

Politico - May 24, 2017

Central pillar of House tax reform plan draws friendly fire

The fault lines widened Tuesday over a major pillar of the tax overhaul being pushed by House Republican leaders, with the proposal drawing stronger criticism from the Trump administration and getting a cool reception by some GOP members of the House tax-writing committee whose chairman is a staunch advocate. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin took the unusual step of openly criticizing the provision, which is being pushed by Speaker Paul Ryan and other GOP leaders.

Politico - May 24, 2017

Grunwald: Trump’s Budget Scam

I have a plan to dunk a basketball. First, I’ll grow a foot taller. Next, I’ll recapture the athleticism of my youth, so I can jump a lot higher. I didn’t say I had a serious plan—just a plan. Today, the Trump administration released a plan to balance the federal budget over the next decade, and it’s no more plausible than my plan to become LeBron James. It does reveal the administration’s fiscal priorities, like deep cuts in spending on the less fortunate and the environment, no cuts to Medicare or Social Security retirement benefits, steady increases in spending on the military and the border, and an abiding faith in the restorative miracles of tax cuts for corporations and well-off families. But its claim to a balanced bottom line is based on a variety of heroic assumptions and hide-the-ball evasions, obscuring trillions of dollars’ worth of debt that it could pile onto America’s credit card.

New York Times - May 24, 2017

Fox News Retracts Story Linking Murder of D.N.C. Aide to 2016 Presidential Campaign

Fox News on Tuesday retracted a story linking the murder of a Democratic National Committee staff member with the email hacks that aided President Trump’s campaign, effectively quashing a conspiracy theory that had taken hold across the right-wing news media. It was a rare acknowledgment of error by the network. But it also underscored a schism between the network’s news-gathering operation and one of its biggest stars: the conservative commentator Sean Hannity, who has unapologetically promoted the theory and remained defiant on Tuesday. “These are questions that I have a moral obligation to ask,” Mr. Hannity said on his radio show, shortly after Fox News announced its mistake. “All you in the liberal media — I am not Fox.com or FoxNews.com. I retracted nothing.”

Washington Post - May 24, 2017

Pope welcomes Trump at the Vatican despite past disagreements

Pope Francis welcomed President Trump to the cradle of Roman Catholicism on Wednesday, delivering a message of peace even as the pontiff emphasized his role as the world’s moral counterpoint to the president’s nationalist agenda. The two men met in the pope’s private study for nearly half an hour, joined only by an interpreter. The pontiff, in white papal dress and a pectoral cross on a chain around his neck, sat behind a small desk while Trump, in a dark suit and navy striped tie, took the single chair across from him as if interviewing for a job. After some initial awkwardness — Trump looked somewhat uneasy as he was kept waiting for a few seconds in the Saint Ambrose room before shaking hands with Francis, who was stone-faced at first — the atmosphere soon warmed.

Dallas Morning News - May 23, 2017

Lindenberger: What would it legally take for Congress to impeach Trump?

Jeffrey Rosen is chief executive of the National Constitution Center, which is chartered by Congress to "disseminate information about the Constitution on a non-partisan basis." He's also a journalist and author, most recently of Louis Brandeis: American Prophet. He will speak in Dallas at the One Day University June 12 at 7:30 p.m. The talk, sponsored by The Dallas Morning News, is titled "The Supreme Court: What Next?" Q: Let's start by talking about President Donald Trump. Many have argued that his firing of FBI Director James Comey in the midst of an investigation into his campaign's contacts with Russia raises constitutional questions. What are they? A: Everyone concedes that President Trump had the technical authority to fire James Comey. Nevertheless, to prove obstruction of justice in court requires evidence of specific intent to impede an investigation.

Dallas Morning News - May 23, 2017

Thiessen: Leakers who revealed Israel as intelligence source did far more damage than Trump

President Donald Trump has landed in Israel amid controversy over the disclosure that Israel was the source of highly classified intelligence on details of an Islamic State plot he reportedly shared with Russian diplomats — evidence, his critics say, that Trump cannot be trusted with U.S. secrets. One problem with that: Trump did not reveal to anyone that Israel was the source of the intelligence he shared with the Russians. So how did The New York Times, which broke the news of Israel's role, find out? According to The Times, its sources were "a current and a former American official familiar with how the United States obtained the information" who "spoke on the condition of anonymity" because they "were not authorized to discuss the matter." NBC News, meanwhile, reported that it had confirmed the Israeli role "with three government officials with knowledge of the matter."

The Hill - May 22, 2017

Trump approval falls 4 points in new survey

President Trump’s job approval rating has hit a new low in the latest Harvard-Harris Poll survey, with weeks of controversy taking their toll on Trump’s embattled administration. Trump’s job approval rating has fallen to 45 percent from 49 percent in March. The approval rating is at the high end compared with other surveys, which typically survey all residents, not just voters. In the RealClearPolitics average of polls, Trump has a 39.6 percent approval rating and 54.7 disapproval rating.

Sky News - May 23, 2017

Trump may surprise on climate change: Gore

US President Donald Trump may 'surprise' people when it comes to acting on climate change, says former vice president and environmental crusader Al Gore. A decade after his award-winning environmental documentary An Inconvenient Truth, Gore is back at Cannes Film Festival with An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power, which follows him to the 2015 UN Climate Change Conference in Paris. President Trump has vowed to quit the Paris Agreement which came out of the 2015 conference and aims to see an international reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. 'I do believe there is a better than even chance that (Trump) will surprise many by keeping the US in the Paris Agreement, I don't know that he will but there's a chance he will,' Gore said on the sidelines at Cannes on Monday.

The Hill - May 23, 2017

Is a wave election forming for Democrats?

Democrats are increasingly bullish about the prospect of a wave election in 2018 amid backlash against the passage of the House GOP’s ObamaCare replacement bill and the snowballing revelations coming out of the White House. Nonpartisan election handicappers have begun to shift the House further away from the Republican majority, in part due to President Trump’s tepid approval ratings and the FBI’s investigation into possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russia. While Republicans and ballot forecasters stress that there’s still 18 months to go until the midterm elections, most concede that the trend lines are ominous. “Anyone who thinks the House isn’t in play is kidding themselves,” a former GOP aide told The Hill.

New York Times - May 23, 2017

Meet the People Facing Trump’s Budget Cuts

For Lucia Rodriguez, misplaced car keys mean more than an unexpected cab ride or a missed party. Without her car, Ms. Rodriguez, her husband and their three children cannot make the weekly trip from their Nueces County, Tex., home and a well with a history of arsenic problems to a store to buy bottled water to drink. So for two agonizing days in February, the family carefully rationed one remaining gallon of bottled water as Ms. Rodriguez, 29, searched frantically for her keys. “It’s like we are living in a foreign country and we don’t have the luxury of turning on a faucet,” she said. Now, Ms. Rodriguez and a local group advocating water improvements are pushing to connect the community to fresh surface water about four miles away, tapping a federal funding source called the Community Development Block Grant program.

New York Times - May 23, 2017

Jared Kushner’s Other Real Estate Empire

The townhouse on High Seas Court in the Cove Village development, in the Baltimore suburb of Essex, was not exactly the Cape Cod retreat that its address implied: It was a small unit looking onto a parking lot, the windows of its two bedrooms so high and narrow that a child would have had to stand on a chair to see out of them. But to Kamiia Warren, who moved into the townhouse in 2004, it was a refuge, and a far cry from the East Baltimore neighborhood where she grew up. “I mean, there were bunny rabbits all hopping around,” she told me recently. In the townhouse next door lived an older woman with whom Warren became friendly, even doing her grocery shopping once in a while. But over the course of a few months, the woman started acting strangely. She began accosting Warren’s visitors. She shouted through the walls during the day. And at night she banged on the wall, right where Warren kept the bassinet in which her third child slept, waking him up.

Houston Chronicle - May 23, 2017

Border chief says 'the message is out' and crossers are being scared away

On a day when President Donald Trump proposed $2.6 billion in new spending for border security, including $1.6 billion for a wall, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection chief told Congress that would-be border crossers are already being scared away by the administration's sweeping executive order on immigration. "The message is out," said Ronald Vitiello, the border agency's acting deputy commissioner, told a Senate panel Tuesday. "The executive order calls for the end of catch and release." Noting the dramatic reduction in border apprehensions in recent months, Vitiello testified that "We are seeing a historic shift in illegal crossings along the Southwest border."

Dallas Morning News - May 23, 2017

Trump budget's $1.6 billion would build 74 miles of border wall he promised

The $1.6 billion set aside for a border wall in President Donald Trump's 2018 budget is enough for 60 miles of new barrier in Texas, plus 14 miles to replace fencing around San Diego. At that rate, it would cost nearly $50 billion to build new barrier along the full length of the Southwest border. Trump has promised a "big, beautiful wall" along the border. Supporters and detractors alike have taken that to mean he wants a physical barrier along the entire 2,000 mile border, though Trump has conceded that might not be necessary. About 654 miles of the border is currently fenced. The total would rise to 714 if Congress grants Trump's wish list for the 2018 budget.

Dallas Morning News - May 23, 2017

House GOP tries to rally support for border tax proposal that's divided Texas' business community

If the divisive policy known as a border adjustment tax is dead, then someone forgot to tell top House Republicans. The House Ways and Means Committee on Tuesday tackled the much-debated proposal to overhaul the corporate tax code by effectively taxing imports and exempting exports. And some kept pushing the idea with gusto, despite dire reviews from the White House and the Senate. That's because the provision is central to the House GOP's broader tax revamp plans, which feature a simplified tax system and lower tax rates.

All - May 23, 2017

Lead Stories

Washington Post - May 23, 2017

CIA director warned Russian security service chief about interference in election

Former CIA director John Brennan said Tuesday that he personally warned the head of Russia’s intelligence service last year that Moscow’s interference in the U.S. election would backfire and cause severe damage to the country’s relationship with the United States. Describing a previously undisclosed high-level discussion between Washington and Moscow, Brennan said in a phone conversation with the head of Russia’s domestic security service, the FSB, that “American voters would be outraged by any Russian attempt to interfere in the election.” In congressional testimony, Brennan said that such meddling “would destroy any near-term prospect of improvement” in relations between the United States and Russia. Brennan said that the FSB chief, Alexander Bortnikov, twice denied that Russia was waging such a campaign, but said he would carry Brennan’s message to Russian President Vladi­mir Putin.

Texas Tribune - May 22, 2017

Supreme Court's ruling on North Carolina redistricting strikes down a Texas line of defense

A U.S. Supreme Court ruling Monday in a North Carolina gerrymandering case could have major implications for the drawing of political maps nationwide — including Texas' long-disputed redistricting maps. In a 5-3 decision seen as a major victory for minority rights groups, the court struck down two North Carolina congressional districts, ruling that lawmakers illegally packed African-American voters into them, minimizing their political influence in the state. And in doing so, some experts say, the justices weakened a key argument that North Carolina, Texas and other southern states have made while defending gerrymandering that seemed to target minority voters: That such efforts were legal, so long as they were motivated by politics — and not race.

Houston Chronicle - May 23, 2017

Abbott wins some, loses some on ethics legislative proposals

It appears Gov. Greg Abbott will get half of the "ethics reform" package that he wanted the Legislature to pass, key lawmakers said Monday. Two of the bills likely died late Sunday when a deadline passed for a powerful House committee that sets the daily agenda. Those bills prevented lobbyists from concealing which legislators they wine and dine and made it a crime for ex-legislators who become lobbyists to pass on "official information" for two years after they leave office. That provision replaced an outright ban on lawmakers from becoming lobbyists for a two-year legislative cycle after leaving office. State Rep. Todd Hunter, the Corpus Christi Republican who is chairman of the House Calendars Committee, confirmed that SB 502 and SB 504 did not have enough support on the panel.

Dallas Morning News - May 22, 2017

Collin County votes against paying Ken Paxton prosecutors, triggering court decision

The Collin County Commissioners Court has voted to not pay the prosecutors pursuing criminal charges against Attorney General Ken Paxton. The 5th Court of Appeals last week directed the commissioners to vote on the prosecutors' latest bill before it can rule on a lawsuit challenging the fees' legality. On Monday, the commissioners voted against paying the latest invoice, which tops $205,000 for a year's work. "We're faced with a black-and-white choice: You either pay it, or you challenge it," said County Judge Keith Self, who sits on the five-member commissioners court. "But don't expect what we do today to stop the criminal trial."

Houston Chronicle - May 22, 2017

Houston ISD could be on hook for another $60M in 'recapture fees' after court ruling

Just weeks after voters approved a $77.5 million payment to the state in so-called "recapture" fees, the Houston school district could be stuck with another $60 million in fees after a judge's ruling that the state improperly slashed wealthy districts' bills. The ruling, by state District Judge Darlene Byrne in Travis County, temporarily halts an agreement by the Texas Education Agency that allowed the Houston Independent School District and other property-rich districts to reduce the amount of "equalization" payments required to fund public education. The ruling throws HISD's recapture bill back into question and could affect more than a dozen other property wealthy districts across the state, though no official list has been released.

Dallas Morning News - May 23, 2017

House GOP tries to rally support for border tax proposal that's divided Texas' business community

If the divisive policy known as a border adjustment tax is dead, then someone forgot to tell top House Republicans. The House Ways and Means Committee on Tuesday is tackling the much-debated proposal to overhaul the corporate tax code by effectively taxing imports and subsidizing exports. And some continue to push the idea with gusto, despite dire reviews from the White House and the Senate. That's because the provision is central to the House GOP's broader tax revamp plans, which feature a simplified tax system and lower tax rates.

Austin American-Statesman - May 22, 2017

Religious-refusal foster care bill heads to Gov. Abbott’s desk

A bill that would let faith-based adoption and foster care agencies decline to place children with gay, lesbian and transgender households is headed to Gov. Greg Abbott. The Texas Senate voted 21-10 to approve House Bill 3859 early Monday. All Republicans voted for the bill, along with one Democrat, Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr. of Brownsville. “Such an imbalance of rights not only could leave these children worse off than they are now; it opens the door to blatant discrimination against children and loving parents who might not share the same beliefs as some foster care providers,” Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, said before the vote. “It’s a shame that this is being done in the name of child protection.”

San Antonio Express News - May 22, 2017

Courts could put Texas GOP's aggressive agenda to the test

Texas Republicans have been pushing an aggressive agenda despite promised court challenges, including legislation that would let police ask drivers whether they're in the U.S. legally, restrict what school bathrooms transgender students can use, ban most second-trimester abortions and let adoption agencies reject gay couples over religious objections. The lawsuits have already begun: El Paso County on Monday asked a federal court to block a "sanctuary cities" crackdown signed by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott that opponents say invites racial profiling by police and will push immigrant crime victims further into the shadows. Abortion rights groups, civil rights lawyers and LGBT organizations have also renewed pledges to take the state to court this summer following a whirlwind weekend in which the Republican-controlled Legislature pushed new anti-abortion bills, a religious objections bill and a so-called "bathroom bill" closer to Abbott's desk before lawmakers adjourn May 29.

Dallas Morning News - May 23, 2017

Is 'bathroom bill' proof that business no longer drives the Texas Legislature?

Back in November, more than a month before the 85th session of the Texas legislature had begun, Dallas’ top tourism group laid out its priorities for the year ahead. High at the top of the list was eliminating the threat to the region’s economic momentum posed by a so-called bathroom bill, or legislation that would prevent transgender people from using the bathroom of their choice. "It's so important that our hospitality industry and all of our partners understand what's at risk here and help us fight this bill so that it doesn't see the light of day because it will have a devastating impact," Phillip Jones, president and chief executive of VisitDallas said at the time.

New York Times - May 22, 2017

White House Moves to Block Ethics Inquiry Into Ex-Lobbyists on Payroll

The Trump administration, in a significant escalation of its clash with the government’s top ethics watchdog, has moved to block an effort to disclose the names of former lobbyists who have been granted waivers to work in the White House or federal agencies. The latest conflict came in recent days when the White House, in a highly unusual move, sent a letter to Walter M. Shaub Jr., the head of the Office of Government Ethics, asking him to withdraw a request he had sent to every federal agency for copies of the waivers. In the letter, the administration challenged his legal authority to demand the information. Mr. Shaub returned a scalding, 10-page response to the White House late Monday, unlike just about any correspondence in the history of the office, created after the Nixon Watergate scandal.

Politico - May 22, 2017

Trump's budget hits his own voters hardest

Donald Trump, whose populist message and promises to help American workers propelled him to the White House, is set to issue a budget proposal on Tuesday that instead takes aim at the social safety net on which many of his supporters rely. Rather than breaking with Washington precedent, Trump’s spending blueprint follows established conservative orthodoxy, cutting taxes on the wealthy, boosting defense spending and taking a hatchet to programs for the poor and disabled – potentially hurting many of the rural and low-income Americans that voted him into office.

