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Newsclips - May 24, 2019

Lead Stories

Austin American-Statesman - May 24, 2019

Deal reached on property tax relief, school finance bills

Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and House Speaker Dennis Bonnen announced Thursday that lawmakers had struck deals on bills to ratchet down property tax increases and boost public education spending — the twin priorities of the legislative session that ends Monday.

Abbott, Patrick and Bonnen, R-Lake Jackson, appearing at a news conference outside the Governor’s Mansion, were flanked by members of the conference committees assigned to negotiate the differences in the legislation. The moment was full of handshakes, as the leaders basked in what they described as victories of historical proportions and began the political effort of convincing Texans that their legislative work would pay dividends for property owners and classrooms across the state.

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Houston Chronicle - May 23, 2019

How a sleepy Texas trust turned into Permian oil proxy war

The Texas Pacific Land Trust was formed in the late 19th century to hold and manage millions of acres left after a cross-country railroad went bust. A large amount of that land, it turned out, was in the heart of what we now know as the Permian Basin.

Those holdings in the fastest-growing oil and gas basin in the world has vaulted the value of the trust from $300 million in 2012 to nearly $7 billion today, ranking its shares among the best performing on Wall Street. They also have made Texas Pacific the focal point of what is arguably the fiercest shareholder battle in the energy sector. The trust, headquartered in Dallas, has an unusual structure dating back to the 1880s, with a board operated by just three trustees who serve lifetime appointments.

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Bloomberg - May 23, 2019

Buttigieg surges as some voters begin suffering ‘Beto overload’

Kim Sweat is the type of voter who might worry Beto O’Rourke’s campaign. Infatuated with O’Rourke since his 2018 Senate bid in Texas, Sweat hosted a watch party for his presidential campaign launch at her Davenport, Iowa, home in March.

She ordered an O’Rourke yard sign, and she went to two of his early events in Iowa. Then she started to hear more about Pete Buttigieg. After attending her third O’Rourke event on Monday, she concluded: “I’m not as smitten with him anymore.” Sweat’s burgeoning support of Buttigieg and her waning interest in O’Rourke is mirrored in national polls of the 2020 Democratic nomination race. Over the past two months, Buttigieg surged from a virtual unknown to the top tier of contenders as O’Rourke slipped down.

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Associated Press - May 24, 2019

Trump moves to escalate the investigation of intel agencies

President Donald Trump has directed the U.S. intelligence community to “quickly and fully cooperate” with Attorney General William Barr’s investigation of the origins of the multiyear probe of whether his 2016 campaign colluded with Russia.

The move Thursday marked an escalation in Trump’s efforts to “investigate the investigators,” as he continues to try to undermine the findings of special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe amid mounting Democratic calls to bring impeachment proceedings against Trump. Press secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement that Trump is delegating to Barr the “full and complete authority” to declassify documents relating to the probe, which would ease his efforts to review the sensitive intelligence underpinnings of the investigation.

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State Stories

Dallas Morning News - May 24, 2019

Mitchell Schnurman: Pioneer slashes jobs at home and in the Permian, putting Wall Street ahead of people

“We believe in our people. They’re our greatest asset.” That sounds like something any top executive would say. Last fall, those words came from Tim Dove, CEO of Pioneer Natural Resources, after the Irving oil and gas company was named a top local employer for the 10th consecutive year. Alas, Dove is no longer with Pioneer. So is that sentiment gone, too?

Last week, Pioneer laid off 230 employees, using police to escort people off the Irving property and promising to pack up their stuff and mail it to them. The layoffs came after 300 workers had earlier accepted buyout offers — and nearly 350 more positions were eliminated elsewhere. In total, Pioneer has reduced its headcount more than 25% this year, the company said. That’s a startling number, especially for a Fortune 500 company that appears to be rich and healthy — and often brags about employees being treated like family.

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Dallas Morning News - May 23, 2019

'She was murdered, just because.' Texas Senate honors Muhlaysia Booker, transgender woman killed in Dallas

The Texas Senate adjourned Thursday night in honor of Muhlaysia Booker, a transgender woman who was shot and killed in Dallas last weekend. "She was beaten, just because. She was murdered, just because," Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas, said during a speech on the Senate floor Thursday evening. "When will we move past just because? Transgender rights are human rights."

In April, Booker, 22, was beaten by a group of men who yelled homophobic slurs while filming the incident. Police were still investigating, and had arrested a man who admitted to the beating, when Booker was found fatally shot Saturday morning on the street in Far East Dallas. Dallas police now say her killing bears similarities to two other attacks on transgender women in the last year. Booker was the fourth transgender person killed in the U.S. this year, according to the Human Rights Campaign; on Sunday, a fifth was shot to death in Philadelphia.

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Dallas Morning News - May 23, 2019

Sutherland Springs victims can take federal government to trial for mass shooting, Texas judge rules

A federal judge in Texas has said victims of the 2017 church massacre in Sutherland Springs can continue their lawsuit against the U.S. government for its role in the shooting.

U.S. District Judge Xavier Rodriguez's Thursday ruling is a huge victory for the nine families in the case, which allows them to put federal authorities on trial for alleged negligence. Rodriguez dismissed the government's motion to throw out the case and said the families can begin the discovery process, which allows their lawyers to gather documents and seek interviews with which to make their case.

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Dallas Morning News - May 23, 2019

Dallas Rep. Victoria Neave's bill to tackle Texas’ rape kit backlog heads to Gov. Greg Abbott

A bill aimed at tackling the backlog of an estimated 15,000 untested rape kits in Texas is headed to Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk for signing. House Bill 8 by Rep. Victoria Neave, D-Dallas, would require an audit to determine the number, status and location of all the rape kits in the state. It would also create a timeline requirement for rape kits to prevent future backlogs.

The Lavinia Masters Act is named after a Dallas woman whose rape kit sat untested for more than 20 years after she was raped at knifepoint when she was 13. Masters has become a passionate advocate for survivors of sexual assault and strongly supported Neave’s legislation. Neave’s bill would also prevent law enforcement agencies from destroying rape kits related for uncharged or unsolved cases before the statute of limitations runs out or 40 years go by — the longer of the two.

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Dallas Morning News - May 24, 2019

Texas House sends governor a bill that punishes doctors who fail to treat infants born after abortions

The House on Thursday gave final approval to a bill that would penalize a physician who fails to treat an infant born alive after an abortion. House members agreed to Senate changes and sent to Gov. Greg Abbott the proposed "Born Alive" act, which would subject doctors to a six-figure fine and possible imprisonment.

The vote, 84-57, mostly followed party lines. All Republicans who voted supported House Bill 16. All but six Democrats — all of them from South Texas — voted "nay." Two Democrats were present but did not vote. The bill's author, GOP Rep. Jeff Leach of Plano, has insisted more "teeth" are needed in current laws. Mistreatment of a baby surviving an abortion "has happened in this country," he said. House Democratic Caucus Chairman Chris Turner of Grand Turner, though, suggested the "Born Alive" bill is little more than grandstanding.

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Austin American-Statesman - May 23, 2019

Judge dismisses Empower Texans media credentials lawsuit

A federal judge dismissed a lawsuit Thursday filed by the influential conservative group Empower Texans against a Republican member of the Texas House, claiming that he unfairly denied the group a media credential.

Empower Texans accused Rep. Charlie Geren, R-Fort Worth, chairman of the Committee on House Administration, of “unconstitutional viewpoint discrimination” and the trampling of free speech and free press rights. Other plaintiffs include Brandon Waltens and Destin Sensky, correspondents for Texas Scorecard, described in the lawsuit as the news magazine of Empower Texans. U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel tossed the suit without answering the question of whether Texas Scorecard was an independent news organization deserving of press credentials or an arm of a political group ineligible to receive media access to the House.

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Austin American-Statesman - May 24, 2019

Fix to Open Meetings Act approved, sent to governor

The Texas Senate on Thursday agreed to House changes made to legislation to restore a key provision of the Open Meetings Act that had been struck down by a state court.

Senate Bill 1640, which now goes to the governor, seeks to reinstate a provision that barred elected officials from breaking into small groups to discuss public business in private, avoiding a quorum that would trigger the Open Meetings Act. The Court of Criminal Appeals struck down the “walking quorum” provision in February, ruling that it was too vague and did not give elected officials proper warning about what actions violated the law.

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Austin American-Statesman - May 23, 2019

Texas president: Two-year contract extension shows ‘we’re committed to Tom Herman’

Texas President Gregory L. Fenves said coach Tom Herman’s two-year contract extension sends a message that the school is committed to him as the leader of UT football both now and going forward.

The UT System Board of Regents approved Herman’s extension Thursday morning as part of the consent agenda items. All multi-year contracts at UT must be approved by the regents. Herman, 43, was under contract through 2021. His extension pushes Herman’s contract through the 2023 season. Herman is scheduled to receive $6.5 million for 2022 and $6.750 million for 2023.

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Houston Chronicle - May 24, 2019

Cheers y’all. Beer-to-go unanimously passes in Texas Senate.

