Quorum Report News Clips

View By Date
Printable Version of This Page

Newsclips - March 22, 2019

Lead Stories

Dallas Morning News - March 21, 2019

Where New Hampshire voters heckled Rick Perry, Beto O'Rourke gets warm welcome

El Paso Democrat Beto O'Rourke started Day 8 of his presidential campaign at one of those iconic New Hampshire venues that has seen would-be presidents come and go: Popovers on the Square.

It was a much warmer welcome than the one that greeted another Texan back in August 2011. Rick Perry, now Secretary of Energy, was Texas governor at the time and the man of the hour in the GOP presidential field -- focus of more buzz than attends O'Rourke at the moment, and the El Paso Democrat has a decent amount of buzz. Perry had launched his 2012 campaign five days earlier.

Top of Page

New York Times - March 21, 2019

EU approves Brexit extension, but chaotic departure still looms

European Union leaders on Thursday agreed to extend the deadline for Britain’s looming exit from the bloc in order to give Prime Minister Theresa May and the British Parliament more time to get their act together. Thursday’s agreement effectively averted the possibility of a disorderly and possibly chaotic departure by Britain on March 29. Yet that still remains a possibility just a few weeks later.

After hours of difficult and sometimes passionate talks, the leaders decided that Britain’s exit date will be pushed back to May 22 if next week Mrs. May can persuade lawmakers in Parliament to accept her plan for leaving the bloc, which they have already rejected overwhelmingly, not once but twice. If she cannot persuade lawmakers to accept her plan, Mrs. May will get a shorter delay in exiting the European Union — until April 12. But Britain could stay in the bloc longer if it decides it needs more time for a more fundamental rethink of Brexit, as the process is known.

Top of Page

Austin American-Statesman - March 20, 2019

Sales tax expansion? A GOP legislator wants to start taxing a host of Texas goods and services now exempt

State Rep. Drew Springer wants to tax doughnuts. The Republican from Muenster is also pitching taxes on vet checkups, funeral services, automotive maintenance and repair, and personal coaching and more than a dozen other products and services that aren’t subject to the state sales tax.

Springer is calling for an end to a host of sales tax exemptions to allow the Legislature to cut property taxes for most Texans, not just slow property tax increases. Springer’s wide-ranging proposal would ratchet down a school district’s adopted maintenance and operations tax rate and ratchet up the homestead exemption from $25,000 of a property’s taxable value to as much as $149,000. He says the average Texas property tax bill would decrease by $1,400 a year.

Top of Page

Houston Chronicle - March 22, 2019

Twins Julián and Joaquin Castro step onto national political stage — together, as always

Rosie Castro, mother of fast-track Texas Democrats Julián and Joaquin Castro, saw the bond between her identical twins as she listened to their baby chatter. “Before they could even talk, they carried on their own babbling conversations with each other,” she said.

In the run-up to the 2020 elections, those ties between Julian and Joaquin Castro are becoming more of a national spectacle than ever. As Julián seeks the Democratic nomination for president, brother Joaquin plays a lead role in the story he tells of growing up modestly in west San Antonio. Joaquin is Julián’s campaign chairman and they appear together around the country — a two-for-one deal as Julián seeks a higher tier in the jammed Democratic field.

Top of Page

State Stories

Austin American-Statesman - March 20, 2019

Despite critical report, Timmerman re-appointed as LCRA chair

Months after a state report criticized the Central Texas water and electricity utility they oversee, citing a lack of transparency, the chairman and a couple of other board members were reappointed Wednesday by Gov. Greg Abbott to the Lower Colorado River Authority.

In November, Sunset Advisory Commission staff investigators said the LCRA — which oversees water operations of the Colorado River and doles out water from Lakes Travis and Buchanan for the use of more than a million Central Texans — lacks transparency in its actions and should hire more women and people of color. As the LCRA seeks new water supplies to satisfy the thirst of a booming region, the Sunset Advisory Commission staff report said the river authority’s “approach to public engagement is inconsistent and often reactive,” frequently leading to mistrust around the already sensitive issue of regional water sharing.

Top of Page

Austin American-Statesman - March 20, 2019

Texas lawmakers debate need for state incentives programs

The merits of taxpayer-funded business incentives –– described alternatively as either crucial tools for economic development or wasteful corporate giveaways –– took center stage Wednesday as a Texas House committee heard debate over key tax abatement programs used by local governments and school districts.

“I would much prefer that we didn’t need (tax) incentives, but we don’t live in an ivory tower,” Dale Craymer, president of the Texas Taxpayers and Research Association, said during a hearing over House Bill 2438, which would reauthorize the two types of tax abatements through 2032. He was one of many supporters of the abatements –– known as Chapter 312 and Chapter 313 agreements, after the sections of the tax code in which they appear –– who turned out to voice support for the programs.

Top of Page

Dallas Morning News - March 21, 2019

A day after Texas Senate passes college free speech bill, Trump signs his own

President Donald J. Trump signed an executive order aimed at protecting free speech on college campuses, the day after the Texas Senate passed a bill to prohibit public universities from rejecting controversial speakers.

His order will require that colleges and universities that receive federal grants prove they have standards protecting students' First Amendment rights. Sens. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, and Joan Huffman, R-Houston, attended the ceremony, according to the Texas Senate Republican Caucus. Huffman authored the aforementioned Senate Bill 18, which would bar Texas public colleges and universities from considering "any anticipated controversy ... in determining whether to approve a speaker to speak on campus."

Top of Page

Dallas Morning News - March 21, 2019

'We're treating them like animals': Lawmakers debate bill to lower heat in Texas prisons

Torture. Intolerable. A death sentence. These are some of the words used to described the conditions inside state jails and prisons in the summer months, when the hot Texas sun can push temperatures past 130 degrees.

Lawmakers who heard the testimony Thursday — from guards, inmates' families and former prisoners — now have to decide whether to force the state to invest millions, and maybe more, to finally tackle the problem. "These people are not animals and we're treating them like animals," Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, told his peers on the House Committee on Corrections. "It's crazy. It's twisted. It's sad. And it's not who we are."

Top of Page

Austin American-Statesman - March 21, 2019

Pastor group drops lawsuit against Austin’s LGBT hiring protections

A conservative Christian organization has dropped a federal lawsuit that sought to overturn an Austin anti-discrimination ordinance that offers employment protection based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Dave Welch, head of the Houston-based U.S. Pastor Council, said the decision was based on the advice of the group’s lawyer but might not be the last word on the matter.

The council’s lawsuit, filed in October, argued that Austin’s ordinance is unconstitutional and invalid because it does not include a religious exemption for 25 member churches in Austin that refuse to hire gay or transgender people as employees or clergy. Austin asked U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman of Austin to dismiss the lawsuit last month, arguing that the city ordinance does not apply to a church’s hiring of clergy and that no church expressed a problem with the city’s employment protections.

Top of Page

Houston Chronicle - March 22, 2019

Solar companies flock to a Texas tax break with questionable payback

Although barely 25 miles from one of the country’s fastest growing cities, much of the land hugging this Austin bedroom community remains empty blackland prairie. Soon, though, if all goes according to plan, a Canadian company will begin installing a vast array of solar panels across 1,000 acres just a few miles outside of town.

But only under one condition: that it receives a multi-million-dollar tax break from the local school district. Property taxes represent the biggest operating expense for solar projects. So without the giant reduction of its tax bill, Recurrent Energy warned, its executives would be forced “to look to maximize their investment by building in California.” In exchange for the tax break, the company has promised to create exactly one full-time job.

Top of Page

Houston Chronicle - March 21, 2019

Deer Park fire investigations begin amid anxiety over emissions, pollution

The U.S. Chemical Safety Board on Wednesday announced it would investigate the three-day chemical blaze at the International Terminals Co., hours after emissions of carcinogenic benzene spiked near the Deer Park plant, prompting city officials to order residents to shelter in place for most of the morning.

The independent federal agency, which also investigated the 2017 Arkema plant fire in Crosby, does not fine companies or issue violations. Instead, it conducts what is known as "root cause" investigations to determine how an incident occurred and make recommendations to the company, government regulators and other stakeholders on how to prevent it from happening again.

Top of Page

Corpus Christi Caller-Times - March 21, 2019

John Sharp: Texas A&M System calls on Texans to become teachers because many more will be needed

Kudos to Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Speaker Dennis Bonnen for making teachers the top priority this legislative session. Teachers work hard every day to make a difference. They positively impact the future, and they deserve our support. Giving them all a raise is a good start.

I certainly hope it will encourage more young Texans to consider becoming teachers — and help keep more experienced teachers in the classroom — because Texas faces a teacher shortage. Data from the Texas Education Agency shows Texas faces an increasingly tight supply of teachers. Since 2009, K through 12 student enrollment is up by 14 percent, while the number of teachers has risen by less than 9 percent. Meanwhile, Texas has seen a 14 percent drop in the number of initial teacher certifications in the past decade.

Top of Page

Texas Standard - March 20, 2019

LGBTQ+ advocates say equality remains 'stubbornly out of reach' In Texas

Sixty-four percent of Texans support laws protecting gay, lesbian and transgender people from discrimination, according to the Public Religion Research Institute. Yet a new report from Equality Texas details the many obstacles that still remain for nearly 1 million LGBTQ+ individuals living in Texas.

What can policy do to change the future of equality in the state? As the 86th Texas Legislature deliberates, a number of bills that have been filed aim to protect LGBTQ+ Texans, including SB 1250 filed by San Antonio-based State Senator José Menéndez, which focuses on nondiscrimination in employment.

Top of Page

San Antonio Express-News - March 21, 2019

Joseph Krier: Lone Star State exhibiting wind power leadership

They say everything is bigger in Texas: It’s a catchy mantra that manages to be both tongue-in-cheek and, at the same time, a decent encapsulation of the attitude that makes Texas unique. It’s also a wholly accurate description of Texas’ wind-power industry, which now ranks as — hands down — the most productive, economically impactful and biggest in the nation.

Texas consumes more energy than any other state. Meeting that demand with reliable, affordable power is essential to keeping our economy on a growth path. And while the Texas of the past may have been known for its oil and gas more than its renewable energy, in today’s Texas, wind is front and center in our efforts to keep the lights on, the air conditioner running, and business and industry booming.

Top of Page

KTRE - March 20, 2019

Bill requiring civics exam for high school graduation passes Texas House

A bill that will include a civics test in the graduation requirements for public high school students that passed in the Texas House Wednesday. The bill would require students to answer the same questions that are found on the civics test that people seeking to become naturalized citizens have to take.

The bill, which was co-authored by State Rep. Trent Ashby, R-Lufkin, has several other hurdles to clear before it becomes state law. If it gets out of a Texas Senate committee, it will then have to be passed by the state senate in the same form that it passed the Texas House. Then it will have to be signed into law by Gov. Greg Abbott. The bill would replace the existing U.S. history end-of-course exam with a civics test.

Top of Page

Trib Talk - March 20, 2019

James Henson and Joshua Blank: Public expectations and the political realities of reducing property taxes

A February 2019 University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll found that many Texans are ready to see their property taxes go down. However, a closer look at those attitudes suggests that legislators should be cautious about the public expectations that will greet whatever action they manage to take.

The poll confirms both dissatisfaction with current levels of taxation, which is no surprise, but also finds inflated expectations of the centerpiece of the property tax reduction conversation, as well as skepticism about its potential consequences for local services. The legislative strategy thus far is designed to limit local government entities’ ability to increase property tax revenue, year-over-year, without voter approval if that growth exceeds 2.5 percent — the currently discussed threshold which is already a major point of negotiation.

Top of Page

Gainesville Daily Register - March 6, 2019

Grace Chimene: Texas should encourage the right to vote, combat intimidation

The League of Women Voters strives to embody its mission of empowering voters and defending democracy. Registering voters is core to our work as a nonpartisan organization, and some of the most rewarding voter registration events are naturalization ceremonies.

Recently, state officials announced that a number of individuals voted in elections without the requisite citizenship, knowing the data was not yet reviewed or vetted. There is not a problem of non-citizens registering and voting in Texas — there is a data problem. Even worse, government officials purposely took advantage of that known data problem to plant doubt about the integrity of the voting system.

Top of Page

Icons of Infrastructure - March 22, 2019

Lone Star leap: Texas pushes for greater infrastructure resiliency

Infrastructure resiliency could get more attention in the state of Texas this year before the destruction from Hurricane Harvey fades from memory. With a history of hurricanes — and drought and tornadoes — Texas is looking to establish a strong framework of resilient infrastructure. The concern is paramount for a state with 367 miles of coastline.

State legislators will need to decide this year how to pay for about $2.5 billion in shortfalls due to Harvey expenses. The Texas Legislature, which is currently in session, only meets for 140 days every other year. Although school finance reform is currently taking center stage, a number of bills and resolutions that could improve local infrastructure could come up for consideration; including HB 1800, which would create a statewide resiliency fund. Justin Till, chief of staff for the bill’s author, Rep. Greg Bonnen said that Hurricane Harvey was the impetus for creating a resiliency fund.

Top of Page

County Stories

Dallas Morning News - March 21, 2019

Measles case in Tarrant County is the 4th in Dallas-Fort Worth and the 14th in Texas

A case of the measles has been confirmed in Tarrant County, health officials said Thursday. The case involves a Tarrant County resident who traveled internationally to an area where there has been an increase in measles cases, according to Vinny Taneja, director of the county's public health department. Health officials said it is unrelated to other local measles cases.

It is the fourth case of measles confirmed in North Texas this year — there have been two in Collin County and one in Denton County — and the 14th in Texas. There were nine cases of measles in Texas in all of 2018. The last time measles was reported in Tarrant County was January 2015.

Top of Page

San Antonio Express-News - March 22, 2019

Lawsuit alleges San Antonio deputies organized “fight club” with county jail inmates

Everyone knows the first rule of Fight Club: You don’t talk about Fight Club. But there’s a former Bexar County Jail inmate who’s breaking that rule — legally. The one-time inmate who is now serving time in state prison has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit, alleging that several detention officers at the Bexar County Jail organized brawls between inmates and bet on the outcome, leaving some inmates bloodied in the aftermath.

Rodolfo Carrazco alleges he was subjected to the underground blood sport while he served a stint at the jail in April 2017 and was beaten seriously enough that he had to be hospitalized with injuries that included a broken jaw. He also lost the gold “grille” in his teeth. Carrazco, also identified as Rodolfo Carrasco in court and police records, is serving a 14-year sentence in the Texas prison system for charges that include burglary of a habitation. He was transferred there in November 2017 after being sentenced in Bexar County, records show. While awaiting trial and sentencing, Carrazco was held at the Bexar County Jail.

Top of Page

City Stories

Houston Chronicle - March 21, 2019

HISD considers changing meeting structure amid local, state criticism

Houston ISD’s monthly school board meeting clocked in 5 hours and 15 minutes Thursday. Moving forward, trustees want that to change.

A board proposal put forth Thursday called for shortening often-lengthy board meetings, focusing more on student outcomes and creating more meaningful — albeit potentially abridged — public engagement on meeting days. Trustees said the changes would improve board operations and perceptions about the much-maligned governing body, which has often been criticized due to public displays of acrimony and inattention to issues impacting students.

Top of Page

Houston Chronicle - March 21, 2019

‘You don’t want to eliminate them completely’: Acevedo reveals new no-knock raid policy

Weeks after vowing to cut down drastically on the use of no-knock raids, Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo on Thursday drilled down into some of the specifics of his new department policy, which requires more oversight and forbids narcotics officers from carrying out the high-risk busts.

Instead, effective last month, SWAT teams will execute all unannounced raids, but only after getting approval from top-ranking Houston police officials and a signature from a district court judge. “You don’t want to eliminate them completely,” Acevedo told a Houston City Council committee Thursday afternoon. “There are instances where the no-knock warrant tactic is probably the safest.”

Top of Page

Houston Chronicle - March 20, 2019

Longshoremen's union drops support for Turner, Buzbee asks others to follow suit

Houston trial attorney and mayoral candidate Tony Buzbee again called on all Houston unions Wednesday to disavow Mayor Sylvester Turner after a local district of the International Longshoremen's Association dropped its support for the mayor.

Buzbee, who made the same appeal after the Houston Federation of Teachers withdrew its support for Turner last month, said in a statement that Turner is "no friend" of union members, despite their widespread support for him when he was elected in 2015. The ILA's South Atlantic and Gulf Coast district President Alan A. Robb said in a separate statement that Turner's ongoing dispute with Houston firefighters over pay raises and a legal case related to collective bargaining played a role in the union's decision.

Top of Page

Houston Chronicle - March 20, 2019

Houston Chronicle Editorial: Turner right to move ahead with HFD layoffs

How many firefighters does Houston need, and how many can it afford? Those are the questions that ought to be top of mind as on-again, off-again negotiations between Mayor Sylvester Turner and the Houston Firefighter Association continue over how quickly to implement firefighter pay raises averaging 29 percent that were approved by voters in November.

The mayor keeps warning, as he did before the Prop. B vote, that Houston has hundreds more firefighters than it can afford. As a result, he had urged firefighters to accept a phased-in plan for Prop. B salaries over five years if they wanted to avoid 400 pink slips. Union officials, unsurprisingly, are screaming bloody murder. They say the pay raises — which they urged as a way to create pay parity between firefighters and police — are overdue since voters spoke in November.

Top of Page

Austin American-Statesman - March 21, 2019

Petition seeks to rename Dripping Springs to ‘Pound Town’ after founding family

Does the name Dripping Springs do Austin’s sweet, neighboring Hill Country city justice? There is at least one “coalition of residents and business owners in the area” that doesn’t think so. As was announced in a press release Wednesday, some Dripping Springs residents would rather call home “Pound Town,” after one of the city’s earliest residents Dr. Joseph M. Pound.

According to the rename coalition’s GoFundMe page, which has raised $170 of its $1,854 goal, “Donations will be used to fund a fun campaign that may or may not result in a ballot initiative, and at the very least we’ll donate a good portion of the proceeds to Friends of the Pound House for upkeep and education at the historic homestead.” The page claims that Pound was the first doctor in Hays County.

Top of Page

Austin American-Statesman - March 21, 2019

A year after Austin bomber stopped, city leaders honor victims, law enforcement

Austin police and city leaders gathered at City Hall on Thursday, a year to the day when authorities stopped a serial bomber who terrorized the community, to honor those affected by the attacks and the law enforcement agencies that helped bring him down.

The 19-day terror spree in the city came to an end last year on March 21 when the Austin bomber blew himself up along Interstate 35 in Round Rock as authorities closed in to arrest him. City leaders observed a moment of silence for those killed in the first two explosions, 17-year-old Draylen Mason and 39-year-old Anthony Stephan House, and those who survived two other blasts, including Esperanza “Hope” Herrera, who was critically injured hours after Mason was killed, and two men injured by a trip-wire bomb in Southwest Austin.

Top of Page

National Stories

Washington Post - March 22, 2019

A police unit went after Stormy Daniels for ‘moral’ crimes. Now due to misconduct, it has disbanded.

Beset by the fallout of a high-profile scandal involving adult-film actress Stormy Daniels and allegations that an officer traded sex for releasing women he had arrested, an Ohio police department has taken the unprecedented action of disbanding a unit that was once in charge of pursuing “moral crimes.”

On Tuesday, Columbus Police Department interim chief Tom Quinlan announced he was abolishing the department’s 10-officer vice unit, a group overseeing crimes involving gambling, prostitution and drugs, due to the negative attention it received in recent months.

Top of Page

Associated Press - March 22, 2019

Trump policy of sending asylum seekers to Mexico faces judge

A U.S. judge in San Francisco will scrutinize the Trump administration’s policy of returning asylum seekers to Mexico during a court hearing Friday to help him decide whether to block the practice.

Civil rights groups have asked Judge Richard Seeborg in San Francisco to put the asylum policy on hold while their lawsuit moves forward. Seeborg was not expected to rule immediately. The policy began in January at the San Ysidro border crossing in San Diego, marking an unprecedented change to the U.S. asylum system. Families seeking asylum are typically released in the U.S. with notices to appear in immigration court.

Top of Page

NPR - March 22, 2019

Moderate Democrats under pressure as party's left flank grabs attention

For Democrats, one of the keys to winning control of the House of Representatives last year was convincing voters in formerly Republican districts that there's more than one way to be a Democrat.

Rep. Abigail Spanberger, D-Va., was one of dozens of new members who ousted Republicans, in part on a pledge to buck party leaders and work across the aisle. Spanberger spent her first three months in office following through on that promise — she voted against Nancy Pelosi for speaker of the House and split from Democrats on a number of procedural votes.