Washington Post - May 22, 2017

Flynn takes 5th on Senate subpoena as a top House Democrat alleges new evidence of lies

Retired Lt. Gen Michael Flynn, the former national security adviser under President Trump, refused to comply with a Senate Intelligence Committee subpoena as a top House Democrat disclosed portions of new documents suggesting Flynn lied about his Russia ties to federal investigators. Members of the Senate Intelligence Committee must now meet to vote and decide whether to hold Flynn in contempt or accept his attempt to invoke his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. The committee has demanded that Flynn provide it with a list of any contacts he had with Russian officials between June 16, 2015, and Jan. 20, 2017.

State Stories

Houston Chronicle - May 22, 2017

Senate approves special court programs for scofflaw cops

Low-level drug offenders have then, and so do veterans and prostitutes. If a law approved by the Texas Senate on Monday becomes law, police officers, firefighters jailers and EMS first-responders could face a specialty court if they are charged with a crime, rather than having to go through the regular court system. House Bill 3391 was approved 25-6. It now goes to Gov. Greg Abbott to be signed into law. Sen. Brian Birdwell, R-Granbury, the Senate sponsor of the measure, said the new courts for public safety employees are designed to replicate the success of veterans courts that were approved in 2009.

Dallas Morning News - May 22, 2017

Exclusive: Dozens of state workers at several agencies paid 'leave' after departing jobs

State employees in Texas don't get severance pay when they leave their jobs. In fact, it's generally required that they work 40 hours a week to receive a full paycheck. But that isn't stopping top state officials, including Attorney General Ken Paxton and Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller, from doling out hundreds of thousands of dollars in "emergency leave" to state workers in the weeks and months after they're let go. On Jan. 1, for instance, Cheryl Hines left her job as an investment manager at the Teacher Retirement System. But she received the same pay and benefits for another four months, until April 30. Hines, who received $58,000 worth of emergency leave, is just one of dozens of workers who received substantial paid leave within their final three weeks of work, a Dallas Morning News data analysis shows.

Houston Chronicle - May 23, 2017

Police consent decrees may reduce civil rights lawsuits, Texas study suggests

A study published Monday looks at whether federal consent decrees affect the number of lawsuits filed against police agencies. A team of criminology researchers at the University of Texas at Dallas found that they most likely do have an impact. Here's a transcript of our conversation with the study's lead author, professor John Worrall, who is editor of the journal Police Quarterly. How would you explain consent decrees to a fifth-grader? It’s a police department's agreement to fix unfair treatment of the citizens they serve. How about a college student? If a police department doesn’t follow the law, it can come under the attention of the federal government, specifically the U.S. Justice Department. It can be dragged into court and forced to correct those problems, if it doesn’t agree to do so.

Houston Chronicle - May 22, 2017

Hirs: Trump 'trickle-down' tax plan would be a failure for Texas

President Trump's tax plan is a rehash of a failed version of supply-side economics known as "trickle down," which claims that by sharply reducing taxes on the wealthy, who thereby get an immediate surge in net income, the overall economy will ultimately grow, thus providing the non-wealthy with more income later on and federal tax revenue to offset the lost taxes. It did not work at the federal level when President Reagan tried it in the 1980s. Eventually, President Reagan came to his senses and adopted a series of tax increases that helped reduce the federal deficit without doing any harm to the economy. In the 2010s, Kansas gave supply-side economics a try at the state level. The result is a wrecked state economy, a destroyed safety net and a broke treasury. The Texas Legislature used to know better.

Houston Chronicle - May 22, 2017

Lt. Gov. Patrick: Concern over tax-reform, bathroom bill provisions

Updating his sentiments about property-tax reform and a bathroom bill passed by the House, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick appeared Monday to hold firm on the lack of a rollback provision in the tax measure as negotiations on a final version were slated to begin. "I share Gov. Abbott's concern about the lack of a rollback provision in Senate Bill 669 in property taxes," he said in a statement. Earlier, Patrick said the automatic rollback election provision was a priority for the final bill. The House-approved version does not contain that, while the Senate-passed version did.

Houston Chronicle - May 22, 2017

HC: Restore Medicaid therapy funds

A young Houstonian named Ky' Zohn has been waiting eight months for physical therapy, which he needs for his balance and mobility. The four-year-old was born with delayed development, and his family is seeking therapy so he can learn to walk without falling. The family is willing to go to a clinic or have home care but his mother says she can't find an available therapist in Houston's Medicaid program, the federal-state insurer for the disadvantaged and disabled. Her son is not alone. A growing number of vulnerable children have reduced options for therapy, following the Legislature's 2015 gutting of the rates that Medicaid uses to reimburse therapists.

Houston Chronicle - May 22, 2017

Messing up Texas could soon cost you time in addition to a fine

Starting Sept. 1, the famous anti-littering slogan "Don't Mess With Texas" will pack a new punch. Under legislation approved Monday by the Texas Senate, litterers will have to complete 60 hours of community service picking up trash along roadsides or working at a recycling center. That'll be in addition to whatever cash fine they have to pay. The new penalty will also cover Texans convicted of illegal burning, illegal dumping and disposal of litter in a cave. State Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, a Brenham Republican who is Senate sponsor of the measure, said the new penalty is designed to curb a growing problem with trash-throwing, specially along Texas' network of farm-to-market roads.

Dallas Morning News - May 22, 2017

Federal judge urges Texas to consider special session for redistricting after North Carolina ruling

In striking down North Carolina’s congressional district map, the Supreme Court sent Texas a firm warning Monday about how the state’s case may fare if it reaches that stage. Hours after the ruling, the federal district court in San Antonio currently overseeing the Texas case issued an order to the relevant parties asking them to submit briefs detailing how the North Carolina ruling will affect their claims, with a deadline of June 6. Judge Xavier Rodriguez, on behalf of the panel, also directed Texas to consider whether it would like to "voluntarily undertake redistricting in a special session" of the legislature in light of the North Carolina ruling, giving the state until Friday to decide.

Dallas Morning News - May 22, 2017

Supreme Court ruling threatens to shut down cottage industry for small East Texas town

The U.S. Supreme Court put sharp new limits on where patent-infringement lawsuits can be filed, undercutting patent owners' ability to channel cases to favorable courts. The justices on Monday unanimously ruled in favor of TC Heartland LLC, an Indiana-based maker of water flavorings, that said a Kraft Heinz Co. unit shouldn't be allowed to sue it in Delaware. The high court said patent suits should be filed in the state where the defendant is incorporated. The ruling will bar many patent owners from pressing cases in the Eastern District of Texas, a patent-friendly jurisdiction where more than one-third of all infringement suits are now filed.

Dallas Morning News - May 22, 2017

Senate agrees to higher pay for relatives who take in Texas' abused kids

The Senate on Monday approved a bill to increase pay for certain relatives who take in abused kids. After an impassioned exchange between two Dallas-area lawmakers, though, senators imposed a 12-month cap on proposed new, monthly "kinship care" payments. The bill, which passed 30-0, returns to the House for consideration of the Senate's tinkering. House leaders have made the measure a top priority. But some child advocates are urging House leaders to reject the Senate's changes and try to remove the time limitation, which they say could be disruptive for some kids, in a House-Senate conference committee.

Dallas Morning News - May 22, 2017

Texas House approves 'bathroom bill' for public schools after emotional debate

The Texas House has approved a bill that will keep transgender public school children from using the restroom that matches their gender identity. The measure, a Republican deal on the “bathroom bill,” passed the GOP-dominated chamber by a vote of 94-50. If the Senate agrees to the measure, and Gov. Greg Abbott doesn’t veto it, Texas will become the second state in the nation to pass such legislation. Debate took place late Sunday night and Monday afternoon, when the measure was given final approval. Discussion was emotional and divisive, with Democrats likening it to a Jim Crow-era attack on defenseless kids and Republicans insisting the measure did not single out or target anyone.

Dallas Morning News - May 22, 2017

House 'bathroom bill' won't keep transgender students out of restrooms, school groups say

Transgender public school students will not be barred from restrooms that match their gender identity under a new version of the "bathroom bill" the Texas House approved late Sunday, multiple sources told The Dallas Morning News. Senate Bill 2078 would require schools to provide a private bathroom for public school students who do not want to use the multi-occupancy restroom that matches the biological sex on their birth certificates. But the bill would not require transgender kids to use that single-stall bathroom if they don't want to, two education groups and multiple lawmakers familiar with the legislation told The News.

Dallas Morning News - May 22, 2017

Fight over vouchers to heat up as Texas Senate approves its school finance plan

A finance fix for Texas public schools is heading for a showdown between the Senate and House over a controversial voucher-like program for special education students. Early Monday morning, the Senate passed its version of a school finance bill in a 21-10 vote. It includes education savings accounts for children who have dyslexia or are in special education. Their families could access public funds — about $8,100 per student — to go toward private school tuition or other education-related expenses. That’s going to be a tough sell for House lawmakers, who set aside more overall funding for Texas schools and didn't spend public money on voucher-like efforts in their bill.

Dallas Morning News - May 22, 2017

Border wall funding shrinks in Trump's 2018 budget

The White House has drastically scaled back demands for funds to construct a border wall, seeking $1.6 billion in the budget headed for Congress on Tuesday -- $1 billion less than announced just two months ago. And there is still no plan to force Mexico to pay for the project as the president vowed throughout the campaign. The Trump budget blueprint rolled out in mid-March called for $4.1 billion toward wall construction by the end of 2018. The stopgap budget that runs through Sept. 30 includes $1.5 billion for border security but in cutting the deal with Democrats, President Trump dropped a demand to use any funding from that budget directly on building a barrier along the Southwest border.

Austin American-Statesman - May 22, 2017

Texas House tentatively OKs bill to extend STAAR reprieve until 2021

The Texas House on Monday tentatively approved a Senate bill that would extend for four years a policy allowing students to graduate high school even if they fail up to two state standardized tests. A high school senior who has failed up to two end-of-course State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness but has passed all classes and fulfilled other requirements can graduate as long as a committee made up of the student’s teacher, principal and parents gives unanimous consent. Students otherwise must pass five end-of-course STAAR exams to graduate.

Austin American-Statesman - May 22, 2017

Judges: Does Supreme Court ruling affect Texas districts?

Hours after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down two North Carolina congressional districts because of their effect on African-American voters, the first impact was felt in Texas. Three federal judges, overseeing a legal challenge to Texas districts adopted in 2013, sent an order Monday to lawyers on both sides seeking information about how the ruling might apply to the Lone Star State. The judges also wanted state lawyers to confer with Gov. Greg Abbott to determine his willingness to call a special session to redraw the state’s 36 congressional districts and 150 state House districts in light of Monday’s ruling. Abbott’s office did not respond Monday, but it is considered unlikely that the governor would act while the Texas maps are still being litigated.

Austin American-Statesman - May 23, 2017

Effort to tame, kill driver surcharge program dies in Senate

An effort to soften or even eliminate the much-maligned Texas “driver responsibility program” has died in the legislative session’s waning days, giving the system of surcharges for various moving violations at least another two years of life. Sen. Borris Miles, D-Houston, who had agreed to be the Senate sponsor of House Bill 2068, said Monday that the bill will not pass this session and that he will work in the legislative interim for a 2019 bill that would abolish the 14-year-old state law. Miles, in an interview with the Statesman, referred to it as a “monster” of a program.

Austin American-Statesman - May 22, 2017

Texas Senate approves bill to give second chance on some crimes

The Texas Senate on Monday approved “second-chance” legislation that would let those convicted of one-time, nonviolent misdemeanors to ask a court to seal their criminal record from public view — no matter when it happened. House Bill 3016 applies to class C misdemeanors and driving while intoxicated with a blood alcohol level below 0.15, but not for crimes the judge determines to be sexual or violent in nature. The bill, which returns to the House to consider Senate changes, expands on similar legislation that became law in 2015 and applied to nonsexual class A and B misdemeanors that do not involve family violence.

Austin American-Statesman - May 22, 2017

Herman: Separate but equal has its day in Texas House

The caption — that language at the top of a bill that says what it’s about — says Senate Bill 2078 is “relating to the duties of (school officials) regarding multihazard emergency operations plans and other school safety measures.” When the bill came up in the Texas House, there was talk about various kinds of school emergencies. Columbine was mentioned. And, after a ruling from Speaker Joe Straus that such talk was germane to the bill, there was talk about which bathrooms and locker rooms students use. Welcome to Sunday night at Your State Capitol, a place where local control is the mantra except when it isn’t. The talk ended, inevitably, with the GOP majority prevailing despite emotional pleas from Democrats.

Austin American-Statesman - May 23, 2017

Texas Senate revives abortion insurance measure

Late Monday, the Texas Senate revived a stalled abortion measure by adding it as an amendment to a bill on insurance information for doctors. House Bill 3124 was amended to add language from Senate Bill 20, which would ban abortion coverage in private insurance plans as well as plans offered to state employees and participants in the Affordable Care Act. Abortion coverage would have to be purchased in supplemental plans. Sen. Larry Taylor, R-Friendswood, moved to add the abortion language, gaining support from all Republicans and one Democrat, Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr. of Brownsville.

Austin American-Statesman - May 22, 2017

School funding bill fate uncertain because of school choice

The Texas Senate early Monday approved a bill, 21-10, that would inject about $530 million into the public education system while creating a so-called school choice system that would redirect state money to help special education students pay for private school tuition. The bill, however, faces an uncertain fate — the Senate has made it clear that House Bill 21 dies if school choice isn’t included in the bill, while the House has said the bill dies if school ch oice is included. “It is hard for me to believe any Texas lawmaker would vote against a half-billion dollars for public schools, as well as voting against children with disabilities, simply to oppose school choice,” Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said in a statement.

Austin American-Statesman - May 22, 2017

At Gov. Abbott’s insistence, House will debate voter ID law Tuesday

The perennially contentious issue of voter ID will be back before the Texas House on Tuesday thanks to Gov. Greg Abbott’s insistence in a message to the House and Senate just before Sunday’s deadline that they take it up as “an emergency matter for consideration” in time to enact a new law before session’s end. Within hours of Abbott’s communication, the Senate, which in March passed Senate Bill 5, the voter ID law crafted by Sen. Joan Huffman, R-Houston, also added the measure as an amendment to House Bill 2691 to help ensure passage. HB 2691 was approved early Monday and returned to the House.

Austin American-Statesman - May 22, 2017

Judges: Does Supreme Court ruling affect Texas districts?

Hours after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down two North Carolina congressional districts because of their effect on African-American voters, the first impact was felt in Texas. Three federal judges, overseeing a legal challenge to Texas districts adopted in 2013, sent an order Monday to lawyers on both sides seeking information about how the ruling might apply to the Lone Star State. The judges also wanted state lawyers to confer with Gov. Greg Abbott to determine his willingness to call a special session to redraw the state’s 36 congressional districts and 150 state House districts in light of Monday’s ruling. Abbott’s office did not respond Monday, but it is considered unlikely that the governor would act while the Texas maps are still being litigated.

Texas Tribune - May 21, 2017

Rhodes, VanDyke: Bill is solution to state’s nursing crisis

Texas needs to allow community colleges to offer bachelor’s degrees in select high-demand fields, including nursing, to meet employer demands. Today in Central Texas, there are more than 5,000 job postings for registered nurses (RNs). Senate Bill 2118, under consideration by the Legislature, would allow Austin Community College (ACC) to provide about 500 additional nurses each year to serve our community. ACC’s nursing education program is among the top-ranked in the state and has been a trusted partner to area healthcare providers for more than 40 years. Each year, hundreds of students complete a rigorous program and go on to pass nurse licensure exams at rates exceeding state and national averages. If you’ve ever been treated in a local hospital, chances are an ACC graduate or student nurse has been part of your care team.

Texas Tribune - May 22, 2017

Dan Patrick unconvinced by House action on bathrooms, property taxes

After threatening to force a special session of the Texas Legislature unless lawmakers approve a "bathroom bill" and property tax legislation, Lt. Gov Dan Patrick on Monday appeared to be unconvinced by the House's actions on the two issues. "I share Governor Abbott's concern about the lack of a rollback provision in Senate Bill 669 on property taxes," Patrick said in a statement about a property tax measure the House passed Saturday. Patrick, like Gov. Greg Abbott, had indicated he wanted the House to approve Senate Bill 2, to require local governments that want to raise property taxes by 5 percent or more to get voter approval, but that proposal stalled in the House.