Beer to go is on tap to finally become law in Texas. The state Senate unanimously passed the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission Sunset Bill on Wednesday night, just hours before time ran out to ratify new legislation.

Brewers and legislators are confident the bill will skate through the governor’s office, meaning that beginning Sept. 1 Texans will be able to purchase growlers, crowlers and cans at their neighborhood breweries, to consume at home. “Our constituents elected us to be bold. And with that, I give you Beer To Go, baby,” Sen. Dawn Buckingham, R- Lakeway, announced enthusiastically, as she introduced the amendment to the Senate a few minutes before 9 p.m. Wednesday.

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Houston Chronicle - May 24, 2019

Chris Tomlinson: Wind still blows, sun still shines, but tax credits are fading away

The good news for the wind industry is that critics can no longer complain about the federal tax subsidies that have made its projects attractive. The bad news is that the wind industry will have to compete with solar power, which still has years of tax credits left.

Federal production tax credits generate about $23 for every megawatt of electricity produced in a project’s first decade of operation. In a competitive wholesale energy market like Texas, that means a wind generator can bid negative prices and still make money from the tax credits. Those subsidies, though, have done their job and kick-started a burgeoning technology. Wind energy generators have cut costs 69% in the last decade. In 2016, Congress voted to phase out the production tax credit for new projects by 2024.

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Houston Chronicle - May 23, 2019

Texas, other states look to boost fees on EV’s to fund highway maintenance

Texas is considering whether to impose additional registration fees on electric and hybrid vehicles, following nearly half the states that already impose higher fees on battery powered vehicles to compensate for lost gasoline taxes used to maintain roads and highways.

The bills in Texas are unlikely to get through the legislative session, which ends Monday, but the issue is almost certain to resurface as Texas and other states wrestle with depleted highway funds as cars become more fuel efficient and federal gas taxes remain unchanged from their levels 26 years ago. With electric vehicles representing 2 percent of U.S. vehicle sales last year, lawmakers look to revamp the way the nation pays for its transportation network.

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Fort Worth Star-Telegram - May 23, 2019

Still illegal: Texas law on CBD oil lands grandmother in jail after DFW airport search

At first it seemed like a random bag check at the customs checkpoint at DFW Airport, Lena Bartula said. Bartula, a 72-year-old woman who grew up in Fort Worth, was on her way to Portland, Oregon, from Mexico to visit her granddaughter.

“The agent kept digging as if he was sure he was going to find something,” Bartula said. He did and that something he found cost Bartula two nights in jail and a felony arrest. Test results at the airport revealed it was CBD oil, legal in some concentrations after the passage of the federal 2019 Farm Bill, still illegal in Texas in most cases, and legal in about half of U.S. states.

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Fort Worth Star-Telegram - May 23, 2019

Fort Worth Star-Telegram: Here’s why Texas homeowners shouldn’t expect property tax cuts from school funding deal

State leaders patted each other on the back Thursday afternoon and declared historic progress in the never-ending war on Texas property taxes. But don’t strain your eyes looking for a tax cut on your next bill from the county.

The steps announced by Republicans Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and House Speaker Dennis Bonnen — billions more in state funding for schools so local taxes can be reduced, rules to make it harder for local governments to increase revenue and big changes to how the state allocates money to school districts — should slow the skyrocketing levies that homeowners are seeing. But the reality is this: In a fast-growing state, with property values soaring and an aversion to certain types of taxes, real cuts are close to impossible.

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San Antonio Current - May 23, 2019

Actor Woody Harrelson calls on Gov. Greg Abbott to take action against wild hog catching

Actor and Texas native Woody Harrelson has spoken out against Bandera's "Bacon Bash," a pig-centric festival that rose from the ashes of the "Wild Hog Explosion," which was cancelled in early March when treatment center Warriors Heart pulled out of running the event after public outcry from animal rights activists.

The Bash came together with surprising speed and included the widely criticized wild hog catching event, as well as ancillary events like hog calling, a bacon eating contest and a barbecue cook-off. For the wild hog catching competition, two teams of people attempt to catch a pig, then put the animal in a sack and cross the finish line in a race against the clock. Proponents of the practice claim that this mode of capture is no different than having to chase down a domesticated pig in order to provide medical treatment or other care, but ganging up on a panicked, feral animal in an enclosed space amidst the raucous cheering of an audience doesn't quite sound like an equivalent experience.

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Texas Tribune - May 23, 2019

Texas A&M won't renew President Michael Young's contract — but says there's no plan for him to leave

When Texas A&M University President Michael Young’s employment contract expires next April, he will not receive a renewal. Instead, he will join the system’s remaining campus heads in relying on annual appointment letters and system policy to govern the terms of his employment at the College Station-based campus.

Young, who was appointed A&M president in 2015, currently has a five-year agreement with the system that guarantees him $1 million in annual pay. The terms were expected to be renewed for an additional five years unless Young or System officials indicated otherwise before April 30, 2019. In an April 16 letter, A&M System Chancellor John Sharp explained that Young’s contract would not be renewed, and stressed it was “in no way a reflection” of his performance as president.

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County Stories

Fort Worth Star-Telegram - May 23, 2019

Tarrant County Public Health reports possible measles exposure at DFW Airport

Anyone traveling though Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport on May 15 needs to be aware they could have been exposed to measles. Tarrant County Public Health (TCPH) said Thursday it has confirmed that a traveler who arrived at DFW Airport on May 15 and connected to another flight has tested positive for measles.

Possible exposures may have occurred at DFW airport on May 15 at the Terminal D customs area from 5:15 to 7:45 p.m., the Skylink train from 5:45 to 8 p.m., and Terminal A in the area of gate 8 from 6 p.m. to 10:50 p.m.

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City Stories

Austin American-Statesman - May 24, 2019

City Council says yes to $1.2 billion convention center expansion

The Austin City Council unanimously signed on Thursday to a $1.2 billion plan to expand the convention center, granting sweeping, unexpected consensus to an idea that has been a political hot potato for years. The approved declaration directs staff members to move forward in assessing the financing tied to an expansion and came as part of a broad resolution that addressed several projects in southeastern downtown.

The move represented a policy swing for Council Member Kathie Tovo, who sponsored the resolution after previously expressing skepticism about Mayor Steve Adler’s push to expand the convention center. Tovo said Monday that a University of Texas architectural study completed this year showed her how the center could be rebuilt to allow better pedestrian access through its six-block footprint and to better interact with nearby Waller Creek. Seeing that, Tovo said, persuaded her to back the mayor’s idea.

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Austin American-Statesman - May 23, 2019

Scooter riders beware, city sets safety rules, fines

The Austin City Council on Thursday created public safety rules — and resulting fines for violating them – for the thousands of electric rental scooters whizzing through the city on a daily basis.

Each day, an average of more than 16,000 trips are taken on dockless devices such as scooters and e-bikes, according to city data. Scooters have received the most praise and scorn, becoming ubiquitous downtown and around the University of Texas campus. Those hoping for an all-out ban of the zippy two-wheelers will be disappointed with the rules approved by the council. The new regulations restrict some questionable behavior by riders (sorry, no more selfies while riding), but loosen rules in other areas.

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Fort Worth Star-Telegram - May 23, 2019

Fort Worth Star-Telegram Editorial: New Fort Worth police chief must fix alerts after failures in girl’s kidnapping

We asked newly appointed interim Fort Worth Police Chief Ed Kraus what his immediate goals will be. Priority 1, he said: mending the rifts from the rocky departure of ousted Chief Joel Fitzgerald.

“This was a surprise,” Kraus told The Star-Telegram’s Editorial Board. “So obviously, there’s some hurting in the department among some groups and in the community as well. Joel did have a lot of support both within the department and in the community. Repairing those rifts is going to be one of the very first things we need to do.”

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Houston Chronicle - May 23, 2019

Houston police moves to new NIBRS crime reporting system as part of nationwide shift

Houston police have switched to a new crime reporting system as part of a nationwide transition by law enforcement to one that experts say will provide more information about crime in individual communities.

Chief Art Acevedo said Thursday the department has begun using the National Incident Based Reporting System to record information about crimes across the city, a move that will provide far more details than were collected under the Unified Crime Reporting Program’s Summary Reporting System, which had been the standard for more than 80 years.

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National Stories

Houston Chronicle - May 24, 2019

Former HUD Secretary Julián Castro vents about current HUD Secretary Ben Carson

Democratic presidential contender Julián Castro used an appearance on a late-night comedy program to “completely reject” how Ben Carson is leading the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development since Castro left the same position.

Castro, who led the agency in President Obama’s last two and a half years in office, said Carson’s recent testimony before Congress was “like watching a slow-motion train wreck” and accused Carson of not being sympathetic to the very people HUD should be serving. “What I disagree with him on is that he seems to think that if you’re poor, there’s something wrong with you,” Castro said during an interview on Late Night With Seth Meyers on Wednesday.

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Houston Chronicle - May 23, 2019

Baptist missionary group must reform sex abuse reporting practices

The Southern Baptist Convention’s missionary arm knew of sexual abuse allegations against one of its former top missionaries for over 10 years before his arrest — accusations that exploded last year and forced the organization to bring in a third party to investigate its handling of abuse.