Top of Page

New York Times - March 21, 2019

25 states at risk of flooding this spring, US forecast states

Vast areas of the United States are at risk of flooding this spring, even as Nebraska and other Midwestern states are already reeling from record-breaking late-winter floods, federal scientists said on Thursday.

Nearly two-thirds of the lower 48 states will have an elevated risk of some flooding from now until May, and 25 states could experience “major or moderate flooding,” according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The major flooding this month in Nebraska, Minnesota, Iowa and elsewhere is “a preview of what we expect throughout the rest of the spring,” she said.

Top of Page

National Review - March 21, 2019

Jim Geraghty: Republicans, don’t underestimate Beto O’Rourke

He’s a Texan, the son of a man prominent in state politics and an all-around success in life. The Texan grew up with alternating affection for and intermittent tension with his well-known, accomplished father, with the heavy question of how he would ever emerge from his father’s shadow.

He eventually tried his hand at entrepreneurship, swearing he never wanted to be a politician like his father. But when an opportunity in Texas politics appeared, he took it, out-hustling a Democratic incumbent who had been far too confident about the voters’ mood on Election Day. Then, surprisingly early in his political career, he chose to run for president. Despite having only been in a major office for six years, the Texan’s party saw great potential in him, and responded with a wave of donations. They were hungry for a winner.

Top of Page

CNN - March 21, 2019

Beto O'Rourke set to hire ex-Obama aide Jen O'Malley Dillon to run campaign

A week after launching his presidential bid, Beto O'Rourke is poised to hire veteran Democratic strategist Jen O'Malley Dillon to lead his campaign, officials familiar with the discussions told CNN, a move that puts a former top aide to President Barack Obama at the helm of the O'Rourke campaign.

O'Malley Dillon, a deputy campaign manager for Obama's re-election effort in 2012, met with O'Rourke earlier this month in Texas before he jumped into the race. Since then, the campaign raised more than $6 million on its first day and the former congressman from Texas embarked on a tour of a half-dozen states. O'Malley Dillon, who is seen as one of the party's sharpest data experts, had been planning to head a new data exchange operation for Democrats. The effort was designed to help the party overcome its deficit with Republicans on using voter data to identify supporters and drive turnout.

Top of Page

Vanity Fair - March 20, 2019

'Everyone thinks they’re going to sell': Hellfire at Fox as Hannity mulls leaving and Lachlan goes full Donna Brazile on Trump

Donald Trump’s alliance with Fox News has been one of the few constants throughout his shambolic presidency. But in recent days, that bond has shown signs of fraying. On Sunday morning, Trump criticized Fox after it suspended Judge Jeanine Pirro for delivering an offensive monologue questioning Democratic Congresswoman Ilhan Omar’s patriotism.

Trump’s attacks on Fox have widened the chasm between the network’s opinion hosts and the news division, which have been fighting a cold civil war since Roger Ailes was ousted in July 2016. Fox journalists, bristling at being branded an arm of the Trump White House, are lobbying Fox News C.E.O. Suzanne Scott and President Jay Wallace to rein in Fox & Friends, Sean Hannity, Lou Dobbs and Pirro. The outcome of that civil war will be decided by Fox Corporation chairman and C.E.O. Lachlan Murdoch.

Top of Page

Newsclips - March 21, 2019

Lead Stories

Wall Street Journal - March 21, 2019

Gas-tax hike: a rare big idea with bipartisan backing

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce isn’t exactly a hotbed of pro-tax sentiment. So when the chamber advocates for a tax increase, it’s worth sitting up to take notice. That’s what’s happening now.

Chamber President Thomas Donohue told Congress this month that the chamber advocates raising the federal tax on a gallon of gas, which stands at 18.4 cents, by 25 cents over the next five years to produce funds desperately needed to fix the nation’s transportation network, and perhaps kick-start a broader effort to upgrade America’s infrastructure. The gas tax has been the same since 1993, Mr. Donohue noted.

Top of Page

New York Times - March 1, 2019

Border Patrol facilities in Texas are overflowing, prompting mass releases in border cities

Border Patrol detention centers in Texas’s Rio Grande Valley have soared well past their capacity in recent days, prompting mass releases of migrants onto the streets as local leaders scramble to house and feed hundreds of new arrivals daily.

The primary migrant-services facility in the region, a former nursing home in McAllen now used by Catholic Charities as an immigrant respite center, is already reaching capacity, with nearly every inch of the low-slung red-brick building occupied. The air was thick with the smell of sweat Tuesday evening, with dozens of people waiting for assistance at the front of the building.

Top of Page

Austin American-Statesman - March 20, 2019

Fact check: No, the Texas Democratic Party did not give Beto O’Rourke $4.5 million

A tweet circulating from Democratic activist Xavier Perez in New York suggests that Texas Democrat Beto O’Rourke was able to report such a high number because of a sizable contribution made to his campaign by the Texas Democratic Party. The tweet was shared widely and reposted many times on Facebook.

Perez, whose social media posts suggest he is backing U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont for the Democratic nomination, said the alleged contribution from the Texas Democrats to O’Rourke was actually money O’Rourke had given to the party after his unsuccessful challenge last year to U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas. O’Rourke’s Senate campaign, called Beto for Texas, transferred more than $4.5 million to the Texas Democratic Party over the course of his campaign against Cruz, according to campaign finance filings.

Top of Page

Dallas Morning News - March 21, 2019

John Cornyn, Joaquin Castro clash in preview of potential 2020 Senate contest

John Cornyn and Joaquin Castro clashed this week, giving Texas voters a preview of a potential 2020 match-up for Senate, a contest that could be one of the marquee match-ups in the country.

The sniping between the campaigns comes as Castro, a San Antonio congressman, is nearing an announcement about a potential challenge of Cornyn, the incumbent who is stockpiling cash and interacting with his base to prepare for Castro –– or any Democrat that may emerge as his rival. Earlier this week, Cornyn campaign manager John Jackson described Castro as a Democratic socialist who votes against the interests of Texans.

Top of Page

State Stories

Houston Chronicle - March 20, 2019

Deer Park company battling fire accused of intentionally polluting water during Harvey

The company responsible for this week’s black plume in Houston’s sky has been accused in a federal lawsuit of dumping hazardous waste in the water during Hurricane Harvey.

Intercontinental Terminal Co.’s former hazardous waste specialist in Deer Park sued the company in February, alleging it intentionally released more than a million gallons of hazardous waste into flood waters during Hurricane Harvey to save money. Releasing such waste would violate both state and federal law. In documents filed in the Southern District of Texas, ITC denied the allegations. ITC declined to comment on the pending litigation.

Top of Page

Houston Chronicle - March 20, 2019

114 years of waiting: Callers kept on hold by Texas state agencies

Texans calling state agencies in recent years waited on hold for a lifetime — literally. Callers were on hold for a total of one million hours — some 114 years — trying to get in touch with eight state agencies over a two-year period ending in August 2017, according to a new state audit.

The worst waits were at the driver license division, which has already come under fire from lawmakers for long lines at offices across the state. Callers waited on hold an average of 15-and-a-half minutes. One in five hung up before ever talking with a customer service representative, the report said.

Top of Page

Houston Chronicle - March 20, 2019

Families: Feds not planning charges against alleged Santa Fe High shooter

Families of people killed in the 2018 shooting at Santa Fe High School were told in a private meeting with federal officials that it is unlikely federal charges will be filed against the alleged shooter, participants in the meeting said Wednesday.

During the meeting Tuesday in the FBI field office in Texas City, U.S. Attorney Ryan Patrick and FBI officials said they had enough evidence to charge the alleged shooter in connection with unexploded pipe bombs found at the school, the meeting participants said. But the officials reported that the Justice Department was unwilling to move forward on those charges for now.

Top of Page

Houston Chronicle - March 20, 2019

Crude oil prices boosted by oil inventories' plunge

Commercial crude oil stockpiles plunged by nearly 10 million barrels last week, creating more bullish news for oil prices that have risen to their highest levels since November.

Crude inventories fell by 9.6 million barrels and gasoline stocks dipped by 4.6 million barrels. Overall petroleum stocks declined by 12.6 million barrels for the week, according to weekly data Wednesday from the U.S. Energy Department.

Top of Page

Houston Chronicle - March 20, 2019

House backs bill requiring cities, counties to disclose special event costs

Governments would no longer be able to keep secret the amount of taxpayer funds spent on concerts, parades and other entertainment events if a bill advancing in the Texas House is passed into law. House Bill 81, sponsored by Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, would require that information to be available to the public.

The bill, which cleared a key vote in the House on Wednesday, was prompted by the city of McAllen’s refusal to release records about how much it paid pop singer Enrique Iglesias for performing at a holiday concert. News reports later showed the city lost more than half a million dollars on the event.

Top of Page

Dallas Morning News - March 21, 2019

Chris Wallace: North Texas business leaders support legislative plan to boost school spending, cut property taxes

Gov. Greg Abbott identified back in January property tax reform and school finance reform as emergency items, thankfully. Members of the North Texas Commission hope to see legislators solve these problems by boosting the state's contribution for public education and pay for full-day prekindergarten while addressing rising property taxes. Our members support House Bill 3 to address these concerns.

The primary drivers of property tax increases are school property taxes. Many Texans are unaware that under the Robin Hood school funding formula, as local property values rise, the state's share of funding declines and the burden on local taxpayers increases. The state has actually spent more money on education each year, but state portion of the amount spent to educate the students in Texas has dropped from 47 percent in 2011 to 36 percent in 2019.

Top of Page

Dallas Morning News - March 20, 2019

Colleges couldn't bar controversial speakers under bill passed by Texas Senate

The Texas Senate has passed a bill to prohibit schools from rejecting controversial speakers. Senate Bill 18 by Joan Huffman, R-Houston, would bar public colleges and universities from considering "any anticipated controversy ... in determining whether to approve a speaker to speak on campus." It would also require these schools to adopt policies "detailing students' rights and responsibilities regarding expressive activities."

Schools would have to allow anyone "to engage in expressive activities" in "common outdoor areas" unless the conduct is unlawful or "materially or substantially" disruptive and could not penalize student organizations for their political, religious, philosophical, ideological, or academic viewpoints "or of any expressive activities of the organization." Students, faculty and staff would be allowed to meet or distribute written material without permission from the university if the bill becomes law. The bill passed unanimously by a 31-0 vote. It now heads to the Texas House for more debate.

Top of Page

Dallas Morning News - March 20, 2019

Beto O'Rourke's $6.1 million came from 128,000 donors, averaging $48 each

Beto O'Rourke announced Wednesday that more than 128,000 donors contributed to his record-breaking first-day campaign haul of $6.1 million, an average of $48 per donation. The former three-term El Paso congressman jumped into the presidential race last Thursday, and detractors had alleged that high-dollar donors rather than a grassroots outpouring may have padded his tally.

Sen. Bernie Sanders brought in $5.9 million during his first 24 hours last month from 223,047 donors, an average of $27. Official fundraising tallies for them and their rivals for the 2020 Democratic nomination have not been filed. But these one-day tallies provide bragging rights and, in O'Rourke's case, put to rest doubts about whether he could harness the nationwide support he received for his Senate bid in Texas.

Top of Page

Dallas Morning News - March 20, 2019

Scrap the Electoral College? Protect late-term abortion? Beto O'Rourke faces new litmus test issues

Less than a week into his presidential campaign, Beto O'Rourke has been forced to stake or defend positions on issues that went untouched or unnoticed in last year's Texas Senate campaign.

On Wednesday, for the third straight day, he faced questions about late-term abortion, which has become something of a litmus test in the 2020 primary race as candidates position themselves as the most ardent defenders of abortion rights. He's called for adding a half-dozen U.S. Supreme Court seats, drawing fire from the president. And he's echoed Sen. Elizabeth Warren in arguing for direct national elections, wiping away the Electoral College system in place for centuries.

Top of Page

Austin American-Statesman - March 20, 2019

Senate passes bills on Harvey recovery, disaster preparation

With three consecutive unanimous votes Wednesday, the Texas Senate approved a package of bills designed to help the recovery from Hurricane Harvey and improve the state response to future flooding. The bills, approved on 31-0 votes, next go to the House.

SB 6 by Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham, would direct the Texas Department of Emergency Management to create a response guide to help cities and counties manage future disasters. SB 7 by Sen. Brandon Creighton, R-Conroe, would tap the rainy day fund to help match federal money for Harvey rebuilding efforts. The bill also would establish the Texas Infrastructure Resiliency Fund for statewide floodplain management and to coordinate with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on flood-mitigation projects, Creighton said.

Top of Page

Austin American-Statesman - March 20, 2019

Rep. Giovanni Capriglione's bill to strengthen open records law gets day in sun

In the 2017 legislative session, Rep. Giovanni Capriglione proposed a bill to restore the strength of the Texas Public Information Act, which guarantees citizens access to government records, after a pair of 2015 court rulings that transparency advocates say gutted the law.

On Wednesday, the State Affairs Committee, led by Chairman Dade Phelan, R-Beaumont, heard testimony on House Bill 2189, which aims to close loopholes created by the two Texas Supreme Court decisions that allowed state agencies and local governments to keep secret basic details about their dealings with contractors and quasi-public corporations that receive taxpayer money.

Top of Page

Austin American-Statesman - March 21, 2019

Fort Hood could see $42.6 million in cuts for border wall

Fort Hood would stand to lose $42.6 million in funding for construction projects, among $265.1 million in military spending earmarked for Texas that the Trump administration is making available for border wall construction on the U.S.-Mexico border.

The Defense Department has released a 20-page list of military construction projects that President Donald Trump could slash to pay for expanding the fencing and barriers already in place or under construction along the border. The Pentagon document listed hundreds of projects envisioned around the U.S. and world worth about $12.9 billion. Not all will be subject to cuts, the Defense Department wrote, making it difficult to determine exactly which would be vulnerable.

Top of Page

San Antonio Express-News - March 20, 2019

Texas school finance plan would refashion funding for low-income students

A Texas House panel this week advanced a school finance proposal that includes the biggest overhaul in 30 years of the way the state distributes money for most of its students, based on a system the San Antonio Independent School District uses to differentiate between levels of poverty.

Leaders of Bexar County’s largest school districts have expressed support for the bill, which includes property tax reforms and would add $9 billion to state public education funding in the next two years, $2.7 billion of it to replace existing property taxes.

Top of Page

San Antonio Express-News - March 20, 2019

Gilbert Garcia: No clear contenders for Joaquin Castro’s congressional seat

U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro, through his associates, signaled last week that he is “all but certain” to give up his House seat next year to challenge U.S. Sen. John Cornyn. With a Castro announcement looming, you would expect a stampede of Democratic hopefuls racing for the pole position in next year’s District 20 primary.

The latest news of a likely opening in District 20 has been met with a muted response from San Antonio Democrats. Part of it has to do with elected officials waiting for Castro to officially declare his intentions. Part of it has to do with the fact that the timing is a little funky for the people we would ordinarily see as the most likely contenders.

Top of Page

San Antonio Express-News - March 16, 2019

San Antonio Express-News Editorial: West Texas higher ed plans impact all Texans

We all have a vested interest in the expansion of higher education programs in the Lone Star State even when it is taking place in remote regions many of us don’t frequent. After all, we live in one state and we’re all Texans.

But as Texas Tech System Chancellor Tedd Mitchell views it, his university system’s plan for a new veterinary school, dental school and expansion of other programs should be of great importance to those of us who don’t reside in West Texas. He is working hard to spread that message. He is quick to point out that although 87 percent of the almost 29 million people in Texas live east of Interstate 35, the other 13 percent, in West Texas, supply the bulk of the state’s meat, cotton and fuel.

Top of Page

KUT - March 19, 2019

Rio Grande Valley landowners plan to fight border wall expansion

President Trump last week vetoed a congressional measure aimed at blocking his national emergency declaration. The next battle over that emergency declaration will likely be in the courts. Meanwhile, planning for extending the border wall is already happening in Texas' Rio Grande Valley.

More than 570 landowners in two counties, Hidalgo and Starr, have received right-of-entry letters from the government asking to survey their land for possible border wall construction. Eloisa Tamez lives in El Calaboz, a small town outside of Brownsville, Texas. In 2007, she received a phone call that she describes as life-changing.

Top of Page

WFAA - March 15, 2019

Lawmakers propose legislation for new power to suspend bad caretakers

Two Dallas area lawmakers have proposed legislation that would give state regulators new authority to suspend caretakers found to have abused, neglect or exploited their intellectually disabled clients.

The bills filed by State Rep. Jeff Leach, R-Plano, and Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas, came as a result of a WFAA investigation that revealed state regulators lacked the authority to suspend a caretaker found to have abused, neglected or exploited their intellectually disabled client while they appeal that finding. The WFAA investigation highlighted the case of Paul Taylor, a severely autistic man who was stabbed more than 85 times while living in a state-funded host home this past July.

Top of Page

County Stories

Houston Chronicle - March 20, 2019

John Nova Lomax: Lina Hidalgo and the politics of the Deer Park plume of doom

Two days ago, heading east out of Houston, my constant companion was the giant Black Plume of Doom coming from that inferno in Deer Park. I am thankful I was not trying desperately to evacuate Houston. Yes, the Doom Plume is scary. And it makes us all feel powerless.

Now, I’m at a Days Inn in Opelousas, La., and I’m reading a fair amount of stuff like this: “I’m commenting after watching her on the news looking like a deer in the headlights. She had no answers and threw in a few ‘like’ and ‘um’ words. She appeared totally uninformed and unprepared. I’m wishing we had the experience and the proven leadership that Judge Emmett was known for (nothing to do with politics).”

Top of Page

Dallas Morning News - March 18, 2019

DART chief urges Congress to pass infrastructure bill, citing coming work on Cotton Belt and D2 lines

Dallas Area Rapid Transit president Gary Thomas on Monday urged Congress to deliver a far-reaching infrastructure bill, joining other public transit leaders in stressing the importance of funding billions of dollars in improvements.

Speaking at news conference hosted by the American Public Transportation Association, Thomas said it was "imperative" to "supply the needs of the American people." He offered up a few upcoming DART projects to make his case: the Cotton Belt commuter rail line; platform extensions on the Red and Blue lines; rail replacement in downtown Dallas; and "D2," the long-awaited second rail alignment through the city center.

Top of Page

Austin American-Statesman - March 21, 2019

Bexar County reports 1st case of measles since 2007

Bexar County on Wednesday reported the first case of measles since 2007. This case is associated with a case of measles reported earlier this month in Guadalupe County, said officials with the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District.

State health officials on Tuesday said there have been 12 confirmed cases of measles in Texas so far this year, more than the state saw in all of 2018. The Bexar County report may bring the total to 13. In recent years, Texas saw the most measles cases in 2013, when 27 people contracted the disease.

Top of Page

Houston Chronicle - March 21, 2019

With Deer Park chemical blaze out, county moves to investigation

After fire crews extinguished the chemical blaze at the Intercontinental Terminals Co. in Deer Park early Wednesday, the Harris County Fire Marshal’s Office prepared to send investigators to the smoldering site as state and local officials pledged to closely monitor pollution from the accident.

At the site of the three-day blaze Wednesday afternoon, firefighters put out a flare-up that briefly hurled a fireball into the air. Crews will remain on the scene to ensure the fire does not re-ignite, the company said. The massive conflagration burned for more than 60 hours at the petroleum storage facility on the Houston Ship Channel before firefighters using flame retardant foam were able to put it out.

Top of Page

Dallas Morning News - March 21, 2019

2 Bell County jailers arrested on charges they beat up shackled inmate in his cell

Two corrections officers were arrested this week after being accused of beating an inmate in his Bell County Jail cell and violating his civil rights. Kevin Miller, 34, and Terrance Gardner, 28, turned themselves in Monday after an investigation by the Texas Rangers, the Temple Daily Telegram reports.

The investigation began after 23-year-old inmate Jvareus Aquer Pratt told his mother, Jeanette Cooper, that he had been beaten and kicked by several Bell County jailers while he was shackled and handcuffed. Pratt has been in Bell County Jail since late February on charges of assault of a family member and injury to a child, with bail set at $125,000.

Top of Page

City Stories

Dallas Morning News - March 20, 2019

Hillary Clinton makes endorsement in Dallas mayoral race

Former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton is wading into Dallas politics. On Wednesday, the campaign for Dallas lawyer Regina Montoya announced she has the endorsement of Clinton, the 2016 Democratic presidential nominee and former U.S. Secretary of State and first lady.

While she is one of the biggest political names in the country, Clinton’s endorsement in the Dallas race isn’t much of a surprise. Montoya worked on Bill Clinton’s White House staff as his assistant for intergovernmental affairs in the early 1990s.