Texas Tribune - May 22, 2017

Texas might keep the standards, cut funding for Abbott's pre-K program

Texas could ask public schools to make specific improvements to their pre-K programs — while cutting the grant program that would fund it. After months of private deliberations, a committee of House and Senate legislators on Saturday unveiled a joint budget in Senate Bill 1 that includes no additional money for a high-quality pre-K grant program that has been one of Gov. Greg Abbott's priorities this session. Instead, it says districts should use a portion of existing school funding to meet the program's standards, including setting a low teacher-student ratio, avoiding Common Core curricula, hiring qualified teachers and reporting student progress to the state.

Texas Tribune - May 23, 2017

Bill on certification pits doctors against hospitals

A bill moving through the Legislature in the last week of the session is pitting doctors against hospitals over how much testing doctors should have to undergo to maintain their certification. Currently, Texas physicians must undergo the Maintenance of Certification (MOC) program, which tests physicians on medical knowledge and practice every five to ten years, to maintain their certification with national certification boards. Many hospitals and other employers also require doctors stay current on their MOC. Senate Bill 1148 would ban the Texas Medical Board from using the MOC as a requirement for physicians to obtain or renew their medical license.

Texas Tribune - May 23, 2017

School groups say House bathroom amendment open to interpretations

Republicans behind a Texas House measure addressing bathroom use by transgender students said they wanted to provide “definitive guidance” to school districts on an issue that’s rattled through the current legislative session since before it was gaveled in. In offering up an amendment to Senate Bill 2078, Republican state Rep. Chris Paddie of Marshall explained that the proposal would require students to use bathrooms, lockers rooms and changing facilities based on their biological sex. If a student “does not wish” to use a facility based on that designation, school districts would have to accommodate them by offering a single-occupancy facility, he added.

Texas Tribune - May 22, 2017

Texas Senate votes to make child welfare department an independent agency

The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services could soon be out from under the thumb of the Texas Health and Human Services Commission. Texas senators on Monday unanimously approved its version of House Bill 5, which would make the troubled agency its own standalone department. Proponents say that under the measure, state officials responsible for child welfare issues would be able to make decisions faster. The bill would also have the governor appoint the department's commissioner. Sen. Charles Schwertner, R-Georgetown, the bill's sponsor and chairman of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, said the legislation was just one of many that lawmakers have proposed to address child welfare issues during the Legislative session.

Texas Tribune - May 22, 2017

Texas business leaders stayed neutral on "bathroom" amendment

Throughout this legislative session, a coalition of businesses has made up much of the opposition to lightning-rod efforts to regulate which bathrooms transgender Texans can use. Working with the Texas Association of Business, they have released economic impact studies, sent letters to lawmakers and held news conferences, warning that a "bathroom bill" would be disastrous for the state's bottom line. On Sunday, however, the pro-business forces took a neutral stance on an amendment addressing bathroom use by transgender Texans in public schools, according to people familiar with the decision. The amendment by state Rep. Chris Paddie, R-Marshall, passed 91-50, finally giving the House its response to Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick's months-long demands for a vote on such a proposal.

Texas Tribune - May 22, 2017

El Paso County files lawsuit seeking to halt Texas "sanctuary" law

The county of El Paso and other organizations on Monday filed a lawsuit against Gov. Greg Abbott, Attorney General Ken Paxton and Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steve McCraw seeking a federal court ruling declaring the state’s new immigration law unconstitutional. Senate Bill 4 allows peace officers to question the immigration status of people they legally detain or arrest and punishes department heads and elected officials who don’t cooperate with federal immigration agents by turning over immigrants subject to possible deportation. Elected or appointed officials found in violation could face criminal charges in the form of a class A misdemeanor and possible removal from office. Abbott signed the bill May 7, and it is scheduled to go into effect Sept. 1.

San Antonio Express News - May 19, 2017

Harvey: Texas wide-open for business — but not for people to use the bathroom?

Under former Gov. Rick Perry and Gov. Greg Abbott, the state’s economic development office has used a slogan: “Texas: Wide Open for Business.” Texas has enjoyed more than a decade of being named Numero Uno for business by ranking entities such as Chief Executive, Site Selection and Forbes magazines. Companies have moved here from California, Illinois and other states with heavy tax burdens and onerous government regulations to enjoy our affordable, business-friendly environment.

San Antonio Express News - May 22, 2017

Sen. Uresti withdraws from consideration for Senate post after indictment

Sen. Carlos Uresti, who had looked forward to serving as Senate president pro tempore, said Monday he has withdrawn his name from consideration for the position “at this time.” The move comes after the San Antonio Democrat was indicted last week on fraud, bribery and money-laundering charges. Uresti has said he is innocent. “Being elected President Pro Tempore of the Texas Senate is an honor and is accompanied by much celebration. I have decided to voluntarily withdraw my name from consideration at this time and I look forward to serving at a future time,” Uresti said in a statement in response to a question from the San Antonio Express-News.

San Antonio Express News - May 22, 2017

Texas House members say voucher plan could kill school finance measure

The fate of millions of dollars in education funding hung in limbo Monday as lawmakers braced for the last full week of a legislative session marked by power grabs over contentious cultural battles in the Republican-controlled Legislature. State lawmakers are set to adjourn May 29, but they have yet to resolve issues that have driven a wedge between the two chambers. The continued infighting could affect millions of public school students and might spark a special session, keeping lawmakers in Austin into the summer. Among the issues hanging in the balance is a short-term fix to the state’s beleaguered school finance system.

San Antonio Express News - May 22, 2017

Texas House approves bill to limit annexations

A bill that would limit cities’ ability to annex unincorporated areas by giving residents a chance to vote on the issue was approved by the Texas House, angering city officials across the state. SB 715, authored by state Sen. Donna Campbell, R-New Braunfels, could allow unincorporated subdivisions to veto city annexation plans and freeze the boundaries of Texas cities. The bill is on its way to the Senate, which can concur with added amendments from the House or create a conference committee to reach a compromise on the bill. “The reason this country was founded was because people wanted the right to vote,” state Rep. Dan Huberty, R-Houston, the bill’s House sponsor, said. “Do we represent our mayors and city councils, or do we represent our constituents? People that we represent have the right to decide what city they live in.”

San Antonio Express News - May 22, 2017

‘Second chance’ bill gets final OK in state Senate

Legislation that would give low-level criminal offenders a “second chance” by allowing them to shield their rap sheets from public disclosure was approved in final form Monday by the Texas Senate. The vote was 28-3. Because the measure was amended by the Senate, it now goes back to the House for an expected okay — and will then go to Gov. Greg Abbott to be signed into law. Touted as among the most significant criminal-justice reforms of the legislative session, the measure by state Rep. Senfronia Thompson, D-Houston, and Sen. Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola, expands a state law approved two years ago that allows minor-offense, first-time violations to be sealed in court records for some misdemeanor crimes.

Texas Tribune - May 23, 2017

Scientists wary as Texas mulls allowing sale of unproven drugs

A group of scientists and medical professionals is sounding the alarm in the final days of the Texas legislative session about a little-noticed bill that would allow manufacturers of unproven drugs to sell their products to dying patients. Supporters of House Bill 3236 by state Rep. Kyle Kacal, R-College Station, say it could help incentivize drugmakers to get promising, experimental drugs onto the market and into needy patients’ hands. Its detractors say it would allow drug companies and quack doctors to use fake medicine to take advantage of sick, vulnerable families.

WOAI - May 22, 2017

Texas will receive millions of dollars to fight Opioid addiction

A newly awarded federal grant may help fight the Opioid crisis throughout the nation. Now, with approval from the Trump administration, the U.S Department of Health and Human Services will administer grants totaling more than $480 million across the nation. More than $27 million will be awarded to Texas. The money would help cities expand providers of Opioid recovery and addiction services. Right now, there are 17 in the state, one being in San Antonio. Opioid addiction is a national crisis that is also sweeping neighborhoods in San Antonio. “It's not just here. We may see it here for several reasons that's another story but this is a national epidemic,” said Tinker Mass.

Associated Press - May 22, 2017

Texas bathroom bill could expose secrets of transgender kids

Each morning, Joanna Smith's 7-year-old son pulls on a T-shirt and shorts, boasts how fast he can tie his sneakers and heads to school. An honor-roll student who loves science and spelling, he often stays after class to run on the playground with his large group of friends. But teachers may soon have to disrupt his routine by revealing a secret: This energetic boy was born a girl. Legislation headed for passage in the Texas Legislature this month could forbid him from using the boys' bathroom and effectively divulge his transgender identity to classmates. "He would be very embarrassed and ashamed to be outed," said Smith, who plans to pull her child out of school if the measure is adopted. "I worry so much that it would just ruin his life." She spoke on the condition that her son's name would not be used.

This article appeared in the San Antonio Express News

Lubbock Avalanche-Journal - May 19, 2017

Leeson: Abbott’s absence is keeping Austin weird

If the weirdness of this state capital derives from it being equal parts tradition and anti-tradition, the weirdest thing about Austin right now isn’t the city — it’s the Capitol. As the Legislature enters its final days of regular session, a question asked in hushed tones 130 days ago is now asked out loud. And I heard it repeatedly this week: “Where’s Abbott?” As one Republican lawmaker quipped to me, “This state is run by Gov. (Daniel) Hodge and his chief of staff Greg Abbott.” (Hodge is actually Abbott’s chief of staff.) Before arriving here, I knew there was frustration with Gov. Greg Abbott, from both legislative chambers, and across the GOP continuum.

Ft. Worth Star-Telegram - May 21, 2017

FWST: If Austin debates are all partisan, Texas loses

The political center no longer rules the Texas Legislature, and it’s both parties’ fault. A Republican “Freedom Caucus” seems determined to move the party further toward the populist-conservative rightward edge, and now. Some Democrats, weary of compromising between moderate and reactionary Republican legislation, now seem determined to simply fight it all in hopes of winning back seats as soon as possible.

County Stories

Houston Chronicle - May 22, 2017

Two Harris County election clerks plead guilty to illegal voting

Two people who worked as election clerks during the May 2016 primary run-off have pleaded guilty to unlawfully casting a ballot for another person, Harris County Clerk Stan Stanart announced Monday. Jeanene Johnson, 63, and Latunia Thomas, 46, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of "unlawful deposit of ballot" earlier this month. They served one day in jail, and were released, according to the Harris County District Attorney's office. With Johnson's help, Thomas cast a ballot for her daughter at a Harris County Public Health and Environmental Services building during early voting for the May 24, 2016 primary runoff, according to Dane Schiller, a spokesman for the district attorney's office.

San Antonio Express News - May 22, 2017

Local leaders oppose watered-down version of bathroom bill

Local business and city leaders said Monday that they were still worried about a limited version of the so-called bathroom bill that passed the Texas House. The House on Monday gave final approval to a bill that would require schools to provide single-stall bathrooms and lockers for any student who for whatever reason might not want to use the bathroom designated by their biological sex, the chamber’s response to the Senate’s clamoring for a statewide bathroom restriction for transgender people. The House approved Senate Bill 2078 on a 94-51 vote. The bill outlined emergency disaster plans for schools, with the bathroom amendment attached. Rep. Chris Paddie, a Republican from Marshall who authored the amendment, said it would allow all students access to a single-stall bathroom or empty multistall facility, including those who are shy, have a colostomy bag or have other reasons they might want privacy.

City Stories

Houston Chronicle - May 22, 2017

Texas judge on leave after questions arise about her citizenship

Some things should be self evident - a person needs a license to drive, be an adult to legally consume alcohol and be a citizen and registered to vote to take part in elections. Apparently, the "Schoolhouse Rock" songs missed a judge in Corpus Christi. Municipal Court Judge Young Min Burkett has been placed on leave after questions arose at a city council meeting about her citizenship. Burkett was hired in March 2015. Municipal Court Committee Chairman Lucy Rubio told KRIS-TV that the judge's rulings still stand.

National Stories

Washington Post - May 22, 2017

Democrats Enlist Veterans Ahead of 2018 House Elections

The last time Democrats won a House majority it was in part because the Iraq War was so unpopular. The next time may be with candidates who fought in America’s post-9/11 conflicts. The party is running military veterans in competitive congressional districts across the country: Fifteen veterans have already launched 2018 House campaigns, and 10 more may enter races by this summer, Democratic officials say. In addition to framing their campaigns as a continuation of their national service, the veterans allow the Democratic Party to appeal to segments of the electorate that have fled the party in recent elections. It recalls their strategy in 2006, when they took control of the House by fielding candidates who could appeal to voters in more conservative districts.

New York Times - May 22, 2017

Trump Comes to Israel Citing a Palestinian Deal as Crucial

President Trump began a two-day visit to Israel on Monday with a blunt assessment for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: If Israel really wants peace with its Arab neighbors, the cost will be resolving the generations-old standoff with the Palestinians. For years, Mr. Netanyahu has sought to recalibrate relations with Sunni Arab nations in a mutual bid to counter Shiite-led Iran, while subordinating the Palestinian dispute as a secondary issue. But as Mr. Trump arrived in Jerusalem after meetings in Saudi Arabia, the president indicated that he and those Arab states see an agreement with the Palestinians as integral to that new regional alignment.

Politico - May 23, 2017

Trump eyeing Lewandowski, Bossie as crisis managers

The White House is looking to wall off the scandals threatening to overtake the president’s agenda by building a separate crisis management operation. President Donald Trump personally reached out to two of his former campaign aides – his first campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, and his deputy campaign manager, David Bossie – to sound them out about working with the administration as crisis managers, according to two people familiar with the situation. POLITICO previously reported that both men were spotted in the West Wing last week, before Trump departed on his overseas trip.

Politico - May 23, 2017

Could Trump Really Say He Fired Comey in the Service of Foreign Policy?

The Comeycoaster took another thrilling turn Monday night, when reports emerged that President Donald Trump asked the director of national intelligence and the director of the NSA to publicly discredit the FBI’s investigation into his campaign’s ties with Russia. This came on the heels of leaked Oval Office transcripts, which revealed that Trump had informed the Russians that he had fired the “nut-job” former Director of the FBI James Comey because of “pressure” he was facing from the FBI investigation. Most legal analysts seized on the leaked transcripts as further evidence that the president’s decision to fire Comey was an attempt to obstruct justice. But on Twitter, former Acting Solicitor General Neal Katyal noted the conspicuous lack of pushback on the issue from the White House.

Politico - May 23, 2017

Brennan: Russia may have successfully recruited Trump campaign aides

Former CIA Director John Brennan said on Tuesday that he had concerns that Russian officials may have successfully recruited aides from Donald Trump’s campaign to help in the Kremlin’s efforts to influence last year’s presidential election. "I encountered and am aware of information and intelligence that revealed contacts and interactions between Russian officials and U.S. persons involved in the Trump campaign that I was concerned about because of known Russian efforts to suborn such individuals," he told lawmakers. "And it raised questions in my mind again whether or not the Russians were able to gain the cooperation of those individuals."

Politico - May 22, 2017

Kabaservice: How Watergate Helped Republicans—And Gave Us Trump

Democrats and liberals have become intoxicated by the idea of impeaching President Donald Trump in the two weeks since he fired the FBI Director James Comey. “The House must begin the impeachment process before Donald Trump puts us at risk again,” prominent Democratic donor J.B. Pritzker told the New York Times last week. “The case for impeaching Trump—and fast,” read a Vox headline on Monday. These optimists probably aren’t just excited to get Trump out of office; they are also undoubtedly excited about what such a scandal would mean for the long-term prospects of the Republican Party, already torn apart by internal squabbles, an unruly base and constant games of legislative chicken. Once the relatively straightforward matter of impeachment is disposed of, they imagine, a new progressive age will dawn and the Democrats will lead a grateful populace into the broad, sunlit uplands of enlightenment.

Washington Post - May 22, 2017

Trump’s budget proposal slashes spending by $3.6 trillion over 10 years

President Trump on Tuesday will propose cutting federal spending by $3.6 trillion over 10 years, a historic budget contraction that would severely ratchet back spending across dozens of programs and could completely reshape government assistance to the poor. The White House’s $4.094 trillion budget request for fiscal 2018 calls for cuts that hit Medicaid, food assistance and other anti-poverty programs. It would cut funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which provides benefits to the poor, by roughly 20 percent next year. All told, the budget would ­reduce spending on safety-net programs by more than $1 trillion over 10 years.

San Antonio Express News - May 20, 2017

Davidson: Turning back the clock on drug war

Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ effort to return federal drug policy to a harsh and unsuccessful past is in full swing. Sessions might as well invest Department of Justice funds in a time machine because his return to a scorched-earth approach on drugs will waste a mountain of tax dollars on ineffective prosecutions and dramatic increases in incarceration expenses. The former Alabama senator recently sent a memorandum to federal prosecutors instructing them to “charge and pursue the most serious readily provable offense.” Sessions specifically noted that his directive includes offenses with mandatory minimum sentences.

