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Newsclips - February 16, 2018

Lead Stories

San Antonio Express-News - February 16, 2018

Uresti’s criminal case could go to the jury Friday

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

Texas Tribune - February 16, 2018

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

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

KUHF - February 12, 2018

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

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

New York Times - February 15, 2018

Three Immigration Plans Fall, Leaving ‘Dreamers’ in Limbo

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

State Stories

Texas Tribune - February 15, 2018

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

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

Texas Tribune - February 16, 2018

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

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

Texas Tribune - February 16, 2018

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

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

Texas Tribune - February 15, 2018

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

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

Texas Tribune - February 15, 2018

Texas Freedom Caucus sees opportunities to grow in 2018 GOP primaries

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

Houston Chronicle - February 13, 2018

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

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

Houston Chronicle - February 14, 2018

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

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

Houston Chronicle - February 15, 2018

Grieder: Blowing the whistle on the Texas Constitution

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

San Antonio Express-News - February 15, 2018

Texas Department of Public Safety launches new drone program

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

San Antonio Express-News - February 16, 2018

Texas lawmakers praise Harvey funding — say more may be needed

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

San Antonio Express-News - February 14, 2018

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

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

San Antonio Express-News - February 16, 2018

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

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

San Antonio Express-News - February 15, 2018

Analysis suggests mortgages are less accessible to blacks, Latinos

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

Dallas Morning News - February 15, 2018

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

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

Dallas Morning News - February 15, 2018

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

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

Dallas Morning News - February 15, 2018

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

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

Dallas Morning News - February 15, 2018

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

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

Dallas Morning News - February 15, 2018

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

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

Dallas Morning News - February 15, 2018

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

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

Austin American-Statesman - February 16, 2018

Central Texas congressional delegation reacts to Florida shooting

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

Austin American-Statesman - February 15, 2018

Amid Alamo management concerns, Bush will leave nonprofit board

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

Austin American-Statesman - February 15, 2018

Texas deer breeders challenge ruling on state’s disease regulations

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

Austin American-Statesman - February 15, 2018

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

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

Austin American-Statesman - February 15, 2018

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

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

Austin American-Statesman - February 15, 2018

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

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

Austin American-Statesman - February 15, 2018

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

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

El Paso Times - February 16, 2018

Anti-Escobar PAC fails to report campaign spending on advertisements

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

Temple Daily Telegram - February 16, 2018

Texas police group opposes Grisham

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

Ft. Worth Star-Telegram - February 14, 2018

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

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

Ft. Worth Star-Telegram - February 9, 2018

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

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

KXAN - February 15, 2018

TxTag revamps billing system after KXAN investigation

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

Spectrum News - February 14, 2018

Report: Texas ranks at the bottom for political participation

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

Washington Free Beacon - February 12, 2018

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

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

Amarillo Globe-News - February 10, 2018

Henry: Is there a conspiracy in West Texas?