Top of Page

National Stories

Dallas Morning News - March 20, 2019

Supreme Court won't hear suit against Dallas-based Topgolf that called it a monopoly

The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to hear an antitrust case brought against Dallas-based Topgolf in which lower courts decided the company did not kill its competition by purchasing tech company ProTracer.

In the case, Sureshot Golf Ventures Inc. claimed that Topgolf's purchase of broadcast technology company ProTracer in May 2016 unfairly blocked competition from other companies in the golf entertainment industry. ProTracer, a Swedish company, is known for developing the leading software for tracking a golf ball's trajectory. It's widely used now in sports broadcasting.

Top of Page

Dallas Morning News - March 21, 2019

AT&T peels off layer of political spending secrecy — thanks to pushy investors and the Michael Cohen fiasco

AT&T is bowing to activist shareholders calling for more transparency about the company's political spending, agreeing to disclose millions of dollars in previously untraceable contributions after last year's embarrassment over payments to President Donald Trump's former lawyer Michael Cohen.

For the first time, AT&T is divulging some contributions to outside groups that keep their donors secret, providing a fuller, if still incomplete, picture of the Dallas-based telecom giant's vast spending on state and federal politics. A new report released by the company details payments totaling about $4.2 million to industry groups and think tanks that was used for lobbying during a portion of last year.

Top of Page

Dallas Morning News - March 20, 2019

China's embattled Huawei insists it only wants a fair fight, not fear and politics

Chinese tech company Huawei can meet U.S. standards for cybersecurity, but it wants fair rules rather than a ban based on fear and politics, says Andy Purdy, chief security officer at Huawei Technologies USA.

Huawei, which has its U.S. headquarters in Plano, makes equipment that spans the world of technology, from antennas and network equipment to mobile phones, laptops and smart watches. It sold more smartphones than Apple last year. Yet until recently, its name drew blank stares from many Americans.

Top of Page

Associated Press - March 20, 2019

Liberal or centrist? Beto O'Rourke drives in both lanes

In a primary that has so far been defined by progressive energy, Beto O'Rourke, the former Texas congressman with a scant political resume is trying to avoid definition. He left a distinctly moderate record behind in Congress and, in the early days of his presidential campaign, has vowed to work with Republicans and woo voters who backed Donald Trump in 2016.

The architects of his campaign insist he's not interested in adhering to a particular ideological lane, and O'Rourke himself shuns party labels. But trying to have it both ways could leave Democratic voters with the impression that O'Rourke is a candidate with a split political personality. Backers say O'Rourke can and should toggle between liberal and moderate positions depending on the topic.

Top of Page

Associated Press - March 20, 2019

'Whack job': Trump escalates feud with Conway's husband

Kellyanne Conway's spouse is a "husband from hell!" President Donald Trump declared Wednesday, escalating his awkward public fight with the husband of one of his closest advisers. A "whack job," he added later.

Trump's feud with George Conway played out with ever more heated rhetoric on social media. Conway, an attorney who has questioned Trump's mental health, fired back after Trump's latest tweet, saying the president seems "determined to prove my point." The caustic exchanges also drew a response from Kellyanne Conway, the longtime Republican pollster who served as Trump's third campaign manager before joining the administration as a counselor to the president.

Top of Page

Other Words - March 14, 2019

Jim Hightower: Silicon Valley's next target is America's farmers

Angus is a robot, toiling away on an indoor hydroponic farm that’s soilless as well as soulless. Programmed by a multimillion-dollar Silicon Valley start-up named Iron Ox, Angus’ homestead is an 8,000-square-foot concrete warehouse in a San Francisco suburb.

Started by a Google engineer, Iron Ox hopes to install duplicates of its faux farm in metro areas across the country. “If we can feed people using robots,” he says, “what could be more impactful than that?” How about this: Reconnecting our food system to nature, a democratic economy, and humans? The roboticists brag that local warehouses can provide fresher lettuce than the mega farms ship from thousands of miles away.

Top of Page

Governing - March 20, 2019

After GAO abortion report, states dispute findings and defend violations

Last month, the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported that 14 states and the District of Columbia were in violation of federal Medicaid law as it pertains to abortion coverage. While some of those states dispute the GAO's report, others are defending their practices, and a couple are working to comply with the law.

Federal money is generally prohibited from funding abortion services because of the 1976 Hyde Amendment. But in cases of rape, incest and life endangerment, Medicaid –– the nation's health insurance for the poor –– is supposed to cover any abortion services, including abortion pills. According to the GAO, 14 states have denied coverage in these cases for the abortion pill, which is used until 10 weeks of pregnancy. One state –– South Dakota –– has been out of compliance with that law for more than 20 years, the GAO said.

Top of Page

CNN - March 20, 2019

Assault rifles to be banned in New Zealand in aftermath of massacre, Prime Minister announces

All military-style semi-automatic weapons, assault rifles and high-capacity magazines will be banned in New Zealand following the mass shootings at two Christchurch mosques that killed 50 people, New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced on Thursday.

The announcement came after the country's cabinet agreed to overhaul the law and ban military-style semi-automatics and assault rifles 72 hours after the Christchurch attacks. An estimated 1.2 million guns are in circulation in the country, according to New Zealand Police -- one for every three people. Ardern said the buyback scheme could cost between $100 million to $200 million.

Top of Page

USA Today - March 21, 2019

How did President Donald Trump's feud with John McCain begin?

President Donald Trump's feud with the late Sen. John McCain dates way back, to long before the real estate magnate launched a campaign for president.

Trump, who occasionally re-airs his grievances with the late Arizona Republican, launched a new line of attack during an address in Ohio Wednesday, suggesting the McCain family never thanked him for "the kind of funeral that he wanted." Trump's role in the services were limited to allowing McCain's body to fly on planes used as Air Force Two. How did this feud develop?

Top of Page

Washington Post - March 21, 2019

Charles Kushner: Here’s the truth about my family and our business

Over the past two years, the news media have told a story about my family and our business with little regard for nuance, logic or even facts. A familiar story line suggested that Kushner Companies was on the brink of collapse, about to be brought down by an over-leveraged building. Though I am a private person and prefer to keep the details of my family’s business as private as possible, I want to set the record straight.

n 2007, the Kushner Companies bought 666 Fifth Ave. in New York City for a then-record $1.8 billion. The thesis of the purchase: The parts of the 1.5?million-square-foot building were worth more than the whole, and splitting it into retail and office components would create value of more than $2.5 billion. But then came the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008. Amid the global recession that followed, the New York real estate market soured. The projected office rents for 666 Fifth Ave. were cut in half.

Top of Page

New York Times - March 21, 2019

How companies learned to stop fearing Trump’s Twitter wrath

Two years ago, some of America’s largest corporations were tearing up their business plans to accommodate President Trump, fearful that he could send their shareholders and customers fleeing with a tweet. Now they have a new strategy: Ignore him.

When Mr. Trump was running for president, he promised to personally stop American companies from shutting down factories and moving plants abroad, warning that he would punish them with public backlash and higher taxes. Many companies scrambled to respond to his Twitter attacks, announcing jobs and investments in the United States — several of which never materialized. But despite Mr. Trump’s efforts to compel companies to build and hire, they appear to be increasingly prioritizing their balance sheets over political backlash.

Top of Page

Reuters - March 20, 2019

Fed sees no rate hikes in 2019, sets end to asset runoff

The U.S. Federal Reserve on Wednesday brought its three-year drive to tighten monetary policy to an abrupt end, abandoning projections for any interest rate hikes this year amid signs of an economic slowdown, and saying it would halt the steady decline of its balance sheet in September.

The measures, announced following the end of a two-day policy meeting, mean the Fed’s gradual and sometimes fitful efforts to return monetary policy to a more normal footing will stop well short of what was foreseen in late 2015 when the central bank first moved rates from the near-zero level adopted in response to the 2007-2009 financial crisis and recession.

Top of Page

Newsclips - March 20, 2019

Lead Stories

New York Times - March 14, 2019

Why Texas is nearing battleground status (it’s not just about Beto)

The dream of a “Blue Texas” has captured the imagination of Democrats for nearly a decade, and Beto O’Rourke has come closer than anyone to making a statewide victory a reality. His strengths as a candidate in his narrow loss in a 2018 Senate race against Ted Cruz — by 2.6 percentage points — led his supporters to push him to run for president, and he obliged them Thursday morning.

But his performance may have demonstrated something else: Texas is on the doorstep of emerging as a battleground state, and any number of Democrats might stand a chance to compete there in 2020 for the presidency or the Senate. His relatively close loss is promising for the party because he did not take full advantage of the longer-term trends that might put it over the top sooner than later. His strength came almost exclusively from white voters, not from the growing Hispanic population in the state.

Top of Page

Associated Press - March 20, 2019

Shifting hopes as Republicans and Democrats await Mueller

It's a witch hunt, a vendetta, the worst presidential harassment in history. That's what President Donald Trump has shouted for two years about the special counsel's Russia probe. Now, barring an eleventh-hour surprise, Trump and his allies are starting to see it as something potentially very different: a political opportunity.

With Robert Mueller's findings expected any day, the president has grown increasingly confident the report will produce what he insisted all along: no clear evidence of a conspiracy between Russia and his 2016 campaign. And Trump and his advisers are considering how to weaponize those possible findings for the 2020 race, according to current and former White House officials and presidential confidants who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations.

Top of Page

Houston Chronicle - March 19, 2019

Timetable for Deer Park chemical blaze indefinite as fire grows

The stubborn blaze at the International Terminals Co. in Deer Park grew in size as it churned through chemical storage tanks for a third day on Tuesday as city, county and state leaders sought to assure anxious residents the fire posed no immediate health risk.

The officials pledged to commit all available local resources to assist in firefighting and protect residents from pollution, though they were unable to estimate when the fire may be put out and conceded that extinguishing the blaze is the responsibility of ITC. Fire crews working for ITC said they finally were able to fight the fire offensively after a two-day stalemate, with the help of foam retardant and additional personnel. The company shut off pipelines and equipment near the blaze to reduce the risk of explosion.

Top of Page

Washington Post - March 20, 2019

Is Trump changing his tune on Fox News?

Fox News, normally the object of presidential praise on Twitter, was subjected to an unusual tweet-lashing over the weekend when the president went after three of its anchors. He called out Leland Vittert and Arthel Neville, lesser-known faces on Fox News’s weekend programming, and Shepard Smith, a more-prominent journalist who has previously fact-checked President Trump on air.

The president also seemed to want to play network programmer on Sunday, urging Fox News to stand by hosts Jeanine Pirro and Tucker Carlson, both of whom are under fire for controversial comments. Fox has supported Carlson but suspended Pirro for suggesting that Rep. Ilhan Omar’s hijab was, by definition, anti-American. All told, Trump’s barrage suggested that daylight exists between certain sectors of Fox News and Trump, who has showered Fox personalities with interviews and benefited from favorable commentary from its opinion hosts.

Top of Page

State Stories

Houston Chronicle - March 19, 2019

Native American inmates win right to long hair in Texas prison

Three Native American inmates bested the Texas prison system in a lawsuit over religious liberties, winning the right to let their hair grow long despite arguments from state attorneys that it would pose a security risk and make it easier for inmates to escape from an understaffed facility.

The trio of long-time prisoners at the McConnell Unit sued the Texas Department of Criminal Justice in federal court, arguing that their Native American spiritual beliefs regard hair as an extension of the soul, something to be cut only when in mourning. The prison system’s rules requiring men to keep short hair or face disciplinary consequences, the inmates and their attorneys argued, were an unfair violation of religious freedom.

Top of Page

Houston Chronicle - March 19, 2019

Get-out-the-vote groups urge Texas to allow Election-Day registration

Despite holding the most expensive and closely-watched U.S. Senate election in the nation last year, Texas still ranked among the ten worst states for voter turnout in 2018, according to a new report on voting trends.

About 46 percent of eligible Texas voters cast a ballot in the November election, up from 29 percent four years earlier, according to “America Goes to the Polls 2018,” a report from Nonprofit VOTE and the US Elections Project. While the number of voters jumped, the turnout places Texas 41st in the country for voter turnout — up from 50th in the 2014 election.

Top of Page

Houston Chronicle - March 19, 2019

San Antonio GOP Rep. Will Hurd’s profile rises in Democrat-controlled House

With Democrats in control of the House of Representatives, Texas GOP Rep. Will Hurd lost his platform to delve into sexy topics like artificial intelligence and promote tech legislation, like his new bill aimed at securing the government’s Smart TVs and connected devices from hackers.

Hurd’s new reality became clear when Democrats abolished the House Oversight IT panel he chaired, his perch for scolding bureaucrats for sloppy computer practices and wasteful spending on outmoded equipment. But while many Republicans have faded from view since the Democratic takeover of the House, Hurd’s profile has expanded, fueled by his criticism of the Trump administration and recent defections from the GOP on guns and border policy.

Top of Page

Houston Chronicle - March 19, 2019

Lack of affordable housing hurting health of Texas children

A majority of poor children in Texas live in families where more than half of the household income goes to housing, straining budgets and creating a ripple effect that ultimately damages their health, a new national study found.

This often unseen poverty has far-reaching and interconnected consequences as families become unable to buy nutritious food, seek medical care, fill prescriptions or secure reliable transportation. It also can determine where and how often children go to school, which can jeopardize future achievement, researchers and public health experts said.

Top of Page

Houston Chronicle - March 20, 2019

Elena Craft: Deer Park fire reignites crisis of confidence in TCEQ

Not again. That was my first thought Sunday after a large fire at a petrochemical storage facility sent a thick plume of black smoke over Houston. It started less than 24 hours after a blaze at ExxonMobil’s Baytown refinery.

Sadly, this March madness is a never-ending story here. The Houston Chronicle in 2016 reported that the region has a chemical fire or explosion every six weeks on average. I am sure someone will dismiss this as the unavoidable byproduct of being the nation’s petrochemical capital. That is simply not true. Chemical fires and explosions are largely preventable. So why do they continue to happen?

Top of Page

San Antonio Express-News - March 19, 2019

Bills would exert more state control over the Alamo

The fight over moving the Cenotaph to another spot on Alamo Plaza has moved to the Legislature, where lawmakers will consider measures that could block the relocation. Three of nine legislative measures related to the Alamo, all filed by Republicans, focus on the 1930s Cenotaph, a monument to the 189 known defenders who died in the storied battle of March 6, 1836.

Other Alamo-related measures deal with oversight, expense reporting or historical interpretation at the Alamo. Matching joint resolutions propose a constitutional amendment, to be voted on statewide Nov. 5, that would give the Legislature authority to approve the content of Alamo exhibits.

Top of Page

San Antonio Express-News - March 19, 2019

Deer Park plant fire may have been sparked by overheated storage tank, worker says

A worker who said he was at the Intercontinental Terminals Co. when the fire first erupted Sunday morning first noticed smoke rising from a chemical storage tank. He left the terminal within a half-hour and by then, "It was roaring up."

The man, who asked not to be identified for fear of repercussions, said speculation among his colleagues is that parts of the tank may have overheated. The tanks overheat from time to time, he said, but normally have a safety mechanism that can shut them off. For whatever reason, that safety mechanism may not have been enough to prevent the fire, he said. "Everyone thinks a tank overheated," he said.

Top of Page

Austin American-Statesman - March 19, 2019

Senators seek creation of new crime after assault victim testimony

After hearing anguished testimony from people who had no viable legal options after being groped or sexually touched against their will, a Texas Senate committee voted Tuesday to support the creation of a new crime — indecent assault — that includes jail time for offenders. Current Texas law makes groping and similar acts a fine-only offense, similar to many traffic tickets, with a maximum penalty of $500.

The low-level punishment makes offenders difficult to prosecute, gives police little incentive to investigate and does not carry the possibility of jail time, even for repeat offenders, said Katherine Strandberg, a policy analyst for the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault. Senate Bill 194 by state Sen. Charles Perry, R-Lubbock, would make indecent assault a Class A misdemeanor with the possibility of up to one year in jail and a $4,000 fine.

Top of Page

Austin American-Statesman - March 19, 2019

Ken Herman: Rep. Greg Bonnen proposes bill filing shake-up

It would be, for some fans of less government, a Texas Capitol dream come true. No more House bills. No more Senate bills. Never, ever again. Gone. Kaput. His-to-ry. Oh, there’d still be good and bad ideas reduced to proposed legislation. But the it’s-always-been-that-way process of calling it a House bill or a Senate bill, which is the way every Texas law first saw the legislative light of day, would become extinct.

Instead of House bills and Senate bills, as in HB 1 and SB 1, there would be only Texas bills, as in TB 1, regardless of in which of the two chambers they originated. For answers, we must turn to a neurosurgeon. This is Dr. Greg Bonnen’s big idea. He’s also Rep. Greg Bonnen, R-Friendswood. And he’s the Rep. Bonnen (not to be confused with Speaker Dennis Bonnen, his brother) who this week filed House Resolution 901. “Pretty cool, isn’t it?” was his first response when I asked him about it.

Top of Page

Austin American-Statesman - March 19, 2019

Texas lawmakers push for child care safety improvements

A bipartisan group of Texas lawmakers on Tuesday announced a coordinated effort to pass a package of bills aimed at improving child care safety and oversight.

Many of the bills were inspired by “Unwatched,” a yearlong, 12-part investigative series the American-Statesman published in December that revealed that 88 children had died as a result of abuse or neglect at day care facilities over the previous decade, that another 450 were sexually abused and that the state’s efforts to crack down on unsafe day cares are often inadequate, allowing some facilities with more than 100 violations to remain open.

Top of Page

Dallas Morning News - March 19, 2019

Texas House abandons plan to give teachers merit-based raises

A Texas House committee delivered a blow Tuesday to proponents of giving teachers raises based on merit. The author of the leading House bill to overhaul public school education across Texas struck a controversial plan to create a $140 million program that offered raises to only top-rated teachers.

Instead, that money will be funneled toward schools with the highest percentages of low-income students to give teachers incentives to work at the toughest campuses. Districts would be able to lure top teachers to the poorest schools with more money, under a program modeled after Dallas ISD's pilot. The merit pay language was stripped right before the House Public Education committee unanimously voted to send the bill to the full House for consideration.

Top of Page

Dallas Morning News - March 19, 2019

In Beto O'Rourke's shadow, Julián Castro brings long-shot presidential campaign to Dallas

Julián Castro is fighting to stay relevant in a presidential race that includes a large field of candidates and Texas' most popular Democrat.

On Tuesday, Texas' "other" Democratic Party candidate for president visited Dallas for a fundraiser and what was described as an opportunity for local party faithful to hear about his campaign. The event, at St. Pete's Dancing Marlin in Deep Ellum, had been advertised by the Dallas County Democratic Party and is sponsored by the Stanton law firm. It's the former San Antonio mayor and former Housing Secretary's second visit to Dallas since January, when he launched his presidential campaign.

Top of Page

San Antonio Current - March 19, 2019

Bills in the Texas Legislature would make it easier for businesses to sue people exercising free-speech rights

A pair of bills in the Texas Legislature would make it easier for businesses and deep-pocketed individuals to sue whistleblowers for exercising their First Amendment rights to free speech and to harass them into silence.

Both House Bill 2730 and Senate Bill 2162 seek to gut the Texas Citizens Participation Act, a law protecting residents' right to engage in public debate and express their opinions. Free-speech proponents argue that the act — like similar measures on the book in nearly 30 U.S. states — protects ordinary people against frivolous lawsuits filed to punish them for exercising their First Amendment rights.

Top of Page

Star-Telegram - March 19, 2019

Rep. Matt Krause wants kids to be able to run lemonade stands — legally. Here’s what he did.

Chalk one up for Texas kids. On Tuesday, the Texas House took a key step toward finally making it legal for young Texans to run their own lemonade stands.

“Today is Lemonade Freedom Day,” said state Rep. Matt Krause, R-Fort Worth, who authored the lemonade stand bill. “It’s to ensure anyone under the age of 18 is free from any kind of fine, fee or regulation when they want to start those first businesses. The House gave early approval to Krause’s bill, which lets younger Texans legally run stands selling lemonade or any nonalcoholic beverage.

Top of Page

KPEL - March 20, 2019

Gov. Abbott travels to Louisiana, slams state's governor

Texas Governor Greg Abbott slammed Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards for his handling of the state’s economy, going as far to say that Edwards has made his job easier when it comes to attracting jobs to the Longhorn state.

Abbott says Texas’ economy is growing, because of a business friendly environment, and wished the same for Louisiana, but "a roadblock to achieving that vision has been a governor who is raising taxes and cutting bullishness incentives.” The comments were made Monday in Baton Rouge at the Republican Governor’s Association round table that included GOP candidates for Governor, businessman Eddie Rispone and Congressman Ralph Abraham.