Roll Call - May 22, 2017

How the Koch Network Could Sink Tax Overhaul

The lobbying and political network of Charles and David Koch, bogeymen to Democrats for years, is poised for a significant policy win — but it will come at the expense of fellow conservatives on Capitol Hill. Their victory also could derail a policy goal they share with those same Republican lawmakers: a permanent comprehensive overhaul of the nation’s tax code. Koch Industries and the network of conservative advocacy groups funded by the billionaire brothers, such as Americans for Prosperity, have spent months working to tear down a crucial element of the House GOP leaders’ tax blueprint, which would impose a new levy on imports.

Fox News - May 22, 2017

DNC battling class-action suit alleging Sanders was robbed in 2016

As Trump administration controversies command media attention, a little-noticed set of lawsuits against the Democratic Party continues to play out in the courts – including one claiming coordination with the Clinton campaign against Bernie Sanders amounted to election fraud. The case being heard in a Florida courtroom dates back to last summer, when the Democrats were thrown into turmoil following the leak of documents that appeared to show some DNC officials sought to undermine Sanders in the party primary. Jared Beck, a Harvard law expert, shortly afterward filed a class-action lawsuit on behalf of residents of 45 states against the DNC and former chairwomen Debbie Wasserman Schultz. The DNC has been trying for months to have the case dismissed, and scored a temporary victory last year when it was decided the plaintiffs had improperly filed paperwork.

Washington Post - May 23, 2017

A new expert survey finds warning signs for the state of American democracy

The decline of democracies is not as dramatic as it used to be. Instead of military coups, the greater threat is the steady erosion of democratic norms by elected leaders. If done skillfully, leaders can consolidate power and weaken democracy while most citizens remain unaware. Largely reacting to President Trump, a wave of news stories and essays have raised the alarm about threats to American democracy and declines in democratic support among young Americans. This is echoed by concerns about the spread of illiberal populism in Turkey, Hungary, Poland, France, the Netherlands and elsewhere. Yet how real is this threat in the United States? No democracy nearly as wealthy or durable as the United States has ever broken down. Are these warnings a partisan reaction to the 2016 election or an appropriate note of caution before the country follows the path of Hungary and Venezuela?

Wall St. Journal - May 19, 2017

Americans Doing Better Financially, Except for Non-College Educated

Americans’ sense of their overall financial health improved modestly last year, but adults without any college education lost ground for the first time since 2013, according to a new Federal Reserve survey. Some 70% of respondents polled in October 2016 said they were either “living comfortably” or “doing okay,” up from 69% the year before, and 62% when the question was first posed in 2013, the Fed found in its latest Survey of Household Economics and Decisionmaking, released Friday. Yet the share of respondents with no more than a high-school diploma who said they were “living comfortably” or “doing okay” declined last year to 60% from 61% in 2015.

Governing - May 22, 2017

How Much Do States Rely on Federal Funding?

As Congress debates the budget, states are eagerly waiting to hear how it will affect them. Updated data from the Census Bureau's 2015 Annual Survey of State Government Finances published last week indicates that federal aid made up nearly a third of all states’ general fund revenues in fiscal year 2015. The single largest line items in states’ budgets include federal funding for transportation, Medicaid and other social assistance programs. The survey, which provides a detailed portrait of how states generate and spend money, suggests states' reliance on federal money varies greatly. Even larger discrepancies exist across individual areas of state government.

Governing - May 22, 2017

As Gas Tax Revenues Decline, Fees on Fuel-Efficient Cars Pop Up

Lawmakers in California, home to almost half of the nation’s electric vehicles, decided this year to impose an annual fee on the owners of plug-in electric cars beginning in 2020. Meanwhile, Maine is considering an annual fee on both plug-in electric vehicles and more popular hybrids, which run on both gasoline and electricity and recharge as they go. Both kinds of vehicles still make up a tiny share of cars on the road, but supporters of the idea are hopeful that revenue will rise as they become more popular. State Rep. Andrew McLean, who chairs the Maine Legislature’s joint transportation committee, acknowledged that the new fee won’t raise a lot of money right away, but he said the move makes sense as a way to “begin the conversation” of tapping more revenue from electric and hybrid vehicles as their numbers grow.

Associated Press - May 22, 2017

Trump seeks reconsideration of sanctuary cities ruling

The Trump administration filed court papers Monday aimed at getting a judge to reconsider his ruling blocking the president's executive order to cut funding from sanctuary cities that limit cooperation with U.S. immigration authorities. The U.S. Department of Justice asked U.S. District Court Judge William Orrick for permission to file documents asking the judge to reconsider or clarify his ruling in light of a new memo by Attorney General Jeff Sessions. The memo, also issued Monday, reasserts the department's position that Trump's executive order applies to a relatively small amount of money, specifically grants that require localities to comply with a specific immigration law related to information-sharing among police and federal immigration authorities.

This article appeared in the San Antonio Express News

The Hill - May 22, 2017

Chaffetz postpones Oversight hearing with Comey

Former FBI Director James Comey won't be appearing before any congressional committees this week. House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) had invited Comey to testify at a hearing on Wednesday about a memo reported by the New York Times last week alleging President Trump had pressured him to stop investigating ousted national security adviser Michael Flynn. But Chaffetz announced Monday that Comey wants to speak with Robert Mueller, the former FBI director now serving as a special counsel overseeing the agency's investigation into the Trump campaign's ties to Russia during the 2016 campaign, before testifying publicly.

Washington Post - May 22, 2017

Trump asked intelligence chiefs to push back against FBI collusion probe after Comey revealed its existence

President Trump asked two of the nation’s top intelligence officials in March to help him push back against an FBI investigation into possible coordination between his campaign and the Russian government, according to current and former officials. Trump made separate appeals to the director of national intelligence, Daniel Coats, and to Adm. Michael S. Rogers, the director of the National Security Agency, urging them to publicly deny the existence of any evidence of collusion during the 2016 election. Coats and Rogers refused to comply with the requests, which they both deemed to be inappropriate, according to two current and two former officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private communications with the president.

Washington Post - May 22, 2017

Trump campaign seeks to raise money off the ‘witch hunt’ the president faces

President Trump on Friday sought to raise campaign money off his characterization of a probe into possible collusion with Russia as a “witch hunt” — the latest in a series of attempts to parlay his political troubles into cash. “What you’re seeing in the news is a WITCH HUNT,” said a fundraising solicitation seeking $1 donations. “But the real victim isn’t me. It’s YOU and the millions of other brave Americans who refused to bow down to Washington by voting for REAL CHANGE last November.” Trump first described himself as the victim of a “witch hunt” on Twitter on Thursday morning, a day after the Justice Department appointed a special counsel to investigate possible collusion between Trump associates and the Russian government to meddle in the 2016 presidential election.

All - May 22, 2017

Lead Stories

Politico - May 22, 2017

Supreme Court rules North Carolina congressional districts unconstitutional

The Supreme Court ruled Monday that two North Carolina congressional districts were drawn unconstitutionally, affirming a previous district court decision against the state's redistricting and leaving in place a remedial congressional map drawn for the 2016 elections, pending an additional gerrymandering case. The ruling centered on two Democratic-held districts and found that Republican state legislators, in drawing the congressional map earlier this decade, "packed" African-American voters into those districts to dilute the power of their votes in other congressional seats.

San Antonio Express News - May 21, 2017

U.S. prosecutors may try to disqualify Watts as attorney in Uresti criminal case

State Sen. Carlos Uresti’s legal defense could be facing a potential setback even before he begins in earnest fighting the criminal charges against him. San Antonio attorney Mikal Watts on Friday said federal prosecutors have indicated they will seek to disqualify him from defending Uresti in at least one of two indictments unsealed Tuesday. Prosecutors likely will file a motion contending Watts has a conflict of interest because he previously represented Denise Cantu, a Harlingen woman identified in one of the indictments as “Victim 1.” In all likelihood, Cantu will be a witness against Uresti in that case. Uresti and Watts represented Cantu in a 2010 wrongful-death case after the rear tire on her Ford Explorer blew out, causing the SUV to veer into a grassy median, roll over and kill her 13-year-old daughter, 4-year-old son and two friends.

KXAS - May 20, 2017

Texas High-Speed Rail Project Moves Forward

Texas Central, the Dallas company planning to build a high-speed train between Dallas and Houston, has reached a deal with a major global consortium to design and build the project. An official announcement is expected within a matter of days. "We have a world-class design builder that has just signed on to come and build this for us," said Carlos Aguilar, CEO of Texas Central. The 59 year-old Aguilar has been on the job at Texas Central since December. He brings decades of experience with huge infrastructure projects, including the Cantarell offshore natural gas field in Mexico, the London Underground and the world's largest solar thermal energy plant in Ivanpah, Calif.

Associated Press - May 22, 2017

Source says Flynn to invoke 5th Amendment

Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn will invoke his Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination as he notifies a Senate panel that he won't hand over documents in the probe into Russia's meddling in the 2016 election, according to a person with direct knowledge of the matter. The notification will come in a letter to the Senate Intelligence committee expected later Monday. The person providing details spoke on condition anonymity in order to discuss private interactions between Flynn and the committee. Flynn's decision comes less than two weeks after the committee issued a subpoena for Flynn's personal documents.

This article appeared in the San Antonio Express News

The Hill - May 20, 2017

The Memo: Trump base shows signs of cracking

President Trump’s previously resilient base is showing signs of cracking. A new Reuters/IPSOS tracking poll, released Friday afternoon, showed the president with a job approval rating of 75 percent among Republicans. Political professionals generally view it as worrying for any commander-in-chief if his approval ratings with his own party dip below 85 percent — and downright alarming if they go below 80 percent. “Seventy-five [percent] is certainly a new number and I would want to see something that would either back that up or refute it,” said GOP pollster David Winston, whose resumé includes work for former Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.). “Certainly, if it were true, that is not where you would want to be.”

Austin American-Statesman - May 19, 2017

Cooper, Debevec: Texas Legislature votes to restrict policyholders’ rights

Texas lawmakers are now on the fast track to restrict policyholders’ rights when their insurance companies fail to pay property insurance claims arising out of weather events, such as storms involving heavy winds and hail. Now that the Texas Senate approved House Bill 1774 this week, Gov. Greg Abbott is almost sure to sign it. Unfortunately, this will unleash unexpected and unpleasant surprises for Texas businesses and other insurance policyholders. Most significantly, this harmful piece of legislation is designed to cut back on penalties that are intended to deter bad-faith conduct by insurance companies. It also aims to empower policyholders to fight back when their claims are denied, delayed or handled in inappropriate ways.

Austin American-Statesman - May 21, 2017

House approves annexation limits, over opposition from Austin leaders

The Texas House gave preliminary approval to a bill Sunday to limit cities’ ability to annex outlying areas without resident approval, a measure that was opposed by the city of Austin and other major municipalities. Senate Bill 715, authored by Sen. Donna Campbell, R-New Braunfels, and carried in the House by Rep. Dan Huberty, R-Houston, would require cities to get a majority of residents in areas proposed for annexation to agree to join the city or vote to do so in an election. Under current law, a city can annex the equivalent of up to 10 percent of its incorporated land — about 18,000 acres in Austin’s case — from its extraterritorial jurisdiction, the 5-mile area that surrounds city limits, every year.

Dallas Morning News - May 22, 2017

Abbott declares voter ID bill an emergency item as legislative session nears end

With little more than a week to go in the legislative session late Sunday night, Gov. Greg Abbott declared a bill to overhaul the state's controversial voter identification bill an emergency matter. In letters to both chambers of the Legislature, Abbott said he was designating the bill for "immediate consideration." Senate Bill 5, which the Senate passed in March, has not been debated on the House floor. The bill is now on the House calendar for Tuesday — the last day it can be initially approved by the chamber in time to be enacted.

Barron's - May 18, 2017

Would a President Pence Be Good for Stocks?

U.S. stocks had a modest rebound on Thursday, due in part to favorable earnings and economic data. The market gains are a particular relief to investors, coming a day after the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell almost 373 points on news that President Trump reportedly tried to block an FBI investigation into a former aide’s relationship with Russians. With many market observers fretting that the Trump administration could be unraveling, potentially contributing to a further drop in stock prices, it’s comforting to see that regular news about companies and the economy can have the opposite effect. But it’s also worth wondering whether the stock market has another positive going for it – the prospect that the nation’s straight-laced vice president, Mike Pence, could take over for Donald Trump.

State Stories

Ft. Worth Star-Telegram - May 19, 2017

FWST: Are gun licensing fees too high? Not really

A session of the Texas Legislature wouldn’t be complete without a bill — or two or three — looking to reduce restrictions on guns. That’s just how things are in the Lone Star State. Some bills, like the controversial campus carry law passed last session, have thus far proved the critics wrong in both predicted dangers and projected costs. But this year’s Senate Bill 16 — a bill to reduce to the cost of first-time registration and renewal of handgun licenses — might have a different outcome.

Austin American-Statesman - May 22, 2017

First Reading: That didn’t escalate quickly. On the oddly subdued denouement of the bathroom bill debate

The Texas House last night gave preliminary approval to the bathroom bill, or at any rate a bathroom bill, effectively bringing to a close – almost, maybe, perhaps, probably – the legislative portion of one of the most tendentious debates in recent Texas politics. But, maybe it was because I was tired, or too numbly cold because of the Yukon temperatures at which the House thermostat is set, perhaps to preserve, until someone notices, the body of a member who dies in place, but I found the closing debate of this powerfully emotional issue oddly enervating. Not that there was not some powerful oratory brought to bear by the opponents of any bathroom bill, which they consider disgraceful pandering to the prejudices of the Republican primary base, but because there was no equal and opposite oratory from the other side. What kind of pandering is that?

Austin American-Statesman - May 21, 2017

Texas House OKs transgender bathroom limits in schools

Divided almost exclusively along party lines, the Texas House approved an amendment Sunday night that would require Texas schools to limit bathroom use to each student’s biological sex. After the amendment was added to Senate Bill 2078 on a 91-50 vote, the House gave initial approval to the bill. A final vote is scheduled for Monday, returning the measure to the Senate to consider the change. Only one Republican voted against the amendment — Rep. Sarah Davis of Houston. All Democrats voted against it. “Transgender youth deserve the same dignity and respect as their peers, and this craven attempt to use children as a pawn for cheap political points is disturbing and unconscionable,” said JoDee Winterhof, senior vice president for the Human Rights Campaign.

Austin American-Statesman - May 20, 2017

PolitiFact Texas: Going on the record with immigration claims

President Donald Trump’s maintains his vision of a new wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, while Republican counterparts in Texas, including Gov. Greg Abbott, have focused on preventing local communities from harboring unauthorized residents. PolitiFact has sorted many high-profile claims about immigration. Here are five highlights: 1) Tom DeLay, the former House majority leader, said in September that most undocumented migrants draw “welfare benefits, they’re sending their kids to school, they’re using the public services.” HALF TRUE: People do draw on public services including government-supported hospitals. Also, children of all origins attend public schools. But adults lacking legal residency are barred from government programs that fit the “welfare” category. 2) Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez joined fellow Democratic sheriffs saying: “FBI crime statistics have found that labeled ‘sanctuary’ cities experience lower rates of all crime types, including homicides.” HALF TRUE.

Austin American-Statesman - May 21, 2017

Former Dallas Police Chief David Brown to give UT commencement speech

The stabbing at the University of Texas this month hit close to home on many levels for former Dallas Police Chief David Brown. Brown, this year’s University of Texas commencement speaker and an alumnus, was the top-ranking official at the center of last year’s shooting of five Dallas police officers, and it was the calm and compassion he showed in the aftermath that led to his rise to national attention. In 2010, his son, who struggled with mental illness, killed a civilian and police officer and then died in a shootout with police.

Austin American-Statesman - May 19, 2017

House approves underage-drinking amnesty in reporting sex assaults

The Texas House on Friday gave final approval to a measure granting underage-drinking amnesty to a minor who reports a sexual assault, as well as preliminary approval to two other bills dealing with campus sexual assault, sexual harassment, dating violence and stalking. All three measures were authored by Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin. Senate Bill 966, which now goes to Gov. Greg Abbott, would amend the Alcoholic Beverage Code, effective Sept. 1. A minor reporting a sexual assault against the minor or another person would be exempt from prosecution for underage drinking. It’s intended to encourage victims and witnesses to report such assaults. Reluctance to report has been a significant challenge for colleges and universities seeking to address sexual assaults.