Anne Marie Miller told the International Mission Board in 2007 that Mark Aderholt, then a missionary to Central Europe, had initiated sexual contact with her as a teenager. He resigned quietly from the IMB and went on to rise in the Southern Baptist ranks until Miller reported him to police and went public with her story in 2018. No one from the IMB contacted law enforcement during the course of its 2007 investigation.

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Washington Post - May 23, 2019

‘He always brings them up’: Trump tries to steer border wall deal to North Dakota firm

President Trump has personally and repeatedly urged the head of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to award a border wall contract to a North Dakota construction firm whose top executive is a GOP donor and frequent guest on Fox News, according to four administration officials.

In phone calls, White House meetings and conversations aboard Air Force One during the past several months, Trump has aggressively pushed Dickinson, N.D.-based Fisher Industries to Department of Homeland Security leaders and Lt. Gen. Todd Semonite, the commanding general of the Army Corps, according to the administration officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive internal discussions. The push for a specific company has alarmed military commanders and DHS officials.

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BBC News - May 24, 2019

Theresa May to resign as prime minister

Theresa May has said she will quit as Conservative leader on 7 June, paving the way for a contest to decide a new prime minister. In an emotional statement, she said she had done her best to deliver Brexit and it was a matter of "deep regret" that she had been unable to do so.

Being prime minister had been the "honor of my life", she said. Mrs May said she would continue to serve as PM while a Conservative leadership contest takes place. It means she will still be prime minister when US President Donald Trump makes his state visit to the UK at the start of June. Mrs May announced she would step down as Tory leader on 7 June and had agreed with the chairman of Tory backbenchers that a leadership contest should begin the following week.

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Reuters - May 24, 2019

Trump campaign views healthcare as a 2020 campaign weapon

U.S. President Donald Trump’s campaign believes he can turn Republicans’ biggest liability from last year’s congressional elections - the debate about the future of healthcare in America - into a winning issue for his reelection.

That would have appeared highly unlikely just months ago, when Democrats seized upon the issue of coverage for pre-existing medical conditions to capture control of the U.S. House of Representatives. Since then, the 2020 Democratic presidential field has been locked in a debate about how far to go to transform the U.S. healthcare system. Some candidates have suggested abolishing private insurance in favor of a single government-run plan, sometimes referred to as “Medicare for All,” while others favor more modest reforms.

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San Antonio Express-News - May 22, 2019

Catherine Rampell: Hints troubling about what Trump’s tax returns hide

When you look at the short span of President Donald Trump’s political career, one question jumps out: How much of his craziest, most paranoid and norm-violating behavior is motivated by a desire to keep his financial arrangements secret?

It began with Trump’s bizarre refusal to release his tax returns, in defiance of both a nearly half-century practice and Trump’s own promise that he’d do so. Then there was his refusal to divest from his sprawling multinational empire, or even put it into a blind trust — either of which would have forced at least some information disclosure to a third party. There were also the interviews and tweetstorms calling journalists who report on his finances “enemies of the people,” and suggestions that federal officials who audit him are anti-Christian.

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The Hill - May 23, 2019

Congress reaches deal on disaster aid

Congress has reached a deal on a "clean" disaster aid bill, after President Trump told lawmakers he would sign legislation even if money tied to the U.S.-Mexico border was dropped from the package.

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) said on Thursday afternoon that they had reached an agreement on the long-stalled legislation to respond to a recent spate of wildfires, hurricanes and storms. GOP Sens. James Lankford (Okla.), Roger Wicker (Miss.) and Rick Scott (Fla.) also confirmed that it was their understanding Trump would sign a bill that included only disaster money.

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CBS News - May 22, 2019

Rep. Joaquin Castro says Trump administration "covered up" death of migrant girl

Texas Rep. Joaquin Castro, the chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, accused the Trump administration of covering up the death of a 10-year-old migrant girl from El Salvador by failing to inform Congress and the American public.

CBS News learned Wednesday that the girl, whose death in September 2018 had not been previously reported, had died in a hospital after entering government care in San Antonio. "It's outrageous that another child has died in government custody and that the Trump administration didn't tell anybody," Castro told CBS News Wednesday night, referring to an exclusive report by CBS News that disclosed the girl's death.

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NPR - May 24, 2019

Licensed undocumented immigrants may lead to safer roads, Connecticut finds

Four years after implementing a policy to allow undocumented immigrants to obtain driver's licenses, Connecticut has seen a reduction in hit-and-run crashes and a steep decline in the number of people found guilty of unlicensed driving.

More than 50,000 undocumented immigrants in the state have taken written exams, vision tests and road tests to obtain driver's licenses, funneling several million dollars into the Connecticut Department of Motor Vehicles. Connecticut's experience could offer a road map for lawmakers in eight other states that are considering similar laws to widen access to driver's licenses.

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Newsclips - May 23, 2019

Lead Stories

Deadline - May 22, 2019

Beto bombs at CNN Town Hall crowd collection

Beto O’Rourke’s Tuesday night town hall with CNN’s Dana Bash failed to attract the hoped-for crowd. The 10-11:15 PM broadcast attracted only an average of 714,000 viewers. That includes 194K in the news demo, aka viewers 25-54. In the same block of time, Fox News Channel clocked 2.260M viewers and MSNBC logged 2.196M.

O’Rourke’s numbers fell 29% shy of CNN’s 2019 average in the Tuesday night block of time, and 38% short in the news demo. Despite his suit and tie, livestreamed haircut, and his cogent answers to policy questions from Bash and the Drake University audience, O’Rourke’s stab at a White House race reboot missed the mark. For context: Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper attracted a bigger crowd when he town-halled on CNN (745K) on a Wednesday back in March.

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Austin American-Statesman - May 22, 2019

Texas AG: No, felons like Austin candidate can’t run for office

Completing their sentences and having their voting rights restored does not make felons eligible to run for office, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said in an opinion Wednesday, nearly six months after Austin allowed a felon to run for City Council.

Texas law says that people convicted of a felony can hold public office only if pardoned “or otherwise released from the resulting disabilities” — a phrase that is unclear and has not been tested in court. Last year, Lewis Conway Jr., a community organizer who killed a man in 1991, argued that completing his prison sentence and being able to vote should qualify. Not so, Paxton’s opinion says.

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Dallas Morning News - May 22, 2019

Texas craft breweries may finally get to sell beer to go, after Senate approves deal

Imagine the scene: You're sitting at a craft brewery in Texas enjoying a hoppy, frothy double IPA. You like it. It's refreshing. You want to buy a six-pack of the local brew to bring home. Only you can't, because Texas doesn't allow to-go beer sales from craft breweries. But maybe soon, you can.

The Texas Senate unanimously passed a bill Wednesday night that, on its face, renews the role of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission. It streamlines licenses and permits required for businesses that sell alcohol and removes some fees. But the bill presented by Sen. Brian Birdwell, R-Granbury, was also a vehicle for a key amendment that has rankled beer industry leaders for years.

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Texas Observer - May 23, 2019

Trump megadonor and Houston mayoral candidate is a top sponsor for Democratic fundraiser with Hillary Clinton

There’s a long list of sponsors for the Harris County Democratic Party’s annual Johnson Rayburn Richards Luncheon, a marquee fundraiser that this year boasts Hillary Clinton as the speaker. The event this Friday features the typical benefactors of party functions, including elected officials, party donors, operatives and activists.

But one of those names is not like the others: Tony Buzbee, the uber-wealthy trial lawyer and controversial persona who is taking on Sylvester Turner, the Democratic mayor of Houston. Like most political fundraisers, the luncheon offers donors various titles depending on their level of generosity. At the top is “The Glass Ceiling Sponsor,” followed by “The Persistent Women.” Buzbee is in the third tier of sponsors, listed as a “White Pantsuit Sponsor” along with Houston’s three Democratic U.S. Representatives.

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State Stories

San Antonio Express-News - May 22, 2019

Texas Senate approves expansion of medical marijuana program

Patients with terminal cancer, autism and multiple sclerosis could get access to therapeutic cannabis under a bill passed Wednesday by the state Senate.

Now that both the Senate and the House have approved expanding the state’s limited medical marijuana program, lawmakers must reconcile their proposals before sending a bill to adopt it as law to Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, who has been hesitant to loosen the program. Heather Fazio, director of Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy, said the change is a good step forward, but doesn’t address “arbitrary dosing restrictions.”

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San Antonio Express-News - May 22, 2019

Yacht owners on brink of getting tax break, while Texas homeowners wait for theirs

Homeowners are not expecting much of a tax break from the Texas Legislature this year, but millionaire yacht owners are on the brink of getting a major one. The Texas Senate has approved legislation that would cap the amount of sales tax on boats as long as 115 feet at $18,750. For the buyer of a $3 million yacht, that tax break would be worth almost $228,000.