Top of Page

CBS 6 - March 19, 2019

Bail reform bills are gaining ground in Texas. But some worry reforms are wrong approach

Lawmakers are hopeful with Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s support, two new bills looking to change the way bail bonds are determined in the Lone Star State will pass.

Texas lawmakers are narrowing down ways to reform bail. Efforts that have been in the works for years are now starting to take shape. Gov. Greg Abbott’s support has given lawmakers some momentum. This could be game changer for these bills, which is leaving some in the bail industry on edge.

Top of Page

KUT - March 20, 2019

Voters who make mistakes could wind up in jail under Sem. Bryan Hughes' sweeping voting bill, advocates say

A wide-ranging voting bill in the Texas Senate “would sharply escalate an ongoing campaign of voter suppression” in the state, voting rights advocates say.

In a letter sent today to the bill’s sponsor, Republican Sen. Bryan Hughes of Mineola, advocates said Senate Bill 9 would make “voting substantially harder for thousands of Texans … by spreading fear that people may be thrown in jail for honest mistakes while trying to vote.” SB 9 is one of 30 "priority bills" Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick flagged for the 2019 legislative session.

Top of Page

MyHighPlains.com - March 19, 2019

Amarillo Matters to kickoff grassroot effort for Texas Tech Vet School

Amarillo Matters announced today a significant grassroots effort aimed at building support for the Texas Tech School of Veterinary Medicine in Amarillo.

“There is so much support for this project and we felt it was important to give all of the supporters a voice, a way for them to say we support this project and our state needs it,” Amarillo Matters President Jason Herrick said. The effort will include a robust digital and social media campaign with opportunities to stay engaged and share support for the Texas Tech veterinary school. Amarillo Matters is also working to assemble a broad coalition – as big as Texas and beyond – of supporters, communities, and organizations who believe in the vision of Texas Tech’s veterinary school.

Top of Page

Wichita Falls Times-Record - March 20, 2019

Rep. Mac Thornberry: Military cuts 'will hurt the military,' affect Texas bases

During a luncheon meeting with a county Republican group, Rep. Mac Thornberry said he's seen the list of possible military cuts the president will use to fund the emergency declaration at the border.

Texas bases appear throughout the list, said the Republican congressman from Amarillo, whose district includes North Texas. The cuts would be substantial. "It's a long list, about $13 billion worth of construction. Now we don't know exactly which ones, but these are the list, the pool, that they will draw from." he said.

Top of Page

County Stories

Associated Press - March 19, 2019

Harris County Judge says air quality OK as wind carries smoke away from petrochemical plant fire

Authorities say a plume of pitch-black smoke from a fire at a Houston-area petrochemicals terminal is traveling thousands of feet into the atmosphere and lessening concerns about air quality in the region.

Harris County's top administrator, Judge Lina Hidalgo, said at a news conference Tuesday that the plume is moving at least 4,000 feet into the air and staying high enough so that the air quality is not cause for alarm. Officials say the fire that began Sunday at the Intercontinental Terminals Company in Deer Park, southeast of Houston, remains intense enough to create its own micro weather system, causing shifting winds in the area.

Top of Page

Dallas Morning News - March 19, 2019

Dallas County saw nation's highest increase for chlamydia and gonorrhea rates last year, study shows

Dallas County saw the highest percentage increase in the nation for cases of chlamydia and gonorrhea between 2016 and 2017, according to a Health Testing Centers analysis of the 2017 STD Surveillance Report by the Centers for Disease Control.

Along with the rest of the U.S., Dallas County has seen syphilis, gonorrhea and chlamydia infection rates go up in recent years. But last year, more than 2,500 prospective patients were turned away from the Dallas County STD clinic because of a lack of available appointments. Before he started his job as the county’s health director a few weeks ago, Dr. Philip Huang called Dallas County’s STD clinic appointment line as an experiment to see how long a person might have to wait to set up an appointment.

Top of Page

San Antonio Express-News - March 19, 2019

Alamo Colleges trustees raise hourly minimum wage to $15

The Alamo Colleges District board of trustees Tuesday night approved a living wage of $15 per hour for full-time workers and large raises for the lowest-paid part-time and work study employees, an act to further the district’s agenda of upward socioeconomic mobility in San Antonio — and help students who juggle paid jobs.

The $15 hourly wage represents a 30 percent increase over the current minimum in the district of five community colleges. The minimum hourly wage for part-time and temporary employees — including work-study and other student workers — went up to $12.50. That’s a 39 percent raise for work-study employees and a 25 percent increase for other part-time and temporary workers. All the raises take effect Sept. 1. New full-time employees will be hired at a minimum hourly rate of $14.70, so existing employees can keep the benefit of seniority.

Top of Page

City Stories

San Antonio Express-News - March 19, 2019

Protestors rally around immigrants hiding in Austin churches

In two Austin churches of different faiths, Alirio Gamez, Hilda Ramirez and her 12-year-old son, Ivan, are hiding from Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers.

The Central American immigrants were supposed to show up at the San Antonio ICE field office for an appointment that was likely to be their last before deportation. But two tall Austin ministers came in their stead: Rigby, and Chris Jimmerson of the First Unitarian Universalist Church. And along with them, some 100 advocates protesting their possible deportation.

Top of Page

San Antonio Current - March 19, 2019

Trump's emergency declaration puts up to $77 million in San Antonio military spending on chopping block

There's now a price tag for how much local military spending is in jeopardy thanks to President Trump's emergency declaration. A new list supplied by the Defense Department lists the military construction projects whose funds could be slashed to help fund the president's wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Add those up, and it looks like $76.7 million in projects at Joint Base San Antonio are now potentially on the chopping block. Another $188 million in construction is in jeopardy at bases in other parts of the state. At JBSA, the potentially mothballed projects include: An Air Force basic military training classrooms and dining facility, an air traffic control tower for Kelly Field, a new dining facility at Camp Bullis, a Department of Defense-wide energy aerospace operations facility and a vehicle maintenance shop at Camp Bullis.

Top of Page

Houston Chronicle - March 19, 2019

Buzbee to give another $4 million to mayoral campaign

Houston trial attorney and mayoral candidate Tony Buzbee announced Tuesday he will contribute another $4 million to his campaign, bringing his personal investment to $6 million as he seeks to unseat Mayor Sylvester Turner in November.

Buzbee previously had donated $2 million of his own money to the campaign, and has pledged that he will entirely self-fund his mayoral bid to avoid the appearance that he is beholden to campaign donors, calling it "an investment in the city I love so much."

Top of Page

Dallas Morning News - March 19, 2019

Intellectually disabled man who murdered Dallas cop shouldn't be executed, DA says

Dallas County District Attorney John Creuzot announced Tuesday he no longer believes that a man sentenced to death for murdering a Dallas police officer in November 2005 should be executed for his crime. Juan Lizcano should instead spend the rest of his life in prison without the possibility of parole, Creuzot said.

The change in position follows a Supreme Court ruling in February that stopped Texas from executing another intellectually disabled murderer, saying the state's judgment of such disabilities relies on inaccurate stereotypes. The DA's office had opposed a reduced sentence for Lizcano before Creuzot took office Jan. 1. Lizcano does not have a scheduled execution date.

Top of Page

KUT - March 18, 2019

Nearly 434,000 scooter rides were taken during SXSW 2019

Dockless scooters were the headliner in their first year at SXSW. City data show the scooters outpaced rentable dockless bikes over the festival, accounting for nearly 434,000 rides over the 10 days of SXSW – 12.3 percent of the 3.5 million scooter rides since the scooters descended upon Austin last April.

Still, nearly 32,000 riders hopped on dockless bikes, accounting for nearly a quarter (23 percent) of the rides since the city began tracking ridership in April last year. It's important to keep in mind that city data don't measure rides under a 10th of a mile. It's also important to keep in mind that the city is still evaluating how exactly it plans on regulating the usage of dockless scooters. While bikes have set rules for the road, scooters don't.

Top of Page

National Stories

The Hill - March 19, 2019

Trump health chief backs needle exchanges in anti-HIV strategy

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar on Tuesday backed needle exchange programs as a way to reduce new HIV infections among people who inject illicit drugs.

Syringe services programs provide clean needles to people to inject drugs, in an effort to stop the spread of infections like HIV and Hepatitis C. Studies have shown that needle exchanges can prevent the spread of HIV. Such sites often provide substance abuse treatment, HIV and hepatitis testing and other services.

Top of Page

The Hill - March 20, 2019

Senate GOP poised to go 'nuclear' on Trump picks

Senate Republicans are set to hit the gas on confirming hundreds of President Trump’s nominees by muscling through a rules change that would dramatically cut down on the amount of time required to confirm district court and executive nominations.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who supports the change, hasn’t tipped his hand on when the proposal will come to the Senate floor. But members of his leadership team say it will be taken up after lawmakers return to Washington next week. “I think we have 51 Republicans who would rather do it with 60 [votes], most of us,” said Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO), a member of leadership who helped spearhead the proposal along with Sen. James Lankford (R-OK).

Top of Page

Washington Post - March 20, 2019

Candidates reach for the ticket to Democratic debates: 65,000 donors

The latest turn in the Democratic presidential race looks a bit like an infomercial for a food dehydrator or Ginsu knives. Former congressman John Delaney stands in front of a whiteboard in an online video, pitching voters on a new way to double their money. “It’s really simple, and it’s actually a pretty good deal,” the Maryland Democrat says. “ .?.?. You give one, I give two to a charity of your choice.”

You heard that right, folks. A candidate for president wants your donation so badly that he is willing to pay twice as much out of pocket. The reason has little to do with traditional campaign fundraising and a lot to do with the new criteria the Democratic Party has laid out for qualifying for the first debates — either earn at least 1 percent support in a series of public polls of Democratic voters or attract 65,000 individual donors.

Top of Page

New York Times - March 20, 2019

Wall Street is betting the Fed’s rate-raising days are done for now

Just three months ago, investors were in a panic over the idea that the Federal Reserve might push borrowing costs too high and tip the United States economy into a recession. Now, Wall Street is toying with the idea that the central bank could actually be cutting interest rates by the end of the year.

Those forecasts are evident in the market for interest rate futures, where the odds of another interest rate increase in 2019 have fallen to zero, from about 30 percent in December, while the chance of a decrease in rates has risen to more than one in five. One reason for the changing forecasts? The Fed’s own signal to be more patient as it evaluates whether or not to keep raising interest rates. Since the central bank’s chairman, Jerome H. Powell, first spoke about this newfound patience, stocks have soared more than 15 percent.

Top of Page

NPR - March 20, 2019

Gorsuch provides decisive 5th vote in case interpreting treaty with Indian tribe

Every year, the Supreme Court hears around 150 cases, and while there will usually be a few blockbuster opinions, the majority garner little media attention. But these more obscure decisions can often illustrate something interesting, even unexpected, about one of the justices. And so it was on Tuesday with Justice Neil Gorsuch and a relatively obscure and underplayed Indian treaty case.

On this conservative court, Gorsuch has been one of the most conservative voices. But in cases involving Indian treaties and rights, he is most often counted among those sympathetic to Indian claims. On Tuesday, Gorsuch split from his conservative colleagues, siding with the court's more liberal members in a case involving the Yakama Tribe and its right under an 1855 treaty to travel the public roads without being taxed on the goods brought to the reservation.

Top of Page

Associated Press - March 20, 2019

Trump keeps a sharp focus on Ohio for the 2020 campaign

President Donald Trump is returning to the state that foretold his 2016 victory and serves as the linchpin of his re-election effort. Trump’s visit to Ohio on Wednesday marks his first trip to the state since last year’s midterm election campaign , when the state was a rare bright spot for Republicans in the upper Midwest.

But with Trump’s path to another four years in the White House relying on a victory in the state, his nascent campaign is mindful of warning signs that Ohio can hardly be taken for granted in 2020. Perhaps no state has better illustrated the re-aligning effects of Trump’s candidacy and presidency than Ohio, where traditionally Democratic-leaning working-class voters have swung heavily toward the GOP, and moderate Republicans in populous suburban counties have shifted away from Trump. It’s for that reason, administration officials said, that Trump keeps returning to Ohio — this week’s visit mark’s his 10th to the state since taking office.

Top of Page

Wall Street Journal - March 20, 2019

Biden tells supporters he plans a 2020 bid

Former Vice President Joe Biden told at least a half-dozen supporters Tuesday he intends to run for president and asked for their help in lining up contributions from major donors so he can quickly raise several million dollars, a person familiar with the matter said.

Mr. Biden has expressed concern to these people that he wouldn’t be able to raise millions of dollars in online donations immediately the way some other Democratic candidates have, including former Rep. Beto O’Rourke of Texas and Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, this person said. Mr. O’Rourke raised $6.1 million in the 24 hours after he launched his bid for the Democratic presidential nomination, while Mr. Sanders collected $5.9 million in the same period.

Top of Page

Newsclips - March 19, 2019

Lead Stories

Dallas Morning News - March 18, 2019

Beto O'Rourke's record $6.1 million Day 1 haul has Bernie Sanders pleading with donors for help

Beto O'Rourke raised a record $6.1 million in his first 24 hours as a presidential candidate, his campaign announced Monday morning –– sending shudders across the Democratic primary field. The sum edges out the $5.9 million raised by Sen. Bernie Sanders in his first full day as a 2020 candidate, and eclipses the $1.5 million collected by Sen. Kamala Harris of California in her first 24 hours.

Within hours of O'Rourke's announcement, both were prodding their own supporters for more money, pointing to their Texas rival as a fund-raising juggernaut they'll have trouble keeping up with. The early haul puts to rest any questions about whether O'Rourke can transfer the sizzle of the Texas Senate race to the national stage.

Top of Page

Dallas Morning News - March 18, 2019

Should Texas raise the smoking age from 18 to 21? Nation’s largest tobacco company agrees

A long-stalled push to raise the minimum age for buying tobacco and e-cigarettes in Texas has a puff of momentum, thanks to early hearings in both chambers, strong support from Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and a surprising and quiet change of position by one of Big Tobacco's leading corporations.

GOP leaders of powerful committees in the House and Senate are again lead authors of proposals that would raise the legal age for buying cigarettes, other tobacco products and e-cigarettes from 18 to 21. Since 2007, such proposals have failed to pass into law for lack of support from Republicans who control the Legislature. But there’s another new twist: Big Tobacco registering support for raising the legal age for buying smokes.

Top of Page

Star-Telegram - March 18, 2019

This is Sen. Cornyn’s attack plan if Joaquin Castro challenges him for Senate

Texas Sen. John Cornyn is readying fire for a potential race against Rep. Joaquin Castro, according to a game plan laid out to the Star-Telegram by Cornyn’s campaign Monday.

Though Cornyn already faces a handful of Democratic challengers in 2020, Castro is the candidate both parties’ operatives say could instantly thrust Texas into another high-profile Senate race. He’s the only candidate Cornyn’s team has prepared attacks for so far. Cornyn’s team plans to focus on votes Castro took against bills providing aid for Texans impacted by Hurricane Harvey — at times separating Castro from other Texas Democrats.

Top of Page

Houston Chronicle - March 19, 2019

Deer Park plant on fire at Intercontinental Terminals Co. has history of environmental violations

Before it was engulfed in flame, a Deer Park chemical facility had a long history of violating state and federal environmental rules.

Intercontinental Terminals Company's (ITC) Deer Park facility violated clean air and clean water rules multiple times since 2009 and was cited for not following federal risk management regulations, records show. Federal, state and county regulators issued more than $65,000 in civil penalties to ITC during that time. The company, which stores petrochemicals for companies including Chevron, Phillips 66 and Exxon Chemical Company, says it strives to comply with the law.

Top of Page

State Stories

Houston Chronicle - March 19, 2019

Deer Park plant fire could last two more days; authorities monitoring air quality

An intense fire churned through massive chemical storage tanks Monday at a facility east of Houston, continuously pumping plumes of black smoke that drifted across the region as firefighters fought to contain the blaze for a second straight day.

Although the fire is expected to burn another day or two at the International Terminals Company in Deer Park, local health and emergency officials said early air quality tests indicate the fire has not posed a serious health risk to residents. No injuries were reported. By late Monday, the fire was believed contained within six storage tanks at the ITC site, where gasoline components and other chemicals are housed in 80,000-barrel tanks.

Top of Page

Houston Chronicle - March 18, 2019

Troubled Texas nonprofit tries for more family planning money

When Texas health officials broke ties with the Heidi Group late last year, it seemed to be the end of a failed effort to turn the anti-abortion group into one of the state’s leading family planning providers. But the Heidi Group is not finished.

The Round Rock nonprofit, led by longtime anti-abortion activist Carol Everett, has quietly applied alongside two other Texas health providers for tens of millions of dollars in federal family planning funding, according to a copy of the group’s grant application obtained by the Chronicle. The collaboration would be overseen by a Catholic organization called the Obria Group, which is based in Southern California and is aggressively vying to become a national alternative to Planned Parenthood.

Top of Page

Houston Chronicle - March 19, 2019

UH asking legislature for $75 million for brand-new Katy campus

The University of Houston System is asking the legislature for an additional $75 million to construct a second 150,000-square-foot facility at the site of its Katy campus, where crews are already working round-the-clock.

An 80,000-square-foot campus is set to open in Katy on 46 acres of land near the intersection of Interstate-10 and the Grand Parkway this fall, but now UH wants to expand that by adding an additional facility, said Chris Stipes, UH director of media relations. The cost of the 80,000-square-foot facility, already under construction, was estimated at $33 million when the UH System broke ground last May.

Top of Page

Houston Chronicle - March 19, 2019

Houston’s KBR among four invited to bid on new refinery project in Mexico

Houston engineering and construction company KBR is among the companies invited to bid on a multibillion dollar project to build Mexico’s first new refinery in more than 40 years.

The refinery, estimated by the Mexican government to cost $8 billion, would process domestically produced crude oil to make gasoline and diesel at a time when Mexico is importing 80 percent of its fuel from the United States and other nations. Located on nearly 1,400 acres of coastal land owned the federal government in the state of Tabasco the new Dos Bocas Refinery would process 340,000 barrels of crude oil per day to make gasoline and diesel to be sold as gas stations across Mexico.

Top of Page

Houston Chronicle - March 15, 2019

Texas Folklife apprenticeships keep traditions alive

A master artist son of Ukrainian immigrants spends his weekends teaching his apprentice, a recent Mexican-American high school graduate, the art of Pysanky, or Ukrainian egg painting. It’s the sort of cross-cultural, intergenerational partnership the Texas Folklife nonprofit group hopes to expand in Houston and across Texas through its revamped apprenticeship program.

Begun in 1987 and modeled after other states’ programs, the Texas Folklife apprenticeship program financially supports pairs of master folk artists and apprentices in an effort to sustain Texan traditional arts which include everything from saddle making and accordion building to Afro-Cuban folkloric dance and the art of custom cowboy hats.

Top of Page

Dallas Morning News - March 19, 2019

Janice Bezanson: Texas state parks should get the funding the Lege has already designated for them

Polls repeatedly affirm what many of us know to be true: Texans love the outdoors. And Texans love their state and local parks. In a 2014 poll conducted by Hill Research Consultants, 92 percent of people surveyed agreed that public parks are especially important to families needing an affordable recreational outlet. In good economic times and bad, the parks provide a much-needed source of recreation and activity for Texas families.

Unfortunately, the state park system wasn't designed to handle the pressure of our fast-growing population. Past funding cuts have left Texas Parks and Wildlife Department with $800 million in deferred maintenance: 61 percent of the restrooms need work, and 220 campgrounds need upgrading. And wonderful natural areas like the new Palo Pinto Mountains State Park can't open until the department has the funding to finish planning and ensure that facilities are in place for the public to enjoy the park.

Top of Page

Dallas Morning News - March 18, 2019

$9 billion more for schools, raises for state workers in two-year Texas budget approved by House panel

A two-year spending blueprint that increases state funding of schools and grants a 2.8 percent annual cost of living adjustment to state workers is on its way to the Texas House following approval Monday by the chamber's budget writing committee. The vote was 25-1. Rep. Matt Schaefer, R-Tyler, cast the only vote against.

The budget "responsibly funds items critical to all Texans, like public education and continuing investment in mental health, and is also responsive to more immediate needs like school safety and sexual assault prevention, education and training," said House Appropriations Committee Chairman John Zerwas, R-Richmond. The bill would spend an additional $9 billion on public schools and reduction of school property taxes in the two-year cycle that begins Sept. 1.

Top of Page

Austin American-Statesman - March 19, 2019

As House budget proposal moves forward, Freedom Caucus member casts no vote

When the members of a key Texas House committee on Monday voted on the House budget proposal, they were all on the same page — except one. The budget proposal — the only bill that lawmakers are constitutionally required to pass into law — was passed out of the House Appropriations Committee by a vote of 25 to 1, with one member not present.