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

Politico - February 15, 2018

Poll: Republican barely leading in Pennsylvania special election

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

Corpus Christi Caller-Times - February 11, 2018

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

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

County Stories

Dallas Observer - February 14, 2018

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

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

Houston Chronicle - February 15, 2018

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

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

Politico - February 9, 2018

Houston district becomes unlikely battleground for vaccine policy fight

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

Houston Chronicle - February 15, 2018

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

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

City Stories

San Antonio Express-News - February 16, 2018

La Gordiloca: Texas law is unconstitutional

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

Houston Chronicle - February 15, 2018

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

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

Bloomberg - February 16, 2018

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

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

Dallas Morning News - February 15, 2018

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

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

Houston Chronicle - February 15, 2018

Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in Houston on Friday

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

Houston Chronicle - February 15, 2018

HISD superintendent calls for drastic changes in annual speech

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

National Stories

Dallas Morning News - February 15, 2018

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

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

The Hill - February 12, 2018

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

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

San Antonio Express-News - February 15, 2018

Cruz predicts Republicans will lose Congress if DACA deal includes amnesty

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

Washington Post - February 15, 2018

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

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

New York Times - February 15, 2018

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

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

Washington Post - February 15, 2018

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

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

Associated Press - February 16, 2018

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

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

This article appeared in the San Antonio Express-News

Texas Tribune - February 15, 2018

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

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

Politico - February 15, 2018

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

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

Dallas Morning News - February 14, 2018

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

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

Austin American-Statesman - February 16, 2018

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

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

Houston Chronicle - February 8, 2018

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

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

Dallas Morning News - February 9, 2018

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

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

New York Times - February 15, 2018

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

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

Washington Post - February 13, 2018

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

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

Newsclips - February 15, 2018

Lead Stories

Associated Press - February 14, 2018

Group of senators reaches immigration deal on Dreamers, wall

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

This article appeared in the San Antonio Express News

Washington Post - February 14, 2018

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

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

Dallas Morning News - February 14, 2018

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

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

Austin American-Statesman - February 14, 2018

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

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

State Stories

San Antonio Express-News - February 14, 2018

Bush to resign from Alamo Trust

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

San Antonio Express-News - February 14, 2018

Uresti co-defendant says lawmaker was angry over fraud

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

Austin American-Statesman - February 14, 2018

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

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

Austin American-Statesman - February 14, 2018

ICE denies woman punished for sexual assault allegations

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

Austin American-Statesman - February 14, 2018

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

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

Austin American-Statesman - February 14, 2018

Ken Paxton: 3 Texas school districts illegally supported candidates

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

Austin American-Statesman - February 14, 2018

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

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

Texas Tribune - February 15, 2018

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

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

Texas Tribune - February 15, 2018

Texas Freedom Caucus sees opportunities to grow in 2018 GOP primaries

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

Texas Tribune - February 14, 2018

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

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

Texas Tribune - February 14, 2018

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

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

Texas Tribune - February 15, 2018

Texas prison system stalls release of public information on executions

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

Texas Tribune - February 14, 2018

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

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

Houston Chronicle - February 14, 2018

Texas natives serve as plaintiffs in lawsuit to federally legalize marijuana

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

Houston Chronicle - February 14, 2018

Another surprise special election win has Democrats bullish on Texas

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

Dallas Morning News - February 14, 2018

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

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

Dallas Morning News - February 14, 2018

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

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

Dallas Morning News - February 14, 2018

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

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

Dallas Morning News - February 14, 2018

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

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

Dallas Morning News - February 14, 2018

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

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

Dallas Morning News - February 14, 2018

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

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

Dallas Morning News - February 14, 2018

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

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

Ft. Worth Star-Telegram - February 13, 2018

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

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

Texas Observer - February 12, 2018

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

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

Associated Press - February 14, 2018

New Texas group opposes bipartisan efforts to end cash bail

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

This article appeared in the San Antonio Express-News

County Stories

Houston Chronicle - February 13, 2018

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

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

Houston Chronicle - February 14, 2018

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

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

Houston Chronicle - February 14, 2018

Smith: Astrodome renovation plan a win-win

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

City Stories

Austin American-Statesman - February 14, 2018

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

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

Dallas Morning News - February 14, 2018

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

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

Austin American-Statesman - February 13, 2018

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

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

National Stories

Vanity Fair - February 14, 2018

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

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

Texas Tribune - February 14, 2018

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

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

New York Times - February 14, 2018

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

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

Politico - February 14, 2018

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

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

Washington Post - February 15, 2018

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

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

Politico - February 15, 2018

Scher: The Clock Is Not Ticking on DACA

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

Politico - February 14, 2018

Dems: Bill Clinton too toxic to campaign in midterms

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

New York Times - February 14, 2018

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

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

Politico - February 15, 2018

DNC hires new top fundraiser

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

Dallas Morning News - February 13, 2018

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

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

AOL - February 12, 2018

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

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

Des Moines Register - February 13, 2018

National push for Convention of States advances to Iowa Senate floor

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

Washington Free Beacon - February 12, 2018

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

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

Dallas Morning News - February 14, 2018

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

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

Dallas Morning News - February 13, 2018

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

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

Newsclips - February 14, 2018

Lead Stories

New York Times - February 13, 2018

Russia Already Plotting to Sway 2018 Elections, Spy Chiefs Say

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

Wall St. Journal - February 13, 2018

Immigration Debate Puts Spotlight on Texas Republican

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

Houston Chronicle - February 13, 2018

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

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

San Antonio Express-News - February 13, 2018

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

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

State Stories

Houston Chronicle - February 13, 2018

HC: For the 2nd Congressional District: Kevin Roberts

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

Houston Chronicle - February 13, 2018

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

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

Houston Chronicle - February 12, 2018

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

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

Dallas Morning News - February 13, 2018

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

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

Dallas Morning News - February 13, 2018

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

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

Dallas Morning News - February 13, 2018

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

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

Dallas Morning News - February 13, 2018

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

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

Dallas Morning News - February 13, 2018

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

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

Dallas Morning News - February 13, 2018

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

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

Dallas Morning News - February 13, 2018

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

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

Austin American-Statesman - February 13, 2018

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

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

Austin American-Statesman - February 13, 2018

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

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

Austin American-Statesman - February 12, 2018

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

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

Texas Tribune - February 13, 2018

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

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

Texas Tribune - February 14, 2018

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

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

Texas Tribune - February 14, 2018

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

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

Texas Tribune - February 14, 2018

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

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

Texas Tribune - February 14, 2018

Switzer: Concealed carry reciprocity would make Texas less safe

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

Texas Tribune - February 13, 2018

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

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

San Antonio Express-News - February 13, 2018

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

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

San Antonio Express-News - February 13, 2018

Democratic gubernatorial candidates take aim at Abbott

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

Ft. Worth Star-Telegram - February 12, 2018

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

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

Texas Observer - February 13, 2018

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

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

Texas Observer - February 12, 2018

Prison By Any Other Name

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

County Stories

Houston Chronicle - February 13, 2018

Harris County OKs $105 million renovation of Astrodome

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

Houston Chronicle - February 13, 2018

What data reveals about child abuse in Houston

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

City Stories

Austin American-Statesman - February 13, 2018

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

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

Austin American-Statesman - February 13, 2018

Protesters call for tougher UT response to professor accused of abuse

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

Houston Chronicle - February 13, 2018

Dawn Ullrich of Houston First ousted after announcing retirement plans

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

Dallas Morning News - February 13, 2018

Two Dallas execs at center of national Latino chamber scandal

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

Houston Chronicle - February 13, 2018

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

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

National Stories

Associated Press - February 13, 2018

Judge rules against Trump in case over immigration program

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

This article appeared in the Houston Chronicle

Politico - February 12, 2018

Trump takes aim at blue states in infrastructure plan

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

Houston Chronicle - February 13, 2018

Ted Cruz cast lone vote against advancing 'Dreamer' legislation

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

Politico - February 14, 2018

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

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

The Hill - February 13, 2018

36 people who could challenge Trump in 2020

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

Business Insider - February 13, 2018

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

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

Washington Post - February 13, 2018

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

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

Real Clear Politics - February 13, 2018

Sperry: CIA Ex-Director Brennan's Perjury Peril

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

New York Times - February 13, 2018

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

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

Dallas Morning News - February 12, 2018

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

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

Dallas Morning News - February 12, 2018

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

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

Wall St. Journal - February 13, 2018

Israeli Police Recommend Charging Netanyahu With Bribery, Fraud

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

MarketWatch - February 13, 2018

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

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

New York Times - February 12, 2018

His 2020 Campaign Message: The Robots Are Coming

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

Dallas Morning News - February 13, 2018

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

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

Politico - February 11, 2018

Devin Nunes creates his own alternative news site

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

Newsclips - February 13, 2018

Lead Stories

The Hill - February 12, 2018

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

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

San Antonio Express-News - February 12, 2018

Trump public works plan relies heavily on state money

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

Houston Chronicle - February 12, 2018

Ted Cruz cast lone vote against advancing 'Dreamer' legislation

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

Texas Tribune - February 12, 2018

Trial begins in case targeting Texas' statewide elections of judges

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

State Stories

San Antonio Express-News - February 12, 2018

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

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

San Antonio Express-News - February 12, 2018

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

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

San Antonio Express-News - February 12, 2018

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

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

San Antonio Express-News - February 12, 2018

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

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

Austin American-Statesman - February 12, 2018

PolitiFact: Texas tops in feral pig population

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

Austin American-Statesman - February 12, 2018

Texans see little sizzle in Trump infrastructure plan

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

Texas Tribune - February 13, 2018

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

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

Texas Tribune - February 13, 2018

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

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

Houston Chronicle - February 12, 2018

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

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

Houston Chronicle - February 12, 2018

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

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

Houston Chronicle - February 12, 2018

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

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

Houston Chronicle - February 12, 2018

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

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

Dallas Morning News - February 12, 2018

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

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

Dallas Morning News - February 12, 2018

Texas, are you ready for a tax cut windfall?

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

Dallas Morning News - February 12, 2018

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

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

Dallas Morning News - February 12, 2018

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

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

ProPublica - February 12, 2018

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

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

County Stories

Houston Chronicle - February 12, 2018

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

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

Austin American-Statesman - February 12, 2018

New program expands voter registration effort at Travis County Jail

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

Dallas Morning News - February 12, 2018

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

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

City Stories

Dallas Morning News - February 12, 2018

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

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

Dallas Morning News - February 12, 2018

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

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

KVUE - February 6, 2018

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

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

National Stories

Washington Post - February 12, 2018

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

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

Politico - February 12, 2018

McConnell’s immigration gamble

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

The Hill - February 9, 2018

Dems left Dreamers out to dry, say activists

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

Politico - February 12, 2018

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

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

Bloomberg - February 12, 2018

Campaign Workers Unionize Just in Time for Midterm Elections

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

The Hill - February 8, 2018

White House to give phones to senior advisers for political calls

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

New York Times - February 12, 2018

Brooks: The End of the Two-Party System

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

Reuters - February 12, 2018

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

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

Washington Examiner - February 12, 2018

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

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

Washington Post - February 12, 2018

Bump: A number of Republicans appear to be becoming independents

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

New York Times - February 12, 2018

Bergman: The Middle East’s Coming War

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

Washington Post - February 12, 2018

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

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

The Hill - February 11, 2018

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

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

New York Times - February 12, 2018

Lott: Background Checks Are Not the Answer to Gun Violence

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

New York Times - February 12, 2018

Leader of Latino Business Group Steps Down Amid Sexual Harassment Claims

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

Washington Post - February 11, 2018

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

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

Newsclips - February 12, 2018

Lead Stories

Washington Post - February 11, 2018

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

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

The Hill - February 9, 2018

The Memo: Knives come out for Kelly

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

San Antonio Express-News - February 11, 2018

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

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

Austin American-Statesman - February 9, 2018

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

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

State Stories

San Antonio Express-News - February 11, 2018

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

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

San Antonio Express-News - February 11, 2018

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

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

San Antonio Express-News - February 11, 2018

Alamo takes center stage in race for state land commissioner

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

Austin American-Statesman - February 11, 2018

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

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

Texas Tribune - February 5, 2018

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

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

Texas Tribune - February 12, 2018

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

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

Texas Tribune - February 12, 2018

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

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

Houston Chronicle - February 11, 2018

Falkenberg: Abbott asks Trump to reward Texas for bad governance

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

Houston Chronicle - February 11, 2018

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

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

Houston Chronicle - February 11, 2018

White puts up first ad in Texas Democratic gubernatorial primary

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

Houston Chronicle - February 11, 2018

Abbott: Let's get tougher on sex crimes

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

Houston Chronicle - February 10, 2018

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

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

Dallas Morning News - February 9, 2018

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

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

Dallas Morning News - February 10, 2018

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

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

Dallas Morning News - February 9, 2018

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

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

Dallas Morning News - February 8, 2018

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

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

Dallas Morning News - February 8, 2018

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

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

Victoria Advocate - February 9, 2018

Congressional candidates want to help with hurricane recovery

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

Rio Grande Guardian - February 11, 2018

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

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

Texas Observer - February 9, 2018

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

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

County Stories

Austin American-Statesman - February 10, 2018

Ex-death row inmate gets to question DA candidates

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

Houston Chronicle - February 11, 2018

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

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

McAllen Monitor - February 10, 2018

Willacy to seek ultimate penalty

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

San Antonio Express-News - February 11, 2018

Dallas County judge backing Lupe Valdez for governor

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

City Stories

Dallas Morning News - February 7, 2018

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

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

National Stories

Wall St. Journal - February 11, 2018

Immigration to Get Freewheeling Debate in the Senate

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

Politico - February 11, 2018

Progressives storm Democratic primaries

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

Politico - February 11, 2018

Desperate Republicans turn to Adelson

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

New York Times - February 11, 2018

Barreto: Democrats Can Win on Immigration

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

Washington Post - February 11, 2018

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

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

Politico - February 11, 2018

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

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

Associated Press - February 11, 2018

Trump support vital as Congress tackles immigration issue

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

This article appeared in the San Antonio Express-News

The Hill - February 10, 2018

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

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

Investor's Business Daily - February 5, 2018

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

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

Austin American-Statesman - February 5, 2018

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

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

The Hill - February 11, 2018

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

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

Austin American-Statesman - February 8, 2018

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

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

Dallas Morning News - February 9, 2018

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

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

Dallas Morning News - February 9, 2018

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

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

CNN - February 5, 2018

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

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

Newsclips - February 11, 2018

Lead Stories

Ft. Worth Star-Telegram - February 11, 2018

Kennedy: For one Republican, a day of truth-telling about Texas, schools and taxes

A mild-mannered county official told the truth about the Texas Legislature Friday, and the resulting tremor was felt from Arlington to Austin. During what is usually a snoreworthy annual speech to business leaders, County Judge Glen Whitley of Hurst said property taxes are high because the state pays less every year of its share for public education — and then state lawmakers blame local officials for higher taxes. Whitley, an accountant, is in his 22nd year as a county judge or commissioner. His speeches usually involve business development or transportation, not political truth-telling.

Austin American-Statesman - February 9, 2018

George P. Bush: Draft audit critical of Alamo management was ‘doctored’

Land Commissioner George P. Bush said Friday that a draft report by the General Land Office’s internal auditors critical of the agency’s oversight of the Alamo was “doctored” — and how that happened would be the subject of a law enforcement investigation. “I can’t really comment on the document. I cannot disclose, but we do have evidence that it was a doctored memo,” Bush told reporters after participating in a morning keynote discussion with Attorney General Ken Paxton at the conservative Texas Public Policy Foundation’s annual Policy Orientation conference. “With respect to internal auditing, that’s a good business practice, that’s what commissioners should do, constantly find ways to improve.”

The Atlantic - February 9, 2018

Democrats' 'Resistance' to Trump Is Eroding, and So Are Their Poll Numbers

Remember “this is not normal?” A year ago, it was the motto of the self-styled “Resistance”—the coalition of liberals, Democrats, and a few wayward conservatives who were implacably opposed to the Trump administration. The endless refrain represented the refusal to countenance Trump as an ordinary political actor. Doing so, they feared, would eventually lead to the acceptance of racism, xenophobia, corruption, and authoritarianism as a regular and unremarkable feature of politics and society. People articulating such views were easy to find—online, on the front pages, and on the streets. The day after President Trump’s inauguration, the Women’s March turned into one of the largest nationwide demonstrations in American history. A week later, tens of thousands of people turned up at airports to oppose and obstruct Trump’s Muslim ban.

Wall St. Journal - February 10, 2018

G.O.P. Squirms as Trump Veers Off Script With Abuse Remarks

President Trump’s approval ratings have been nudging upward and his party’s political standing is improving, but the president’s unceasing habit of making inflammatory and insensitive remarks is galvanizing opposition against him — especially from women — that could smother Republican momentum going into the midterm campaign. Saturday was a case in point. In a Twitter post, Mr. Trump appeared to raise doubts about the entire #MeToo movement, a day after he had offered sympathy for a former aide accused of spousal abuse. “Peoples lives are being shattered and destroyed by a mere allegation,” the president wrote on Twitter, adding: “There is no recovery for someone falsely accused - life and career are gone. Is there no such thing any longer as Due Process?”