State Sen. Larry Taylor, R-Friendswood, doesn’t deny big yacht owners will benefit, but that is not the point. “People who buy big boats are buying them in other states,” Taylor said. He said boat sales have plunged in Texas, which has lost its share of the market because other states, such as Florida, are offering tax breaks for yacht sales. Taylor said his bill is more of a jobs bill because it could create up to 600 jobs in Texas. He said once boats are bought in Texas, the buyers will also buy fuel here, as well as equipment and repairs — all services that are going to other states right now.

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San Antonio Express-News - May 23, 2019

Texas Guard commander wants F-35s in San Antonio

The Texas National Guard’s top commander is pushing to have the Air Force bring the F-35A Joint Strike Fighter to San Antonio to replace the guard’s aging F-16s.

Maj. Gen. Tracy Norris visited with members of the Texas congressional delegation in Washington in recent weeks to brief them on arguments that might convince the Air Force to make the swap, two Capitol Hill sources said. The Air Force is starting to look for a base to train the pilots of foreign governments buying its frontline fighter.

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Dallas Morning News - May 22, 2019

Texas insurance giant tells judges brain-damaged baby and mom are stifling company's free speech

The state's largest Medicaid insurance company refused to pay for nursing that a foster baby with severe birth defects needed. As a result, state records show, the baby suffered a catastrophic brain injury that left him in a vegetative state, unable to ever speak for himself.

After the tragic case of D'ashon Morris was exposed in a Dallas Morning News investigation last year, Linda Badawo, his adoptive mother, sued that insurance company. Now, in an effort to kill that lawsuit, Superior HealthPlan's lawyers are arguing the Badawo family is essentially suing to bully the multi-billion-dollar company and "chill" its right to free speech.

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Dallas Morning News - May 22, 2019

'No one has talked more and done less.' Texas tea party Rep. Jonathan Stickland becomes caucus of one

On a recent stormy night, inside the Capitol where he’d massacred countless ideas, some for good reason and others just to watch them die, the self-styled “bill killer” was finally hoping to pass one. “I’ve been waiting a long time for this moment,” the man from Bedford said, pumping a single fist into the air. A whoop rang up from the back of the House as thunder rattled the chamber’s windows. “Seven years.”

On the opposing dais gathered the other lawmakers, both Republicans and Democrats, united by a common trauma: Having seen the legislation they studied, drafted and nurtured for months stalled or scuttled by the bearded man across the floor. So they did their best to torture Jonathan Stickland, the tea party bombast from North Texas, who was explaining his ban on red-light cameras. They wanted him to know why, in nearly four terms, Stickland had been unable to even present one of his own bills on the House floor.

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Dallas Morning News - May 22, 2019

Dan Crenshaw pushes for more GOP veterans to run for Congress

Houston Rep. Dan Crenshaw and two other Republican lawmakers who served in the military announced a fresh push Wednesday to help fellow veterans run for Congress.

The War Veterans Fund political action committee backed a half-dozen GOP candidates last year. Crenshaw, Gallagher and Rep. Michael Waltz, a Florida freshman who served in the Army for more than 20 years, held a news conference to promote their effort to recruit Iraq and Afghanistan veterans to run in 2020. Veterans often lack the resources to fund a campaign and may start without a large base of supporters, Waltz said.

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Houston Chronicle - May 22, 2019

Appeals court sides with city in lawsuit over pension bond election

The Texas 1st Court of Appeals has struck down an appeal from a Houston businessman who contested the city’s 2017 pension bond referendum, appearing to end the legal challenge that began almost a year and a half ago.

Mayor Sylvester Turner’s office had denied former housing director James Noteware’s allegation that the mayor misled voters into approving the $1 billion bond sale with a “materially misleading ballot description.” Noteware claimed that the election authorized the city to pay off the bonds by levying a tax that exceeds its voter-imposed revenue cap. A state district judge last year dismissed Noteware’s claim without ruling on his motion for summary judgment in the case.

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Houston Chronicle - May 23, 2019

Drug-price transparency bill likely headed to Gov. Abbott’s desk, stronger than many predicted

Texas is poised to unveil some of the country’s most aggressive drug-price transparency measures after a bill that consumer advocates had once considered powerless took on new life in the House and passed out of the Senate on Wednesday, with only small concessions made to the pharmaceutical industry.

Not only would the bipartisan legislation force drug companies to account for exorbitant price hikes going forward, but it would also apply retroactively, meaning companies that ratcheted up prices in 2017 and 2018 would have to explain why under the law. “This legislation serves as a much-needed consumer price check on a complicated industry that, frankly, could do with a lot more transparency," Republican Sen. Kelly Hancock, a sponsor, said in a statement.

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Austin American-Statesman - May 22, 2019

House, Senate move crime-related bills; lemonade stand bill set for conference committee

The Texas Senate on Wednesday approved a bill to require those arrested for a long list of felonies to provide a DNA sample that can be uploaded to a central database and compared to evidence from other crimes. Under House Bill 1399, approved 25-6 by the Senate, the collected DNA evidence would have to be destroyed if the charges are dropped or a defendant is acquitted, pardoned or found innocent on appeal.

The Texas House voted 143-0 Wednesday to give final approval to legislation creating a new crime, indecent assault, that includes jail time for groping and unwanted sexual contact. Senate Bill 194 would make indecent assault a Class A misdemeanor — with a maximum one-year jail sentence and $4,000 fine — for groping the private areas of another person; rubbing genitals and other private areas against somebody else; removing or trying to remove clothing covering another person’s private parts; and causing someone to touch the blood, semen, vaginal fluid, saliva, urine or feces of another person.

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Texas Observer - May 21, 2019

Ready, set, file: Transparency bills passed by Legislature could open the door to once-public records

After a hard fight spanning four years and two legislatures, it looks like Texans’ right to know what their government is up to has been restored in important ways this session. The biggest victory came on Friday, when the so-called Boeing loophole — named for the aircraft manufacturer that sued to keep a lease agreement between the company and the government secret in 2015 — was closed by lawmakers.

The carve-out has been used by private companies and the government itself thousands of times to hide how taxpayer money has been spent on everything from school food service contracts to power plant deals and a concert by a certain Latin pop sensation. Last week, the Texas House joined state senators in passing Senate Bill 943, by Austin Democrat Kirk Watson, culminating in a major tune-up of the sputtering Texas Public Information Act.

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CBS News - May 22, 2019

Texas facility stops taking in migrants after teen's death

U.S. border agents have temporarily stopped taking people into the primary facility for processing migrants in South Texas, a day after a 16-year-old diagnosed with the flu at the facility died. In a statement to CBS News late Tuesday, U.S. Customs and Border Protection said a large number of detainees in its processing center in McAllen, Texas, had high fevers and were displaying signs of a flu-related illness.

The agency said it was working to provide medical treatment to all of those who had fevers. To avoid the spread of the illness, the CBP said, intake operations were temporarily suspended at the facility and migrants who would have been brought there will be taken elsewhere until the situation is resolved. The processing center is a converted warehouse that holds hundreds of parents and children at a time in large, fenced-in pens.

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County Stories

D Magazine - May 21, 2019

Dallas County’s Republican Party selects a new chair to succeed the Late Missy Shorey

The Dallas County Republican Party has a new chair. Again. After three ballots, former state Rep. Rodney Anderson of Grand Prairie was elected last night by the party’s executive committee. He faced Justice of the Peace Bill Metzger, former Vice Chairman Karen Watson, and former Dallas County Republican Assembly Chairwoman Dr. Ivette Lozano.

Anderson is the fifth county party chair since 2016, a period of time that has seen support waver for GOP candidates in and around Dallas. He succeeds Missy Shorey, who died a month ago. Shorey, the first woman to lead the county’s party, succeeded Phillip Huffines, the brother of former state Sen. Don Huffines and failed state senate candidate himself. Huffines succeeded Mark Montgomery, who defeated Wade Emmert in the primary. Both Huffines and Montgomery resigned. During these times, the party was a mess. Shorey was recruited to bring stability—and a young, fresh face—to the party.

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Rio Grande Guardian - May 22, 2019

Hidalgo County asked to pump half a million dollars into colonia street lights program

ARISE, a community group that assists low-income families in the Rio Grande Valley, is asking Hidalgo County commissioners to pump $500,000 into a colonia streets lighting program. Around three dozen members and supporters of the organization attended a commissioners court meeting on Tuesday to unveil a new video about street lighting in colonias.

Guerra said La Unión del Pueblo Entero (LUPE), another community group that assists colonia residents, and the media company NETA deserved thanks for helping produce the video. Asked where the greatest need is, Guerra told the Rio Grande Guardian and RGV Public Radio 88 FM: “We have colonias all over Hidalgo County but we know the need is really great in Precinct 1 and Precinct 4.”

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Austin American-Statesman - May 23, 2019

Small-town allure spurs suburban growth in Central Texas, census data shows

New Braunfels ranked second in growth last year among U.S. cities with a population of 50,000 or more, according to U.S. Census Bureau estimates released Thursday. New Braunfels’ population grew at a rate of 7.2% from July 2017 to July 2018, the figures show.