That sole nay vote belonged to state Rep. Matt Schaefer, R-Tyler, a member of the House Freedom Caucus, which says part of its mission is to “revitalize personal and economic freedoms in the state of Texas.” Viewed one way, the vote was the mark of what might be termed ideological purity; viewed another, it showed the isolation of the freedom caucus in a House that has grown more Democratic — even as it remains a majority Republican — since the 2018 midterm elections.

Top of Page

Austin American-Statesman - March 18, 2019

Abortion opponents at Capitol target Austin lease

Targeting Austin’s $1-a-year lease with a Planned Parenthood health center, a Texas Senate committee on Monday approved a bill to ban cities and counties from doing any type of business with an abortion provider or affiliated organizations.

Sen. Donna Campbell, R-New Braunfels, said that while the Legislature prohibited the use of almost all state money for Planned Parenthood in 2011, her bill would crack down on local governments that continue to spend tax money on groups that promote or conduct abortions. Senate Bill 22, co-authored by all 20 Republican senators, was approved 7-0 by the committee and next goes to the full Senate for consideration.

Top of Page

Austin American-Statesman - March 18, 2019

Lawmakers consider death penalty procedures

Three bills filed in the Texas House would change how courts handle cases when the death penalty is on the table, clarifying sentencing rules and judicial procedures.

House Bill 1139, filed by Rep. Senfronia Thompson, D-Houston, would require a judge to determine before the case is tried whether a defendant has an intellectual disability, a determination currently done after sentencing. In 2002, the U.S. Supreme Court prohibited the use of the death penalty for felons with an intellectual disability. That case and others since have shown it is necessary for Texas to legislate the issue, Thompson told the American-Statesman.

Top of Page

San Antonio Express-News - March 19, 2019

Former state Sen. Carlos Uresti settles lawsuit with star witness in criminal trial

Convicted felon Carlos Uresti has settled a lawsuit brought by the prosecution’s star witness in his criminal fraud trial.

Uresti has agreed to pay $900,000 in damages to Harlingen’s Denise Cantu, with whom he had an alleged sexual relationship and traded steamy text messages, to resolve the civil litigation, according to a judgment filed last week in state district court in Bexar County. A judge has yet to approve the settlement, however.

Top of Page

San Antonio Express-News - March 19, 2019

Gov. Abbott calls on Texas universities to examine admissions process, policies

In the wake of the largest college admissions scam ever prosecuted by the U.S. Department of Justice, Gov. Greg Abbott has advised Texas public universities to closely examine their admissions policies and procedures to ensure that they are void of fraudulent activities.

Abbott reminded the boards that lawmakers have assigned them “important responsibilities … including setting campus standards” and that they must take necessary measures to prevent corruption in admissions. The letter comes nearly a week after University of Texas at Austin’s former tennis coach Michael Center was arrested and charged March 12 after allegedly accepting $100,000 in bribes in exchange for recruiting a student to the tennis team, which resulted in his admission. Center, released on a $50,000 bond, was fired from his position as coach.

Top of Page

Austin American-Statesman - March 17, 2019

Beto takes Rust Belt tour as campaign leaves Iowa

Fresh off three days campaigning for president in the first-in-the-nation caucus state of Iowa, Beto O’Rourke on Sunday embarked on a road trip to the first-in-the-nation primary state of New Hampshire, traversing what might be called the Democratic Party’s boulevard of broken dreams — the Rust Belt states of Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania that voted for Barack Obama in 2012 and Donald Trump in 2016, costing Hillary Clinton the White House.

Later, O’Rourke told Wisconsin reporters covering his visit to the Milwaukee headquarters of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, “I want Wisconsin to know that I am here, that I spent the fourth day of my campaign in Madison, in Johnson Creek and here in Milwaukee, that I am listening to those I wish to serve, learning from them and then coming back.” O’Rourke’s newborn presidential campaign is very much in the style and spirit of his 2016 campaign against U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz.

Top of Page

Associated Press - March 18, 2019

O'Rourke says nothing in his past will hinder 2020 run, promises to "clean up his act"

Democratic presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke told supporters Sunday that he's never taken LSD and there's "nothing" he hasn't already revealed about his past that could come back to hurt his run for office. The former Texas congressman — who has become known for his propensity for using the "f-word" — also promised again to clean up his language, despite breaking such past vows.

O'Rourke grabbed much attention as he wrapped up his first week of campaigning, but his challengers could be found at events from the Upper Midwest to the South. And looming over them all is the shadow of one prominent Democrat not in but not out, former Vice President Joe Biden. He has yet to announce a decision. Speaking in front of a large map of Russia inside a coffee shop in Wisconsin's capital, O'Rourke promised to return often, addressing concerns Democrats raised in 2016 after Hillary Clinton never campaigned in the state after her party's primary and lost the state to Donald Trump by fewer than 23,000 votes.

Top of Page

CBS 11 - March 18, 2019

Proposed ban on red light cameras gaining traction in Texas Legislature

The more than two hundred red light cameras in North Texas may soon be coming down for good. Multiple bills addressing the controversial cameras have been filed in Austin this legislative session with the bill that would ban the cameras all together generating the most support among lawmakers.

So far more than a hundred lawmakers have signed on to support House Bill 1631 authored by Rep. Jonathan Stickland, R–Bedford. His bill would ban the use of the cameras statewide. “This has kind of hit a crescendo from the grassroots, left and right,” explained Stickland. “It’s not really Republican or Democrat. It’s about public safety and protecting people’s rights.”

Top of Page

Texas Observer - March 19, 2019

In Texas, three more measles cases and four new anti-vaccine bills

Since early March, Texas has confirmed three new measles cases amid an ongoing outbreak, and added several new anti-vaccine measures to the roster of bills filed this session. Texas has seen 11 cases of the disease so far this year, already surpassing the state total for any year since 2013. Across the country, there have been at least 228 cases in 12 states.

A bill filed by state Senator Bob Hall, R-Edgewood, would ban vaccines that haven’t met criteria that Hall — a retired business owner — has determined the U.S. Food and Drug Administration should be using for approval. The bill also requires the state health department to post online a “disclosure of any known injuries or diseases caused by the vaccine” and that the vaccine be “evaluated for [its] potential to: cause cancer, mutate genes, affect fertility or cause infertility, and cause autism spectrum disorder.”

Top of Page

Midland Reporter-Telegraph - March 18, 2019

Former railroad commissioner calls for restructured disposal well regulations

Amid the myriad discussions about managing produced water and the increased risks disposal wells can bring, a consulting company seeks to add a new direction.

98th Meridian Foundation, founded by former railroad commissioner David Porter, has issued a white paper calling for increased regulatory scrutiny of high-volume disposal wells. In the paper, he calls for bifurcating the rules to create two well categories: high-volume/high-pressure wells and low-volume/low-pressure wells.

Top of Page

Rivard Report - March 18, 2019

Alamo Plaza attraction owner wants greater focus on entertainment district

Spring break is the busiest time of year for the attractions in Alamo Plaza, according to Davis Phillips, president and CEO of the company that owns and operates three of the main attractions located right across from the historic Alamo.

The school holiday provides 10 percent of the attractions’ annual revenue, Phillips said, so the estimated $350 million-$450 million plan to redevelop Alamo Plaza into a “world class” destination and move his businesses and others to a new entertainment district nearby has been on his mind for years. But he’s concerned that the fate of his and other businesses is taking a back seat to other processes involved in the complicated plan and that time is running out ahead of the 2024 unveiling of a completed Alamo Plaza. State and local officials, however, say there’s no cause for concern.

Top of Page

County Stories

KERA - March 18, 2019

How national accreditation helped public health In Tarrant County

Public health departments have put together a voluntary national accreditation system to hold themselves accountable to the public. Formed by former and current members of the health community, the Public Health Accreditation Board (PHAB) describes itself as “a nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing the continuous quality improvement of tribal, state, local, and territorial public health departments.”

The idea is “to check the performance of your health department against some national standards that are evidence-based and practice-focused,” says Vinny Taneja, director of Tarrant County Public Health, “and to bring standardization to public health so you can be assured they are providing the highest level of care.”

Top of Page

Dallas Morning News - March 18, 2019

Second measles case confirmed in Collin County after the contagious person visited Kroger in Prosper

A second measles case has been reported in Collin County, where the contagious person visited a grocery store, health officials said Monday. The contagious person spent a "limited amount of time" between 9 and 10 a.m. Friday at a Kroger on North Preston Road in Prosper, Collin County Health Care Services said.

The person did not report going to any other public locations, and the health department said it is working to contact people at private locations. It is unclear whether an effort was made to contact other Kroger customers. A Kroger spokeswoman said that the company is aware of the case but that she had no further information to share.

Top of Page

City Stories

Houston Chronicle - March 18, 2019

Houston supermarkets losing more jobs than any sector

Houston has been adding jobs at a frenetic pace over the last few years, but payrolls of the city’s supermarkets are steadily shrinking. Every major industry in Houston gained jobs in 2018 — more than 73,000 in total — except retail, which lost nearly 6,000 jobs, making it the worst-performing sector in the Houston economy last year.

Supermarkets accounted for a third of the job losses, the only time the city encountered negative retail job growth in a non-recession year, according to the data from the Texas Workforce Commission. The job losses at supermarkets continued a downward trend that began in December 2016, when the region’s grocers employed more than 58,000 people in Greater Houston. That number is now down 5 percent to 55,000 workers, according to the most recent figures from the Workforce Commission.

Top of Page

Houston Chronicle - March 16, 2019

Hillary Clinton to headline Democratic Party fundraiser in Houston

Former first lady and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton will headline a fundraising lunch for the Harris County Democratic Party in May.

Clinton, who lost the presidential campaign in 2016 to President Donald Trump, will speak as part of the annual JJR fundraiser for the Harris County Democratic Party. The JJR dinner is named for former President Lyndon Johnson, Congresswoman Barbara Jordan and Governor Ann Richards. The event will be May 24 at the George R. Brown Convention Center. Individual tickets go on sale April 24.

Top of Page

Houston Chronicle - March 19, 2019

To Deer Park residents, fire a reminder of 'like living on a fault line'

Jodie Thompson pulled over on Independence Parkway, less than a mile away from a petrochemical plant that was leaking plumes of black smoke into the sky. In her 34 years living in Deer Park, she'd seen flares before. But this was different.

The fire had raged at Intercontinental Terminals Company for more than 26 hours by the early afternoon and spread to eight holding tanks. Even after a shelter-in-place was lifted Monday morning, the fire was still expected to burn for two more days. The ordeal, in some ways, was part of life in Deer Park, an east Harris County city of more than 33,000 people. Residents said they were familiar with the risks that come with living by the refineries and chemical plants. At a certain point, you have to stop worrying, they said.

Top of Page

Dallas Morning News - March 18, 2019

Dallas family sues Atmos Energy for more than $1 million after gas explosion forced them to 'start over again'

David Lemus awoke early Feb. 21, 2018, as his home crumbled on top of him. His father, also named David Lemus, had gotten out of bed a few minutes earlier, woken by a popping sound. The 49-year-old man traced the noise to the HVAC unit in the attic, where he noticed the pilot light was out and the HVAC cover was on the floor. When he went to replace it, a fiery blast threw him backward, leaving him with burns on his face that took six months to heal. His home was destroyed, but he and his family escaped with their lives.

Now the Lemus family is suing Atmos, the natural-gas company they blame for the gas explosion that seriously injured the elder David Lemus and uprooted the family from the home where they had lived for 12 years. In their lawsuit filed last month in Dallas County, the family is seeking more than $1 million. Atmos declined to comment on the lawsuit, saying only that the company is continuing to work with the National Transportation Safety Board and the company’s safety regulators during the ongoing investigation.

Top of Page

Dallas Morning News - March 18, 2019

Trial date set for Amber Guyger in Botham Jean murder case

Former Dallas police Officer Amber Guyger had a court date Monday but the only movement in the case happened outside the courtroom. Her murder trial was set Monday for Aug. 12 -- less than a year since Guyger shot and killed Botham Jean in his own apartment. She was off-duty but still in uniform when she shot Jean once in the chest.

Guyger told law enforcement she confused Jean's apartment with her own and thought he was a burglar. She said his door was unlocked and ajar, though Jean's family has questioned that account. Murder cases in Dallas County usually take more than a year to go to trial. It's also common for trials to be delayed.

Top of Page

KHOU - March 19, 2019

Mayor Sylvester Turner to implement Prop B for Houston firefighters, warns of layoffs

Mayor Sylvester Turner on Monday announced he is finally giving Houston firefighters the raise they have been fighting for. Mayor Turner’s plans to implement Proposition B are a huge victory for HFD, but the mayor warns it will come at a huge cost for the City of Houston.

According to Mayor Turner’s plan, firefighters will see their 29-percent raise in their paychecks for the second week of May. Since there was no funding source In place when voters approved the raise last year, the money will come from the city’s fund balance, which is used to balance the city’s budget. This is expected to leave the city with a budget gap of $197 million.

Top of Page

Austin Business Journal - March 15, 2019

Huge Cedar Park development takes shape with potential to rival Domain

A $1.5 billion mixed-use project is envisioned rising in Cedar Park, with the help of city incentives. Cedar Park City Council on March 14 approved a memorandum of understanding for the 155-acre Indigo Ridge project.

Plans for the massive development call for more than 5 million square feet of construction with offices, hotels, residences, shops, restaurants and entertainment venues at a site northwest of the intersection of Sam Bass Road and East Whitestone Boulevard.

Top of Page

National Stories

Associated Press - March 19, 2019

New Zealand leader vows to 'absolutely deny' mosque gunman a platform

The white supremacist accused of gunning down 50 people at two mosques in New Zealand has dismissed his lawyer and opted to represent himself at trial, prompting the prime minister to declare Tuesday that she would do everything in her power to deny him a platform for his racist views.

"I agree that it is absolutely something that we need to acknowledge, and do what we can to prevent the notoriety that this individual seeks," Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told reporters. "He obviously had a range of reasons for committing this atrocious terrorist attack. Lifting his profile was one of them. And that's something that we can absolutely deny him." Asked if she would like the trial to occur behind closed doors, Ardern demurred, saying that was not her decision to make. "One thing I can assure you — you won't hear me speak his name," she said.

Top of Page

Associated Press - March 17, 2019

Veterans court may be collateral damage in immigration fight

Three decades ago, Lori Ann Bourgeois was guarding fighter jets at an air base. After her discharge, she fell into drug addiction. She wound up living on the streets and was arrested for possession of methamphetamine.

But on a recent day, the former Air Force Security Police member walked into a Veterans Treatment Court after completing a 90-day residential drug treatment program. Two dozen fellow vets sitting on the courtroom benches applauded. A judge handed Bourgeois a special coin marking the occasion, inscribed with the words “Change Attitude, Change Thinking, Change Behavior.” The program Bourgeois credits for pulling her out of the “black hole” of homelessness is among more than three dozen Oregon specialty courts caught in a standoff between the state and federal government over immigration enforcement.

Top of Page

New York Times - March 19, 2019

Two veterans groups, left and right, join forces against the forever wars

The relationship began in the most Washington way ever: on the set of C-Span. Will Fischer, then the director of government relations for VoteVets, the liberal political action committee, was tapped to face off with Dan Caldwell, the executive director of the conservative Concerned Veterans for America.

It was a continuation of a yearslong and contentious dialogue over veterans issues, including disputes over health care, which candidates care more about matters important to veterans, as well as their dueling views on the nefarious nature of the Republican or Democratic parties. But then the two found an unanticipated policy bridge, and have now gone on to work together to persuade Congress to finally revoke authorizations of military force passed after Sept. 11, 2001, which both believe have been bent and stretched to justify wars far beyond Congress’s intentions nearly two decades ago.

Top of Page

Reuters - March 19, 2019

Elon Musk never sought approval for a single Tesla tweet, SEC tells judge

Chief Executive Elon Musk has never sought pre-approval for a single tweet about Tesla Inc since striking a court-approved deal about how to communicate important information about the electric vehicle maker, the top U.S. securities regulator told a judge on Monday.

The Securities and Exchange Commission is doubling down on the government’s demand to find the Tesla CEO in contempt of a previous fraud settlement that required him to have the company pre-approve any tweets that could materially impact the automaker. The ongoing public battle between Tesla’s chief executive and the SEC piles pressure on Musk, the public face of Tesla, who is struggling to make the company profitable after cutting the price of its Model 3 sedan to $35,000.

Top of Page

NPR - March 19, 2019

Amy Klobuchar runs on a record of accomplishments — including with Republicans

Minnesotans like Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar. She was reelected in the purple state in 2018 by 24 points, and in January Morning Consult polling found her to be one of the most popular senators in the country.

She's hoping that strong support in her home state — which happens to be in the upper Midwest, neighboring states where Donald Trump carved his path to victory — can translate into support from primary voters looking for someone who can beat President Trump as they choose the 2020 Democratic presidential nominee. But on the way, Klobuchar faces some obstacles: her moderate politics (at least, relative to many of her competitors for the nomination) may turn off some Democratic primary voters, as may some of the reports that she has mistreated her staff.

Top of Page

Washington Post - March 19, 2019

George W. Bush: "May we never forget that immigration is a blessing and a strength"

Former president George W. Bush, making a rare public appearance on Monday, greeted new U.S. citizens and described immigration as “a blessing and a strength,” a message that sharply contrasts with President Trump’s rhetoric on the issue.

Bush made the remarks at a naturalization ceremony at the Bush Institute in Dallas. More than four dozen immigrants from 22 countries were sworn in during the ceremony, at which former first lady Laura Bush also delivered remarks. “America’s elected representatives have a duty to regulate who comes in and when,” the former president said. “In meeting this responsibility, it helps to remember that America’s immigrant history made us who we are. Amid all the complications of policy, may we never forget that immigration is a blessing and a strength.”

Top of Page

WMUR - March 19, 2019

In visit to NH, Castro says he believes he'll win primary

Democratic presidential candidate Julian Castro visited New Hampshire on Monday for the first time since mid-January. As he walked through Portsmouth, the former Housing and Urban Development secretary said he always liked to get out on the street to get a better sense of community issues when he was mayor of San Antonio.

Castro is no longer the only Texan in the race. His return visit to New Hampshire came a day before former U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke was expected to arrive for his first campaign swing through the Granite State. When O'Rourke announced his candidacy last week, Castro released a long list of Texas endorsements, including one from a state representative in O'Rourke's hometown of El Paso.

Top of Page

Newsclips - March 18, 2019

Lead Stories

Dallas Morning News - March 18, 2019

Beto O'Rourke claims 'record' $6.1 million haul in first 24 hours, edging out Bernie Sanders

Beto O'Rourke announced Monday morning that his presidential campaign brought in $6.1 million in the first 24 hours and claimed that he'd set a new record. The sum just edges out the $6 million raised by Sen. Bernie Sanders in his first 24 hours as a candidate for the Democratic nomination.

Expectations on O'Rourke were high and a disappointing early fund-raising tally would have been a blow, because he raised a record-smashing $80 million in last year's bid to unseat Sen. Ted Cruz in Texas –– more than any Senate candidate in any state ever.

Top of Page

Dallas Morning News - March 18, 2019

John Cornyn won't get serious primary challenge as Republicans mobilize to keep Texas red

Sen. John Cornyn is not a darling of the hard right. Delegates at Texas Republican Party conventions have booed him. In 2014, Dallas-area tea party leaders mocked him by having a town hall meeting with a life-size cutout of the senator, who didn't attend.

As Cornyn seeks re-election in 2020, his problems with conservatives trying to out-flank him on the right are over. He won't have a serious primary opponent next year, and activists who don't like him have curtailed their sniping. In the past several months, he's been endorsed by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, Sen. Ted Cruz and President Donald Trump. Cornyn's standing with the state's most conservative leaders is secure.

Top of Page

Wall Street Journal - March 16, 2019

Ohio joins states hitting drivers where it hurts: Raising taxes on gas

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine is pushing for an 18-cent-per-gallon increase in the state’s gas tax after he said he discovered a $1 billion infrastructure spending hole that transportation officials say was masked for more than a decade by borrowing.

The proposal is running into objections from some state lawmakers and sparking debate over how much the state should spend on new transportation projects and how much of that should be borne by taxpayers. Governors in more than half a dozen states are considering boosting gas taxes. They follow more than two dozen states that have done so since 2013, as rising construction costs and greater fuel efficiency erode revenue generated from the taxes.