Politico - February 10, 2018

The Democrats’ secret weapon to take back statehouses

Donald Trump has certainly helped. But Democrats' massive success in flipping statehouse seats in special elections this past year isn't happening by accident. The party’s dominance — it’s flipped 35 seats, and is hoping to make it 36 next week in a Florida House race — is also the result of old-fashioned political organizing. Nuts and bolts steps like funding year-round staff on the ground in the states, designing digital fundraising platforms, training volunteers, screening résumés for campaigns around the country and, of course, collecting huge checks. At the center of those efforts is the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, mostly forgotten in the 25 years since it was founded as the D.C. hub for state legislative campaigns, but now working to coordinate efforts and partners, and along the way double its spending for the cycle to $35 million in strategic investments.

State Stories

Austin American-Statesman - February 10, 2018

Rep. Dawnna Dukes’ challengers nab Democratic support in HD 46 primary

With less than a month to go before the March 6 Democratic primary, 12-term incumbent state Rep. Dawnna Dukes has a campaign that’s deep in debt and short on buzz while her challengers gain ground among Democratic groups in the House District 46 race. Sheryl Cole, a former Austin City Council member, has gotten endorsements from notable Austin Democrats including state Sen. Kirk Watson, U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett and most recently Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt. Eckhardt’s endorsement was the subject of a press release flaunted by Cole’s campaign on Tuesday. “Sheryl Cole will bring her laser focus to the Texas House to ensure that the people of District 46 get their fair share of the opportunity they helped build” in Austin, Eckhardt said in a statement.

Austin American-Statesman - February 9, 2018

Herman: Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s mail ballot applications cause a stir

Gov. Greg Abbott is just trying to help some older folks vote. Oh sure, he hopes they’ll vote for him and that’s why his campaign staff picked out these particular older folks. But the overall goal of this effort can be couched as a helpful effort to help people vote. Maybe. I recently told you about it. Now I can tell you about how Abbott’s effort has caused woes for some local county election officials. Abbott sent mail ballot applications to selected Texans over 65, ones we can be sure were selected because his campaign has reason to believe they might vote for him. Nothing wrong with that. In turn, voters who got the applications — and a robocall from Abbott about the applications — could fill them out and send them to their local county election official and wait for a mail ballot to show up in their mail box.

Austin American-Statesman - February 10, 2018

In race for Congress, 4 Austin Democrats echo national party debate

Texas’ sprawling 21st Congressional District was drawn to elect a Republican. After U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith, R-San Antonio, announced in November that he was retiring after 30 years in office, 18 Republicans launched candidacies. The four Austin Democrats already in the race sensed opportunity. While the six Hill Country counties that make up most of the district’s territory remain as conservative as they were nearly a decade ago when the map was drawn, the southern suburbs of Austin and the north side of San Antonio, swelling with newcomers, have moderated.

Austin American-Statesman - February 9, 2018

Holden, Rollins: Texas saved $3B closing prisons. Why rehabilitation works

Around 2 million individuals are behind bars in America’s criminal justice system. Almost all of them will eventually return to the communities they left behind. As a nation, we are failing to serve those communities by not preparing former inmates to re-enter society and lead productive and fulfilling lives. We are proud to be part of a new initiative, Safe Streets and Second Chances, that will work to combine policy reforms and re-entry programs that will measure success not by incarceration rates but by whether former inmates are rehabilitated and capable of redemption. Safe Streets and Second Chances researchers will initially examine four states — Texas, Louisiana, Florida and Pennsylvania – and work to prepare people for re-entry beginning on Day One of their prison sentence.

Texas Tribune - February 1, 2018

Stoglin: Texas is preparing young women to run

Around the country, women candidates are preparing for the 2018 midterm elections: EMILY’s List, which backs Democratic women seeking elective office, reports that since the 2016 election, 20,000 women have contacted the group about running for office — up from just 920 women the year before. And even more women are declaring their ambition to run for office as a result of the #MeToo movement; as powerful men are yanked from their thrones, women are ready to take their places. Today, just 21 of the nation’s 100 U.S. senators are women — a paltry record — and only six state governors are women. In Texas, Dallas County — my home county — fares slightly better than average among state and federal offices.

Texas Tribune - February 11, 2018

Cruz braces Texas GOP for volatile election season amid Democratic enthusiasm

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz is preparing Texas Republicans for a turbulent election year amid super-charged Democratic enthusiasm — including in his own re-election campaign. Traveling the state for GOP events this weekend, Cruz portrayed an uncertain midterm environment that could go down as disastrous for Republicans if they don't work to counteract Democratic energy throughout the country. Cruz has spent previous election cycles airing similar warnings against GOP complacency in ruby-red Texas, but this time it hits much closer to home for him — he is facing a well-funded re-election challenge from U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke, D-El Paso.

Texas Tribune - February 9, 2018

Civic engagement or illegal electioneering? How a school voting project became a conservative target

Laura Yeager founded Texas Educators Vote in fall 2015 to spur local educators to practice what they preached. Why, she wondered, were Texas teachers talking about the importance of political participation in class, but not always modeling that behavior themselves? More than two years later, her civic engagement effort has stirred up a right-wing maelstrom, leading conservative organizations and some powerful elected officials to question whether it's breaking the law. Headed up by the influential group Empower Texans, adversaries say the educators’ organization, and others like it, might be using illegal tactics to boost liberal policies. Yeager counters that her group is merely trying to promote voting — and is only drawing backlash because staunch conservatives are worried public education-focused voters will unseat their candidates.

Texas Tribune - February 9, 2018

South Texas judge dismisses fraud lawsuit over border fence project

A judge has dismissed a number of charges filed by a South Texas county against a former official accused of fraud in the construction of a $232 million border fence funded by the Department of Homeland Security. The ruling prompted Hidalgo County on Monday to withdraw all remaining legal actions against Godfrey Garza Jr., the former chief of its drainage district, who oversaw a project to improve the county’s levee system and build a fence to stop illegal immigration and drug smuggling. Judge Martin Chiuminatto of state district court in Hidalgo County told lawyers for the county and Garza that the evidence presented to support the county’s allegations of fraud was not strong enough to send to a jury, according to a transcript of the hearing late last month.

San Antonio Express-News - February 10, 2018

First patient to get marijuana-based epilepsy treatment lives in San Antonio

Cora Jane Brininstool of San Antonio, almost 6 years old, has had epileptic seizures since she was a baby. Born with a severe brain malformation that renders her unable to walk or talk, she has endured a host of medications, all of which either carried horrible side effects or stopped working after a time. But on Wednesday, she became the first patient in Texas to take a legal dose of cannabidiol oil, a substance derived from marijuana but without the euphoric effects. CBD oil can be prescribed in Texas only to those whose epilepsy isn’t controlled with traditional medications. The state legalized use of the oil three years ago when it set strict regulations regarding its manufacture, prescription and distribution.

Houston Chronicle - February 10, 2018

HC: For Democratic criminal court-at-law judges -- Dems should back Landreneau, Fleischer, Wright, Saper, Aguirre, Rodriquez and Ougrah.

Democrats hoping to push policy usually focus on legislative seats, but this year one of the best opportunities for change is in the misdemeanor courts. These seats deal with low-level crimes such as trespassing, drug possession and DWIs, and are currently in the middle of a federal lawsuit alleging that their cash bail system violates the U.S. Constitution. All the judges except one are Republican. All except two are fighting this lawsuit. A blue wave in November could bring a new generation of judges to end the legal fight. Democratic primary voters should ensure that they're sending forth the best candidates if they want to be successful in this mission. Early voting runs from Tuesday, Feb. 20 through Friday, March 2. Election Day is March 6.

Houston Chronicle - February 10, 2018

Gibson: Legalizing marijuana is Democrats' key to 2018 elections

With so many strong candidates vying to unseat incumbent Republicans in the Legislature, Texas Democrats have a wind at their backs this election season that they haven't felt in decades. What they don't have at this point is a unifying message to fully unfurl their sails. They should try embracing legal marijuana as a cornerstone campaign issue. Texas' current pot laws are medieval and arguably the most severe in the country. Possession of anything less than two ounces - even just a gram - is a class B misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months in jail and as much as $2,000 in fines. This is a costly burden on taxpayers, with the American Civil Liberties Union estimating that the entire booking process, from arrest to incarceration, for marijuana possession cases alone cost taxpayers more than $250 million in 2010.

Dallas Morning News - February 9, 2018

Empower Texans 'whistleblower' letter to school districts reads more like teacher intimidation

On its website, Empower Texans says its mission is to "educate and inspire Texans to exercise effective citizenship." But some recent shenanigans employed by the conservative group seem to run counter to that mission. Empower Texans mailed letters to school district employees across Texas, asking them to become "whistleblowers" against their employers: "Some school districts across the State of Texas are vowing to illegally misuse school district recourses [sic] to electioneer for liberal candidates in upcoming elections." The letter, written by the group's general counsel, Tony McDonald, spells out various potential infractions of the Texas Constitution and the Texas Education Code, such as providing transportation to and from polling places as well as promoting or opposing candidates.

Dallas Morning News - February 9, 2018

Inside three of the congressional districts Texas Democrats hope to turn blue in 2018

In the 2016 election cycle, Democrats pinned their hopes of flipping a red congressional seat in Texas on just one district. In 2018, make that at least three. With President Donald Trump’s low approval rating and a surge of energy among voters on the left, Democrats say they have their best shot in years of taking back a few critical seats in Texas. They’re eyeing posts held by Republican Reps. Pete Sessions of Dallas, John Culberson of Houston and Will Hurd of San Antonio, who each saw their districts go for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election. The incumbents aren’t expected to have trouble in primaries but will face formidable and well-funded competition from Democrats in November.

Dallas Morning News - February 9, 2018

DMN: We recommend Pete Sessions in the Republican primary for 32nd Congressional District

Two conservative candidates face off in this race which could lead one to believe the choice would be difficult to make. It's not. Pete Sessions and Paul Brown faced off before, in 2016, but as we did that year, we find that Sessions is clearly the better choice. Sessions, 62, currently serving his eleventh term in Congress, possesses a strong conservative background and clearly understands the changes taking place in Texas and his district. Those changes have fostered signs of pragmatism in Sessions, who understands one can compromise to get things done without compromising ideological principles.