Among the top 15 cities with the highest growth rate, about half were in Texas, including two Austin-area suburbs in Williamson County. Georgetown came in at No. 7, with an annual growth rate of 5.2%, and Round Rock was No. 15 and grew by 4.3%. Other smaller Central Texas cities grew even faster, though they did not make the list because their populations don’t exceed 50,000 people. Dripping Springs grew by 20.59%, Leander by 12.5% percent and Kyle by 8.1%, all increases similar to those seen in previous years and continuing a boom along the Interstate 35 corridor.

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Houston Chronicle - May 22, 2019

Texas Senate action boosts plan to memorialize Fort Bend County remains

The Texas Senate has brought Fort Bend County a step closer to owning and operating a cemetery on the site where 95 African-American remains believed to be those of prison laborers were discovered last year.

HB 4179, which would enable the county to operate the cemetery, was approved unanimously by senators Tuesday after earlier passage by the House. The measure now requires only Gov. Greg Abbott's signature to become law. The Texas Health and Safety Code limits ownership of cemeteries to counties with a population of 8,200 or fewer. Rep. Rick Miller,R-Sugar Land, originally filed a bill to make such ownership possible in Fort Bend County, where the population is more than 780,000.

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City Stories

San Antonio Express-News - May 22, 2019

Toyota could invest $392 million in San Antonio plant

Toyota is considering its South Side truck plant for a $392 million investment in production-line technology over the next three years, according to city officials. But the Japanese automaker isn’t just eyeing San Antonio — it’s weighing all of its North American plants for the investment, which is driving San Antonio officials to sweeten the pot with an incentive package valued at $10.3 million.

Rene Dominguez, director of the city’s Economic Development Department, outlined the potential investment and the proposed incentives in a memo to City Council members posted late Wednesday on the city’s web site. The investment, he added, would likely result in expansions at Toyota suppliers that serve the San Antonio plant, which produce the Tundra and Tacoma pickups. However, it’s not clear whether the capital infusion would create new jobs inside the Toyota operation.

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San Antonio Express-News - May 22, 2019

Two heavy hitters agree to support San Antonio Mayor Nirenberg in hotly contested runoff

Mayor Ron Nirenberg landed critical last-minute reinforcements in his contentious runoff with challenger Greg Brockhouse, as two groups skilled in mobilizing San Antonio volunteers committed to getting out the vote for the incumbent.

But the endorsements from the Texas Organizing Project and the Texas Democratic Party come relatively late in the campaign. TOP’s was arrived at after extended internal debate that underscored the difficulty Nirenberg has had generating enthusiasm for his reelection bid, even among natural allies. Local observers said it’s the first time they can recall a state party organization getting involved in a San Antonio mayoral race. Party officials said it’s part of a relatively new effort to become involved in local races that offer clear ideological choices.

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Austin American-Statesman - May 22, 2019

Texas House approves bill to create special Muny district

Legislation to establish a special district in Austin with the goal of preserving Lions Municipal Golf Course — for golfing, parkland or a combination of the two — won final approval by the Texas House on Wednesday by a vote of 104-38.

The Senate is expected to go along with an amendment added by the House and forward the measure to Gov. Greg Abbott, who, in turn, is expected to sign it. Senate Bill 2553 would create the Save Historic Muny District, consisting of the 141-acre course along Lake Austin Boulevard as well as Tarrytown, Old Enfield, Pemberton Heights and other West Austin neighborhoods.

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Fort Worth Star-Telegram - May 23, 2019

Fort Worth’s booming growth refuses to slow down as city becomes 13th largest in U.S.

The boom shows no sign of ending. Fort Worth is now the 13th-largest city in the United States, behind Jacksonville, Florida, and ahead of Columbus, Ohio, as well as San Francisco, according to the latest Census Bureau population estimates released Thursday.

Last year, Fort Worth ranked 15th but the city added 19,552 people between July 1, 2017 and July 1, 2018, to reach a population of 895,000. It was the third-largest gain behind Phoenix and San Antonio. Just last month, the Census Bureau said the Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington area added more than 1 million since 2010, the most in the country.

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Houston Chronicle - May 22, 2019

Houston council staffer who claimed salary while at military law training is suspended

Houston’s highest-paid city council staffer was suspended this week after a Houston Chronicle investigation found he reported working standard work days or sick days to continue collecting his $119,600 salary while he was out of the state for four months in a military law training program.

Daniel Albert, chief of staff to District F Councilman Steve Le, was suspended effective Monday — the same day that Albert met with investigators from the city’s Office of Inspector General, the council member said Wednesday Le said he directed that Albert be suspended without pay, but added that the city legal department is examining whether that would be proper before the OIG probe is finished. Le said that investigation, which he initiated several weeks ago, could wrap up next week.

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National Stories

Washington Post - May 23, 2019

Proposed HUD rule would strip transgender protections at homeless shelters

The Department of Housing and Urban Development on Wednesday proposed a new rule that would weaken Obama-era protections for homeless transgender people, allowing federally funded shelters to deny people admission on religious grounds or force transgender women to share bathrooms and sleeping quarters with men.

The proposed rule comes one day after HUD Secretary Ben Carson assured members of Congress that the agency had no plans to eliminate the 2012 Equal Access Rule, which banned federal housing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. When questioned by Rep. Jennifer Wexton, D-Va., on HUD's treatment of transgender people, Carson said his responsibility is to "make sure everybody is treated fairly. "

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Washington Post - May 22, 2019

Putin out-prepared Trump in key meeting, Rex Tillerson told House panel

Former secretary of state Rex Tillerson told members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee that Russian President Vladimir Putin out-prepared President Trump during a key meeting in Germany, putting the U.S. leader at a disadvantage during their first series of tête-à-têtes.

The U.S. side anticipated a shorter meeting for exchanging courtesies, but it ballooned into a globe-spanning two-hour-plus session involving deliberations on a variety of geopolitical issues, said committee aides, who like others spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss Tillerson’s seven-hour closed meeting with the committee.

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Associated Press - May 21, 2019

North Carolina woman sues Project Veritas, founder for libel

A disabled North Carolina woman is suing the right-wing group Project Veritas and its founder James O’Keefe over how her assault outside a 2016 Donald Trump campaign rally was portrayed in a video.

Jurors in Asheville were sequestered before testimony Tuesday in the federal libel trial expected to last all week. Shirley Teter, 71, of Asheville, sued O’Keefe, Project Veritas and its tax-exempt social welfare affiliate Project Veritas Action for what her lawyers described as targeting an innocent, private person for “ridicule, contempt, or disgrace.” Project Veritas has used disguises and hidden cameras to uncover supposed liberal bias and corruption.

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Associated Press - May 22, 2019

Trump’s campaign centered on fighting Democrats, not policy

President Donald Trump dropped the pretense of working with congressional Democrats on Wednesday and sent a clear message that his re-election campaign will be centered on condemning overzealous investigations rather than advancing a robust domestic policy agenda.

Both sides may have feigned surprise at Trump’s angry outburst, in which he said he won’t work with Democrats until they drop their probes of his administration. But they were on a collision course long before Wednesday’s confrontation in the Cabinet Room. Trump has been betting the future of his presidency on trying to goad Democrats into impeaching him, and the three-minute meeting marked a new low in the slow-moving drama over executive powers, congressional oversight and the critical needs of the nation.

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New York Times - May 22, 2019

Trump walks out on Pelosi and Schumer after 3 minutes

President Donald Trump abruptly blew up a scheduled meeting with Democratic congressional leaders Wednesday, lashing out at Speaker Nancy Pelosi for accusing him of a cover-up and declaring that he could not work with them until they stopped investigating him.

He then marched out into the Rose Garden, where reporters had been gathered, and delivered a statement bristling with anger as he demanded that Democrats “get these phony investigations over with.” He said they could not legislate and investigate at the same time. “We’re going to go down one track at a time,” he said.

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Governing - May 22, 2019

Public housing agencies oppose HUD's plan to evict immigrant families

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) published a rule this month in the Federal Register that would disqualify families from living in public housing or receiving Section 8 housing vouchers if they have an undocumented person living with them. It's now subject to a 60-day comment period, ending in mid-July.

Undocumented immigrants are already barred from directly receiving housing subsidies but not from living in public housing. The Trump administration's rule would disqualify an entire family from public housing unless every person living with them can prove their lawful immigration status.

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Stateline - May 22, 2019

Can cutting off opioids too quickly harm patients? Feds say yes.

To stem the opioid epidemic, U.S. doctors cut prescriptions of medications such as OxyContin, Vicodin and Percocet by at least a quarter over the last five years. But the reduction in prescriptions came at a cost to some pain patients.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration last month warned prescribers that abruptly cutting off high-dose patients or tapering their doses too rapidly could cause withdrawal and even suicide. The new recommendations likely will prompt states to consider adjusting their opioid prescribing laws, said Karmen Hanson, a public health expert at the National Conference of State Legislatures.

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Newsclips - May 22, 2019

Lead Stories

Dallas Morning News - May 22, 2019

Mental health bill killed by North Texas lawmaker resurrected in 11th-hour legislative maneuver

A major bipartisan mental health bill that looked dead earlier Tuesday has been revived and passed after a heated late night tête-à-tête. On Tuesday evening, Rep. Jonathan Stickland, R-Bedford, brought down the bill using a legislative procedural tactic. But just before midnight, his Republican colleagues in the Texas House resurrected the legislation by tacking it onto another bill. That bill passed 130-11. Stickland would not comment after the vote.