Top of Page

Houston Chronicle - March 18, 2019

Big Tech aims for a piece of Big Oil

Twenty years ago, Darryl Willis was an oil and gas geoscientist, spending hours staring at computer screens displaying spreadsheets and seismic maps as he tried to collect and interpret data.

Today, Willis is solving that problem, working for Silicon Valley technology giant Google to drum up energy industry customers who want to access and analyze data as easily as typing a query into Google’s search engine. As he put it in an interview at the annual energy conference, CERAWeek by IHS Markit, “How could that help us transform the delivery of oil and gas to the billion people on the planet who don' t have access to energy?”

Top of Page

State Stories

Houston Chronicle - March 17, 2019

Texas Legislature considers a mix of outdoors-related bills

Dozens of the more than 7,000 bills filed for consideration during this year’s 86th regular session of the Texas Legislature focus on issues tied to fishing, hunting, camping, boating and other outdoor recreation or the natural resources underpinning those activities.

Among them are proposals that would mandate use of emergency engine cutoff switches on most powerboats, significantly increase criminal penalties for extreme boating-while-intoxicated charges and flagrant commercial fishing violations, exempt most persons taking feral hogs on private land from hunting license requirements, and allow the state to charge a fee to participate in an increasingly popular deer-management program.

Top of Page

Houston Chronicle - March 17, 2019

First woman to head Texas National Guard had a hero — her mom

Long before Tracy Norris made history as the first woman to head the Texas National Guard, there were signs of ambition, a hunger to do great things. It started when she was 4.

Too young to read, Tracy Norris nonetheless sat in on a class with older children. She became a voracious reader and an energetic student. She competed in ice skating. She worked as a janitor to help pay for her high school tuition. She earned a bachelor’s degree in anthropology, then master’s degrees in urban and regional planning, strategic studies and business administration.

Top of Page

Houston Chronicle - March 18, 2019

Electricity and oil battle for future of transportation

The competition between electric power and petroleum is heating up and creating a schism over the future of transportation.

On the one hand is a vision of electric everything, a world where energy flows in cables not pipes. Petroleum fluids are not burned; they are used to make things like plastics and pharmaceuticals. Natural gas and renewables will power the future. On the other side is faith that current technologies will evolve. Vehicles will still run on oil, and new technologies will control greenhouse gases, either sequestering them or consuming them.

Top of Page

Austin American-Statesman - March 15, 2019

Effort would erode local historic zoning laws in Texas

In what could become a battle pitting property rights against historic preservation, a pair of Central Texas state lawmakers have proposed barring cities from designating a building a historic landmark over an owner’s objection. Such a designation, used by dozens of Texas cities including Austin, can mean tax breaks for an owner — but it also generally prevents the structure from being demolished, limiting the development potential of the property.

House Bill 2496 by Rep. John Cyrier, R-Lockhart, says that a city “may not designate a property as a local historic landmark unless the owner of the property consents to the designation.” Preservation Austin, a nonprofit that promotes historic preservation, issued a “call to action,” saying the bill and its Senate companion would “fundamentally weaken our ability to save important historic places.”

Top of Page

Austin American-Statesman - March 17, 2019

Kyle Longley is out as director of the LBJ Library

After only seven months on the job, Kyle Longley is out as director of the LBJ Presidential Library, a National Archives spokesman confirmed in a statement on Sunday.

A historian with a long academic track record and many well-regarded books to his name, Kyle Longley is only the fifth director of the LBJ Presidential Library since it opened in 1971. Longley confirmed to the American-Statesman that his last official day on the job will be March 28. He declined to respond publicly to the National Archives statement. The news comes as the library plans to convene a major Summit on Race in America on the University of Texas campus April 8-12. Mark Updegrove, former library director and currently president and CEO of the LBJ Foundation, which supports the library, organized that summit.

Top of Page

Austin American-Statesman - March 15, 2019

After mosque shootings, Beto O’Rourke ties violence to Trump rhetoric

Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke began his remarks to about 200 people packed in a small-town Iowa coffee shop Friday morning by addressing the terror attack on New Zealand mosques that left 49 people dead, linking it to the political language and leadership of President Donald Trump.

“What I feel right now in this country and what I feel in my own heart ... is that we want to come back together, we want to make sure that kindness and decency and respect that we show one another in our lives, in communities like these and my hometown is reflected in our politics and in our democracy and our leadership and today, sadly, unfortunately it is not,” O’Rourke said at Central Park Coffee Company in Mount Pleasant on the second day of his campaign for president.

Top of Page

Waco Tribune-Herald - March 15, 2019

Congressman Bill Flores calls for action on climate change while opposing Green New Deal

U.S. Rep. Bill Flores, R-Bryan, said investments in nuclear energy infrastructure and climate science are prudent steps in the fight against global warming, while some current proposals go too far.

Flores, a five-term congressman whose district includes Brazos County, said he recognizes climate change as an issue but opposes the Green New Deal championed by U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY). A member of the House Environment and Climate Change subcommittee, Flores is part of a growing number of Republicans who acknowledge the negative effects of greenhouse gas emissions and oppose the Green New Deal, which Flores calls a “new green nightmare.”

Top of Page

Waco Tribune-Herald - March 16, 2019

Bill Whitaker: Gov. Abbott takes shot at local leaders, sets loose Twitter gremlins

So after Gov. Greg Abbott’s tweet last weekend putting down local officials over property taxes and school finance, the question arises: Is Gov. Abbott stupid or does he just think McLennan County Judge Scott Felton is stupid?

Likely neither. I suspect the governor is counting, rather, on the stupidity of everyday Texans still fuming over property-tax bills who haven’t taken the trouble or time to educate themselves on the tangle of complexities in school finance and property taxes. Attentive Trib readers know (or should know) better, but others will go off half-cocked in assigning blame.

Top of Page

Associated Press - March 16, 2019

Two bills could help Texas landowners near transmission towers

Republican Sen. Larry Taylor has introduced a bill that would require utilities to notify nearby homeowners and hold public hearings before making transmission upgrades, the Houston Chronicle reported. Republican Rep. Ed Thompson filed a bill that would make it easier for homeowners near utility easements to recover damages if projects lower property values.

Thompson's proposal came after CenterPoint Energy placed transmission towers without notice along an easement that cuts through Silverlake, an unincorporated community near Pearland. Texas law only allows landowners to receive compensation if their property is directly crossed by pipelines, roads and transmission towers. It doesn't apply to those nearby whose property values and quality of life may be affected.

Top of Page

Associated Press - March 18, 2019

Julian Castro acknowledges he's not a front runner, says he will be

Presidential candidate Julian Castro acknowledged in Las Vegas on Friday night that he's not a front runner right now among the crowded field of Democrats while making a dig at his fellow Texan Beto O'Rourke, who jumped ahead of the pack when he entered the race this week.

Castro, speaking to about 50 people at a downtown Las Vegas bar, said he read an article earlier in the day that referred to him as "the other Texan" in the race. His comments appeared to be a veiled allusion to a recent interview O'Rourke gave to Vanity Fair, where he said he was "just born to be in" the presidential race.

Top of Page

McAllen Monitor - March 16, 2019

Texas LNG moves closer to approval

Texas LNG has moved one step closer to operating a natural gas liquefaction and export terminal on 625 acres on the Brownsville Ship Channel’s north bank. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, or FERC, issued its final Environmental Impact Statement on Friday for the proposed project.

While most recreation areas are more than 2 miles from the Texas LNG site, there’s no missing the proposed facility from S.H. 48 and the Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge. Those two other LNG terminals — Annova and Rio Grande LNG — have the most potential to contribute to the cumulative impacts on visual resources, according to the EIS. On Oct. 12, FERC issued a draft EIS for Rio Grande LNG and the associated Rio Bravo natural gas pipeline, and on Dec. 14 last year, FERC issued a draft EIS for Annova.

Top of Page

Texas Observer - March 12, 2019

Building the American Dream doc explores labor policy in the country’s largest red state

Roendy Granillo, 25, was installing hardwood flooring in a house near Dallas when the heat started getting to him. It was July 2015, and the temperature had hit 97 degrees. According to Granillo’s family, he asked his boss for a water break but was denied, and he grew sicker as the day wore on. By the time a coworker rushed to a nearby house and had a neighbor call 911, it was too late.

In Texas, deaths like his are just the cost of doing business. Granillo’s story features prominently in a new documentary, Building the American Dream, which debuted on Sunday at SXSW. A striking mix of intimate drama and something approaching a how-to guide for community organizers, the film traces the Granillos’ fight to give meaning to his death.

Top of Page

Longview News-Journal - March 17, 2019

Longview News-Journal Editorial: East Texans get high marks for work this legislative session

Northeast Texas' representatives to the state Legislature have not always been the most energetic or productive group. State senators from this area have been top-notch, but we remember sessions when the most productive action some of our state representatives could take was simply not embarrassing the home folks. They were not always successful.

Over the past few sessions, that has changed, particularly when considering the number of thoughtful and genuinely useful bills they have filed and sponsored. In the past, we have had our share of silly legislation, designed mostly to please some outlier group. Now we are getting quality. This is not to say we agree with every measure that has been filed. We do not. Even those bills we disagree with, however, are designed for a broad-based purpose and have the best for Texas at heart.

Top of Page

Dallas Morning News - March 18, 2019

Texas' top public safety official in Gov. Greg Abbott's crosshairs over noncitizen voting flap

For the past two weeks, Steve McCraw has found himself in a place he’s rarely been during his 10-year tenure at the helm of the state’s top law enforcement agency: the governor’s doghouse.

As criticism continues to mount against interim Secretary of State David Whitley for his office’s botched rollout of an investigation into noncitizen voting that mistakenly questioned the citizenship of at least 25,000 people who had already proved their citizenship to the state, Gov. Greg Abbott has stayed “100 percent” behind his nominee and longtime aide. But his faith in McCraw has faltered.

Top of Page

Publishers Weekly - March 17, 2019

2019 Texas Library Association Annual Conference in Austin will show the power of advocacy

In January, Texas senator Jane Nelson introduced a bill seeking $5,000 raises for all full-time classroom teachers in the state, at a cost of $3.7 billion. Lawmakers, and Gov. Greg Abbott, said they wanted to open the new legislative session with a statement about the value of teachers.

There was just one problem: the bill omitted the state’s roughly 4,600 school librarians. Leaving school librarians out of the bill understandably troubled leaders at the Texas Library Association. Surely it wasn’t about money, right? After all, the extra funding needed to include school librarians was a mere rounding error in the multibillion-dollar bill. So the Texas Library Association got to work. Weeks later, on March 4, the Texas Senate unanimously passed an amended SB3, with school librarians included.

Top of Page

San Antonio Express-News - March 15, 2019

There are more Texas medical schools than ever, but are there enough residencies to train them?

In recent years, medical residencies have become increasingly competitive in Texas, where a spate of new medical schools could soon produce more graduates than there are residency slots. That mismatch could lead future doctors educated here to leave Texas — and not return — at the same time it faces a growing physician shortage.

Dr. Woodson Scott Jones, vice dean for graduate medical education at UT Health San Antonio’s Long School of Medicine, estimates medical graduates could surpass the number of residency slots by 2021 if no action is taken. One hindrance is the high cost of residencies. Each year, a portion of students who graduate from Texas medical schools will leave for competitive residency opportunities elsewhere in the United States, regardless of how many spots are available here.

Top of Page

County Stories

Austin Chronicle - March 15, 2019

Painful splits along the way to stopping sexual assault in and around Austin

In the quest to find justice for local rape survivors, advocate Ana Rodriguez DeFrates told the Austin City Council on Jan. 31 that the last few years have felt like "we're putting out fires one by one." Dozens of speakers that evening agreed with her as they urged the adoption of Council Member Alison Alter's resolution – which passed unanimously – to initiate a comprehensive third-party audit of how the Austin Police Department has handled the last seven years of sexual assault cases.

Both advocates like DeFrates, co-founder of the Survivor Justice Project, and APD, according to Police Chief Brian Manley, hope this review will uncover root causes for those repeated crises, from numerous failures leading to the closing of the APD crime lab, to an enormous backlog of untested rape kits, to a troubling rate of mistakenly cleared assault cases. But the issues plaguing survivors of sexual assault in Austin extend beyond APD.

Top of Page

San Antonio Express-News - March 18, 2019

Gilbert Garcia: Bexar County Dems’ murky finances will be a headache for FBI

Where there’s smoke, there’s not necessarily a smoking gun. It’s something to keep in mind while we navigate through the maze of unanswered questions about the operations of the Bexar County Democratic Party under its former chairman, Manuel Medina.

On Wednesday, Monica Alcántara, the party’s current chair, stood in front of the Bexar County Courthouse and read a prepared statement announcing that she and a 12-member committee had found numerous instances of financial corruption on Medina’s watch, including “money laundering,” “forgery” and “excessive and illegal cash disbursements with no supporting documentation."

Top of Page

Texas Tribune - March 15, 2019

Texas counties removed 14 voters from the rolls in citizenship review

Fourteen Texas voters caught up in the secretary of state’s botched review of the voter rolls for supposed noncitizens had their registrations canceled but have since been reinstated, state officials told a federal judge Friday.

The Texas Attorney General’s Office informed the San Antonio court judge as part of the ongoing litigation over the state’s error-riddled review, through which almost 100,000 individuals were marked as possible noncitizens. Seven counties marked the voting registration of 14 individuals as canceled because the voters had failed to respond to letters that demanded they prove their citizenship.

Top of Page

City Stories

Austin American-Statesman - March 16, 2019

Austin cops were architects of leaning tower of confiscated SXSW scooters

South by Southwest’s pyramid of dockless scooters, immortalized in a viral Instagram post on Saturday, was actually the masterpiece of Austin police officers confiscating the devices from users riding them within pedestrian-only zones, said Marcus Davis, a spokesman for the Austin Police Department.

Alamo Drafthouse Ritz employees spotted the giant mound of discarded scooters behind a barricade on Sixth Street on Saturday afternoon and posted a photo of the spectacle to its Instagram account, calling it an “edgy” SXSW art installation. The post drew a number of comments, including one calling the site a “Bird graveyard.”

Top of Page

San Antonio Express-News - March 18, 2019

City strikes deal to keep Halliburton from leaving San Antonio — again

Halliburton Co. threatened to move its Eagle Ford Shale operation from the San Antonio area because the company said it was being taxed unfairly. But a new agreement between the city and company officials could keep the operation here.

Under a complex deal struck in 2016, the Houston-based oil-field services giant avoided city annexation on its 150-acre property in southeastern Bexar County but agreed to pay the city for fire services. But Halliburton wound up paying twice for fire protection when an overlapping jurisdiction that oversees emergency services in unincorporated Bexar County passed its own sales tax. City Council members will vote on a proposal Thursday to annex the Halliburton property and rebate a portion of its property taxes to keep the company’s Eagle Ford operation here.

Top of Page

Associated Press - March 17, 2019

Fire breaks out at a Deer Park petrochemicals terminal

Some Houston-area residents have been urged to remain indoors as a fire burns at a petrochemicals terminal. The fire started Sunday morning at Intercontinental Terminals Company in Deer Park, about 15 miles (24 kilometers) southeast of Houston, and continued to burn Sunday night. Deer Park officials issued a shelter-in-place directive after the fire was reported.

Efforts to extinguish the fire with foam continue. Harris County officials say the fire started at the terminal that stores petrochemical liquids and gases, including fuel oil and bunker oil. The company's website says the terminal has a storage capacity of 13.1 million barrels. The fire is the second in as many days at a Houston-area petrochemical facility. A fire at an ExxonMobil plant in nearby Baytown that broke out Saturday has been contained.

Top of Page

Lubbock Avalanche-Journal - March 15, 2019

Amarillo, Lubbock programs receive grants from U.S. Department of Commerce

Colleges in Lubbock and Amarillo were awarded $2.25 million in grants for research and entrepreneurial efforts from the U.S. Department of Commerce, the department announced Friday.

Amarillo College will receive $1.5 million for constructing a maker space as the first of three phases of a future innovation hub. The space is expected to create 400 jobs and will provide access to a variety of work stations. Texas Tech will receive $750,000 to develop evidence-based, innovative financing strategies and associated tools to facilitate disaster preparation, recovery and long-term growth of small businesses in hurricane-prone regions, according to a news release from the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Top of Page

Denton Record-Chronicle - March 15, 2019

Texas high court tosses employees' case for on-call compensation against Denton

The Texas Supreme Court ruled on Friday that three city employees cannot sue Denton for not paying them despite working on-call shifts over a four-year period.

In 2015, Brian Rushing, Calvin Patterson and Michael Marshall — all employees of Beneficial Reuse, a division of the city’s water utilities department that is at the city’s landfill — sued the city. They argued that, because the city manager’s office in 2013 removed policy stating on-call time was not compensated, they were entitled for back pay for on-call work they did from 2011 to 2015.

Top of Page

National Stories

Barron's - March 14, 2019

Rising US shale output to test OPEC’s production discipline

Oil is among the biggest commodity gainers in 2019, with prices up by more than 20 percent—a testament to the success of the output cuts agreed to by major crude producers at the start of the year.

However, the cuts may run head-on into the effects of increased U.S. shale production and more output from other sources. That could test the resolve of some members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, as well as their nonmember allies, which include Russia.

Top of Page

New York Times - March 18, 2019

Democrats pledged to lower health costs. They just haven’t figured out how.

No issue animated the Democrats’ 2018 congressional campaigns like health care and the promises to expand access to insurance and to lower costs. But as House Democrats sit down to draft their vision of governance in the coming weeks, lawmakers find themselves badly divided on the issue that delivered their majority.

Centrists from swing districts, with the tacit support of Speaker Nancy Pelosi, favor incremental moves to shore up the Affordable Care Act and to lower the out-of-pocket costs of prescription drugs and medical care. They are pushing a variety of measures, such as shutting down cheap, short-term insurance plans that do not cover pre-existing medical conditions and allowing people to buy into Medicare at age 50 or 55.

Top of Page

Reuters - March 18, 2019

Why an unbuilt Moscow Trump tower caught Mueller's attention

An intriguing area of focus in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the Kremlin’s role in the 2016 U.S. election is a proposed Moscow real estate deal that Donald Trump pursued while running for president despite denying at the time any links to Russia.

The special counsel has revealed in court filings numerous details about the project, which never came to fruition. Further information has come from Michael Cohen, Trump’s former personal lawyer who was instrumental in the negotiations, in congressional testimony and in his guilty plea to a charge of lying to Congress about the project.

Top of Page

Washington Post - March 17, 2019

Ethiopian official: Black box data shows 'clear similarities' between Ethiopian Airlines, Lion Air crashes

Ethiopia's transport minister said Sunday that information from the flight data recorder on the Ethiopian Airlines jet that crashed last week shows "clear similarities" with the crash of the same type of plane in Indonesia in October.

Dagmawit Moges told journalists that the condition of the "black boxes" - the data and voice record was good and that enough data had been recovered that her ministry's Accident Investigation Bureau would release a preliminary report on what happened to Flight 302 in just 30 days.

Top of Page

VICE - March 14, 2019

Can you really become president by just being incredibly charming?

Beto O'Rourke sometimes seems like he was wished into existence by the Resistance. Passionate, earnest, sweaty, skateboarding, live-streaming, tireless, young, handsome, calf-cramping—he's the kind of politician who says "f***ing" on stage.

There's a kind of circular logic at work at the heart of Betomania: A major part of why O'Rourke is a good candidate is that he would be a good candidate. That means that he can inspire people to come to rallies and give donations and ultimately vote. "This is going to be a positive campaign that seeks to bring out the very best from all of us, that seeks to unite a very divided country," he said in an announcement video.

Top of Page

Newsclips - March 17, 2019

Lead Stories

NBC News - March 15, 2019

What does candidate Beto O'Rourke stand for? That's a work in progress.

A lot has changed in the Democratic party in the six months since Beto O'Rourke was its biggest fascination.

The crowded 2020 Democratic presidential field that O'Rourke joined on Thursday has supercharged the pace of policy innovation as candidates looking to stand out push ideas like boosting the number of justices on the Supreme Court, slavery reparations, breaking up Facebook, the Green New Deal, new ways to tax the rich, and much more.

Top of Page

San Antonio Express-News - March 17, 2019

Senate Democrats unmoved as DPS shoulders blame for voter purge errors

Senate Democrats still pledge to block the confirmation of embattled Secretary of State David Whitley, even as a top Texas law enforcement official is taking blame for major errors in a list of suspected non-citizen voters.

“I take full responsibility as the leader of the Department of Public Safety,” Steven McCraw told the Senate Criminal Justice Committee this week. Had the department assigned a “senior level person” to the project, he said, it wouldn’t have turned over bad data that included thousands of people who had already proven their citizenship. “I can tell you throughout the entire project, the secretary was not involved in any of it because he wasn’t there at the time.”