Dallas Morning News - February 8, 2018

DMN: We recommend Kenneth Sheets in the Republican primary for the 5th Congressional District

Republican voters have a crowded ballot to choose from in the GOP primary for the 5th Congressional District, but there are two candidates who stand out — both familiar Texas names. Former District 107 state Rep. Kenneth Sheets and current District 4 state Rep. Lance Gooden are knowledgeable, pragmatic conservatives with strong experience in Austin. We're generally aligned with their views on lowering taxes, the need for comprehensive immigration reform and a how a free market can boost the economy in ways that benefit all Texans.

Dallas Morning News - February 10, 2018

Plano Rep. Sam Johnson to donate his Vietnam prisoner of war possessions to Smithsonian

War hero and Plano Rep. Sam Johnson will donate a tube of toothpaste and the tin cup he used to communicate with fellow Vietnam prisoners of war to the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History, his office announced Friday. The 87-year-old congressman served 29 years in the Air Force, flying combat missions in the Korean and Vietnam wars. He was shot down in 1966 and spent nearly seven years as a prisoner in the infamous North Vietnamese prison known as the "Hanoi Hilton." Johnson spent 42 months in solitary confinement. "Forty-five years ago I returned home after nearly seven long years in what can only be described as hell on earth," Johnson said in a statement Friday. "The only two possessions I took from the 'Hanoi Hilton' from that time were my toothpaste and tin cup."

Dallas Morning News - February 8, 2018

Texas' first cannabis dispensary has opened near Austin, but don't expect to find pot brownies

Texas' first cannabis dispensary opened Thursday, but it looks nothing like the ones in states where recreational marijuana is legal. At Compassionate Cultivation's dispensary near Austin, customers won't find marijuana to smoke or pot brownies and gummy bears to eat. One product is for sale: a specific kind of cannabis oil. Only Texans with intractable epilepsy can purchase it. On Thursday, Christy Wilkens filled a prescription for her 2-year-old son, Oscar. The little boy with blond hair, glasses and tiny Converse shoes played with a rattle toy as cameras snapped photos and news crews filmed.

McClatchy Newspapers - February 7, 2018

Can Cornyn sell Trump’s immigration plan to a wary Texas?

Texas Senator John Cornyn’s immigration plan is simple: Deliver the White House a plan identical to its stated demands. Cornyn, tapped by his colleagues to lead Republicans in the negotiations over Dreamers and a border wall, is working hard to give Trump what he wants. The senator has been meeting multiple times a day with White House officials, and urging colleagues to rally around a bill that largely matches the president’s outlines. Cornyn could face a bigger challenge selling Trump’s plan back home in Texas, where 38 percent of the population is Hispanic. Cornyn has long worked to court their support, and sought to craft immigration plans in the past that wouldn’t isolate Latinos from his party.

KPRC - February 7, 2018

Channel 2 Investigates: At over $312,000 a year, who does this state representative represent?

It appears that state Rep. Jim Murphy likes taxpayer-funded hats. Channel 2 Investigates identified him wearing a couple of them. One is for the 133rd District on Houston's west side, and the other remains unclear. Employment contracts between Murphy and the Westchase District, a governmental agency and political subdivision of the state, show Murphy banking a fixed monthly fee of over $26,000 a month. That is a whopping $312,000 a year. The contract also lists him as a "consultant" even though the website for the Westchase District clearly says he's the general manager. So what is the problem? State law says, "No member of the Legislature may hold any other office or position of profit, except as a notary public." In other words, a legislator cannot hold another taxpayer-funded job.

Roll Call - February 6, 2018

Texas Primaries: What to Watch in the First Contests of 2018

The March 6 elections will be the first primary contests of 2018, and the initial tests of first-time candidates running for Congress — Democrats competing in newly targeted seats and Republicans vying to replace outgoing GOP lawmakers. ... Both parties’ campaign committees have been hesitant (at least publicly) to take sides in the Texas primaries, opening the door for outside groups looking to shape the contests. A number of groups on both sides have already weighed in, and some strategists expect even more involvement in the runoffs. There has been more activity on the Democratic side, particularly with EMILY’s List backing five candidates — including in three races that are top Democratic targets. The influential group backs female Democrats who support abortion rights, and an endorsement can connect candidates to its vast network of donors.

County Stories

San Antonio Express-News - February 9, 2018

Chasnoff: LGBTQIA caucus backing Medina created two weeks ago

When Bexar County Democratic Party Chairman Manuel Medina showed up two weeks ago at a forum of the Stonewall Democrats to seek its endorsement in the March primary, he passed out flyers touting the support of another lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender organization: the Bexar County LGBTQIA Democratic Caucus. No one had ever heard of it. “I’m the head of the gay community here in town,” said Chris Forbrich, president of the Stonewall Democrats of San Antonio, “and I will tell you I have never, ever heard of this.”

Houston Chronicle - February 10, 2018

Nearly six months after Harvey, traction made for potential solutions to Houston's chronic flooding

Local and state leaders are moving toward a major, lengthy and costly overhaul of the region's flood defenses that includes regulating development, massive buyouts of flood-prone properties and flood-prevention projects that have been discussed for decades but never built. Few of the initiatives will be complete before hurricane season starts in June, but nearly six months after Hurricane Harvey ripped through the Texas Gulf Coast and devastated the nation's fourth-largest city, leaders are seeking to address long-ignored shortcomings laid bare by one of the most intense rainstorms in U.S. history. Gov. Greg Abbott says he can write a check for a third reservoir to better protect areas west of Houston from inundation as well as attempt to avoid the types of releases from Addicks and Barker dams that swamped Houston downstream during Harvey.

San Antonio Express-News - February 10, 2018

As dual-credit popularity explodes, Alamo Colleges left holding the tab

Dual-credit courses in Bexar County are exploding in popularity, but their cost has accelerated, too, making the Alamo Colleges and some school districts feeling like victims of their own success. Alarmed at the price tag, Judson Independent School District is phasing out the early college programs at its three comprehensive high schools. The community college district is grappling with questions about the sustainability of its much-lauded dual-credit initiative, which was “a key driver” of a $6.8 million shortfall this year, Chief Budget Officer Shayne West said. Alamo Colleges trustees voted last month to close the budget gap by transferring $3.6 million from reserve funds and deferring some costs. The shortfall will continue next fiscal year, district financial administrators warned.

City Stories

San Antonio Express-News - February 10, 2018

State investigation contradicts fire chief’s early claims about fatal fire

After firefighter Scott Deem died last year in a horrific blaze at the Spartan Gym, Fire Chief Charles Hood spoke at an emotional news conference and staunchly defended the department. Hood said firefighters followed nationally recognized safety standards May 18 when they fought a rapidly spreading fire at the Ingram Square Shopping Center on the Northwest Side. Hood also insisted he would have made the same decision to go “offensive” and send Deem and another rescuer into the smoke-filled gym to search for any trapped civilians. “There is no blame,” Hood said a day after Deem’s death. But the findings of a state investigation published last week flatly disagreed with some of Hood’s assertions.

Austin American-Statesman - February 10, 2018

ICE targets apartments for arrests, critics say

Immigrant advocates in Houston say they’re concerned about U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents targeting apartment buildings with large Latino populations for arrests. The group FIEL Houston said Friday that ICE agents last month arrested Carlos Gudiel Andres, a citizen of Guatemala, at his Houston apartment complex. According to Andres’ family, agents approached him to ask if he knew people they were looking for. Then they asked him for his identification and discovered an active deportation order against him.

Dallas Morning News - October 1, 2018

Amid abysmal voter turnout, should Dallas move its elections to November?

Northern Dallas resident Alex Culin, 37, has lived in the city for about seven years, but has never had local politics on his radar screen. He didn't vote in the last May election, but said he would be more engaged in local issues if he could "kill two birds with one stone" and show up to the polls just once in a year for the November elections. "I have three children under the age of 4," he said. "Just going out and running simple errands can be challenging." Culin was one of hundreds of respondents to a new poll commissioned by The Dallas Morning News and conducted by Austin-based Baselice & Associates. The survey showed that people such as Culin who don't vote in Dallas municipal and school board elections mostly say they're too busy or just not interested. And that doesn't include the large number of people who were probably not as honest as Culin about their voting habits.

National Stories

Politico - February 10, 2018

Democrats dominating Senate fundraising battle

Republicans started the election cycle with designs on expanding their Senate majority, but the GOP's candidates are far behind Democrats in fundraising going into 2018. The numbers are stark: No Republican running for a Democratic-held seat raised more than $1 million from contributors in the fourth quarter of last year, but two Democrats running for seats held by Republicans did. By contrast, of the 10 vulnerable Democrats up for reelection this year in states President Donald Trump carried in 2016, all but West Virginia’s Joe Manchin raised more than $1 million.

San Antonio Express-News - February 10, 2018

Senate to start real debate on immigration

An immigration debate starting Monday in Congress will be rare in its openness, potentially historic in its outcome and fraught with peril for “Dreamers” living in fear for their families and their futures. Despite pleas and protests since President Donald Trump canceled the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program in September, never until now was there going to be a simple vote on the fates of young undocumented Dreamers and the prospect of an immigration overhaul by the Republican-run Congress. But the time for action has arrived, which Majority Leader Mitch McConnell assured in the early morning hours Friday in front of weary senators moments after the difficult passage of a deficit-ballooning budget compromise.

The Hill - February 6, 2018

Citizenship question drives uncertainty over 2020 census

Uncertainly is swirling over whether the Census Bureau will be able to get an accurate population count for the 2020 census, as the agency considers a Department of Justice (DOJ) request to add a controversial question about citizenship status to the census questionnaire. The stakes are enormously high. Census data is used to redraw House districts, and the number of House seats each state receives also plays a part in determining each state’s number of electoral votes. Experts say a citizenship question could seriously skew the numbers if people are too frightened to respond.

Washington Post - February 10, 2018

Why did the GOP vote for a budget-busting spending bill? Because voters don’t seem to care.