Austin American-Statesman - May 21, 2017

Lawmakers reach budget compromise after Abbott demands incentive money

Texas House and Senate budget negotiators agreed on a state budget for 2018-19 late Saturday — deciding to tap the state’s rainy day fund, a key sticking point — but not before Gov. Greg Abbott demanded they add $100 million to programs that are controlled by his office. “He clearly felt that he needed more in the area of his trusteed funds in order carry out some of the economic development,” Rep. John Zerwas, the House’s top budget writer, told reporters after the committee adjourned about 1 a.m. Sunday. “If we had had a little bit more of a heads-up, we might have been able to make the accommodations. But it works out fine.”

Austin American-Statesman - May 21, 2017

PolitiFact: Lawmaker says abortions are safer than vasectomies -- Mostly True

A Democrat opposed to an abortion-related measure suggested that a snip exclusive to men has proved less safe than an abortion. State Rep. Mary González, D-Clint, asked the abortion proposal’s author, Rep. Giovanni Capriglione, in floor debate: “First and foremost, did you know that an abortion procedure is actually … safer than a vasectomy?” ... Both procedures rarely have complications, a clarification missing from this declaration. That said, abortion procedures appear to have lower complication rates. We rate the claim Mostly True.

Austin American-Statesman - May 21, 2017

Barriero: Why border adjustment tax is a bad idea that just won’t die

The world is a much different place than it was 30 years ago — the last time our tax code received a major overhaul. The United States is facing stiff competition from other nations in an increasingly global marketplace, where our comparative advantage is significantly diminished by the highest corporate tax rates in the developed world. Bringing our tax rates in line with worldwide norms — among other reforms — will help keep and grow American jobs and our economy. Unfortunately, other proposals being seriously considered, like the so-called border adjustment tax, which would serve as a national sales tax on imports. It would have the exact opposite effect and hurt not only Texas employers and workers but every consumer and family in the U.S.

Texas Tribune - May 18, 2017

Jones: How Republicans could help Democrats break their 23-year losing streak

Texas Democrats have not won a statewide election since 1994. That’s 129 straight statewide losses! Next year could, however, potentially spell the end to this more than two decade long curse, with Texas Republicans providing Democrats with a critical assist via the passage of legislation eliminating straight-ticket voting in Texas. Given the myriad gaffes, missteps, mistruths and overall lackluster performance of the young Trump administration, Democrats are optimistic about making electoral advances in targeted races across Texas in 2018. These races include the always competitive CD-23 (held by Will Hurd, R-Helotes), along with two congressional districts won by Hillary Clinton in 2016: CD-7 (John Culberson, R-Houston) and CD-32 (Pete Sessions, R-Dallas); in addition to as many as a dozen GOP seats in the Texas Legislature that could be won by credible Democratic candidates in the event of an anti-Trump-inspired blue wave sweeping across the state in November 2018.

Texas Tribune - May 22, 2017

Effort to overhaul Texas voter ID rules survives — for now

A flurry of legislative activity Sunday night gave life to efforts to overhaul Texas’ voter identification rules — legislation Republicans call crucial to the state’s arguments in a high-profile legal battle over whether the state disenfranchised minority voters. After clearing the Senate in March, Sen. Joan Huffman’s Senate Bill 5, which in some ways would soften current photo ID rules, had languished in the House. But just an hour before the latest in a series of bill-killing deadlines, an emergency declaration by Gov. Greg Abbott helped push the legislation onto the House's calendar. The bill will be eligible for a vote on Tuesday, the deadline for the House to approve Senate bills.

Texas Tribune - May 22, 2017

Ramsey: A legislative session ending on the lieutenant governor’s terms

Everyone in the Texas Capitol was reading from Dan Patrick’s script on the second-to-last weekend of the Legislature’s regular session. Sure, others got little bites, like the governor’s successful late grab for economic development funds and the speaker’s success at paring back the bathroom bill so dear to social conservatives and so threatening to economic development. Patrick, more than anyone else in leadership, has put the clock to his advantage. And with a week to go in the regular session, his threat of pushing into overtime if he doesn’t get his way on pet issues appears to be paying off.

Texas Tribune - May 21, 2017

Abbott, Patrick: More work needed as special session threat looms

THE WOODLANDS — With just over a week left in the legislative session — and the threat of a special session looming — Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick on Sunday said lawmakers still have more work to do. Abbott was optimistic when asked if legislators will avoid an overtime round, saying things are "looking great," especially after his office was up past midnight working through issues. But he also said "today will be a key day" — both chambers are convening later today — and suggested the property tax measure the House passed Saturday was not strong enough. "As you know, I want to see the rate rollback part of property taxes achieved," Abbott told The Texas Tribune after a bill-signing event here at a church. "And so we still have more work to do on property taxes. The session is not yet over."

Dallas Morning News - May 22, 2017

East Texas could see nation's patent cases go elsewhere with Supreme Court ruling

The U.S. Supreme Court put sharp new limits on where patent-infringement lawsuits can be filed, undercutting the ability of patent owners to channel cases to favorable courts. The justices unanimously ruled in favor of TC Heartland LLC, an Indiana-based maker of water flavorings that said a Kraft Heinz Co. unit shouldn't be allowed to sue it in Delaware.

Dallas Morning News - May 19, 2017

With Mexican IT company's move, North Texas gains another headquarters

North Texas will soon gain another company headquarters. Softtek, an information technology services firm, is moving its North American headquarters to Addison. The new office will have 150 employees, and the company plans to hire 50 more employees over the next year. Softtek, which was founded in 1982, has 12,000 employees around the world. About 400 employees work in the U.S. Softtek's global headquarters is in Monterrey, Mexico. Its North American headquarters was formerly in Atlanta.

Dallas Morning News - May 22, 2017

Swartz: In Beto O'Rourke Texas Democrats find their Bae-to

It's happening again. The stirring of the heart. The quickening of the pulse. The desire to abandon reality, even if you suspect there's a world of hurt to come. Love, thy name is Beto. If you haven't heard, our junior senator from Texas, aka Darth Vader, aka Voldemort, aka Ted Cruz, has a challenger for 2018, a 44-year-old Democratic congressman from El Paso by the name of Beto O'Rourke. O'Rourke may still be unknown to many, even in the state, but for those searching for a savior of the Turn Texas Blue variety, the crush is blossoming. Among statewide Democratic insiders, Beto is already a member of the First Name Club, with Madonna and Cher.

Houston Chronicle - May 21, 2017

Falkenberg: What's even worse than bad governance? Looking the other way

Decent people, do not avert your eyes. I know it's tempting. I spoke to a breakfast group of mostly lawyers and judges last week, and after covering troubling political topics from the White House to the Texas House, one woman admitted she sometimes just tunes out news coverage. "Shame on me," she said. "Yes, shame on you," I told her. But I understood what she meant. And the truth is, she's probably still better informed than most Americans. Then, I read an Associated Press story in which a mother of three who worked at a Staten Island hair salon and voted for President Donald Trump said she hadn't followed damning developments rocking the administration because she didn't want to be depressed: "I don't want to feel that he's not doing what he said, so I just choose to not listen."

Houston Chronicle - May 22, 2017

Tomlinson: Bathroom bill is nothing but trouble for Texas

Like a monster in a horror film, the bathroom bill is back. And it's time to kill it once and for all. Last week, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick repeated a promise he made at the beginning of the legislative session to hold the Texas Senate hostage over what he calls must-pass legislation. He won't relent until his hateful bill that denies transgender Texans access to public restrooms reaches the governor's desk. He said he'd do everything possible to force Gov. Greg Abbott to call special session after special session until he gets his way. Bullying has always been a lesser included offense to bigotry.

Houston Chronicle - May 19, 2017

Texas added 30,400 jobs in April; unemployment rate remains 5 percent

The Texas economy added 30,400 jobs in April, led by gains in education, health services and manufacturing, the Texas Workforce Commission reported Friday. The commission also reported that the seasonally adjusted Texas unemployment rate for April remained unchanged at 5 percent. The comparable U.S. unemployment rate is 4.4 percent. The monthly employment gains in Texas —which included 10,400 new jobs in education and health care and 8,100 in manufacturing — helped to offset job losses in other sectors.

Houston Chronicle - May 21, 2017

HC: Child's play -- Lawmakers lost countless opportunities to help build a better Texas for our kids.

When the 85th session of the Texas Legislature convened in January, back when bare-limbed trees on the Capitol grounds belied new hopes for a fruitful spring, we envisioned a "year of the child" in Austin. For any lawmaker eager to invest in the state they've sworn to serve, there were opportunities abounding to help build a brighter future for today's young Texans, for tomorrow's teachers, doctors, scientists and engineers. Our system of public school finance was broken and desperately needed overhaul. Our most vulnerable children were at risk of abuse, neglect and worse in the state's child welfare maze. Our youngest needed a more ambitious pre-K program, as Gov. Greg Abbott acknowledged. Children who needed special education programs in our public schools had been arbitrarily denied, as the Chronicle explored in an award-winning series last year. There were health needs, parenting needs.

Houston Chronicle - May 20, 2017

In Texas, even possession of a sex toy is regulated

In Texas, there really can be too much of what some people see as a good thing. While every state has odd laws on the books, the Lone Star State has one regulating the possession of a sex toy. Yes. Texas bans the possession of or promoting the use of more than six dildos. The law in question appears to be aimed at adult performances, as it spells out use in a "play, motion picture, dance, or other exhibition performed before an audience."

Houston Chronicle - May 21, 2017

A former Rockets coach without a team, Jeff Van Gundy becomes a Houstonian with a charter school cause

Jeff Van Gundy navigates the campus of Pro-Vision Academy like it was Toyota Center. He scoots past single-file middle school students in uniforms. He eavesdrops on a biology class softly playing gospel music in the background. He savors bitter mesclun greens at the urban aquaponics farm. Exiting the one-story brick building, he points to a beaten trail that encircles a shabby grass field. He imagines the new football and track stadium. "That's my job: to get them one," the former Houston Rockets coach says on a recent visit. Lost kids restore their purpose at Pro-Vision, a charter school in Houston's distressed Sunnyside neighborhood. Van Gundy, 55, a bona fide NBA celebrity and national broadcaster for ABC and ESPN, considers himself one of them.

Houston Chronicle - May 21, 2017

Abbott signs bill to protect sermons, delivers one himself

The state's top two elected officials took to the pulpit Sunday, preaching the righteousness of conservative gender norms – and hitting on several other red meat Republican issues – before the governor signed a copy of a new law protecting sermons at a Woodlands church. Senate Bill 24, listed among Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick's top priorities, bars the government from forcing religious leaders to turn over copies of sermons during a civil lawsuit or administrative proceeding. It also bars the state from compelling a religious leader's testimony. To mark the occasion at Grace Community Church in the Woodlands, Patrick and Gov. Greg Abbott joined pastor Steve Riggle and three of the four others whose sermons were subpoenaed in 2014 by the city of Houston, igniting a political fire storm for then-mayor Annise Parker.

San Antonio Express News - May 21, 2017

Fikac: Lawmaker tries, fails to extend ethics reform to governor’s appointments

Rep. Lyle Larson has been trying to tighten ethics restrictions on the governor’s office for years, with predictable results when the official you’d like to rein in has the power of life and death over everyone’s legislative proposals. The San Antonio Republican’s most recent effort, aimed at what he calls a “pay to play” system of governors appointing large donors to high-profile posts, hit a brick wall in the Texas Senate after being approved in the House. Some senators he approached as sponsors “didn’t want the governor to get the wrong message that it was about his administration, which it’s not,” Larson said. “It’s just about general ethics reform.”

Houston Chronicle - May 22, 2017

Tomlinson: Bathroom bill is nothing but trouble for Texas

Like a monster in a horror film, the bathroom bill is back. And it's time to kill it once and for all. Last week, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick repeated a promise he made at the beginning of the legislative session to hold the Texas Senate hostage over what he calls must-pass legislation. He won't relent until his hateful bill that denies transgender Texans access to public restrooms reaches the governor's desk. He said he'd do everything possible to force Gov. Greg Abbott to call special session after special session until he gets his way. Bullying has always been a lesser included offense to bigotry.

Wall St. Journal - May 22, 2017

Get Ready for Peak Oil Demand

The world’s largest oil companies are girding for the biggest shift in energy consumption since the Industrial Revolution: After decades of growth, global demand for oil is poised to peak and fall in the coming years. New technologies that improve fuel efficiency are starting to push down the amount of gasoline and diesel that’s needed for transportation, and a consensus is growing that fuel demand for passenger cars could fall as carbon rules go into effect, electric vehicles gain traction and the internal combustion engine gets re-engineered to be dramatically more efficient. Western countries’ growth used to move in lockstep with their energy consumption, but that phenomenon is starting to decouple in advanced economies. While most big oil companies foresee a day when the world will need less crude, timing when that peak in oil demand will materialize is one of the hottest flashpoints for controversy within the industry. It’s tough to predict because changes to oil demand will hinge on future disruptive technologies, such as batteries in electric cars that will allow drivers to travel for hundreds of miles on a single charge.

Dallas Morning News - May 22, 2017

Gov. Abbott gets $100 million more for budget priorities to avert special session

Gov. Greg Abbott obtained an additional $100 million for his office's economic-development programs early Sunday by threatening to veto the state budget and force a special session, according to two people familiar with the late-hour intervention. House and Senate budget negotiators relented, but the House's price was some extra education money it had been pressing for, the officials said. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who has insisted savings not be used for any ongoing expenses, rejected that, said the two officials, who are not authorized to discuss the sensitive negotiations and spoke only on condition of anonymity.

Dallas Morning News - May 22, 2017

Texas bill to protect religious adoption agencies that deny prospective parents likely to become law

Adoption and foster care agencies that cite religion to turn away prospective parents will get extra legal cover under legislation the Senate approved late Sunday. The bill passed 21-10 with Brownsville Democrat Eddie Lucio voting with his Republican colleagues in favor of the legislation. It needs be approved once more in the Senate before being sent to Gov. Greg Abbott, who is expected sign it. The measure will extend additional legal protections to providers who deny services or reject prospective parents based on their “sincerely held religious beliefs.” Many faith-based adoption groups, including those that receive taxpayer money through state contracts, already do this.

Austin American-Statesman - May 22, 2017

Religious-refusal foster care bill heads to Gov. Abbott’s desk

Agreeing with the Texas House, the Texas Senate passed a bill early Monday that would allow faith-based foster care and adoption agencies to refuse to place children with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender households over religious objections. The vote was 21-10, with Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr. of Brownsville the only Democrat who voted in favor. The bill heads to Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk. Sen. Charles Perry, R-Lubbock, who presented House Bill 3859, said it would protect the free practice of religion while keeping essential faith-based organizations in the child-welfare system, which is plagued by a shortage of homes for children who had been abused or neglected.

Dallas Morning News - May 22, 2017

Fight over vouchers to heat up as Texas Senate approves its school finance plan

A finance fix for Texas public schools heads to a showdown between the Senate and House over a controversial voucher-like program for special education students. Early Monday morning, the Senate passed its version of a school finance bill in a 21-10 vote. It includes education savings accounts for children who have dyslexia or are in special education. Their families could access public funds— about $8,100 per student — to go toward private school tuition or other education-related expenses. That’s going to be a tough sell for House lawmakers, who set aside more overall funding for Texas schools and didn't spend public money on voucher-like efforts in their bill.

Austin Business Journal - May 18, 2017

Texas cities seek more flexibility to spend taxes on major projects like stadiums

Fine-tuning the economic development taxes imposed by cities would be simplified by a Texas House bill now working its way through the Senate. Cities statewide have been able to increase tax rates to spur economic development since the early 1990s. Under the local government code, Type A local option sales tax is intended to attract local development. Type B can pay to develop or cultivate communities; the most obvious example of this tax was money raised to help pay for AT&T Stadium in Arlington, home of the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys.

New York Times - May 19, 2017

NYT: The Way Texas Treats Women

Abortion opponents have long sought to strip public funding from Planned Parenthood and other groups that provide abortions. In Texas, they succeeded. Lawmakers in other states who want to follow suit should first visit Texas, which offers a case study of the severe consequences of attacks on women’s health. In 2013, organizations that provide abortions in Texas were cut off from receiving family planning funds. The number of women covered by the state family planning program dropped by 30,000. Reimbursements for long-acting reversible contraceptives like IUDs, some of the most effective forms of pregnancy prevention, fell by more than 35 percent after the exclusion of Planned Parenthood. Pregnancies among women covered by Medicaid rose 27 percent.