Top of Page

Houston Chronicle - March 15, 2019

Cornyn warns NAFTA 2.0 vote will be 'tough'

Texas Senator John Cornyn warned Friday that getting the revised North American Free Trade Agreement through Congress will be "one of the heaviest lifts we have this year." The veteran Republican expressed concern about how the agreement would look when it came out of the House, as free trade deals get tougher scrutiny from both parties.

Three months after President Donald Trump signed on to an updated trade deal - which he's calling the United States Mexico Canada Agreement - pro-trade leaders in the House and Senate are working to build support. Hurdles have already emerged, with both parties demanding the White House lift tariffs on steel and aluminum tariffs from Canada and Mexico and some Democrats calling for stricter labor provisions to protect American workers.

Top of Page

Dallas Morning News - March 17, 2019

Beyond the wall: Why fewer foreign students are coming to Texas

The fallout from the immigration debate doesn’t end at the border wall. President Donald Trump’s words and policies are affecting legal immigration, too, and the consequences are evident at U.S. universities. Last year, applications to graduate programs from international students declined for the second year in a row, and even fast-growing Texas colleges have not been immune.

In the past two years, the number of international students enrolled at public universities statewide declined 9 percent while total head count continued to grow. Among international students pursuing master’s degrees, the fall was sharper — almost 25 percent, or more than 5,000 students in Texas. This is bad news for schools, communities and the economy, because international students often have an outsize impact.

Top of Page

State Stories

Houston Chronicle - March 15, 2019

‘Pill mill’ doctor among first released under law for dying prisoners

Richard Evans seemed destined to die behind bars. Convicted of running a multimillion-dollar pill mill, the Houston doctor was in his 70s when a jury found him guilty on 19 counts of money laundering, mail fraud and distributing painkillers.

The charges could have netted a life sentence, but in the end he eked out a below-guidelines sentence of just five years. It soon became apparent that could amount to the same thing; at 74, Evans found a 2-centimeter tumor on his neck last fall. The mass grew and grew, and by the start of the new year he was in need of more treatment than the Federal Bureau of Prisons could provide Again, it seemed, he might not make it out alive.

Top of Page

Houston Chronicle - March 17, 2019

Documents allege how testing center, accomplices helped students cheat on exam

The two Houston residents charged in the nationwide college admissions and bribery scam ran a testing center at Jack Yates High School that allegedly helped at least three out-of-town students cheat on their exams, according to court documents.

William Rick Singer, the alleged mastermind behind the scandal, instructed clients willing to pay to get their children into prestigious schools — that he “controlled” the testing center at Yates, where Houston resident Niki Williams worked as a teaching assistant, according to court documents. HISD declined to comment further.

Top of Page

Houston Chronicle - March 8, 2019

Louis “Bud” Farr: Why this Aggie vet supports a veterinarian school at Texas Tech

A dozen years ago, I was interviewed by the Houston Chronicle when a serious red flag was raised regarding the failure to solve the shortage and demand for veterinarians in our state’s rural communities. Failing to do so, the article correctly noted, posed a lingering threat to food safety and a host of other economic and security challenges in Texas. I was hopeful, in 2007, that by highlighting this important issue Texas A&M would solve the problem. I was wrong.

What I didn’t expect, however, was that 12 years later, the predicament would be worse, and I would find myself supporting a new veterinary school from a different university. I also was shocked, yet excited, to learn the Texas Veterinary Medical Association recently voted to support the Texas Tech School of Veterinary Medicine, in addition to its support of Texas A&M and funding the Rural Veterinary Incentive Fund. Texas Tech currently has a proposal before the Texas Legislature and Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.

Top of Page

Houston Chronicle - March 15, 2019

Ten months after Santa Fe High shooting, families still seek answers

Steve Perkins knows his wife is dead. He knows Ann was trying to get students to file out of Santa Fe High School last May 18 after a fire alarm blared across campus. He knows she was shot at least once. Witnesses told Perkins his wife fell just outside an exterior door near the school's art classrooms. It is the information Perkins does not know that has gnawed at him since.

Families of at least six children and staff members who died in Texas' deadliest K-12 school shooting, and two injured survivors, still are searching for answers 10 months after a teenage gunman blasted his way through the Galveston County school. Each time they have requested records — including medical examiner and autopsy reports — they have been denied.

Top of Page

Houston Chronicle - March 15, 2019

Countries seek to tap oil companies' profits

In late 2017, ConocoPhillips filed a claim with an obscure trade court in Austria, accusing the Vietnamese government of hitting the Houston oil company with an illegal tax bill.

The bill had come five years after ConocoPhillips sold its oil and gas fields in the Southeast Asian nation to the British-French firm Perenco for $1.3 billion. As their rightful share of the profits, Vietnamese officials were demanding $179 million in taxes.

Top of Page

Dallas Morning News - March 16, 2019

Beto O'Rourke would likely pick a woman for vice president: 'That would be my preference'

O'Rourke-Harris? O'Rourke-Warren? On Saturday night, at the end of his third day as a presidential candidate, Beto O'Rourke said that he very likely would choose a female running mate if he manages to nab the Democratic presidential nomination next year.

"It would be very difficult not to select a woman with so many extraordinary women who are running right now," he said. "But first I would have to win and there's––you know, this is as open as it has ever been."

Top of Page

Dallas Morning News - March 17, 2019

Are malls back? New York attempts to prove it with Neiman Marcus as the draw

They poured in by the thousands in designer duds to see the Shops at Hudson Yards, New York’s newest mall, at an invitation-only preview party. Neiman Marcus alone was jam-packed with 3,000 people during its private event Thursday night. The scene was enough to ask the question: Is New York about to make malls trendy again?

Manhattan, long envied for its street-level shopping, walkability and local retail, just opened its third new mall in five years. As the rest of the country faces a salvage yard of obsolete enclosed shopping centers, the Shops at Hudson Yards opened Friday, anchored on its top three levels by Dallas-based Neiman Marcus.

Top of Page

Dallas Morning News - March 15, 2019

Ted Cruz fined $35k by Federal Election Commission for 2012 campaign finance violation

The Federal Election Commission has fined Texas Sen. Ted Cruz $35,000 for not properly reporting the source of about $1 million in loans taken out from major banks during his initial run for the Senate in 2012.

That inaccuracy had been revealed in 2016 by The New York Times, briefly becoming an issue during Cruz's White House run and resulting in complaints by multiple campaign watchdog groups. One of those groups, the Washington-based Campaign Legal Center, on Friday announced the election commission's action, saying the fine served as a reminder that "candidates should take seriously their legal requirement to disclose where their campaign money comes from."

Top of Page

Austin American-Statesman - March 14, 2019

Conservative lawyers sue to end State Bar dues

Saying they should not be forced to subsidize diversity programs or efforts to help immigrants at the border with Mexico, three conservative lawyers are seeking to overturn Texas laws that require attorneys to join the State Bar of Texas and pay annual dues.

In a federal lawsuit filed in Austin, the lawyers argue that being forced to pay dues that support “inherently political or ideological” priorities violates their free-speech rights. The First Amendment, they argue, protects not only the right to speak freely, it also protects from being forced to associate with ideas or beliefs they find objectionable.

Top of Page

Austin American-Statesman - March 15, 2019

Texas Supreme Court justices call for beefed-up Michael Morton Act

The Texas Supreme Court on Friday dismissed a lawsuit by a former Nueces County prosecutor who said he was fired for refusing an illegal order to hide evidence favorable to a criminal defendant. But the ruling came with a pointed warning, and a plea for action by the Legislature, from three of the court’s nine members.

The Supreme Court was unanimous in deciding that Eric Hillman could not sue the county and the district attorney’s office because, as government agencies, they are immune from lawsuits over wrongful termination. The court rejected Hillman’s argument that the 2013 Michael Morton Act, named for a Williamson County man who spent almost 25 years in prison for a murder he did not commit, waived government immunity from Hillman’s lawsuit because the act makes it a state crime to hide favorable evidence from defendants.

Top of Page

Texas Tribune - March 15, 2019

Beto O'Rourke gets crash course in presidential scrutiny over two days in Iowa

Beto O'Rourke is getting a crash course in the meat grinder that is presidential politics. Over the opening 48 hours of his trip here — his first of the campaign and first ever to the state — O'Rourke is running into all the trappings of the heightened scrutiny that comes with a hotly anticipated White House bid.

O'Rourke woke up Friday to a pair of stories digging into his past connections to Republican donors. Then later that morning came an investigation from Reuters revealing he had belonged to a major hacker group as a teenager. As part of the group, O'Rourke wrote online essays under a pseudonym, including short fiction from a killer's point of view.

Top of Page

San Antonio Express-News - March 15, 2019

Texas lawmakers call for a swap: Higher sales taxes, lower property taxes

It’s enough money to build seven football stadiums for the Dallas Cowboys, more than President Donald Trump budgeted to build a wall on the Mexican border, and even enough to construct three space stations to orbit the moon.

Texas lawmakers are considering an infusion of $9 billion to improve public schools and lower property taxes over the next two years. The additional $6.3 billion in the classroom is being billed as a transformational effort to better educate the state’s 5.4 million students, while another $2.7 billion would stem the tide of escalating property taxes for homeowners. While lawmakers are confident the state’s booming economy will provide big bucks to spend on public schools, they are also pitching a number of plans to increase the state sales tax in the future.

Top of Page

KXAN - March 14, 2019

Castro releases 33 Texas endorsements the morning O'Rourke announces

Presidential candidate and former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro released a list of 33 Texas endorsements Thursday morning. The timing is significant because it was the same morning former Congressman Beto O'Rourke officially announced he was running for President as well.

Thursday marks the official start of a mad-scramble between two Texans to gather support, endorsements, money and volunteers in the ever-crowded Democratic primary for President. The winner will likely face incumbent President Donald Trump in November 2020. Castro has the support of three Congressmen: his brother Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio, Rep. Collin Allred, D-Dallas, and Rep. Vincente Gonzalez, D-McAllen.

Top of Page

Fort Worth Business Press - March 17, 2019

Mr. Wright –– that's Congressman Wright –– goes to DC

From the moment he arrived in Washington, D.C., U.S. Rep. Ron Wright knew precisely where he was going.

As a principled conservative, the newly elected GOP congressman from Arlington arrived ready to have his say on hot-button issues such as reducing government spending, opposing abortion and Medicare-for-all health care, protecting gun ownership rights and securing the U.S. border – including support for building a border wall and stepping up technology.

Top of Page

San Antonio Current - March 15, 2019

How the Legislature's paid sick time debate has blown up into a battle on LGBTQ rights

It could have remained a borderline-wonky debate over employee benefits — a legislative exercise where business and labor interests quibble over details of employment law. Instead, it's fast becoming a firestorm.

Thanks to a last-minute wording tweak, Senate Bill 15 — the proposal that would bar cities like San Antonio from requiring private employers to offer paid sick leave to workers — now faces a growing outcry not just from labor groups but also the LGBTQ community and some business interests. Here's the issue. The bill's original version included language saying it wouldn't undo local rules that prohibit employers from discriminating against LGBTQ workers.

Top of Page

KUT - March 14, 2019

UT-Austin is sued over college admissions in class-action lawsuit

UT Austin has been named in a class-action lawsuit over a national, $25-million college admissions scandal that has led to scores of indictments across the country – including the university's men's tennis coach, who was fired last week.

The suit, filed by two California students at Stanford, alleges UT and seven other universities were engaged in a scheme in which affluent clients of William Singer paid to secure students' admission through falsified test scores or recruitment as student-athletes from 2011 to 2018. Singer, who managed the payment scheme through a for-profit admissions consulting firm called The Key and a nonprofit Key Worldwide Foundation, pleaded guilty to a handful of felony charges on Monday.

Top of Page

City Stories

Houston Chronicle - March 15, 2019

Turner playing with political fire as Prop B dispute rages in election year

As 2017 ended, things looked good for Sylvester Turner’s re-election two years down the road. Halfway into his first term, the Houston mayor had locked in his landmark pension reform package by selling $1 billion in voter-approved bonds and navigated the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey without major gaffes.

Since then, however, Turner has been locked in a bitter labor dispute with the Houston firefighters’ union that shows no sign of abating anytime soon as he gears up his reelection campaign against at least two challengers. Despite a Turner-led campaign opposing it, voters last November approved a “pay parity” charter amendment known as Proposition B that requires the city to give its firefighters the same pay as police of corresponding rank and experience.

Top of Page

Austin American-Statesman - March 15, 2019

‘Scooter is in a tree’: Complaints to Austin 311 highlight safety, threat to trails

Dockless scooters have been the talk of the town since they first popped up nearly a year ago, causing Austin officials to scramble to regulate them as emergency rooms continue to see dozens of injuries.

The American-Statesman reviewed more than 1,400 reports involving electric stand-up scooters and found that, outside of the “get off my lawn” type of gripes, residents and visitors have serious concerns about the dockless devices blocking sidewalks and ramps, going too fast around small children and pregnant women, and desecrating the city’s parks and trails. Only 1,850 scooter-related reports were made through 311 between May 2018 and this past February, compared with the more than 61,585 reports regarding nonemergency police issues made during that time, city data show.

Top of Page

National Stories

Washington Post - March 14, 2019

The parents of more than three dozen unvaccinated kids want them back in school. A judge said no.

In a county at the epicenter of New York’s worst measles outbreak in decades, a group of parents are pushing to get their children back in school. The problem? The children aren’t vaccinated.

Normally, children and their families are able to claim a religion-based exemption from required vaccinations. But Rockland County’s health department has said these are not normal times. Across New York, there have been more than 300 confirmed measles cases, more than 150 in New York City and 146 in nearby Rockland County. In Rockland, most of the cases were found in those who were unvaccinated and under the age of 18.

Top of Page

Washington Post - March 16, 2019

Mental health problems rise significantly among young Americans

Gilbert Saldana, 22, still has a couple of months before he graduates from Georgetown University, but anxiety about his future is already keeping him up at night.

He is not alone. Over the past decade or so, rates of depression, psychological distress and suicidal thoughts and actions have risen significantly among people 26 and younger, with some of the highest increases among women and those at higher income levels, according to a study of a broad swath of young Americans.

Top of Page

New York Times - March 17, 2019

New Zealand Prime Minister promises changes to gun laws

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Sunday that the suspect would be tried in New Zealand, and that her government would discuss gun regulation at a meeting on Monday. “There will be changes to our gun laws,” she said.

Ms. Ardern said that her government would discuss the New Zealand’s gun laws at a meeting on Monday. “There will be changes to our gun laws,” she said at an afternoon news conference. She also said she would look into reports that there had been a surge in gun sales in New Zealand since the attack on Friday.

Top of Page

New York Times - March 17, 2019

Legalizing marijuana, with a focus on social justice, unites Democrats

People in Colorado still remember John Hickenlooper’s crack after the state legalized marijuana, a move he opposed: “Don’t break out the Cheetos or Goldfish too quickly.” But Mr. Hickenlooper, the governor at the time of the 2012 initiative allowing recreational use of cannabis, eventually changed his mind.

The issue today is a pillar of progressive politics, but not because of graying hippies who like their Rocky Mountain High. Rather, for many Democrats, legalization has become a litmus test for candidates’ commitment to equal treatment for all races in policing and criminal justice as well as fighting economic inequality.

Top of Page

Reuters - March 17, 2019

White House dismisses praise of Trump by New Zealand shooter

The White House pushed back on Sunday against any attempt to link President Donald Trump to the accused shooter who killed 50 people in two New Zealand mosques, saying the act of a disturbed individual cannot be blamed on any one politician.

“The president is not a white supremacist. I’m not sure how many times we have to say that,” White House acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney said on “Fox News Sunday.” Trump on Friday condemned the “horrible massacre” at the mosques and the White House called the shooting a “vicious act of hate.”

Top of Page

Reuters - March 17, 2019

Senator Gillibrand formally launches presidential campaign

U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand formally launched her presidential bid on Sunday morning, announcing she will deliver her first major speech next week in front of Trump International Hotel in New York City.

Gillibrand, who launched an exploratory committee earlier this year as a precursor, joins more than a dozen other Democrats who have already formally entered the contest to win the nomination to challenge Republican President Donald Trump in the November 2020 election.

Top of Page

Pew Research Center - March 12, 2019

Fate of Native children may hinge on US adoption case

A case before a federal appeals court this week could upend an historic adoption law meant to combat centuries of brutal discrimination against American Indians and keep their children with families and tribal communities.

For the first time, a few states have sued to overturn the federal Indian Child Welfare Act, which Congress enacted in 1978 as an antidote to entrenched policies of uprooting Native children and assimilating them into mainstream white culture. Now, in a country roiled by debates over race and racial identity, there’s a chance the 41-year-old law could be overturned by the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, considered the country’s most conservative court. (The law applies to federally recognized tribes.)

Top of Page

The New Republic - March 17, 2019

Alex Shepard: The Republicans are deficit hypocrites. The Democrats should be, too.

Barack Obama is dumbfounded. The Republicans harangued him for eight straight years over the federal budget deficit. Now, under President Trump, the deficit is skyrocketing—with nary a peep from the GOP.

“This is supposed to be the party, supposedly, of fiscal conservatism,” he said in a speech in September. “Suddenly deficits do not matter, even though just two years ago, when the deficit was lower, they said I couldn’t afford to help working families or seniors on Medicare because the deficit was an existential crisis. What changed?” The former president is not naive; he knows the answer. What changed was that Republicans, having swept the 2016 election, now fully control the government’s purse strings.

Top of Page

Associated Press - March 10, 2019

Ohio bill would regulate light-weight electric scooters in state

An Ohio House transportation budget bill now in the state Senate for consideration includes regulations over light-weight electric scooters, which have been showing up in some Ohio communities.

The two-year budget bill passed by the House last week creates several laws regulating the low-speed scooters currently regulated under various municipal rules. Under House Bill 62, scooters couldn’t go over 15 mph, and would have to use lighting at night. Operators would have to yield to pedestrians at all times and give an audible signal when overtaking and passing a pedestrian.

Top of Page

The Hill - March 13, 2019

New Mexico passes bill requiring state's electricity come from renewable energy

The New Mexico legislature passed a bill that would require the state to get 100 percent of its electricity from renewable resources. The state would get all of its electricity from publicly regulated utilities from renewable and carbon-free resources by 2045, according to NPR. The bill now goes to to Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D), who already signaled she plans to sign it.

Grisham’s office put out a statement immediately after the House voted, calling the passing of the bill “a promise to future generations of New Mexicans. When we were presented the chance to move toward cleaner sources of energy, we took it, boldly charting a course to a carbon-free future, permanently centering our commitment to lower emissions and setting an example for other states,” according to the Santa Fe New Mexican.

Top of Page

Nieman Lab - March 15, 2019

Can our corrections catch up to our mistakes as they spread across social media?

During the second week of February, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram published a column that turned out to be wrong. What happened next was the catalyst for an experiment in journalistic transparency that we believe has huge potential: moving corrections along the same social-media paths as the original error.

As Star-Telegram columnist Bud Kennedy explained in a subsequent piece — the original was taken down — he’d based his commentary on what appeared to be solid reporting from another newspaper, which had based its story on government records that were, in fact, incorrect. The original piece, harshly critical of a Texas politician, was shared by a number of people on social media. Some of them had substantial followings.

Top of Page

Spokesman-Review - March 17, 2019

Ocasio-Cortez joins McMorris Rodgers in backing bill requiring minimum wage for workers with disabilities. But it’s complicated.

State and federal lawmakers are considering bills that would eliminate subminimum wage certificates. The first co-sponsor of the federal bill, authored by Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va., was Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Spokane. Two other Republicans have joined her in sponsoring the bill along with 10 Democrats, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY).

McMorris Rodgers said the timing is ideal because of record low unemployment – especially among minorities and the disabled. The federal bill has a six-year transition period that would provide support to individuals and employers in the form of grants, accommodation funds, job coaches and apprenticeship programs.

Top of Page

Newsclips - March 15, 2019

Lead Stories

Wall Street Journal - March 15, 2019

Beto O’Rourke’s past GOP ties could complicate primary run

Before becoming a rising star in the Democratic Party, Beto O’Rourke relied on a core group of business-minded Republicans in his Texas hometown to launch and sustain his political career. To win their backing, Mr. O’Rourke opposed Obamacare, voted against Nancy Pelosi as the House Democratic leader and called for a raise in the Social Security eligibility age.