More than 70 percent of Republicans in the House and Senate happily voted for the huge bipartisan budget compromise, despite years of preaching the gospel of small government and lowering federal spending. The deal boosted federal agency budgets more than $300 billion, pumped $91 billion into states hit by natural disasters and, for good measure, suspended the limit on the national debt well past this year’s midterm elections. To many observers it was a breathtaking contradiction, with some suggesting there would be political consequences for their profligate spending and abandonment of what used to be a core principle. “When Republicans are in power, it seems there is no conservative party,” Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said in a floor speech in which he also promised to delay a budget vote long enough to cause a brief government shutdown.

Dallas Morning News - February 9, 2018

Lindenberger: Big D.C. compromise isn't pretty, and won't be cheap, but it's great to see McConnell, Ryan lead from the middle

While you slept, Washington treated us to one of its oldest lessons: A little money - or in this case hundreds of billions of dollars - goes a long way toward greasing the wheels of legislative compromise. We may also have seen the marginalization of President Donald Trump and the final comeuppance of the tea party. The swamp, in other words, is looking pretty good this morning. The House and the Senate chiefs led from the middle. The bill they passed last night provides a road map for how much federal agencies can spend over the next two years. No more midnight nail-biting about whether the government will shut down. The bill also waives, for a year, the debt ceiling so that won't hang over Congress like an invitation to grandstand, either.

Politico - February 10, 2018

Trump: Democrats' memo was 'very political,' must 'redo'

President Donald Trump on Saturday blamed House Democrats for his decision to not release their formal response to a GOP memo alleging misconduct by top FBI officials amid the Russia investigation, saying the response was "very political" and that the lawmakers knew information in it would need to be "heavily redacted." "The Democrats sent a very political and long response memo which they knew, because of sources and methods (and more), would have to be heavily redacted, whereupon they would blame the White House for lack of transparency," the president wrote on Twitter. "Told them to re-do and send back in proper form!"

Washington Post - February 10, 2018

The No. 3 official at Justice is resigning. Here’s how that affects Mueller.

Only weeks after Robert S. Mueller III was appointed to serve as special counsel overseeing the investigation into the Trump campaign’s possible connections to Russian actors, rumors were rampant that President Trump wanted to bring the ax down. It’s not easy for Trump to fire Mueller, as we noted at the time, since technically Mueller can only be fired by Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein. ... So, if Trump wants to execute a Saturday Night Massacre of Mueller and Rosenstein demurs, it is Francisco who’d next be asked to carry out the task. In 1973, it was Nixon’s solicitor general — future Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork — who fired Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox. Of course, all of this may be unnecessary. Earlier this week, I spoke with Louis Seidman, Carmack Waterhouse professor of constitutional law at Georgetown University. He explained that he didn’t think Trump was likely to fire Mueller. Instead, if he wanted to obstruct Mueller’s investigation, he could probably fire Rosenstein and replace him with any other already-Senate-confirmed administration official under the Vacancies Reform Act of 1998. (“Probably,” because it’s not clear that this applies to someone who is fired.) If so, Trump could fire Rosenstein, make, say, Energy Secretary Rick Perry the deputy attorney general, and let Perry refuse to allow Mueller to file any more indictments or subpoenas.

New York Times - February 9, 2018

U.S. Spies, Seeking to Retrieve Cyberweapons, Paid Russian Peddling Trump Secrets

After months of secret negotiations, a shadowy Russian bilked American spies out of $100,000 last year, promising to deliver stolen National Security Agency cyberweapons in a deal that he insisted would also include compromising material on President Trump, according to American and European intelligence officials. The cash, delivered in a suitcase to a Berlin hotel room in September, was intended as the first installment of a $1 million payout, according to American officials, the Russian and communications reviewed by The New York Times. The theft of the secret hacking tools had been devastating to the N.S.A., and the agency was struggling to get a full inventory of what was missing. Several American intelligence officials said they made clear that they did not want the Trump material from the Russian, who was suspected of having murky ties to Russian intelligence and to Eastern European cybercriminals.

Austin American-Statesman - February 10, 2018

Herman: Who pays for presidential guests at State of the Union?

The deal with President Donald Trump is that by any given Friday, you can’t remember what the previous Tuesday’s dust-up-du-jour was. Who remembers much about his Jan. 30 State of the Union speech? And that’s despite Trump keeping it in the news by alleging Democrats who didn’t applaud his every word committed punishable-by-death treason by America-hating. Me? I’m circling back to the speech at the request of American-Statesman reader Mary Ann Robalino, who, in a recent letter to the editor published this week, had some questions about it.

Dallas Morning News - February 8, 2018

Onwuka: When did unemployment stop mattering to black leaders?

Unfortunately, the Congressional Black Caucus sat stone-faced during the State of the Union address when President Donald Trump touted the historically low black unemployment rate. Days prior, rapper Jay-Z dismissed black job creation under the Trump administration as well. Combating black unemployment was a top concern for black leaders and influencers until Trump came along, promoting private sector, pro-growth solutions that work. It's shameful that black congressional leaders are so resistant to the president that they would boycott any good news for the communities they represent just to avoid giving him any credit. Jay-Z went out of his way to avoid giving the president any credit either for the decline in black unemployment because according to him, "Money doesn't equate to happiness." Imagine if a Republican had said something similar.

New York Times - February 10, 2018

Kolhatkar: When Wall Street Writes Its Own Rules

On July 25, 2013, a high-ranking federal law enforcement officer took a public stand against malfeasance on Wall Street. Preet Bharara, then the United States attorney for the Southern District of New York, held a news conference to announce one of the largest Wall Street criminal cases the American justice system had ever seen. Mr. Bharara’s office had just indicted the multibillion-dollar hedge fund firm SAC Capital Advisors, charging it with wire fraud and insider trading. Standing before a row of television cameras, Mr. Bharara described the case in momentous terms, saying that it involved illegal trading that was “substantial, pervasive and on a scale without precedent in the history of hedge funds.” His legal action that day, he assured the public, would send a strong message to the financial industry that cheating was not acceptable and that prosecutors and regulators would take swift action when behavior crossed the line.

New York Times - February 10, 2018

Bruni: Corporations Will Inherit the Earth

What a herky-jerky mess our federal government is. What a bumbling klutz. It can’t manage health care. It can’t master infrastructure. It can’t fund itself for more than tiny increments of time. It can barely stay open. It shut down briefly on Friday for the second time in three weeks. Maybe it should just stay closed for good. Let corporations pick up the slack! In fact they’re doing that already, with an innovation and can-do ambition sorely absent in Washington. Three days before the latest shutdown, Elon Musk borrowed a launchpad previously used by NASA’s trailblazing astronauts to send his own rocket into space. It was the first time that a vessel of such might and majesty was thrust heavenward by a private company rather than a government agency.

Wall St. Journal - February 10, 2018

Experimental Drug Promises to Kill the Flu Virus in a Day

As Americans suffer through the worst influenza outbreak in almost a decade, a Japanese drugmaker says it has developed a pill that can kill the virus within a day. But even if the experimental drug lives up to the claim, it likely won’t be available in the U.S. until next year at the earliest. A late-stage trial on Japanese and American flu patients found that for the people who took the Shionogi 4507 -3.04% & Co. compound, the median time taken to wipe out the virus was 24 hours. That is much quicker than any other flu drug on the market, including Roche AG’s RHHBY -0.07% Tamiflu, which the trial showed took three times longer to achieve the same result. Quickly killing the virus could reduce its contagious effects, Shionogi said. Also, Shionogi’s experimental drug requires only a single dose, while patients need to take two doses of Tamiflu a day, for five days.

The Hill - February 10, 2018

Rand Paul revels in role of Senate troublemaker

Rand Paul seems to revel in frustrating fellow members of the Senate — and that makes his blatant disregard for the chamber’s chummy protocols even more infuriating to them. Paul, the junior senator from Kentucky, appeared to thumb his nose at fellow Republicans Thursday night when he posed for a picture with conservative Reps. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) and Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) just off the Senate floor. They posed with their arms folded, grinning for the camera in the midst of a government shutdown fight that Paul himself had triggered.

Newsclips - February 9, 2018

Lead Stories

San Antonio Express-News - February 8, 2018

Garcia: Abbott disguises personal revenge as political principle

Things started out well enough between Lyle Larson and Greg Abbott. In Feb. 2015, just a few weeks after Abbott took over as governor, Larson, the San Antonio-based District 122 state representative, welcomed the stylistic contrast between Abbott and his brash predecessor, Rick Perry. Larson said the “humility Abbott has brought (to the office) is refreshing.” He also praised the governor’s willingness to pull the plug on the Emerging Technology Fund and reform the Texas Enterprise Fund, two programs often derided as pay-to-play slush funds for Perry’s political donors. By January 2017, Larson had cooled considerably on Abbott, stating that he found parts of last year’s State of the State speech “very demeaning, very condescending.”

Texas Tribune - February 8, 2018

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick rails against Republicans who criticize "your own team"

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick took special jabs at fellow Republicans in a speech on Thursday, saying conservatives shouldn't go against their own party. "When I hear people today who criticize the conservatives who have led this state for the last 15 years, it's one thing if you're on the other side of the team — but sometimes when it comes from your own team, I don't understand," he said. Patrick didn't mention any Republicans by name while speaking at an annual policy conference hosted by the conservative Texas Public Policy Foundation in Austin. But last year Patrick has clashed publicly with Republican House Speaker Joe Straus, of San Antonio, whose critics have painted him as a moderate holding up the conservative agenda of the state Senate that Patrick presides over.

Washington Post - February 9, 2018

Senate passes sweeping spending bill, sends measure to House for crucial vote to end government shutdown

The Senate passed a sweeping bipartisan spending bill Friday morning, but not before the federal government shut down when Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) delayed the vote past midnight to complain about the budget deficit. It was the second government shutdown in less than three weeks. The spending legislation passed 71-28, with wide bipartisan support. The bill would reopen the government while showering hundreds of billions of dollars on defense and domestic priorities, speeding disaster aid to hurricane-hit regions, and lifting the federal borrowing limit for a year. But first it must pass the House, where opposition from the left and the right made the outcome uncertain. House votes were expected later Friday morning.