The mental health legislation, which was originally filed as Senate Bill 10, would set aside $100 million to create a consortium of universities and medical professionals to better connect Texas schoolchildren with mental health services, expand telemedicine for students and encourage research in this arena. It was written in response to the shooting at Santa Fe High School, where a student killed eight teenagers and two teachers one year ago this past weekend.

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San Antonio Express-News - May 21, 2019

Texas GOP leaders join Democrats in call for a different sort of border wall

With President Donald Trump and Congress at an impasse on border security, the Texas Legislature is taking matters into its own hands, speeding legislation that could build 12 miles of retaining walls along the Rio Grande in Laredo, construct 90 miles of new roads that would help border patrol, and address choking weeds that are blamed for hindering law enforcement.

While Democrats supporting the bill insist it’s not President Donald Trump’s wall, Republicans are calling the 20-foot-high ‘non-scalable’ retention wall a step toward improved border security that the federal government has failed on. The legislation cleared the Texas House on a bipartisan vote this month, and the Texas Senate pushed it through a committee on Tuesday morning. It is almost certain to pass the Senate, and Gov. Greg Abbott is supporting it.

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Houston Chronicle - May 21, 2019

Study: Texas coastal barrier would prevent major economic losses

Housing sales would drop, gasoline prices would increase and Texas would lose hundreds of billions of dollars in economic output if a major storm struck an unprotected coastline, according to a new study.

The joint study by Texas A&M University at Galveston and the Texas General Land Office assesses the storm surge impacts on the three counties along Galveston Bay — Galveston, Harris, and Chambers — and explores how flooding from a severe storm would impact different sectors of the local and national economies.

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Houston Public Media - May 21, 2019

‘We do not have coverage here:’ Texans take on federal broadband maps

If the total number of people in the U.S. lacking broadband internet access was a state — at around 25 million — it would be roughly the population of Texas.

But many argue the maps showing who has access and who doesn’t are wrong. And it could impact who gets money and grants to increase access. Some Texas communities are creating their own maps to correct the record. The Federal Communications Commission’s fixed broadband maps say 24 million people lack access around the country, but a report out last month from Microsoft showed more than 162 million people don’t use high-speed internet.

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State Stories

Austin American-Statesman - May 21, 2019

Senate passes ballot-access bill opposed by Democrats

Divided along party lines, the Texas Senate gave final approval late Monday to a bill that would change the rules on third-party access to the ballot in ways, Democrats argue, that would hurt their party and help Republicans. House Bill 2504, which is on its way to Gov. Greg Abbott, would lower the threshold for placing Green and Libertarian party candidates on the ballot.

Currently, if a third-party candidate gets 5% of the vote in a statewide race in the previous general election, its candidates qualify for ballot placement in statewide races. HB 2504 would lower the threshold to 2% of votes in any of the previous five general elections, a 10-year window. The change would allow the Green Party to meet the standard, while the Libertarian Party meets the current standard.

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Austin American-Statesman - May 21, 2019

One year after Santa Fe shooting, Texas lawmakers poised to approve sweeping changes

A year after 10 people were gunned down at Santa Fe High School, the Texas House on Tuesday gave preliminary approval 128-14 to a sweeping school safety bill that would increase state funding to better secure schools.

Senate Bill 11 also would require school districts to better identify students who are at risk of hurting themselves and others and would require more emergency response training for school employees. The bill “improves school safety at each campus in the State of Texas. This legislation is inspired by the students, the faculty and the staff at Santa Fe High School, and I’d like to thank them,” said Rep. Greg Bonnen, R-Friendswood, who presented the bill on the House floor Tuesday.

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Austin American-Statesman - May 21, 2019

Bumble-backed online sexual harassment bill heads to governor’s desk

The Texas Senate approved a bill Monday that would criminalize the sending of unsolicited nude or sexual photos, sending the measure backed by Austin-based Bumble to Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk.

Executives of Bumble, the popular female-focused dating app, approached Rep. Morgan Meyer, R-Dallas, about filing House Bill 2789. The measure makes it a Class C misdemeanor — punishable by a fine up to $500 — to send a lewd photo without the consent of the recipient. “This is a big step in the right direction,” Meyer said in a written statement. “We must ensure that our laws keep up with the times, which means fighting against sexual harassment in the digital world.”

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Austin American-Statesman - May 21, 2019

Ken Herman: Texas House kills, revives late effort to curtail arrests for low-level crimes

It evolved into a late-session issue that won’t go away, one in which there’s general agreement that there’s a problem but there had been paralyzing differences in the Texas House on a solution, until about 75 minutes prior to a midnight deadline to deal with it. And what’s at stake is freedom for thousands of Texans each year.

I told you in last Sunday’s column about the odd — even by Texas Legislature standards — history of legislation concerning the reality that Texans can be arrested and jailed for offenses for which they can’t be jailed if convicted. They’re Class C misdemeanors, the lowest form of criminal charge, and they include traffic offenses. Quick rewind: On May 8, the Texas House voted 126-20 for final approval of a bill limiting when cops can arrest somebody on a Class C misdemeanor charge. But, amid some confusion, a motion to reconsider was approved, and the bill went down 55-88.

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Houston Chronicle - May 21, 2019

Erica Grieder: Chick-fil-A was not ‘saved’ by the Texas Legislature

Like many Texans, I approve of Chick-fil-A’s Original Chicken Sandwich, and eat one occasionally. However, the Spicy Chicken Wrap from Wendy’s is a better option for me when I’m seeking a quick lunch involving some form of fried chicken on the way into the office. It’s smaller and has 70 fewer calories than the Original Chicken Sandwich and is, as the name suggests, optimized for travel.

That’s why I was eating a Spicy Chicken Wrap from Wendy’s on Tuesday, when the Texas House passed Senate Bill 1978, better known as the #SaveChickFilA bill. Although I was disappointed by the measure’s passage, my considerations about the matter aren’t ideological. I realize we live in a hyper-political era. Still, a chicken sandwich doesn’t need to be a political football — and the people who are determined to make it one, in this case, have comported themselves in a way that I consider unduly cynical.

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Houston Chronicle - May 22, 2019

What are the most stressed out cities in Texas? Twitter knows.

Bumper-to-bumper traffic. Climate change. Politics. Who did or did not die in “Game of Thrones.” We’re stressed, y’all. And researchers say that our tweets are showing it. An algorithmic tool called TensiStrength analyzed more than 5 million “real-time tweets” over a two-week period in every U.S. state and the 100 most populated cities, according to Babylon Health, a digital health-care provider

The tool analyzes terms related to stress, frustration, anxiety, anger and negativity and ranks them on two scales: no stress or very highly stress and no relaxation or highly relaxed. The results do not bode well for Texas, which shows that more than 10 percent of the reviewed cities’ population published “stressed-out” tweets in that two week-period. Texas ranks as the 12th most stressed-out state in the U.S. at 10.88 percent of tweets reviewed were measured as “stressed,” according to the study.

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Houston Chronicle - May 21, 2019

Texas honky tonks turn to state Legislature for help

The Texas dance halls and honky tonks that launched legends like Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings and Lyle Lovett are turning to the state government to help them keep the pipeline of music stars flowing from the Lone Star State.

Independent music venues have organized and are asking the state Legislature to pass a bill that would give back to the venues a portion of alcohol sales taxes that they pay. The money would go into a $10 million “music incubator” fund to help honky tonks pay for booking live music, promotions and venue upkeep. Venues and music festivals could apply for up to $100,000 worth of alcohol and sales tax rebates.

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Dallas Morning News - May 21, 2019

Texas' Constitution makes a state income tax nearly impossible. Now voters could make it even harder

A Collin County House lawmaker's plan to more deeply discourage anyone trying to drum up support for an individual income tax in Texas is headed to the November ballot.

Plano GOP Rep. Jeff Leach's House Joint Resolution 38 would give voters a choice to make an income tax -- already strongly frowned upon, because for 26 years, the state Constitution has said that requires a vote of the people –– even more problematic. If voters agree with Leach on Nov. 5, future proponents of a personal income tax would face an even steeper climb: They'd have to win support from two-thirds of each chamber of the Legislature and a vote of the people to repeal his 2019 change.

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Dallas Morning News - May 22, 2019

Texas poised to crack down on wasted college credits, offering better support to transfer students

On Monday, the House approved legislation aimed at reducing time and money spent on wasted credits. The bill, written by Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas, is headed to Gov. Greg Abbott's desk for final approval. Once these students get to a four-year university, many are finding more focused support efforts aimed at helping them succeed.

But only about 30 percent of students who start at a public two-year college end up with a certificate or degree within six years, according to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. Transferring college credits between schools shouldn't be so hard, said West, who has spent six years working on his legislation to smooth such transitions.