In his first House campaign in 2012, Mr. O’Rourke defeated eight-term incumbent Democratic Rep. Silvestre Reyes by touting a business-friendly message to persuade Republican voters to cross party lines to cast ballots in the primary race. One of the first clients for a web firm run by O'Rourke was El Paso’s Hunt Companies, owned by local construction magnate Woody Hunt. Mr. Hunt, whose firm is among the nation’s largest developers of military housing, was friendly with Pat O’Rourke since both men were El Paso teenagers. Mr. Hunt became one of Beto O’Rourke’s most reliable business and political benefactors.

Top of Page

CNN - March 14, 2019

49 killed in mass shooting at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand

At least 49 people have been killed and 20 seriously injured after mass shootings at two mosques in the New Zealand city of Christchurch Friday, in a carefully planned and unprecedented attack that has shocked the usually peaceful nation.

New Zealand's Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, called the incident a terrorist attack in a Friday press conference, saying the suspects held "extremist views" that have no place in New Zealand or the world. Forty-one people were killed at the al Noor mosque on Deans Avenue, said Mike Bush, New Zealand's Police Commissioner. Seven people died at the Linwood mosque on Linwood Avenue, and one person died from their injuries in hospital.

Top of Page

Austin American-Statesman - March 14, 2019

Castro points finger as Texas senators back Trump

There were three Texans on the Senate floor Thursday for the momentous vote blocking President Donald Trump’s emergency order on the border wall: GOP U.S. Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz and U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro, a Democrat who is poised to challenge Cornyn for his seat.

Castro, a four-term congressman from San Antonio, is the author of the joint resolution that passed the House last month. Before that vote, he called it “the most consequential vote we will take in a generation on the balance of powers between the legislative and executive branches of government.” During the Senate vote on the measure, which passed with significant Republican support, he was at the back of the chamber. It is unusual for a House member to go to the Senate floor or vice versa, although lawmakers have the right to do so.

Top of Page

San Antonio Express-News - March 14, 2019

Chaos within Democratic Party in San Antonio heads to the FBI

The factional feud within the Bexar County Democratic Party reached new heights Wednesday, as the organization’s leader asked the FBI to investigate current and former party officials.

Chairwoman Monica Alcántara has said in the past that the organization engaged in sloppy recordkeeping under the administration of her predecessor, Manual Medina, who lost his re-election bid to her last year. She accused treasurer Stephanie Carrillo and secretary Garrett Mormando of withholding party documents.

Top of Page

State Stories

Houston Chronicle - March 15, 2019

UT investigates ‘donations’ from supposed charity linked to college bribery scheme

The University of Texas at Austin is investigating whether hundreds of thousands of dollars was donated to its athletic department by a purported charity linked to a college bribery and recruitment scheme.

Federal tax documents show that Key Worldwide Foundation, a California-based nonprofit that federal prosecutors allege funneled bribes from wealthy parents to get their children into prestigious universities, donated a total of $546,500 in 2015 and 2016 to “University of Texas Athletics.” The amount represents the largest sum that the foundation reported giving to any school during those years.

Top of Page

Houston Chronicle - March 14, 2019

Big Oil aims to kick its dirty methane habit

Natural gas is touted as cleaner-burning fuel that will replace coal and lower carbon emissions until the global economy completes the transition to renewable energy over the next several decades.

As a result, Big Oil companies are investing many billions of dollars into producing, processing and exporting natural gas, joining a boom in liquefied natural gas from the Texas Gulf Coast to Australia. But the dirty, not-so-secret problem with natural gas is the release of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere. Methane, the main component of natural gas, escapes from pipeline leaks and during oil and gas production, in which excess natural gas is often intentionally burned away, or flared.

Top of Page

Houston Chronicle - March 15, 2019

No right to know?: Texas public records get harder and harder to acquire

Kathryn Green just wanted to know what had happened to her son. It had been more than two months since 27-year-old Patrick died of bacterial meningitis while incarcerated at the Harris County jail, and still there were so many questions. How long had he been sick? Had he shown symptoms? What had been done to help him?

So in early June 2015, Green, a Houston lawyer, did what thousands of Texans do every year: She asked for the records. She requested Patrick's autopsy report and the investigative report into his death. She demanded the video surveillance from inside the jail, and any other public clues that might help piece together his final hours. One by one, she was turned down.

Top of Page

Houston Chronicle - March 14, 2019

Beto isn’t No. 1, but he’s in the top tier as he starts White House run

As he launches his campaign for the White House, Beto O’Rourke is certainly not the frontrunner for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination. But he is unquestionably in the upper tier of an already crowded race, early polling has shown.

While former Vice President Joe Biden and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders remain solidly in the top two spots in polls of most of the early voting states, O’Rourke is among a handful of top contenders that already have name recognition and fundraising ability for a national campaign. In Iowa, The Des Moines Register and CNN released a poll in December showing O’Rourke in 3rd place behind Biden and Sanders. In New Hampshire, which holds its primary just a week after Iowa, O’Rourke has been between fifth and sixth place in February polls.

Top of Page

Houston Chronicle - March 14, 2019

Former Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper stops by Houston oil conference

John Hickenlooper, the former Colorado governor turned Democratic presidential candidate, told a crowd of oil executives Thursday climate change required that society move "hard and fast." Asked whether he supported the so-called Green New Deal as proposed by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, D-N.Y., he said he supported its "urgency."

Since declaring his candidacy via Twitter last week, Hickenlooper has sought to define himself as the moderate, pragmatic alternative to liberal candidates like Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. He has pledged to work with Republicans. While in the governor's office, he fought off ballot measures that would have restricted oil and gas drilling near residential areas.At the same time he has pledged to commit to the reductions in greenhouse gas emissions laid out in the 2015 Paris accord on climate change.

Top of Page

Austin American-Statesman - March 13, 2019

Once again, Texas lawmakers target fees for driving offenses

In what has become a rite of spring in the Texas Capitol, work began Wednesday on legislation to dismantle the Driver Responsibility Program, one of the most despised yet persistent policies to bedevil lawmakers in recent sessions.

By adding three years of extra fees for certain driving offenses, then taking away the driver’s license of anyone who doesn’t pay, the program has placed a significant number of low-income Texans into a cycle of debt that has solidified opposition from liberal Democrats, tea party Republicans and many lawmakers in between. But the fees have also funneled significant sums toward trauma hospitals — about $55 million annually in recent years — supporting a crucial safety net across Texas.

Top of Page

Austin American-Statesman - March 14, 2019

‘A self-made guy,’ plainspoken Eltife now speaks for UT regents

Kevin P. Eltife’s humble beginnings might not have predicted his life’s trajectory. He was a toddler when his father, an Air Force pilot, died of a heart attack at the age of 39. Eltife and two siblings were raised by their mother on government benefits.

When friends and colleagues are asked to describe Eltife, these are the adjectives that spill out: Plainspoken. Unpretentious. Affable. Smart. Hard-working. Decisive. He’ll need all of those qualities, and more, to lead the nine-member University of Texas Sysztem board that oversees the flagship campus in Austin and 13 other academic and health institutions. “Kevin is a self-made guy,” said Gaylord T. Hughey Jr., a lawyer and longtime friend.

Top of Page

Austin American-Statesman - March 14, 2019

Confused about appraisals, taxes and the rollback rate?

Do you think the connection between property appraisals, property taxes and the property tax rate are hard for citizens to understand? Listen to what a former state legislator, who authored and advocated for a revenue cap bill years ago (and who’s now a county judge in Southeast Texas) recently said about this.

“Our county’s property tax rates have held steady for years, and the increase in our property tax revenue is due to rising appraisal values. The Legislature should consider appraisal value reform, rather than the rollback issue. Although it sounds like lowering the rollback rate is what we need to do, the results will always be the same. You’ll write a larger check each year for property taxes. Appraisal reform is what needs to take place, not a rollback tax rate plan that essentially offers no property tax relief for my county’s citizens.”

Top of Page

Star-Telegram - March 14, 2019

Bud Kennedy: GOP attacks on Beto O’Rourke will start with Texas DWI crash

El Paso Democrat Beto O’Rourke’s next campaign will be tougher than his last. That is, if anything can be tougher than trying to win as a Democrat in Texas.

If there is an Achilles’ heel in O’Rourke’s campaign, it might lie in the El Paso suburb of Anthony, where he faced a DWI charge after he crashed into a truck in 1998 and a witness told police he started to leave the scene. O’Rourke, then 26, has denied he tried to flee. Breathalyzer tests measured his blood-alcohol content at .136 and .134, according to the police report. The case was dismissed after he completed a diversion program for first-time offenders. But the written narrative of the accident says: “The driver attempted to leave the accident.”

Top of Page

Star-Telegram - March 14, 2019

Texas conservatives vote in support of Trump’s wall emergency

Texas’ two Republicans senators — both part of a last-minute effort to keep their party from dealing a massive rebuke to President Donald Trump — voted against a bill aimed at derailing Trump’s plans to fund his border wall through an emergency declaration Thursday.

The Democrat-led legislation passed the Republican-controlled Senate with the support of 12 GOP senators. Trump is expected to veto it, sending the bill back to Congress where many much more Republican support is needed to override the president. Texas Sen. John Cornyn told reporters in the days leading up to the vote that while he disagreed with Trump’s decision, the president was well within his constitutional right to declare a national emergency.

Top of Page

Dallas Morning News - March 14, 2019

With Donald Trump questioning his sanity, Beto O'Rourke's presidential launch proves worth the wait

So much for Beto O'Rourke's star fading because he waited too long to jump into the Democratic Party race for president. O'Rourke's presidential launch Thursday was a well-crafted spectacle that reaffirmed his star power and signaled that he'll be a force in what could be a long, grinding primary.

Pundits and politicos had questioned whether O'Rourke had waited too long to announce his candidacy, and some criticized him for feeling blue after his heart-wrenching loss to Republican incumbent Ted Cruz. Few voters, even those in the early contest states of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, were bothered by O'Rourke's deliberations. The lunch counters, cafes and town squares aren't going anywhere.

Top of Page

KSAT - March 13, 2019

Texas lawmaker files bill to repeal juvenile curfew ordinances

A Texas lawmaker is looking to ban cities from imposing juvenile curfew ordinances. House Bill 1332, which was filed by a Travis County representative, seeks to repeal the curfew ability from law enforcement agencies.

Juvenile curfews have been a controversial topic in cities, as some believe they target and criminalize minorities. Converse police Chief Fidel Villegas said curfews are used in his city to help keep youth out of harm’s way and away from violent crimes. Villegas said the ordinance gives officers probable cause to address a young person in the middle of the night. At times, it has also helped them locate missing youth or runaways.

Top of Page

KLTV - March 14, 2019

Breakfast taco could become the official state breakfast item of Texas

Cinnamon rolls, eggs and bacon, even the old reliable cereal and milk: they’re all good choices to help you start the day. However, one Texas lawmaker believes there’s a superior option when it comes to breakfast items, and there’s a good chance you do too.

Texas House Member Stephanie Klick of Fort Worth has proposed the breakfast taco be designated as the official state breakfast item of Texas. Klick’s resolution notes how breakfast tacos began as “one of the fundamental building blocks of Mexican cuisine", as well as how quickly it became popular with Texans and visitors from all over the country. The bill was originally filed on March 7. On Tuesday, the bill was referred from the Texas House to the Culture, Recreation, and Tourism committee.

Top of Page

Five Thirty Eight - March 14, 2019

How Beto O’Rourke could win the 2020 Democratic primary

It wasn’t always clear whether Beto O’Rourke would run for president, but he sure did flirt with the idea. He took a road trip across America and kept a (very public) diary about it. He agreed to an interview with The New York Times in which he talked about his vaguely misspent youth as a nanny in New York City. He talked to Oprah.

Where O’Rourke performed well in 2018 in Texas may tell us a lot about who his core base might be in the 2020 primaries: urban Democrats or Democratic-leaners. O’Rourke won big in cities like Dallas, Houston, Austin and San Antonio. Not just that, but Texas saw an astounding 3.7 million more votes in 2018 than it did in the midterm elections four years earlier. Lots of that increased enthusiasm showed up in those same urban areas.

Top of Page

Texas Tribune - March 14, 2019

A federal safety net funds health care for uninsured Texans. Time is running short to negotiate its renewal.

To understand how the Texas health care safety net for uninsured residents works in 2019, consider the Western Hills mental health clinic in an impoverished neighborhood in West Fort Worth.

The outpatient clinic, occupying a modest space in a red-brick strip mall, serves about 1,000 people a month, mostly patients with low incomes and without health insurance. Advocates for the state’s nearly 5 million uninsured residents worry that some of that funding could be in jeopardy. The 1115 waiver, as it’s known, is a $25 billion, five-year agreement between Texas and the federal government.

Top of Page

City Stories

Houston Chronicle - March 8, 2019

Houston’s economy growing, but not as fast as once thought

Houston added jobs for the 16th consecutive month in January as the local economy continues expand — but not as fast as a earlier thought.

The region gained 4,600 jobs in January, the Texas Workforce Commission reported Friday, while unemployment continues to tick down. The jobless rate in January was 4.5 percent, down from 4.8 percent in January 2018. But revisions to last year’s data shows that the Houston metropolitan area’s employment growth was not as strong as earlier estimates indicated. The region added about 73,000 jobs last, down from the initial estimate of 108,000. The oil and gas industry’s 2018 gains were whittled to 3,100 jobs form 4,500. The revisions cut manufacturing job gains last year by one-third and construction by one-half.

Top of Page

Houston Chronicle - March 14, 2019

Houston wildcatter and philanthropist Lester Smith dies at age 76

Lester Smith, Houston oilman and well-known philanthropist, died Thursday. He was 76. Lester, who was born in Wharton on Aug. 16, 1942, died peacefully in his sleep, said family representative Trish Morille. Smith was a two-time cancer survivor, having battled prostate and bladder cancers, and a double-lung transplant recipient.

He served as Chief Executive Officer of Smith Energy Company and was also a partner of SG Interests, an oil and natural gas exploration and production business. Together with wife Sue Smith, the couple has given more than $150 million to various local organizations, both through their eponymous foundation and personal donations.

Top of Page

San Antonio Express-News - March 14, 2019

Man at the center of college admissions scandal has ties to San Antonio

Decades before he became ensnared in what authorities described as the largest college admissions scandal ever uncovered in the U.S., the man at the center of the alleged conspiracy got his start in academics and coaching in San Antonio.

William “Rick” Singer, who federal investigators say helped Hollywood celebrities, CEOs and other wealthy parents bribe their children’s way into competitive colleges, was a student-athlete at Trinity University and Our Lady of the Lake University in San Antonio in the mid-1980s. After graduating from Trinity, he coached basketball at MacArthur High School here. Singer, 58, is accused of using a charity he established to launder money from parents. He allegedly used the funds to bribe college officials, help students cheat on standardized tests and pay off coaches to get his clients’ children into colleges.

Top of Page

San Antonio Express-News - March 14, 2019

King Jay’s father seeks bail reduction, claiming $1.25 million is excessive

The father accused of failing to seek medical care for his 8-month-old son, King Jay Davila, is seeking to have his bail reduced, claiming his $1.25 million bond is excessive and oppressive.

Christopher Davila, 34, is accused of staging an elaborate kidnapping with the help of his mother and cousin to mislead police after the boy died in a supposed accident. Davila has been charged with injury to a child, child endangerment, tampering with evidence, possession of a controlled substance and being a felon in possession of a firearm. He remains in jail in lieu of posting bond.

Top of Page

Dallas Morning News - March 14, 2019

Dallas' homeless population is up for the second year in a row — as it is in many nearby cities

As the number of homeless people rises in Dallas and Collin counties, the population is spreading into more cities, newly released figures show.

For the second year in a row, the number of homeless people in the two counties increased 9 percent, officials said Thursday at Dallas' annual State of the Homeless address. The total homeless population counted in 19 cities in the counties was 4,538, up from 4,140 in 2018.

Top of Page

National Stories

Washington Post - March 15, 2019

Trump tried to make the GOP border emergency fight about him. He lost anyway.

President Trump tried to marshal his most potent weapon — himself — to stave off what eventually became an embarrassing rejection from his own party over his declared national emergency on the border.

In numerous calls with Republican senators in recent days, the president spoke of the battle almost exclusively in personal terms — telling them they would be voting against him while brushing aside constitutional concerns over his attempt to reroute billions of federal dollars for a border wall. He argued that a vote against the emergency would be seen by GOP supporters as being against border security and the wall and would hurt their own political fortunes, according to a person with direct knowledge of some of the calls.

Top of Page

Washington Post - March 15, 2019

Rescinded admissions, a class-action suit: Fallout from college scandal spreads

The University of Southern California rescinded the admissions of a half-dozen students, and several other colleges and universities pledged to take a closer look at their admissions processes as fallout continued from an admissions scandal that implicated coaches, athletic department administrators and 33 wealthy, well-connected parents who allegedly schemed to get their children admitted to prestigious colleges.

A class-action lawsuit was filed Wednesday on behalf of applicants who were denied admission to several universities affected by the scandal. It alleged that those schools failed to take adequate steps to safeguard against fraud, depriving the applicants of a fair shot. And it emerged that the gen­esis of the FBI investigation came when an investor tipped off agents to the admissions scheme after he was caught committing securities fraud.

Top of Page

Associated Press - March 15, 2019

Theresa May tries to save Brexit deal after vote to delay UK exit

British Prime Minister Theresa May worked Friday to pull off an against-the-odds rescue for her European Union divorce deal, after Parliament voted to postpone Brexit to avert a chaotic U.K. departure in two weeks.

May planned to spend the next few days trying to persuade opponents in her Conservative Party and its parliamentary allies to support the withdrawal agreement, which Parliament has resoundingly defeated twice. That left Britain facing a disruptive “no-deal” exit on March 29, when a two-year countdown to departure triggered in 2017 runs out. After months of political deadlock, the House of Commons voted by 413-202 Thursday to ask the EU to delay Britain’s exit.

Top of Page

Associated Press - March 15, 2019

Feds to ease land restrictions across US West

The Trump administration is finalizing plans to ease restrictions on oil and gas drilling and other industries that were meant to protect an imperiled bird species that ranges across the American West, federal officials said Thursday.

U.S. Bureau of Land Management Acting Director Brian Steed told The Associated Press the changes would protect greater sage grouse while addressing concerns that existing policies governing millions of acres of federal land were too restrictive. Critics say the changes will lead to more disturbances of grouse habitat, undermining efforts to shore up the bird's population. A formal announcement is expected Friday.

Top of Page

New York Times - March 15, 2019

North Korea threatens to scuttle talks with US and resume tests

North Korea threatened on Friday to suspend negotiations with the Trump administration over the North’s nuclear arms program and said its leader, Kim Jong-un, would soon decide whether to resume nuclear and missile tests.

Addressing diplomats and foreign correspondents at a news conference in Pyongyang, the North Korean capital, Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son-hui said that personal relations between Mr. Kim and Mr. Trump were “still good and the chemistry is mysteriously wonderful.” But she said that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and John Bolton, Mr. Trump’s national security adviser, had created an “atmosphere of hostility and mistrust” that thwarted the top leaders’ negotiations in Hanoi, Vietnam, last month.

Top of Page

New York Times - March 14, 2019

Boeing promised pilots a 737 software fix last year, but they’re still waiting

Weeks after a deadly crash involving a Boeing plane last October, company officials met separately with the pilot unions at Southwest Airlines and American Airlines. The officials said they planned to update the software for their 737 Max jets, the plane involved in the disaster, by around the end of 2018.

It was the last time the Southwest pilots union heard from Boeing, and months later, the carriers are still waiting for a fix. After a second 737 Max crashed, on Sunday in Ethiopia, United States regulators said the software update would be ready by April. This delay is now part of the intense scrutiny over Boeing’s response after the first air disaster, a Lion Air accident that killed 189 people in Indonesia. The second crash, involving an Ethiopian Airlines flight that killed 157 people, bore similarities to the first, pointing to potential problems with the automated system that requires the update.

Top of Page

Houston Chronicle - March 14, 2019

Southern Poverty Law Center fires co-founder, declines to say what he allegedly did

The Southern Poverty Law Center fired co-founder and chief litigator Morris Dees on Wednesday, the civil rights organization announced. In a Thursday statement, SPLC President Richard Cohen stressed the importance of "ensuring that the conduct of our staff reflects the mission of the organization and the values we hope to instill in the world."

In its story on the firing, the Montgomery Advertiser cited its 1994 investigation into the nonprofit advocacy group, in which staffers accused Dees of being a racist and alleged "discriminatory treatment of black employees." The SPLC denied claims of racism raised in the series, the Advertiser reported. Dees' biography was scrubbed from the SPLC's website by Thursday afternoon, but a cached version of the page lists awards he received and lauds him for "innovative lawsuits that crippled some of America's most notorious white supremacist hate groups."

Top of Page