Texas Public Radio - February 7, 2018

Campaign Finance System Of Big Money Now Overshadows Watergate-Era Reforms

After the Watergate scandals in the 1970s, Congress passed a series of laws to reduce the influence of big donors in politics and to increase transparency. Forty years later, those laws have been weakened by additional legislation and a series of court decisions. Where the Watergate reforms established a single regulated system used by all candidates to finance their political campaigns, there are now three separate systems. ...In 2016, individuals spent $5.2 billion on federal elections. Half of that money, $2.6 billion, came from just 19,145 people, about as many as live in Johnstown, Pa. All of this comes from new research from the Bipartisan Policy Center, which examines American's campaign finance system and how it's coming apart.

State Stories

Dallas Morning News - February 8, 2018

Gov. Greg Abbott leaves little to chance as he implores Texans, 'Four more years'

Gov. Greg Abbott has $43 million in his campaign account, a formidable campaign organization and the backing of hard-core conservative Republican primary voters. So why is he running his re-election campaign like he's behind? "The Abbott team is pursuing the campaign like they're tied or like they're behind because they don't want to make a mistake," said University of Houston political scientist Brandon Rottinghaus. "This is the kind of political environment where a slip-up or a couple of issues turn an electorate around," he said. "So being certain and really pinning down your electorate is critical. They're just trying to minimize mistakes."

Dallas Morning News - February 8, 2018

Parker: Dan Patrick is giving conservatism a bad name in Texas

As he clambers down from the cab of that vintage Chevy pickup on television, I half expect Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick to start talking about the price of feed. But nah: It's a campaign commercial designed for him to come across as a real, rootin', tootin' Texan. The boots, jeans and jacket tell you he's a Texan (by way of Maryland), he supports Donald Trump down on the border and he's a "principled conservative." At the end I think we're all supposed to yell: "Hell boys, he's one of us!" Well, nah. Instead, Patrick, who has a primary opponent next month, is the icon for exactly what's wrong with the Republican Party in Texas. His right-wing theocracy is way more concerned with bedrooms, bathrooms, reproduction and guns than with his actual job: fixing schools, infrastructure and hurricane damage. Most importantly, though, Patrick is way out of step with the Texas of today.

Dallas Morning News - February 8, 2018

Dan Patrick said he'd keep the Wendy Davis filmmakers out of the Texas Senate. But is that his call to make?

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has said he would ban filmmakers making a movie about Wendy Davis' 2013 filibuster from the Texas Senate. But is that his call to make? "It saddens me that Sandra Bullock has agreed to play Wendy Davis in a movie. Sandra Bullock, I used to like her," Patrick said Thursday during a speech at the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a conservative think tank. "And by the way, if I have anything to do with it, I'm not going to let them use the Senate chamber to shoot." The movie, Let Her Speak, chronicles Davis' attempts to block a strict anti-abortion bill from becoming law.

Dallas Morning News - February 8, 2018

With Trump in charge, why is Texas still suing the federal government? Because now it can win

When Texas Gov. Greg Abbott was attorney general, he’d brag about his daily routine: “I go into the office, I sue the federal government and I go home.” His successor in the job, Ken Paxton, was eager to take up that mantle. Promising supporters during his 2014 campaign that he’d keep up the pressure on President Barack Obama, Paxton would ask his wife, Angela, to sing that tune she’d written. “I’m a pistol packin’ mama," she'd croon to the crowds. "And my husband sues Obama.” But Texas' fractious relationship with the government was turned on its head when Donald Trump came into office, Paxton has said. The state no longer has to fight tooth and nail because the new president has promised to roll back dozens of Obama-era rules and regulations.

Dallas Morning News - February 8, 2018

It's back to basics at 'Baby Judges School' in Fort Worth for two new federal judges from Texas

Two Texans with more than two decades of combined experience on the bench are spending the week going back to basics at "Baby Judges School" in Fort Worth. The judges, former Texas Supreme Court Justice Don Willett and former U.S. magistrate judge Walter David Counts III, are headed back to the classroom after the Senate confirmed them to federal court judgeships. Willett was named to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals and Counts will be a U.S. district judge in the Western District of Texas, where he had served as a magistrate judge. They are part of a group of 10 trial judges and three appellate judges who will attend panels from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day, ranging from criminal and civil procedure to workplace harassment. The orientation is not open to the public or the press.

Dallas Morning News - February 8, 2018

TABC taps alcohol distributors to help fight human trafficking at bars, restaurants, liquor stores

The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission wants alcohol delivery people to be on the lookout for signs of human trafficking in TABC-licensed bars, restaurants and liquor stores. This week, the department launched a program to train employees of alcohol distributors to identify warning signs of human trafficking and report those signs to the TABC anonymously. TABC law enforcement personnel will investigate. The move comes as the state is stepping up its public outreach to combat human trafficking, a crime in which Texas, and particularly Houston, play outsized roles.

Dallas Morning News - February 8, 2018

George P. Bush faces more questions about donations from businesses that won contracts from his office

Questions about political donations from businesses that won state contracts from his office continue to mire George P. Bush's campaign, a month before the Republican primary elections. On Wednesday, the Austin American-Statesman reported that Bush received at least $129,000 in donations from companies and their employees who have received about $164 million in state contracts since he took over the General Land Office as commissioner. This follows reports last week that two companies received $29 million in contracts for Hurricane Harvey recovery after executives donated to Bush's campaign and a consulting group donated $27,500 three days after receiving a contract.

Dallas Morning News - February 8, 2018

Democratic judge won't recuse himself from case to toss 127 Democratic candidates off ballot

Dallas County Republicans have filed a motion to remove Judge Eric Moyé from overseeing a lawsuit that would remove 127 Democrats from the 2018 general election ballot. Moyé, a Democrat, has refused to step aside in the case, according to court documents. His decision is unlike one he made in an earlier case about ballot eligibility, when he recused himself. Elizabeth Bingham, a lawyer for the Dallas County Republican Party, said it "boggles the mind" that Moyé did not remove himself from the case, given his ties to the Democratic Party and that he's done so on similar cases. Moyé, who is not up for re-election, has used Jeff Dalton as his political consultant. Dalton is the consultant for numerous Democrats on the 2018 election ballots.

Dallas Morning News - February 8, 2018

DMN: We recommend Ruby Faye Woolridge in the Democratic primary for the 6th Congressional District

Decades of inspired community service make Ruby Faye Woolridge the best choice over four first-time candidates in the Democratic primary for the 6th Congressional District. Woolridge, 69, has a strong command of the district, with a record of service on city, county and state boards. Her varied background as a small-business owner and a school counselor give her a range of experience, which shows in her knowledge of school funding and smart approaches to closing the income gap between the rich and the poor. (She'd support raising the minimum wage to $15, for example, phased in over three years.)

Austin American-Statesman - February 8, 2018

After standing up biz group, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick lobs bombs their way

In a speech to the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a conservative think tank in line with his brand of GOP politics, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick on Thursday quoted the Bible, accused liberals of trying to turn Texas into California and joked that environmentalists have got Republicans all wrong. “Republicans and conservatives love the environment,” he said. “We love clean water, so we can find the fish. We love clean air so we can spot the birds when they come by, load the shotgun.” As he did for years on his talk radio show, Patrick was preaching to the choir, and he was enjoying it.

Austin American-Statesman - February 8, 2018

UT System shuts Institute for Transformational Learning to cut costs

The University of Texas System has closed a unit that works to expand online classes and competency-based education after allocating it nearly $100 million since its inception in 2012. The action last week was not surprising, given that a reconstituted Board of Regents wants to cut system administration spending to free up more money for the various UT campuses. In all, the system’s Institute for Transformational Learning has received about $98 million from the multibillion-dollar Permanent University Fund overseen by the regents. Although it had been budgeted for 46 employees last year, the unit was already beginning to wind down with the resignations of the executive director and the chief innovation officer.

Austin American-Statesman - February 8, 2018

Federal trial to begin on ending statewide election of Texas judges

Democrats haven’t won an election to the state’s highest courts since 1994, but that record of futility could be broken as a little-noticed lawsuit heads to trial next week in a Corpus Christi federal court. Filed on behalf of seven Latino voters and an organization founded by the late civil rights activist Cesar Chavez, the lawsuit argues that statewide elections for seats on the Texas Supreme Court and Court of Criminal Appeals violate the Voting Rights Act by diluting Latino voting strength and denying Latinos the right to elect a candidate of their choice. The lawsuit asks U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos — whose August decision invalidating the state’s voter ID law is currently on appeal — to order Texas to adopt single-member districts for both courts, creating at least two Latino-majority voting districts based in the Rio Grande Valley and West Texas

Austin American-Statesman - February 8, 2018

Texas teachers defend public schools on Twitter

An ambitious effort by a conservative group to ferret out public school employees who might be illegally endorsing political candidates appeared to backfire this week. Empower Texans sent letters to an unknown number of public school teachers and their supporters across the state asking them to report colleagues using public money to promote liberal candidates. By Thursday, public school employees and their supporters — including school board members, lawmakers and family members of teachers and students — had posted hundreds of tweets condemning Empower Texans and using the hashtag #blowingthewhistle to highlight the good things teachers and public schools do.

Austin American-Statesman - February 8, 2018

Exclusive: General Land Office audit questions Alamo management

On Dec. 5, the state Senate Finance Committee questioned Land Commissioner George P. Bush and the agency’s general counsel, Jeff Gordon, about the three nonprofits the General Land Office had set up to manage, promote and raise money for the Alamo — each with its own mission but with identical boards made up of Bush and 10 of the state’s most recognizable movers and shakers. What most vexed the senators was that Alamo Complex Management, the nonprofit responsible for day-to-day operations of the most iconic site in Texas, was entirely funded by public dollars but without the scrutiny and transparency that is supposed to follow those dollars. “You probably need to look at a different way to do this. There’s too many boxes that are not open to the public and that’s a problem, especially if we are going to put tax money into it,” said Sen. Robert Nichols, R-Jacksonville, adding that the obscure workings of the Alamo boards had seeded public suspicions. “Y’all need to get ahead of this thing – and you’re behind.”