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San Antonio Express-News - May 21, 2019

Newly released Sandra Bland video prompts Texas House committee hearing

A Texas House committee will hold a hearing Friday on the newly released cellphone video of the arrest of Sandra Bland, a black woman who died in a Waller County jail cell after a traffic stop escalated.

The 39-second recording, published earlier this month by Dallas television station WFAA in partnership with the nonprofit Investigative Network, sparked new interest in the high-profile case that had helped spur the Black Lives Matter movement. The video showed for the first time Bland’s perspective of the confrontation when a white state trooper pointed a stun gun at her and ordered her out of her vehicle.

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San Antonio Express-News - May 22, 2019

Gilbert Garcia: EMILY’s List throws its support behind Jones’s congressional bid

EMILY’s List, the powerful political action committee that supports pro-choice Democratic women who seek elective office, will announce Wednesday that it is endorsing Gina Ortiz Jones in U.S. District 23.

The group’s decision to throw its weight behind Jones’s congressional campaign isn’t exactly a surprise. The organization backed the former Air Force intelligence officer during her 2018 campaign in District 23, a political odyssey that ended last November with a heartbreaking 926-vote loss to Republican incumbent Will Hurd. The timing of the endorsement, however, is noteworthy. During Jones’s first congressional run, EMILY’s List waited until late November 2017 to formally back her, only three-and-a-half months before a primary in which she faced four other Democratic hopefuls.

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KUT - May 22, 2019

One in four Texas women of childbearing age don’t have health insurance.

Texas has the highest percentage of uninsured women between the ages of 18 to 44, according to a new study from the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families. The study found that, nationwide, 12.3 % of women of childbearing age don't have health insurance. The rate in Texas, however, is more than double the national average – at 25.5 %.

Joan Alker, the center’s executive director, said, overall, the study found rates in states that have not expanded Medicaid were roughly double the rate of uninsured women, compared to those that have expanded Medicaid. Texas is among a minority of states that has decided not to expand its Medicaid program to more low-income adults through the Affordable Care Act. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, to date, 37 states – including DC – have expanded their programs. Alker said Texas’ refusal to expand health coverage is among a variety of reasons the state’s rate is the highest in the nation.

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KUT - May 21, 2019

State lawmakers approve legislation shielding most Texans from surprise medical bills

A surprise medical bill may be a thing of the past for many Texans. In a unanimous vote, the Texas House approved a Senate bill banning health care providers from sending steep medical bills to insured Texans in emergencies.

Senate Bill 1264 passed the Texas House on a 146-0 vote. If signed into law, it would remove patients from the middle of disputes between a health insurance company and a hospital or other medical provider. This doesn't apply to Texans with federally regulated plans, which account for roughly 40 percent of the state's health insurance market.

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Houston Public Media - May 22, 2019

Survey reveals Texans’ opinions on how to fund public schools, as legislative session nears close

A majority of Texans approve of spending more on education and want property taxes limited, though support varies between demographic breakdowns, according to a survey by the University of Houston’s Hobby School of Public Affairs.

Gov. Greg Abbott declared both school finance and property tax overhaul emergency items for Texas lawmakers this session, which is scheduled to wrap up next week. Researchers surveyed registered Texas voters at the end of March 2019, finding broad support for increased spending on schools including pay raises for teachers and librarians, as well as expanded funding for early childhood education programs and school districts with higher percentages of low-income students.

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Fort Worth Star-Telegram - May 22, 2019

Miss Black Texas sues city, former police chief over 2017 arrest that made national news

A woman whose arrest made national news in 2017 in Hunt County filed a lawsuit against the city of Commerce and its former police chief, who she says violated her civil rights. In May 2017, Carmen Ponder, who is also Miss Black Texas 2016, said former Commerce Police Chief Kerry Crews arrested her without reason on charges that were later dismissed.

She and her attorney, Lee Merritt, filed the suit in Northern District of Texas-Dallas federal court Monday. Crews, who resigned the month after Ponder’s arrest and became the assistant to the city manager shortly after, was not able to be reached for comment. He became the county’s Justice of Peace at Precinct 2 in January. City Manager Darrek Ferrell and the city’s attorney, Jay Garrett, said they could not comment on the suit and the mayor did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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County Stories

San Antonio Express-News - May 21, 2019

Bexar DA opts not to brief commissioners on removal of constable

With more than a dozen of her uniformed deputies standing behind her, Bexar County Precinct 2 Constable Michelle Barrientes Vela delivered a defiant speech Tuesday to county commissioners who had expected District Attorney Joe Gonzales to brief them on how to remove her from office.

Gonzales instead opted not to offer the briefing because his office already is defending the county and Vela in a civil lawsuit, and doing so could be seen as a conflict of interest. “We still represent her on the civil side, and because of that relationship, we think the best process is to wait,” Gonzales said Tuesday. “That doesn’t necessarily stop the process (of removal), especially if a private citizen decides to file a petition.”

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City Stories

San Antonio Express-News - May 21, 2019

Domestic violence questions at San Antonio mayoral forum prompt shouting matches

The first mayoral forum since San Antonio’s May elections grew heated Tuesday when moderators asked challenger Greg Brockhouse about domestic violence accusations against him, prompting outbursts and shouting matches between those in attendance at Travis Park Church downtown.

While the candidates were never on stage together, the contentious nature of Mayor Ron Nirenberg and Brockhouse’s runoff race was on display. The men appeared separately at the event, fielding questions from Rivard Report journalist Iris Dimmick and Pastor Gavin Rogers. The quarrels began about 30 minutes into the forum, when Rogers asked Brockhouse about reports from 2006 and 2009 in which women married to him called police and accused him of assault.

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Fort Worth Star-Telegram - May 21, 2019

City of Fort Worth destroyed evidence in whistleblower case, employee alleges in memo

The city of Fort Worth destroyed information being sought by an attorney handling a fired IT manager’s whistleblower lawsuit, a city employee alleges in an affidavit. The allegation was made in a memo sent to city officials Monday by Rabiah Memon, a senior IT programmer analyst with the city since May 2015.

That memo and an affidavit by the city employee is the subject of a motion filed Tuesday in Dallas County by Stephen Kennedy, the attorney for William Birchett, seeking a temporary restraining order against the city to prevent it from destroying evidence. Birchett filed suit against the city of Fort Worth last week, alleging that he was fired in February in retaliation for reporting to officials that the city’s cybersecurity had been severely compromised and that, among other things, the city had lied about its compliance with FBI crime database regulations.

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Austin American-Statesman - May 21, 2019

Austin’s scooters could come under same rules as taxis

The Austin City Council on Thursday could create an unprecedented level of regulation governing electric rental scooters, putting the budding and controversial industry under the same rules applied to taxis.

Austin would be the first city in the U.S. to employ such a model, giving it broad authority over dockless scooter companies, such as Bird and Lime, that would provide avenues for kicking them out of the city. But even as city transportation staffers floated the idea Tuesday, when council members discussed an array of possible ordinances designed to update the city’s regulation of scooters, cracks started to show in the support for a franchise model that some industry insiders oppose.

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National Stories

Dallas Morning News - May 21, 2019

Beto O'Rourke tries to jumpstart sputtering campaign on CNN town hall, pushing impeachment

After shunning national TV exposure for the first 70 days of his presidential effort and watching his poll numbers sink to near oblivion, El Paso's Beto O'Rourke grabbed the chance to reintroduce himself Tuesday night on a live CNN town hall.

He voiced impatience for impeachment, denounced the president's trade policies, and vowed to protect abortion rights and end the vilification of immigrants -- winning repeated applause from the audience at Drake University in Des Moines. Impeachment came up early, when Drake education professor Cris Wildermuth asked him for his stance. "We should begin impeachment proceedings against Donald Trump. Not something that I take lightly," he said, waiting for applause to die down. Avoiding impeachment out of fear of political backlash, he added, would promote the idea that a president is "above the law."

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Dallas Morning News - May 21, 2019

Ted Cruz spars with actor Jim Carrey after 'sick' cartoon of Alabama's anti-abortion governor

A simmering feud between actor Jim Carrey and Sen. Ted Cruz has hit full boil, with Cruz chastising the actor for a sketch depicting Alabama's anti-abortion governor as a doomed fetus and Carrey hitting back by calling him "greasy" and "shameless." The two have sparred via social media before, though the latest eruption is far more venomous.

He called the star of The Truman Show, Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, and Dumb and Dumber a "self-described socialist," and poked him for getting the vampire part backwards because "vampires are dead, and everyone knows the dead vote Democrat." The latest dust up began on Saturday, when Carrey posted a vivid, hand drawn cartoon on Twitter that showed a tube sucking the brain out of Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey's head.

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New York Times - May 21, 2019

Democratic calls for impeachment inquiry grow as leaders instead vow to toughen tactics

A bloc of liberal Democrats began pressing Tuesday for an impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump, underscoring party divisions and the growing difficulties that Speaker Nancy Pelosi faces as she tries to chart a more methodical course.

Trump’s latest defiance of congressional oversight demands precipitated the break among Democrats. Former White House counsel Don McGahn, who had been called to testify Tuesday before the House Judiciary Committee about the president’s attempts to obstruct the Russia investigation, skipped the scheduled hearing after Trump ordered him to ignore lawmakers’ subpoena.