Chronicle of Higher Education - May 18, 2017

2 Professors at Texas Tech Are Running for the Same Seat in Congress

It’s been more than three decades since a Democrat was elected to represent the 19th Congressional District in northwest Texas. The district is 35-percent Hispanic and has a median household income of $41,000. And it votes so reliably conservative that last year, the Republican who now holds the seat, Jodey Arrington, ran unopposed by any Democratic candidate. But two professors at Texas Tech University think now might be the time for change. Miguel A. Levario and Daniel J. Epstein, an associate professor of history and a visiting instructor in political science, respectively, have each announced their candidacies for the election next year. (Mr. Arrington, a first-term congressman, hasn’t announced if he will run for re-election.) Though voting day is more than a year away, the nascent campaigns have already seen pushback. The local Democratic Party headquarters was vandalized, and a conservative political-research firm, America Rising LLC, asked Texas Tech to turn over information on both professors, including their disciplinary records.

Environmental Protection Online - May 19, 2017

TCEQ Touts Landfill Mining Projects' Potential

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) is touting the potential of landfill mining -- digging for valuable materials that were discarded in a landfill before the advent of household recycling programs. It could be the future of waste management, according to the agency, which is cooperating on a project in Denton with the city of Denton and the University of Texas at Arlington. "If the techniques being tested in Denton pan out as researchers at UT Arlington believe they will, the end result could considerably expand the lifecycle of landfills, recover valuable materials that have been wasted, produce more energy, and potentially create new uses for closed landfills," according to TCEQ. Researchers dug boreholes in 2014 and 2015 to determine the composition of a closed landfill area as part of a feasibility study of the mining project.

Texas Tribune - May 22, 2017

When UT denied this valedictorian, she got it to change admissions rules

FAYETTEVILLE — For most of her high school career, Madison Mau knew she wanted to attend the University of Texas at Austin, and practically everyone at her tiny rural high school was certain she could do it. Mau is the valedictorian of her 10-student graduating class at Fayetteville High, on the west end of this 258-person town between Austin and Houston. She has earned perfect grades and compiled a list of extracurriculars too long to publish in full — Future Farmers of America president, National Honor Society president, class president, student council president and cross country runner, to name a few.

Newsline - May 19, 2017

Dallas Fed: Oil and gas sector recovery apparent

An improved market climate in the energy sector means Texas is well on the road to recovery with job gains up for the third straight month, a bank reported. “The oil and gas sector continued its recovery in April,” a report from the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas read. Lower crude oil prices last year left energy companies with less capital to invest in oil and gas exploration and led to economic and employment declines in Texas, the No. 1 oil producer in the United States. Prices came under pressure from supply-side pressures in April and led to a drop below the $50 per barrel threshold, though support in May has come from a proposal from parties to an effort led by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries to extend a production ceiling into early 2018.

Corpus Christi Caller Times - May 20, 2017

Moritz: The Legislature is where bills go to die – by design

A common refrain that echoes through the Capitol as any session of the Texas Legislature draws to a close is, why are so many bills dying? The answer is as simple as it is unsatisfying: That’s the way the system is supposed to work. When post-Reconstruction Texas sat down to write and ratify the Constitution of 1876 – the one still in use today – the framers wanted a state government with limited powers. They wanted short terms for representatives and senators, and for the statewide elected officials. In fact, for the first 94 years the Constitution was in effect, the governor’s term was only two years. They also wanted low taxes and tight-fisted spending policies. Those principles are pretty much still in effect.

County Stories

San Antonio Express News - May 21, 2017

Texas Mexican Mafia members arrested in raids

Area authorities on Friday arrested nearly 50 alleged members or associates of the Texas Mexican Mafia, mostly on drug and firearm charges. The hits on the prison-born gang, headquartered in San Antonio, comes as part of an investigation that has lasted about two years. A federal grand jury indicted 37 gang members or associates Wednesday as part of the investigation led by the FBI that involved several other agencies. The indictment includes charges stemming from shoot-outs, home invasions, robberies, drug-trafficking and the gang’s collection of “the dime,” a 10-percent street tax on other drug dealers.

City Stories

Austin American-Statesman - May 22, 2017

Phillips: Austin loses more than local control of Uber, Lyft; it loses big dollars

Corporate giants Uber and Lyft have knee-capped Austin. The city stands to pay a high cost, losing its authority to regulate all ride-hailing companies and hundreds of thousands of dollars that will be diverted to the state under a new measure the Legislature passed this week. How much? Austin City Council Member Ann Kitchen says the city will lose more than $900,000 annually – the amount current ride-hailing companies pay to operate in the city. “Austin is prohibited from receiving any fees under the new law, even though Uber and Lyft are using our city streets,” Kitchen told me. “The state law which allows for fees was established for the purpose of addressing use of infrastructure.”

Dallas Morning News - May 21, 2017

Kaprowski, Armstrong: How Dallas can overcome its crushing income segregation

Concentrated poverty and segregated housing patterns are the biggest structural problem in Dallas, at the root of our most serious challenges. Low-income households, disproportionally people of color, are often isolated with other low-income households. And high-income households, disproportionally white, are often isolated with other high-income households. More than 1 in 3 Dallas children are living in concentrated poverty. Though many urban areas experience the problems of concentrated poverty and segregation, Dallas' levels are abnormally high, according to the Pew Research Center, and were often the result of deliberate action.

National Stories

Dallas Morning News - May 19, 2017

Yoo: Forget the Watergate comparisons, think instead of Reagan's Iran-Contra

The reported effort by President Donald Trump to pressure then-FBI director James Comey to drop the investigation into Russian influence over his former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, has provoked cries of obstruction of justice. Trump critics are demanding an independent prosecutor, à la Watergate, or at least the appointment of a nonpartisan, neutral FBI director to continue the investigation. Those critics may hope to get both in one, with the Justice Department's appointment on Wednesday of former FBI director Robert Mueller as special counsel to continue the inquiry into Russian meddling in the 2016 election. Both Democrats and Republicans, however, will find it impossible to turn Trump's core executive powers against him. Instead, Congress should turn to the powers designed by the framers of the Constitution for exactly such circumstances: the tools of funding, oversight and, as a last resort, impeachment.

New York Times - May 20, 2017

How Rollbacks at Scott Pruitt’s E.P.A. Are a Boon to Oil and Gas

FREMONT COUNTY, Wyo. — In a gas field here in Wyoming’s struggling energy corridor, nearly 2,000 miles from Washington, the Trump administration’s regulatory reversal is crowning an early champion. Devon Energy, which runs the windswept site, had been prepared to install a sophisticated system to detect and reduce leaks of dangerous gases. It had also discussed paying a six-figure penalty to settle claims by the Obama administration that it was illegally emitting 80 tons each year of hazardous chemicals, like benzene, a known carcinogen. But something changed in February just five days after Scott Pruitt, the former Oklahoma attorney general with close ties to Devon, was sworn in as the head of the Environmental Protection Agency.

New York Times - May 20, 2017

NYT: Watergate? We’re Not There Yet

Now that Robert Mueller III has been appointed special counsel to investigate ties between President Trump’s campaign and Russia, Democrats and even a few Republicans are drawing comparisons between the present mess and the Watergate scandal that brought down Richard Nixon. Senator John McCain of Arizona pegged the president’s problems at a “point where it’s of Watergate size and scale” after reports surfaced that Mr. Trump had pressed James Comey, then the F.B.I. director, to quash an investigation of Mike Flynn, the Trump loyalist and former national security adviser. David Gergen, who was a White House aide to four presidents in Republican and Democratic administrations, contended that “we’re in impeachment territory now.” A few other Republicans have broken away from their party’s blind defense of the president and called for deeper investigations.

Politico - May 22, 2017

Escalating probes rattle Trump and his aides

President Donald Trump seemed rattled before he left Washington Friday afternoon, two people who spoke with him last week said, as he wondered aloud how much investigations into Russia’s involvement in the 2016 election might damage his presidency. One adviser said Trump said in a conversation last week that he felt that "there are a lot of people out to get him," musing that he should not have attacked the intelligence community so vociferously. An administration official who spoke to the president said he "seemed down more than angry," even though Trump defiantly tweeted that he was facing a “witch hunt.”

Washington Post - May 22, 2017

Trump asked intelligence chiefs to push back against FBI collusion probe after Comey revealed its existence

President Trump asked two of the nation’s top intelligence officials in March to help him push back against an FBI investigation into possible coordination between his campaign and the Russian government, according to current and former officials. Trump made separate appeals to the director of national intelligence, Daniel Coats, and to Adm. Michael S. Rogers, the director of the National Security Agency, urging them to publicly deny the existence of any evidence of collusion during the 2016 election. Coats and Rogers refused to comply with the requests, which they both deemed to be inappropriate, according to two current and two former officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private communications with the president.

Austin American-Statesman - May 22, 2017

Trump trip to Israel possibly first flight from Saudi Arabia

Even before President Donald Trump began his trip to Israel, he already may have made history. The president's flight from Riyadh to Tel Aviv on Monday was believed to be the first direct flight between Saudi Arabia and Israel. Trump landed at Ben-Gurion International Airport for a two-day visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories as part of his first trip abroad since taking office. An Israel Airport Authority spokesman said he was not aware of any direct flights ever having landed in Israel from the kingdom.

Reuters - May 20, 2017

NAACP civil rights group dismisses chief in mission recast

The NAACP is dismissing its president as the biggest U.S. civil rights organization tries to recast itself to strengthen its advocacy role and better support local activism, officials said on Friday. Cornell Brooks, who also had been chief executive of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People since mid-2014, will not have his three-year contract renewed when it expires at the end of June, NAACP Chairman Leon Russell said. ... The NAACP has been a leader of U.S. civil rights since its founding in 1909. Its pre-eminence has been challenged by the Black Lives Matter movement that sprang up to protest police shootings of African Americans in recent years and by mass protests against President Donald Trump.

Associated Press - May 22, 2017

Senate Republicans quietly working on health overhaul bill

Remember the Republican health care bill? Washington is fixated on President Donald Trump's firing of FBI chief James Comey and burgeoning investigations into possible connections between Trump's presidential campaign and Russia. But in closed-door meetings, Senate Republicans are trying to write legislation dismantling President Barack Obama's health care law. They would substitute their own tax credits, ease coverage requirements and cut the federal-state Medicaid program for the poor and disabled that Obama enlarged. The House passed its version this month, but not without difficulty, and now Republicans who run the Senate are finding hurdles, too.

This article appeared in the Houston Chronicle

Investor's Business Daily - May 18, 2017

Investor's Business Daily: Democrats Want To Impeach A Republican President? What Else Is New?

The fact that some Democrats are already calling for the impeachment of President Trump is hardly news. What is news is the fact that even some ardent liberals are worried that reflexively jumping on the impeachment bandwagon is folly. According to a list compiled by CNN, 27 Democrats have so far come out in favor of impeaching Trump. What they don't provide is context. For 36 years, Democrats have routinely called for impeaching Republican presidents at the drop of a hat. Here is a sampling: On May 1, 1981, thousands of protesters marched in Washington to denounce President Reagan's economic and social policies. The event was billed as ''Days of Resistance to Roll Back Reaganism." (Sound familiar?) At the event, at least two speakers called for impeaching Reagan. ''Our purpose is to turn this country around,'' one said. ''Getting rid of Reagan is the first step.''

Texas Tribune - May 22, 2017

The Texas Republican helping to calm the waters in Washington

The partisan rancor on the U.S. House floor earlier this month had never been higher. Packed with members, Republican leaders were in their final scramble to secure votes for a landmark piece of legislation that could dismantle former President Obama’s 2010 landmark health care law and they weren't bothering to secure Democratic support. A few hours later, Democrats would respond in kind. From the minority side, they sang lyrics from “Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye,” indicating they believed the vote would cost the GOP control of the House. But in a quiet calm amid the chaos, a Democrat who literally represents Hollywood and a Republican from the oil fields of West Texas chatted together alone, pleasantly smiling and laughing.

Politico - May 22, 2017

Paging Rahm: House Dems revive 2006 playbook for 2018

An unpopular president, the scent of corruption in Washington, a riled-up liberal base — to House Democrats, 2018 is already looking like 2006 on overdrive. Now Democrats see the same ugly storm forming for Republicans that delivered them the majority 11 years ago, and they’re digging out the blueprint. The party is vastly expanding the number of districts it plans to contest, recruiting veterans and business owners to compete in conservative terrain as it did back then. Three senior House Democrats are soon heading to Chicago to seek advice from Rahm Emanuel, the party’s 2006 master strategist. Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has been tutoring members on the party’s campaign efforts that year.

New York Times - May 22, 2017

Caught in White House Chaos, Justice Dept. Official Seeks Neutral Ground

Last month, Rod J. Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general at the center of the crisis building around President Trump’s White House, gathered with federal prosecutors and law enforcement officials to bid farewell to his old job, United States attorney in Maryland, and celebrate his new one. At an interfaith center in Columbia, Md., as guests nibbled on egg rolls and miniature roast beef sandwiches, Mr. Rosenstein joked darkly about the low pay and high burnout rate that come with being the No. 2 official at the Department of Justice. His daughter would have to wait for the big yard she had been wanting, he said, and the average length of tenure for the post he was about to assume was little more than a year.

Page Six - May 21, 2017

Ted Cruz asked Stephen Colbert to ‘humanize’ him

Former GOP presidential candidate Ted Cruz once went on “The Late Show” and asked Stephen Colbert if he could “humanize” him. Colbert was explaining to an audience at New York mag’s Vulture Festival on Saturday that audiences can “smell a prepared answer” from a politician. “I don’t want to betray my guest because there’s what happens on-camera and off-camera, but I guess it’s okay because I don’t think [Ted Cruz] understood what he was asking,” the 53-year-old host said. “I said, ‘Thanks for coming on, I like to have republicans on,’ and he goes, ‘Well, I was hoping we could humanize me.'”

Washington Post - May 21, 2017

Trump to propose big cuts to safety-net in new budget, slashing Medicaid and opening door to other limits

President Trump’s first major budget proposal on Tuesday will include massive cuts to Medicaid and call for changes to anti-poverty programs that would give states new power to limit a range of benefits, people familiar with the planning said, despite growing unease in Congress about cutting the safety net. For Medicaid, the state-federal program that provides health care to low-income Americans, Trump’s budget plan would follow through on a bill passed by House Republicans to cut more than $800 billion over 10 years. The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that this could cut off Medicaid benefits for about 10 million people over the next decade. The White House also will call for giving states more flexibility to impose work requirements for people in different kinds of anti-poverty programs, people familiar with the budget plan said, potentially leading to a flood of changes in states led by conservative governors.

Washington Post - May 21, 2017

Trump summons Muslim nations to confront ‘Islamic terror of all kinds’

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — President Trump forcefully summoned the Muslim world to confront “the crisis of Islamic extremism” here Sunday on the eve of visits to Israel and the Vatican as he seeks to unite followers of disparate faiths against global terrorism. Speaking from the birthplace of Islam, Trump implored the leaders of dozens of Muslim nations to take their destinies in hand and, together with the United States, eliminate the “wave of fanatical violence” committed in the name of religion. “This is not a battle between different faiths, different sects or different civilizations,” Trump said in the first major foreign policy address of his presidency. “This is a battle between barbaric criminals who seek to obliterate human life, and decent people, all in the name of religion — people that want to protect life and want to protect their religion. This is a battle between good and evil.”

Washington Post - May 21, 2017

Despite high court’s decision on N.C. voting law, activists worry about chief justice

The big win for voting rights activists at the Supreme Court last week came with an equally big asterisk, and provided new reason for jittery liberals and civil rights groups to continue to fret about Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. The justices without noted dissent on May 15 said they would not consider reviving North Carolina’s sweeping 2013 voting law, which had been struck down by a lower court after years of litigation. A unanimous panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit had ruled that the state’s Republican legislative leadership had intentionally crafted the law to blunt the growing political power of African American voters.

Politico - May 21, 2017

Russia meeting revelation could trigger obstruction investigation

The new special counsel investigation into possible collusion between associates of President Donald Trump and Russia is just getting started — and it could take years to resolve. But Trump’s Oval Office boast to Russian officials May 10 about why he fired FBI Director James Comey will almost certainly trigger a more immediate, and potentially perilous, legal development: an obstruction of justice investigation into whether the president intentionally engaged in a cover-up that warrants the filing of criminal charges, current and former Justice Department officials say. Trump summarily terminated Comey one day earlier, just as it appeared that his FBI investigators were ramping up their investigation into the president’s associates — and possibly Trump himself.

Politico - May 21, 2017

An Outrageously Early Field Guide to 2020

I can already hear your complaints: It’s too early to talk about the 2020 presidential primaries! But the prospective candidates don’t think so. Joe Biden’s teasing. Senators and governors are road testing. And with the Trump presidency perpetually mired in scandal, no one on the Democratic bench is hesitating. The simple truth, as depressing as it might sound to the survivors of 2016, is that anyone who wants to be president must make moves now. Beyond building a network of donors and volunteers, over the next 3½ years, those hoping to make it to the White House need to sell themselves to primary voters as leaders. Leaders of principle. Leaders on issues. Leaders in partisan warfare. Leaders in building consensus.