Dallas Morning News - February 1, 2018

DMN: We recommend Lander Bethel in Democratic primary for U.S. House District 4

Democrats in Texas' Fourth Congressional District have two thoughtful and passionate candidates to choose from. Catherine Krantz, 46, and Lander Bethel, 60, are first-time candidates for public office; both show promise. We recommend Bethel, based on the breadth of his community involvement and knowledge of the issues facing Congress, ranging from trade policy to spending priorities and healthcare. Bethel has labored the last seven years as a leader, and ultimately chairman, of the Grayson County Democratic Party and has for many years been a full-time pastor and community volunteer.

Texas Tribune - February 8, 2018

After FBI report on agent's death, Cornyn warns against jumping to conclusions

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said Thursday that the results of an FBI investigation into the death of a Border Patrol agent who died late last year should serve as a cautionary tale against jumping to conclusions. Border Patrol agent Rogelio Martinez, 36, died in November after sustaining severe head and body trauma while on patrol in the West Texas town of Van Horn. His death prompted some lawmakers to quickly call for increased border security after they assumed the death was a result of foul play. But the FBI's El Paso field office on Wednesday said that after several hundred interviews, the agency has concluded that the agent's death was more likely the result of an accident. The FBI findings were first reported by The Washington Post.

Texas Tribune - February 9, 2018

In this Texas Democratic primary, the Clinton/Sanders divide still lingers

Two years ago, Beverly Powell and Allison Campolo found themselves on opposite sides of a question dividing Democrats across the country: What kind of Democrat do you want? Powell, a real estate developer, backed former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to be the party's nominee for president. Campolo, a research scientist, supported U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent from Vermont who gained momentum vowing to shake up the status quo and challenge corporate interests in politics. Now both women are running in the Democratic primary to run against state Sen. Konni Burton, R-Colleyville, and are finding themselves again falling into similar camps.

Texas Tribune - February 5, 2018

Alcorn: Texas educators should be teaching students to vote

I am the superintendent of the Haskell CISD, a small and rural school district in west Texas. I have dedicated my life as an educator to small, rural school districts. In the 40 years that I have worked, each year I have become more aware of two things: The future of Texas is only as strong as its public education system, and Texas is such a large and diverse state that there is no one way to approach any issue. Recently, I have become convinced that an engaged and voting citizenry is the best solution to both of these challenges facing our state.

Texas Tribune - February 8, 2018

Amid mounting debate over toll lanes, transportation commissioner says it's time for 'new blood'

One of the state’s most influential transportation officials on Thursday said he’s stepping down from the board that oversees the Texas Department of Transportation to make way for “new blood.” Texas Transportation Commission member Victor Vandergriff, who said his resignation is effective Friday, is the second person since last week to announce their exit from the five-person board. The departures come after Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, who appoints transportation commissioners, told the body not to use toll lanes to help fund highway expansions and renovations throughout the state. That directive came hours after The Texas Tribune reported that TxDOT officials considered classifying the tolled and non-tolled portions of some highway rebuilds and expansions as separate construction jobs to get around a constitutional prohibition on using some state tax revenues on projects that have toll lanes.

Texas Tribune - February 9, 2018

Ramsey: “You come at the king, you best not miss”

With little to lose in his own primary this year, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is finding his risks lower on the ballot by taking sides in three races against state representatives who have directly or indirectly challenged him on ethics issues. That headline is a quote from Omar Little, a dangerous character in The Wire. Legislators and governors aren’t royalty, and most of them aren’t gangsters, either. But the logic still applies: Winning is sweet, but losing a fight against someone with power breeds trouble in the future. If Abbott’s candidates win, he’ll have a strongman’s claim on the state Legislature; cross Abbott and risk your seat. That could be an effective threat for the 181 Senate and House members who take their legislative seats 11 months from now.

Houston Chronicle - February 8, 2018

Despite Gov. Greg Abbott's veto, Harris County seeks to criminalize floodplain violations

Harris County officials are asking state lawmakers to pass a bill that would criminalize the violation of the county's floodplain regulations, despite Gov. Greg Abbott's veto of such legislation last year. Josh Stuckey, the county's chief administrative officer for public infrastructure coordination, told state lawmakers at a hearing earlier this week that the current law only allows the county to pursue costly and drawn-out civil lawsuits against potential violators, which he said were "painful for them and painful for us."

San Antonio Express-News - February 8, 2018

Two attorneys take fundraising lead in GOP race to replace Straus

In the six-person GOP primary to determine what brand of conservatism might replace House Speaker Joe Straus in his north Bexar County district, attorneys Marc Whyte and Steve Allison on Monday reported the largest fundraising and cash on hand totals among the crowded Republican field. Whyte, a business attorney, took in $32,000 in the first three-plus weeks of the year, adding to the fundraising haul of $86,000 he reported at the end of 2017. Allison, a former Alamo Heights School Board president, raised $27,000 and maintained $64,000 in cash. Craig Murphy, a consultant with Allison’s campaign, said he was happy with his candidate’s fundraising haul but added that sheer fundraising ability is “not what it takes to win in a district like this.”

Ft. Worth Star-Telegram - February 8, 2018

Dallas Dreamers get webpage that includes emergency plan in case of deportation

As federal lawmakers debate the fate of hundreds of thousands of so-called Dreamer immigrants, the Dallas school district launched a new webpage dedicated to guiding immigrants. The site, which is in English and Spanish, includes family resources such as where to find legal assistance and a template for a family emergency plan in case of deportation. "As a member of an immigrant family, I see myself reflected in the faces of your children, and your faces are those of my parents who sacrificed, worked and dreamed of a brighter future for their children," Superintendent Michael Hinojosa wrote in a letter for families.

KXAN - February 5, 2018

Texas leaders ‘drill down’ on changes that could put more youth in the military

State lawmakers will address the military readiness of Texas youth in a public hearing this week. The Senate Committee on Veteran Affairs & Border Security will take a closer look at military recruiting in Texas over the next 5 to 10 years. ... According to the Council for a Strong America, 73 percent of Texans between 17 to 24 years old cannot qualify for military service. “We know that there are barriers that make them ineligible: education, obesity, drug problems and crime,” said State Sen.ator Donna Campbell, R-New Braunfels. Campbell chairs the committee that will address the topic Wednesday in San Antonio.

Victoria Advocate - February 4, 2018

Texas Comptroller: Texas has a strong economy

Texas has the 10th largest economy in the world and has a bright future, Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar says. Hegar conveyed that message Thursday at the 2018 Victoria Chamber of Commerce Banquet. "I don't know about you, but every day I wake up and I'm proud to call Texas home," he said. "We live in a very blessed state. We're very fortunate to be in this state, especially from an economic perspective."

County Stories

Austin American-Statesman - February 8, 2018

Eckhardt calls for ‘laser focus’ on eastern Travis County needs in 2018

Better jobs, better roads and transit options, more health care and a “vibrant food hub” are overdue — but on their way — to eastern Travis County, County Judge Sarah Eckhardt declared Thursday evening. “Families in Northeast and Southeast Travis County deserve to share in the prosperity that they helped build,” Eckhardt said in her State of the County address. “In 2018, I will put a laser focus on communities and projects with the highest probability of putting prosperity in reach of those families.” Those projects ranged from conceptual ideas to plans already in motion. Eckhardt pointed to last year’s $185 million roads, parks and drainage bond package, which contained projects primarily in eastern parts of the county. It passed with more than 70 percent of the vote.

Dallas Morning News - February 8, 2018

John Wiley Price drops bomb on Clay Jenkins: 'You do everything for the sake of political expediency and posturing'

Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins may technically hold higher office than Commissioner John Wiley Price, but Price loves to remind Jenkins that he wields at least as much political influence, if not more. Price often cracks jokes at Jenkins' expense during commissioners court meetings, but last week Price took his attacks on Jenkins to a new level with a nasty letter that was the oratory equivalent of a middle finger. "As usual, you are behind the curve, so please allow me the privilege of bringing you up to speed," Price started out his Feb. 2 letter.

Dallas Morning News - February 8, 2018

LBJ East funding shortfall could spread the pain to Denton, Kaufman and Rockwall counties

The sacrifice for a $1.8 billion freeway project in Dallas County spread into Denton, Kaufman and Rockwall counties when a new plan unveiled Thursday showed highway connections to those places may have to wait in order to fund LBJ East. Three projects were identified as collateral to come up with the money to improve 10.8 miles of Interstate 635 in Lake Highlands, Garland and Mesquite — known as LBJ East and widely accepted as the region's No. 1 transportation need. Projects that could be potentially delayed are a $128 million fix of the Interstate 30 bridge over Lake Ray Hubbard; $262 million in work on Interstate 35E between LBJ and the Denton County line; and $263 million earmarked for U.S. Highway 80 east of Town East Boulevard on toward Forney in Kaufman County.

Dallas Morning News - February 8, 2018

Texas DA dismisses 13 cases against bikers in Twin Peaks shootout

A Texas prosecutor on Thursday dismissed 13 cases stemming from a 2015 shootout in Waco involving bikers and police and recused himself from two others, placing into doubt the criminal prosecution of the more than 130 bikers still awaiting trial. The actions came hours before a scheduled hearing for Jorge Salinas, whose case was among those dismissed. Current and former staff had been due to speak at the hearing about corruption allegations against District Attorney Abel Reyna, who faces a Republican primary election in March. The hearing was canceled. According to a motion filed Thursday, the prosecutor dismissed Salinas' case "in order to focus its efforts and resources on co-defendants with a higher level of culpability."

City Stories

Ft. Worth Star-Telegram - February 8, 2018

Could this driverless, monorail people mover be part of Fort Worth’s future?

This could be Fort Worth’s version of “Tomorrowland.” In their quest to solve Fort Worth’s growing traffic congestion problems, city officials are taking a look at perhaps building a driverless, overhead monorail people mover system that resembles the type of transit used at Disney’s Tomorrowland for decades. ... But Wednesday, the transportation authority had a special meeting to hear a pitch from the president of a company that specializes in making low-cost, low-speed but highly efficient driverless trains.