The Hill - May 21, 2017

Republicans fearing for their safety as anger, threats mount

A growing number of House Republicans are facing physical threats from angry constituents in their districts, leading many to fear for their safety. In the last few weeks alone, the FBI arrested a man threatening Rep. Martha McSally's (R-Ariz.) life, a woman pursued Rep. David Kustoff (R-Tenn.) in her car, and Rep. Tom Garrett (R-Va.) heightened security at a town hall event in response to death threats. Other Republicans still holding town halls say they haven't felt physically threatened by protesters, but they worry about the depth of anger from some constituents in the polarized environment and what it means for political civility.

Fox News - May 17, 2017

Rep. Gohmert: I'm 'Amazed Comey Appears to Be Confessing to a Crime'

Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) said former FBI Director James Comey "appears" to be "confessing to a crime." Gohmert said that if - as Comey's reported memo suggests - President Trump attempted to obstruct the Michael Flynn investigation, then Comey may be guilty of something too. "I'm amazed that an FBI director and former prosecutor would be confessing to a crime the way that it appears that he is," Gohmert said. He said that under 18 U.S. Code Section 4, Comey is required by law to report any attempt - including by the President of the United States - to obstruct a federal investigation.

The Hill - May 20, 2017

GOP talks of narrowing ‘blue-slip’ rule for judges

GOP senators are talking about changing an obscure Senate tradition to make it more difficult for Democrats to block certain judges from advancing to a confirmation hearing. The change to the “blue-slip rule” would involve preventing individual senators from blocking nominees to circuit courts that have jurisdiction over several states. If the rule change were made, it would make it easier for President Trump to win confirmation for his circuit court picks. Trump currently has 20 vacancies on the lower courts of appeals to fill.

Austin American-Statesman - May 21, 2017

Gingrich spreads conspiracy theory about slain DNC staffer

Former House speaker Newt Gingrich, a stalwart supporter of President Trump, used a Sunday morning appearance on "Fox and Friends" to spread the conspiracy theory that former Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich was killed last year to cover up the true story of how WikiLeaks obtained tens of thousands of hacked Democratic Party emails. "We have this very strange story now of this young man who worked for the Democratic National Committee, who apparently was assassinated at four in the morning, having given WikiLeaks something like 53,000 emails and 17,000 attachments," Gingrich said. "Nobody's investigating that, and what does that tell you about what's going on? Because it turns out, it wasn't the Russians. It was this young guy who, I suspect, was disgusted by the corruption of the Democratic National Committee.

All - May 21, 2017

Lead Stories

Dallas Morning News - May 20, 2017

Attorney General Ken Paxton's pastor sues lead witnesses in criminal case

Attorney General Ken Paxton's pastor has sued the lead witnesses against him in his upcoming criminal trials. Last week, Prestonwood Baptist Church Executive Pastor Mike Buster filed a lawsuit against Rep. Byron Cook and Florida businessman Joel Hochberg, the two men named on Paxton's fraud indictments. Paxton attends Prestonwood's main campus in Plano. Buster alleges that Cook and Hochberg bilked him out of about a half-million dollars, described as "a substantial percentage of his personal net worth." Cook was manager of an energy asset management company that Buster says recommended he purchase mineral rights from Cook and Hochberg "at exorbitant markups and after very short holding times."

Dallas Morning News - May 21, 2017

Abbott wins last-minute money for recruiting business after threatening to veto Texas budget

House and Senate budget negotiators tentatively approved a belt-tightening, two-year state budget early Sunday, but only after conceding some additional millions to Gov. Greg Abbott for his prized pots of economic-development money. After a top Abbott aide reportedly said the Republican governor would veto the budget if lawmakers didn't add more money for his pet projects, 10 key lawmakers from the two chambers did some last-minute dickering. "We just reviewed what was in his budget and just agreed that we needed to probably make some adjustments, which will be reflected in the budget," said chief House negotiator John Zerwas, R-Richmond. "He clearly felt he needed more ... in order to carry out some of his economic development" efforts, Zerwas said of Abbott.

Texas Tribune - May 20, 2017

Budget compromise taps Rainy Day Fund, transportation funding

After months of private squabbling and public threats of a legislative overtime session, the Texas House and Senate finally compromised to unveil a joint budget late Saturday. Lawmakers, scrounging for cash in a tight-fisted legislative session, agreed to dip into the state’s savings account and to make use of an accounting trick using funds set aside last session for highway projects. “We have reached a consensus on what I believe is a responsible, compassionate and smart budget for the people of Texas,” said state Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound and the upper chamber’s top budget writer, at a committee hearing that lasted late into Saturday night.

Washington Post - May 19, 2017

Erickson: Here comes the GOP bloodbath

Republicans like to point out how disastrous President Barack Obama’s tenure was for the Democratic Party. During his presidency, Democrats reached new lows in state legislative, gubernatorial and congressional seats. More than 1,000 state and federal seats moved to the GOP. And though many prefer to blame James B. Comey or Russia, there can be no question that Democratic losses in 2016 were compounded by an inept Clinton campaign team that ignored the plight of working-class Americans in the Rust Belt, focusing instead on people who looked and thought just like they did. Donald Trump was able to connect with voters with whom he had nothing in common largely because the Clinton campaign left a vacuum on the other side of the aisle, which Trump gladly filled. Nonetheless, throughout 2016 I maintained my opposition to Trump for three reasons, two of which are increasingly, worryingly relevant.

New York Times - May 18, 2017

States Trim Penalties and Prison Rolls, Even as Sessions Gets Tough

Louisiana has the nation’s highest incarceration rate. But this week, Gov. John Bel Edwards struck a deal to reduce sentences and the prison population, saving millions annually. If lawmakers approve the changes, Louisiana will be following more than 30 states, including Georgia, Texas and South Carolina, that have already limited sentences; expanded alternatives to incarceration, such as drug treatment; or otherwise reduced the reach and cost of the criminal justice system. Many of those states say they have saved money while crime rates have stayed low.

New York Times - May 21, 2017

Saudis Welcome Trump’s Rebuff of Obama’s Mideast Views

With trumpets blaring, cannons booming and fighter jets streaking overhead trailed by red, white and blue contrails, President Trump arrived in the scorching heat of the Arabian desert on Saturday hoping to realign the politics and diplomacy of the Middle East by forcefully reasserting American support for Sunni Muslim countries and Israel against Iran’s Shiite-led government. The start of Mr. Trump’s first trip abroad since becoming president — coming amid the scandals and chaos engulfing his administration — was intended to be a blunt rejection of President Barack Obama’s vision for the region. Mr. Obama sought a reconciliation with Iran and negotiated a deal intended to keep Tehran from developing nuclear weapons.

State Stories

Dallas Morning News - May 20, 2017

Houston congressman threatened with lynching after calling for Trump’s impeachment

At a Houston town hall meeting Saturday, Rep. Al Green played recordings of threatening voicemail messages he received after calling for Trump's impeachment on Wednesday. “Actual recordings will be played and you can decide for yourself what we’re dealing with,” Green said to the crowd of about 100 people. "You ain't going to impeach nobody, you [expletive]," one caller said. "Try it and we'll lynch all you [expletive] [N-word] and you'll be hanging from a tree."

San Antonio Express News - May 20, 2017

The meteoric rise, and fall, of indicted Texas state Sen. Carlos Uresti

It has been a far fall from grace for Texas Sen. Carlos Uresti. The San Antonio Democrat was a force in the state legislature for almost two decades before his arrest on 13 counts of bribery and fraud last week. The two separate indictments contain some damning allegations, if true, and cast a long dark shadow over his lengthy political career and prestigious position in the Texas Senate where, even as a Democrat in a highly partisan world ruled by Republicans, he has won coveted seats on powerful committees.

Dallas Morning News - May 20, 2017

Bill aims to prevent jail time for unpaid tickets and fines

Rachel MacGruder was trying to get right with the law. The single mother with two disabled teenagers had fallen behind on payments to clear three traffic tickets, and she was headed to the courthouse in Waco last fall to get back on track. On her way into the building, she was arrested for failing to pay her fines and sentenced to 30 days in jail. "I couldn't afford to sit in jail," MacGruder said. "I had just started a new job." Thousands of low-income Texans like MacGruder who fail to pay fines and fees for non-criminal offenses are landing in jails statewide. In 2015, just 10 municipal courts sentenced nearly 14,000 people to jail for fine-only offenses, according to Texas Appleseed, a nonprofit organization that advocates for public justice.

Dallas Morning News - May 20, 2017

Texas' schools chief could get more muscle under legislative proposals

Former Dallas trustee Mike Morath is a popular guy. He’s seen as sharp, energetic and strategic. That’s a big reason lawmakers have filed bills that would give the state’s education commissioner significantly more power. The position would have more authority on a variety of measures — from determining how to implement the new A-F accountability system for schools to creating a grant program for him to dole out as he sees fit. Longtime Texas education observers say the moves have met little resistance this session because of Morath. Still, they worry it sets a precedent that could be hard to dial back.

Dallas Morning News - May 20, 2017

Texas Houses passes sweeping abortion bill to ban fetal tissue donation, some procedures

The Texas House spent six hours Friday debating, amending and eventually passing a bill that would ban certain abortion procedures and require fetal tissue from abortions or miscarriages to be buried or cremated. The bill started as a two-pronged proposal: It would regulate how fetal remains could be handled and prohibit "partial-birth" abortions. It also included a ban on the donation or sale of fetal tissue from an elective abortion. Some House members, frustrated by what they see as a lack of enthusiasm from leaders in the chamber to pass anti-abortion bills, used the measure as a way to revive legislation that had been left for dead.

Dallas Morning News - May 19, 2017

Court punts decision on cost of Ken Paxton prosecution back to county before making final ruling

A Dallas appeals court has delayed ruling in a lawsuit over the cost of Attorney General Ken Paxton's criminal prosecution. The 5th Court of Appeals on Wednesday said they won't make a decision on whether the three prosecutors' fees are legal until the county votes to pay their last bill, which topped $205,000. The prosecutors' pay has been on hold since January. The court has told the Collin County Commissioners Court to vote on the fees within the next thirty days, after which the court will rule on the fees' legality. County Judge Keith Self, who sits on the commissioners court, called the decision "judicial overreach," and said it's time to go to trial in the Paxton case so the county can "stop the bleeding."

Dallas Morning News - May 21, 2017

Texas House welcomes one form of high-tech transit but not another

House lawmakers on Saturday embraced one transportation future, driverless cars, while displaying wariness if not outright hostility toward another, bullet trains. With little discussion as they buzzed through a pile of Senate-passed bills, members tentatively approved a measure that would let manufacturers test self-driving or "autonomous" cars on Texas roads. The bill by North Richland Hills GOP Sen. Kelly Hancock would require the vehicles to meet all federal and state safety standards and carry the usual motorist liability insurance.

Dallas Morning News - May 20, 2017

'It's change for good': Trump supporters stand by him, blame media and his staff for troubles

In the last week, news reports revealed that President Donald Trump disclosed classified information to Russian officials. A memo surfaced in which ousted FBI director James Comey said Trump asked him to squash an investigation of former national security adviser Michael Flynn. And former FBI director Robert Mueller was appointed special counsel to oversee a probe into whether Trump's campaign colluded with Russia to influence the 2016 elections. While Trump's rivals — and even some Republicans — are disturbed by the explosive headlines, the president's hardened supporters aren't bothered at all. They say Trump is not on the ropes, but instead continues to be a champion of the "forgotten man." He's withstanding blistering attacks from sore-loser Democrats and a hostile media looking to drive him from office.

Texas Tribune - May 20, 2017

House backs property tax changes, but leaves out election requirements

The Texas House on Saturday responded to Lt. Gov. Patrick's threat of forcing a special session by unanimously approving property tax legislation. But the lower chamber excluded the Senate's key provisions requiring voter approval of some tax rates — something Patrick wanted included. Property tax changes and the so-called bathroom bill were the two items Patrick this week said needed to move by May 29 to prevent a special session. But it wasn't immediately clear Saturday afternoon if the lieutenant governor would accept a version of the property tax legislation that excluded the election provision many in the upper chamber considered vital. Conservative House members also wanted such language, but were unsuccessful in getting it added.

Texas Tribune - May 21, 2017

School lunch bill revived as an amendment; no longer mandatory

A diluted version of a bill by Rep. Helen Giddings, D-DeSoto, which targeted food shaming in public schools and has repeatedly been shot down by the House Freedom Caucus, was revived Saturday and passed in the House as an amendment to a similar bill. Senate Bill 725, which would let school districts offer uneaten or donated food to a nonprofit to give to hungry students, passed 133-0 and now heads back to the Senate, where the upper chamber will decide whether to accept the amendment. The amendment, introduced by the bill's House sponsor, Rep. Diego Bernal, D-San Antonio, was based on Giddings' bill and would allow districts to give meals to students without money in their school lunch accounts — and also give them a grace period to resolve insufficient balances.

Texas Tribune - May 20, 2017

Texas House advances bill that would outlaw bestiality

The Texas Legislature on Saturday moved one step closer to joining the large majority of state governments that consider sexual conduct between humans and animals or fowl a crime. Senate bill 1232, by state Sen. Joan Huffman, R-Houston, would make bestiality a state jail felony and require offenders to be added to the state’s sex offender registry. The punishment would jump to a second-degree felony if the crime occurred in the presence of a child or resulted in serious injury or death for the animal. The legislation tentatively passed 122 to 6 and must receive final approval in the lower chamber before being sent back to the Texas Senate.

Texas Tribune - May 21, 2017

During busy Saturday session, House moves on key pieces of legislation

The Texas House on Saturday moved closer to finalizing key pieces of legislation — from property taxes to the state budget — that could help avoid a return trip to Austin for a special session to take care of unfinished business. In fewer than five hours, the 150-member chamber passed a key change on property taxes, as well as a measure to extend the life of state agencies — after a bill that would have prevented their shuttering fell short of a key deadline last week. After the chamber gaveled out, the House members of the budget conference committee announced, with their Senate colleagues, that they had reached a deal to finalize the state’s 2018-19 budget. Then they began going over the details of the budget in a meeting that stretched into the evening.

Texas Tribune - May 21, 2017

Major ethics reform remains viable in final days of session

Efforts to restrict the influence of major political donors and shine the light on so-called “dark money” are lying in the ash heap of dead proposals in the Texas Legislature. But as the 2017 regular session barrels toward its finale on May 29, a significant ethics reform package that Gov. Greg Abbott put on the fast track early this year remains viable. It’s too early to say what will live or die, but every slice of reform anointed at the beginning of the session by top Republican leaders — from requiring more transparency of lawmakers’ private business interests to denying them pensions when they commit serious felonies — has a chance to pass before a midnight deadline on Memorial Day.

Texas Tribune - May 20, 2017

Texas Republicans fear federal oversight as voter ID overhaul stalls

With bill-killing deadlines looming, some Texas Republicans are trying to unstick legislation that would overhaul the state’s voter identification rules, saying failure to do so would torpedo the state's position in a high-profile court battle over whether lawmakers disenfranchised minority voters. Inaction, they fear, would dramatically boost the odds Texas would return to the list of governments required to seek federal approval before changing their election laws. Last year, the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Texas lawmakers discriminated against minority voters by enacting one of the nation’s strictest voter identification laws in 2011.

Austin American-Statesman - May 20, 2017

Tom Mechler quits as GOP chair, warning party must look more like Texas

Texas Republican Party Chairman Tom Mechler resigned Saturday for personal reasons but with a warning that if the Texas GOP doesn’t make “our party look more like Texas,” the nation’s biggest red state could turn blue. “As the demographics continue to change, our state will soon have a majority-minority voting age population. If we do not continue to make efforts to engage in the diverse communities across Texas, our state will turn blue,” Mechler wrote in his letter of resignation. “This is no longer just a possibility, it is an inevitable reality if we fail to act.” Mechler’s resignation takes effect immediately. A successor will be chosen by the State Republican Executive Committee, which is made up of two members from each senatorial district, when it meets on June 3.

Austin American-Statesman - May 20, 2017

What ultimatum? House tries to squash Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s leverage

Last week, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick threatened to force a special legislative session unless the House approved bills on two of his top priorities: restricting local property tax increases and prohibiting transgender Texans from using the bathrooms of their choice. On Saturday afternoon, House Speaker Joe Straus answered Patrick’s ultimatum — and Patrick likely won’t be pleased. First, the House approved a watered-down version of the property tax measure. Then, it moved to take away a bargaining chip claimed by Patrick, who leads the Senate, when he issued his ultimatum.

Austin American-Statesman - May 20, 2017

Herman: Hypocrisy and sincerely held religious beliefs

Texas House Democrats won the debate but lost the battle in a virtuoso effort that exposed Republicans’ hypocrisy in proffering their oft-made religious liberty arguments. So complete was the Democrats’ effort that the Republicans retreated in silence, unable or unwilling to offer anything resembling a semi-cogent argument. On this day the Repubs, God bless them, were made to look like the anti-religious liberty crowd. The battle came Friday evening during House debate on Senate Bill 8, this year’s effort by Republicans to enact restrictions some of them hope will prove onerous on abortions.

Austin American-Statesman - May 20, 2017

PolitiFact: How Gov. Abbott misstated sheriff’s ‘sanctuary’ policy

Gov. Greg Abbott gave a backhanded shoutout (or the back of his hand) to a Democratic sheriff as he signed the Republican-driven proposal intended to keep local communities from shielding unauthorized immigrants from deportation. The governor explained his support of Senate Bill 4 during a bill signing on Facebook Live: “This law cracks down on policies like the Travis County sheriff who declared that she would not detain known criminals accused of violent crimes. Those policies are sanctuary city policies and won’t be tolerated in Texas. Elected officials and law enforcement agencies, they don’t get to pick and choose which laws they will obey.” ... That’s a distortion of Hernandez’s statements and her announced policy. The sheriff made it clear she wouldn’t automatically honor all requests to hold suspects for ICE. But the policy specifies several violent crimes for which the sheriff’s department directly grants the hold requests and it reserves the office’s right to exercise discretion in the interests of justice. Abbott, a seasoned judge and former state attorney general, should know better. We find this claim incorrect and ridiculous. Pants on Fire!

Austin American-Statesman - May 20, 2017

Resolution to legislative standoff emerging as session end nears

A possible resolution to the high-stakes stand-off between Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and House Speaker Joe Straus is coming into focus this weekend, with lawmakers acting on key measures on the state budget, local property taxes, transgender bathroom access and keeping state agencies operating. Last week, Patrick threatened to force a special legislative session unless the House approved bills on two of his priorities: restricting local property tax increases and prohibiting transgender Texans from using the bathrooms of their choice. On Saturday afternoon, the House approved a watered-down version of the property tax measure and plans to give the same treatment to the so-called bathroom bill on Sunday, a source with knowledge of the plan said. Also Saturday, the House moved to take away a procedural bargaining chip claimed by Patrick, who leads the Senate, when he issued his ultimatum.

Austin American-Statesman - May 20, 2017

Texas House OKs 2 bills prompted by Sandra Bland’s arrest, death

The Texas House on Saturday approved a pair of proposals prompted by the 2015 arrest and death of Sandra Bland. The Sandra Bland Act, named for the woman who was found hanged in a Waller County jail cell three days after a routine traffic stop escalated to a confrontation with a state trooper, is meant to “minimize circumstances where someone in jail is not screened appropriately … to make sure that person doesn’t commit suicide,” Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, who carried the bill in the House, told lawmakers. “I’m very proud of the mental health aspects of this bill.”

Austin American-Statesman - May 20, 2017

Donna Howard tearfully speaks against further abortion regulations

Several hours into Friday’s debate on abortion regulations in the Texas House, Rep. Donna Howard acknowledged that she was speaking on an “extremely emotional and very personal subject for all of us.” Several minutes later, the Austin Democrat lived up to her words, breaking down in tears while telling abortion opponents that regulations will not stop women from needing, and seeking, abortions. “This is a difficult day. I’m sorry,” she said. “We can sit here self-righteously and decide that we always know best for every person, but we do not. We do not,” Howard said.

New York Times - May 21, 2017

Trump signs ‘tremendous’ deals with Saudi Arabia on his first day overseas

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — President Trump made a splashy debut on the world stage here Saturday, ushering in a new era in U.S.-Saudi Arabian relations by signing a joint “strategic vision” that includes $110 billion in American arms sales and other new investments that the administration said would bring hundreds of thousands of jobs. “It was a great day,” Trump said. He cited “tremendous investments in the United States .?.?. and jobs, jobs, jobs.” While initial details were scant, the agreements signed included a U.S. letter of intent to “support Saudi Arabia’s defense needs” with sales of a number of items — naval ships, tanks and other vehicles — that were the subject of agreements under earlier administrations, as well as some new items that had never passed the discussion stage, such as sophisticated THAAD missile defense systems.

San Antonio Express News - May 20, 2017

Texas AG asks EPA to halt environmental court battles

Attorney General Ken Paxton is hoping the Trump administration will not resist Texas in court as the administration rewrites Obama-era environmental regulations. In a letter sent this week, Paxton urged the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to stop the clock on more than 12 lawsuits it has pending with the EPA over new regulations related to climate change, clean air and wetlands protection. With briefing and motion deadlines pending in many of the cases, the letter asked the EPA to direct Department of Justice lawyers to suspend the cases while the EPA reviews the rules. This would save Texas and industry groups legal fees, it argues.

Austin American-Statesman - May 20, 2017

Gov. Greg Abbott issues 11th-hour demand as committee approves budget

An 11th-hour demand from Gov. Greg Abbott temporarily disrupted the work of a committee of House and Senate negotiators on Saturday night as they were about to approve a state budget for 2018 and 2019. Abbott asked the conference committee on Senate Bill 1, the state budget, to include more money for programs that are controlled by his office and are meant to lure businesses to Texas. “He clearly felt that he needed more in the area of his trusteed funds in order carry out some of the economic development,” Rep. John Zerwas, the House’s top budget writer, told reporters after the committee adjourned at about 1 a.m. Sunday morning. “If we had had a little bit more of a heads up, we might have been able to make the accommodations. But it works out fine.”

Austin American-Statesman - May 20, 2017

House signs off on bachelor’s degree at ACC, campus sex assault bills

Legislation that would allow certain public junior colleges, including Austin Community College, to offer bachelor’s degrees in some workforce-oriented fields was approved by the Texas House on Saturday. The House also signed off on two measures addressing campus sexual assault, sexual harassment, dating violence and stalking. It’s starting to become clear where these and other higher education matters — including financial aid, tuition and automatic admission — stand in the waning days of the session, which concludes May 29.

Texas Observer - May 21, 2017

Abandoning ‘Women’s Health’ Claims, Texas House Approves Wide-Ranging Anti-Abortion Bill

The Texas House tentatively passed a slew of anti-abortion regulations Friday, likely setting up new legal challenges less than a year after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the state’s sweeping anti-abortion bill. During five hours of debate Friday afternoon, Senate Bill 8 became the 85th Legislature’s main vehicle for restricting abortion. Conservative lawmakers tacked on more extreme measures that had passed as standalone bills in the Senate but stalled in House committees. The bill, which passed 96-47 and now awaits final approval by the House and Senate, would ban fetal tissue donation and require the burial or cremation of fetal remains following an abortion.

Texas Observer - May 20, 2017

CPS Caseworker: Lawmakers Are ‘Shifting the Blame’ by Privatizing Child Welfare System

For Child Protective Services (CPS) caseworkers, no two days are exactly the same. Jennifer, a CPS worker in Houston, juggles more than a dozen cases at a time and is responsible for virtually every decision made for each child. When she’s not visiting kids, she’s working with their therapists, teachers, doctors, families and lawyers to get them proper care. It’s a “make or break you” kind of job, she says, and one she believes could get worse if a proposal to privatize foster care passes the House this week.

County Stories

Dallas Morning News - May 20, 2017

Ragland: John Wiley Price can't let his stunning legal victory go to his head

John Wiley Price is a free man — in every sense of the word. After a jury found the veteran Dallas County commissioner not guilty of bribery and mail fraud, all the feds had left were a few flimsy tax charges — and even those would be hard to prove. So U.S. Attorney John Parker made a sensible and practical decision: He's washing his hands of Price and the commissioner's longtime political consultant, Kathy Nealy, who was supposed to stand trial later on related charges. Parker said that pursuing another costly and time-consuming trial against Price "will not serve the interests of justice."

Dallas Morning News - May 20, 2017

John Wiley Price won't be retried, feds announce

Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price will not be retried on any charges related to his corruption case, federal prosecutors announced Friday. U.S. Attorney John R. Parker said he's disappointed in the not-guilty and hung-jury verdicts from Price's trial last month, but pursuing another trial "will not serve the interests of justice." Prosecutors said they also are dropping their case against political consultant Kathy Nealy, Price's longtime friend who was charged with bribing him. Price was accused of taking nearly $1 million in bribes from Nealy in exchange for helping her clients win contracts and other lucrative approvals.

City Stories

San Antonio Express News - May 19, 2017

Texas replaces Southside ISD board, completing takeover

Mike Morath, the Texas education commissioner, has completed the state takeover of the Southside Independent School District, appointing a five-member board of managers to replace the district’s board of trustees, officials said Friday. Morath had the option to replace Superintendent Mark E. Eads but announced in a letter to the seven ousted trustees that Eads will continue in his role. “We will continue to move the district forward and we are all truly excited about the future of Southside,” Eads said in a written statement.

San Antonio Express News - May 18, 2017

Petition calls for stronger oversight of hot air balloons after deadly crash near Lockhart

Family members of two San Antonio victims who died in last summer’s hot-air balloon crash that killed 16 people near Lockhart are launching a petition to the White House calling for tougher federal oversight of balloon pilots, who currently are exempt from drug tests and medical exams. “We don’t want all those victims to have died for nothing,” said the petition’s primary author, Patricia Morgan, whose daughter and granddaughter from San Antonio both died July 30 when a commercial hot air balloon piloted by Alfred “Skip” Nichols struck high-voltage power lines.

Houston Chronicle - May 20, 2017

AG alleges lawyer used deceptive practices in debt collection

Joseph Onwuteaka is in the debt-buying business, paying pennies on the dollar for old consumer debt written off long ago by banks, payday loan companies and retailers. From a small office on the edge of Sharpstown, Onwuteaka sues consumers for often forgotten debts, targeting people who live far from the Harris County court where he files his cases and obtaining default judgments when they don't appear in court to defend themselves. The first inkling of a problem for many consumers comes only when they try to use their debit cards and discover their bank accounts have been frozen through the collection efforts of Onwuteaka and his firm, Samara Portfolio Management. Onwuteaka is a relatively small player in the debt industry, but he has caused financial havoc for hundreds of consumers in Texas through his machine-like efficiency and gained an outsized reputation for questionable practices - so much so that a cottage industry of local law firms has grown up just to defend consumers against his lawsuits.

National Stories

New York Times - May 21, 2017

Outside Washington’s ‘Blazing Inferno,’ Democrats Seek an Agenda

As the nation’s capital was rocked by revelation after revelation from the investigation into any connection between the Trump campaign and Russia, Democrats in Washington were focused on what they saw as nothing less than saving the republic. More than 1,800 miles away, Rob Quist, a Democratic candidate in one of the House special elections that will gauge the mood of the country this spring, was concentrating on high insurance premiums, not high crimes. Mr. Quist, who is running to fill the seat vacated by the Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, was in Wolf Point, Mont., assailing his Republican rival, Greg Gianforte, over the repeal of the Affordable Care Act. The appearance was part of a weeklong “Hands Off Our Health Care” tour that Democrats hope will hand them an upset on May 25.

Washington Post - May 21, 2017

Trump campaign seeks to raise money off the ‘witch hunt’ the president faces

President Trump on Friday sought to raise campaign money off his characterization of a probe into possible collusion with Russia as a “witch hunt” — the latest in a series of attempts to parlay his political troubles into cash. “What you’re seeing in the news is a WITCH HUNT,” said a fundraising solicitation seeking $1 donations. “But the real victim isn’t me. It’s YOU and the millions of other brave Americans who refused to bow down to Washington by voting for REAL CHANGE last November.” Trump first described himself as the victim of a “witch hunt” on Twitter on Thursday morning, a day after the Justice Department appointed a special counsel to investigate possible collusion between Trump associates and the Russian government to meddle in the 2016 presidential election.

Dallas Morning News - May 20, 2017

In Dallas, ex-AG Holder expresses surprise at White House turmoil

Former Attorney General Eric Holder said Friday that he was surprised by "almost the crisis atmosphere" that has highlighted the early days of President Donald Trump's administration. "We're only three months into this and I'm really kind of surprised by almost the crisis atmosphere we find ourselves in on a daily basis," Holder said in an interview while he was in Dallas speaking at a job fair for young people. This week the Justice Department named former FBI Director Robert Mueller as a special counsel to investigate whether Trump's campaign colluded with Russia to influence the 2016 presidential elections. Holder said he liked the choice of Mueller to lead the investigation.

Dallas Morning News - May 20, 2017

How a Dallas financier got tangled up in conspiracy theories about slaying of DNC staffer Seth Rich

It's been nearly a year since a young staffer for the Democratic National Committee was gunned down near his home in Washington, D.C., but rumors about his death continue to spread. Seth Rich Seth Rich Although police suspect Seth Rich was the victim of an attempted robbery, conspiracy theories center on a more sinister plot. A private investigator hired by Rich's family fueled those theories this week, saying there was evidence Rich had been in touch with the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks, which published embarrassing emails from the Clinton campaign before the 2016 election. The investigator, Rod Wheeler, later appeared to walk back his comments. But that was not enough to assuage Rich's family, which has denounced Wheeler and the man who helped the family hire him: Dallas-area financial adviser Ed Butowsky.

Dallas Morning News - May 20, 2017

House Republicans struggle to shield legislative agenda from Trump's turbulent week

GOP lawmakers insist publicly that all is going as planned with the push for their ambitious legislative agenda. But amid the upbeat spin, there are growing signs of acknowledgment that moving forward on Capitol Hill would be much easier without having to respond almost every day to a new bombshell involving President Donald Trump. From sharing secret intelligence in a meeting with Russians, to requesting that FBI Director James Comey drop the Russia investigation before firing him, to the appointment of a special counsel investigating the matter, the Trump-related headaches hounded Republicans all week after they returned to Washington from an 11-day recess.

Washington Post - May 18, 2017

Democrats predict a Trump sellout on NAFTA

Rep. Tim Ryan was worked up, telling reporters that the Trump administration’s promise to start renegotiating NAFTA was too flimsy to trust. “Our workers unbolted the machines from the factory floor and put them in a box to ship them to China!” said Ryan (D-Ohio) at a midday news conference with fellow Rust Belt Democrats. “We’ve got to get off the dime here! I’m ready to be part of fixing this problem, but we need a little more seriousness from the executive branch.” But despite booking a studio underneath the Capitol, Ryan and the rest of his trade-skeptical Democrats had attracted almost no media interest. A podium for TV cameras was empty; a couple of staffers, with iPhones trained on Facebook Live, were recording the remarks for posterity.

Politico - May 20, 2017

Russia meeting revelation could trigger obstruction investigation

The new special counsel investigation into possible collusion between associates of President Donald Trump and Russia is just getting started — and it could take years to resolve. But Trump’s Oval Office boast to Russian officials May 10 about why he fired FBI Director James Comey will almost certainly trigger a more immediate, and potentially perilous, legal development: an obstruction of justice investigation into whether the president intentionally engaged in a cover-up that warrants the filing of criminal charges, current and former Justice Department officials say.

Politico - May 20, 2017

Comey agrees to testify in a public session at the Senate Intelligence Committee

Former FBI Director James Comey will get to tell his side of the story behind his abrupt firing last week, agreeing to testify in a public session at the Senate Intelligence Committee. The hearing will occur after Memorial Day, committee leaders said on Friday evening. “I hope that former Director Comey’s testimony will help answer some of the questions that have arisen since Director Comey was so suddenly dismissed by the President," said Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, the top Democrat on the panel. "Director Comey served his country with honor for many years, and he deserves an opportunity to tell his story. Moreover, the American people deserve an opportunity to hear it."

New York Times - May 20, 2017

Douthat: Donald Trump, Establishment Sellout

WHICH side are you on? Are you with Donald Trump, or with the Washington insiders who want to undo his election? Do you favor the legitimate president of the United States, or an unelected “deep state” — bureaucrats, judges, former F.B.I. directors, the media — that’s determined not to let him govern? Are you going to let a counterrevolution by elites bring down a man who was elevated to the White House precisely because the country knows that its elite is no longer fit to govern? This is how the debate over Donald Trump’s mounting difficulties is being framed by some of my fellow conservatives, from Sean Hannity to more serious pundits and intellectuals. The problem is that the framing doesn’t really fit the facts. Yes, there are real elites in American politics: There is a Republican establishment (well, of sorts), a media-industrial complex, and a bipartisan consensus around certain areas of social and economic and foreign policy.