National Stories

Associated Press - February 8, 2018

Used to scuffles, Rand Paul takes on Senate, risks shutdown

The last time Sen. Rand Paul was in the news for a scuffle, it involved a neighbor who allegedly tackled him in his yard over a lawn dispute. Thursday night, the Kentucky Republican took on the entire U.S. Senate — and rather than fisticuffs, his weapons of choice were obstinacy and the chamber's weird rules. With the clock ticking toward a midnight government shutdown, the 55-year-old lawmaker, ophthalmologist and veteran Senate pest made himself the sole obstacle to his chamber's quick passage of legislation keeping federal agencies open. The measure — which would shower the Pentagon and domestic programs with around $400 billion in new spending — was destined for overwhelming Senate approval, no matter what Paul did.

This article appeared in the San Antonio Express News

Wall St. Journal - February 8, 2018

Dow Industrials Plunge Into Correction

The Dow Jones Industrial Average and S&P 500 entered correction territory for the first time in two years on Thursday as worries about rising interest rates and newfound volatility continued to rattle the markets. The Dow hadn’t been in a correction—a decline of at least 10% from a recent high—since February 2016. And traders were bracing for more upheaval. “We opened around the highest levels of the day and closed at the lows, and that’s telling us the sellers aren’t quite done yet,” said Jonathan Corpina, senior managing partner at broker-dealer Meridian Equity Partners.

Dallas Morning News - February 8, 2018

His $25B border wall request stalled for now, Trump will seek $3B down payment, reports say

The White House has asked Congress for $25 billion to execute the president's vision of a "big beautiful wall" along the U.S.-Mexico border. But with that request stalled -- tied to a contentious plan to curb legal immigration in exchange for providing legal status to 1.8 million young immigrants --President Donald Trump is taking another tack. The budget blueprint he will unveil on Monday will include a more modest $3 billion for wall construction, according to multiple news reports from a briefing Thursday with a senior White House budget official.

Austin American-Statesman - February 8, 2018

Congressional budget deal includes $89.3 billion for disaster relief

Texas stands to benefit from the budget deal reached between Senate and House leaders with a considerable injection of disaster relief funds. The deal includes $89.3 billion to respond to the effects of hurricanes in Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands and wildfires and mudslides in California, up from $81 billion in earlier legislation. U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, the No. 2 Senate Republican who helped fashion the bill, said that the additional $8 billion is going to funding needs for Texas. “This was designed with Texas in mind,” Cornyn told reporters Thursday.

Dallas Morning News - February 8, 2018

George W. Bush says there's 'pretty clear evidence' that Russia meddled in 2016 U.S. election

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates -- Former President George W. Bush said on Thursday that "there's pretty clear evidence that the Russians meddled" in the 2016 American presidential election, forcefully rebutting fellow Republican Donald Trump's denials of Moscow trying to affect the vote. While never mentioning President Trump by name, Bush appeared to be pushing back on Trump's attempts to have warmer relations with Russia, as well as his comments on immigration. The White House did not immediately comment on Bush's remarks. "There's pretty clear evidence that the Russians meddled," Bush said at a talk in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates. "Whether they affected the outcome is another question."

New York Times - February 8, 2018

Evangelicals, Having Backed Trump, Find White House ‘Front Door Is Open’

When the White House wants to gather evangelicals for one of its many issue-specific “listening sessions,” the Rev. Johnnie Moore is often one of the first to hear. It wasn’t always clear that Mr. Moore, a 34-year-old Southern Baptist minister who was a co-chairman of the Trump campaign’s evangelical advisory board, would be a frequent White House guest. Some critics, and even some evangelicals, wondered whether conservative Christians’ sometimes uneasy alliance with the Trump campaign was a marriage of convenience that would be abandoned after Inauguration Day. But one year in, conservative religious leaders are hailing the president’s actions in office. “This White House, the front door is open to evangelicals,” said Mr. Moore, who estimates that he has visited at least 20 times since Mr. Trump took office, averaging nearly once every other week. “It hasn’t been evangelicals reaching into the White House. It’s been the White House reaching out to evangelicals. Not a day goes by when there aren’t a dozen evangelical leaders in the White House for something.”

Arizona Republic - February 2, 2018

Architect Miller: Why Trump's border wall with Mexico just won't work

As a nation, we’ve been talking about the idea of an enhanced border wall — for two years. There’s not, yet, a concrete proposal. We don’t know if it is solid or porous, if water and wildlife can move through it, or from what materials it will be made. We don’t know the cost or who is really going to pay for it. We don’t know how long it will run or how high it will be — although, reportedly, it gets a little taller every time the idea gets challenged. We don’t even know all the performance criteria (so we’ll know if it works, or not, once it is built).

Washington Post - February 8, 2018

Dozens at White House lack permanent security clearances

Dozens of White House employees are awaiting permanent security clearances and have been working for months with temporary approvals to handle sensitive information while the FBI continues to probe their backgrounds, according to U.S. officials. People familiar with the security-clearance process said one of those White House officials with an interim approval is Jared Kushner — the president’s son-in-law and one of his most influential advisers. The issue of clearances has become a major area of concern since White House staff secretary Rob Porter resigned after allegations surfaced that he had been violent toward his two ex-wives — accusations he has denied.

Politico - February 8, 2018

#MeToo movement lawmaker investigated for sexual misconduct allegations

California Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia — whose high-profile advocacy of the #MeToo movement earned her national media notice — is herself the subject of a state legislative investigation in the wake of a report that she sexually harassed and groped a former legislative staffer. In December, when Time magazine announced that “Silence Breakers” who spoke out against sexual harassment were its Persons of the Year, Garcia’s face was prominently included in the art accompanying the cover story. But Daniel Fierro of Cerritos told POLITICO that in 2014, as a 25-year-old staffer to Assemblyman Ian Calderon, he was groped by Garcia, a powerful Democratic lawmaker who chairs the Legislative Women’s Caucus and the Natural Resources Committee.

The Hill - February 7, 2018

Uranium One informant makes Clinton allegations to Congress

An FBI informant connected to the Uranium One controversy told three congressional committees in a written statement that Moscow routed millions of dollars to America with the expectation it would be used to benefit Bill Clinton's charitable efforts while Secretary of State Hillary Clinton quarterbacked a “reset” in U.S.-Russian relations. The informant, Douglas Campbell, said in the statement obtained by The Hill that he was told by Russian nuclear executives that Moscow had hired the American lobbying firm APCO Worldwide specifically because it was in position to influence the Obama administration, and more specifically Hillary Clinton. Democrats have cast doubt on Campbell’s credibility, setting the stage for a battle with Republicans over his testimony.

Dallas Morning News - February 8, 2018

Ted Cruz signals fight over Trump diplomat pick who spread 'tinfoil hat' conspiracy theories about him

Sen. Ted Cruz signaled a bruising fight Thursday if the White House pushes ahead with the nominee for a coveted Caribbean diplomatic post who spread unfounded conspiracy theories about him during the 2016 campaign. As an ardent cheerleader for Donald Trump, beauty supply executive Leandro Rizzuto Jr. used Twitter to promote an unsubstantiated allegation that Cruz cheated on his wife, and other claims that Heidi Cruz herself was part of a cabal seeking to unite North America under one government. "I don't know the fellow. He seems to have unusual views," Cruz said Thursday through an aide. "I expect he'll have an interesting and vigorous confirmation process."

Politico - February 7, 2018

How Betsy DeVos softened her message on school choice

Betsy DeVos became famous — and infamous in some quarters — as the leader of an education movement that pushed for public funding for private schools, including religious education. But a year into her tenure as President Donald Trump’s Education secretary, DeVos generally steers clear of the words, “school choice,” a phrase she once used often that's freighted with racial, demographic and religious implications. Instead, she opts for gentler terms such as “innovation” and “blended learning,” and speaks of coming together and “finding solutions.”

Associated Press - February 8, 2018

Obama-backed committee targeting races in 11 states

A Democratic group backed by former President Barack Obama said this week it plans to invest millions of dollars in state-level elections in 11 states this year, with its heaviest focus on Ohio. The National Democratic Redistricting Committee, led by former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, said this year's election cycle is critical to affecting the congressional redistricting process. It is the first cycle whose winners will participate in drawing congressional maps for the decade starting in 2021. The push comes amid bipartisan national concern that political gerrymandering, the process of drawing maps that benefit one party over another, has led to partisanship, gridlock and incivility in Washington.

This article appeared in the San Antonio Express-News

Austin American-Statesman - February 6, 2018

Inglis: ‘Conscience’ division at HHS aims to reignite culture wars

Did you know that health care workers are complaining to the government that they’re suffering from discrimination by employers for declining to give care that violates their religious beliefs? I didn’t either. What’s more, in 30 years of providing health care, I’ve never heard of an employee who felt their religious freedoms were threatened. But the regulation-averse Trump administration thinks it’s such a pressing problem that on Jan. 18, it announced a proposed new regulation and the creation of the Conscience and Religious Freedom Division within the civil rights office of the federal Department of Health and Human Services. The announcement was carefully choreographed for the day before the March for Life in Washington D.C., giving anti-abortion activists renewed energy.

Washington Post - February 7, 2018

That big swing to Democrats in Missouri isn’t the great news for the party that it seems

There are a lot of positive signs for the Democratic Party’s chances in the 2018 midterms. On the generic congressional ballot, asking Americans if they prefer the Democrats or the Republicans to win the House, the Democrats have a 6-point lead in the RealClearPolitics average. President Trump continues to be unpopular, and a president’s unpopularity tends to mean his party does worse in congressional elections. Then there are all of those off-year state and congressional elections, in which the Democrats have picked up a slew of seats and, more broadly, seen huge gains over their performance in 2016. The most recent example of that last effect is in Missouri, where, on Tuesday, there were four special elections to fill vacant seats in the state legislature. All four were held by Republicans; Trump won all four by an average of 49 points in 2016, according to analysis from DailyKos.

Austin American-Statesman - February 2, 2018

Dean: Why it’s time Americans try a little centrism

We’re not even deep into 2018 — and it’s already a cultural steel cage match. Trying to editorialize the daily news has gotten to the point where we might as well post a .gif of a dumpster fire with the caption, “So THIS happened.” And then we’d collectively groan. Consider that we have a president on his third wife who allegedly had an affair with a porn star. His party of old school morals turns a blind eye while the left goes insane, wondering where the Obama-level outrage suddenly disappeared. You can’t make this stuff up.