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Bloomberg - May 21, 2019

Oil dips as trade standoff muddies outlook for economic growth

Oil closed lower amid warnings that the U.S.-China trade dispute may take an increasing toll on the economy. U.S. oil futures fluctuated between gains and losses on Tuesday, ending the session down 0.2%.

Federal Reserve Bank of Boston President Eric Rosengren said the trade standoff is adding a downside risk to the central bank's forecasts, while the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development downgraded its projection for global growth. International benchmark Brent crude, meanwhile, finished the day 0.3% higher, as fighting in Saudi Arabia and Libya and a pipeline outage in Nigeria brought more reminders of the fragile state of supplies.

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Wall Street Journal - May 22, 2019

Trading a trade war: ‘Markets don’t appear ready for that’

How do you trade a trade war? A previously abstract question is becoming more pressing for investors as U.S.-China trade relations fray. “What we’ve learned the last few weeks is this is a genuine negotiation and both sides appear willing to escalate this,” said Michael Metcalfe, head of global macro strategy at State Street Global Markets. “It’s a credible threat and markets don’t appear ready for that.”

Some investors are shunning stocks with significant exposure to China, including in materials, technology and industrials. Among major tech stocks, Apple Inc. is down 7% in May, on pace for its worst month this year, while Google parent Alphabet Inc. has lost 3.7%. International investors sold shares listed in Shanghai and Shenzhen through a trading link in Hong Kong at a record pace in the 20 trading days through May 17. Through this trading link, foreigners had rarely sold mainland stocks on a net basis before.

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NPR - May 22, 2019

Liz Cheney's choice: House Or Senate?

Rep. Liz Cheney does not mince words, but when it comes to her own political ambitions, the Wyoming Republican has nothing to say right now. "I don't have any announcements to make about that," a tight-lipped Cheney told reporters at a recent press conference dominated by questions about her political future.

The question Cheney is weighing is whether or not to run for the Senate, prompted by GOP Sen. Mike Enzi's decision to retire in 2020. Cheney's ambition for the seat is well-known. She unsuccessfully tried to primary Enzi in 2014, in a short-lived bid marked by acrimony that divided the GOP — and her own family. But she stuck around, and her fortunes quickly rebounded. In 2016, she won Wyoming's only House seat.

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Washington Post - May 21, 2019

No, maternal mortality did not spike in Texas after funding cuts to abortion clinics

“Anti-abortion bills increase maternal mortality and infant mortality. Texas is the best case. The reported rate of maternal deaths in Texas doubled when the state closed their abortion clinics and cut funding for Planned Parenthood. The fact is that if Texas was a country it would have the highest maternal mortality rate of any developed country in the world." — Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.), in remarks at a House Ways and Means Committee hearing on maternal mortality, May 16, 2019

Many times, the corrections receive far less attention than the original headline. Here’s a good example. In arguing that laws that limit abortion rights increase maternal and infant mortality, Rep. Beyer cited some alarming data about Texas and asked a witness about the connection between the two. The witness, Lisa Hollier, the immediate past president and interim chief executive of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, sidestepped the question.

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CNN - May 22, 2019

Schiff cancels 'enforcement' meeting after Justice Department offers to share Mueller documents

House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff is scrapping a Wednesday morning meeting intended to take an "enforcement action" against the Justice Department after it agreed to begin providing the committee with counterintelligence documents from special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation.

The decision to postpone the business meeting –– where Schiff was threatened to take an unspecified action against Attorney General William Barr for not complying with the committee's subpoena for Mueller's counterintelligence materials –– is a rare sign of the Trump administration and a House panel successfully negotiating around a Democratic subpoena for documents.

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Newsclips - May 21, 2019

Lead Stories

Dallas Morning News - May 20, 2019

To avoid infighting in the Texas House, did Speaker Dennis Bonnen kill controversial bills?

As the House heatedly debated a contentious bill late Friday that would prohibit municipalities from contracting with organizations that provide abortions, such as Planned Parenthood, Democrats in the chamber were preparing for more acrimonious battles in the last week of a legislative session that’s been characterized by its mild-tempered and collaborative tone.

Earlier that day, House committees voted out controversial bills that would make it harder to remove Confederate monuments from public places, prohibit cities from requiring private employers to provide paid sick leave, and stiffen penalties for providing false information on a voter registration application. All of those bills were still eligible to be placed on the chamber’s agenda before an important procedural deadline Tuesday, as long as they made it through the House Calendars Committee over the weekend. But by Sunday night, when the committee met to set the agenda for Tuesday’s calendar, none of those Republican-authored bills made the list, leaving them all but dead very late in the session.

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Texas Monthly - May 21, 2019

The culture wars come roaring back in the closing days of the Texas Legislature

So much for a kumbaya session. For most of the 86th Texas Legislature, things proceeded in an almost refreshingly dull fashion. Just a week ago, Ross Ramsey of the Texas Tribune—or at least his headline-writer—called it an “unexciting, no drama, very humdrum session."

What a difference a week makes. The generally harmonious atmosphere—fostered in part by an election that scared the GOP as well as the focus on complex, but important issues such as school finance and property taxes—has now been thoroughly poisoned by a slew of culture-wars legislation that animates social conservatives and angers Democrats. Discussion over what to do about rising property taxes and a broken school finance system marked most of the legislative session.

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Bloomberg - May 20, 2019

US Census vulnerable to Russian meddling, top official warns

The U.S. Census Bureau is concerned the Russian government could hack into data collected in the 2020 Census, in a similar way to how it interfered in the 2016 presidential election, a top bureau official said.

“Most of the agencies of the federal government that ingest data are very concerned about interference in the process of taking the 2020 census,” said John Abowd, chief scientist at the U.S. Census Bureau. “We are very concerned about this and very concerned about developing appropriate defenses,” he told a Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta conference in Amelia Island, Fla.

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Daily Sun - May 21, 2019

'What's going on with Fox?' Trump complains his favorite network is 'putting more Democrats on than Republicans'

President Donald Trump thinks 'something strange is going on' at Fox News Channel with the recent influx of Democrat town halls. At a campaign rally in Montoursville, Pennsylvania Monday night Trump said that he was assessing the Democratic competition, but admitted he didn't like Fox News giving the 2020 candidates more air time.

There are 24 candidates already running in the 2020 Democratic primaries, and three have appeared on the network so far to participate in town hall events. South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg was the latest candidate to appear on Fx News on Sunday night. Trump chastised the network for allowing the candidate to bash some of its prime time hosts as a guest on the network.

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State Stories

Austin American-Statesman - May 20, 2019

Texas to get new tools to crack down on unsafe day care centers

The Texas Health and Human Services Commission will soon have more tools to crack down on unsafe day cares thanks to a bill approved Monday night by the Texas House. Senate Bill 568 by Sen. Joan Huffman, R-Houston, increases fines the state can levy on child care centers and homes that violate safety rules.

Rep. Greg Bonnen, R-Friendswood, who carried the bill in the House, said it “strengthens the Health and Human Services Commission’s regulations as they pertain to child care facilities in order to protect children ... and to ensure that our facilities are safe and held responsible.”

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Austin American-Statesman - May 20, 2019

Austin billionaire Robert F. Smith is wiping out Morehouse graduates’ debt

Robert F. Smith, the billionaire who shocked the 2019 graduating class at Morehouse College by announcing he would wipe out all of its student debt, has quietly built his powerhouse global investment firm from a headquarters in downtown Austin.

Smith, the CEO of Vista Equity Partners, stunned students during his commencement address Sunday with the gift, which is estimated to be worth $40 million. The 56-year-old investor, who has a net worth of $5 billion, according to Forbes, co-founded Vista Equity Partners in 2000 with a focus on investing in software companies. The private equity group manages about $46 billion in investments with a portfolio of more than 50 software companies that employ 60,000 people worldwide, according to the firm’s website.

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Austin American-Statesman - May 20, 2019

Texas Senate adopts income tax prohibition

Texas voters will decide in November if they want to bar the imposition of an income tax, following approval of the constitutional amendment by the state Senate on Monday. The Texas House had approved House Joint Resolution 38, which prohibits the imposition of an individual income tax, earlier this month.

The seemingly anodyne proposal ran into pushback Monday from some Senate Democrats who suggested the bill could cut business taxes, a major source of state money. There appears to be no threat of an income tax currently — no such bill appears to have been filed, let alone have reached the floor of either chamber, where it would be political kryptonite. And a 1993 constitutional amendment already holds that Texas can adopt a state income tax only if voters approve and that the money would go for the “support of education.”

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Dallas Morning News - May 20, 2019

Keep springing forward, falling back: Vote on daylight saving or standard time dies in Texas Senate

A House-approved plan to stop Texans from having to change clocks twice a year and let them pick either daylight saving or standard time year-round is dead. On Monday, author Rep. Lyle Larson said he was "very disappointed" that his proposal was "summarily dismissed by the Senate."

Though Larson's proposed constitutional amendment and an enabling bill easily cleared the House last month, the idea of letting voters weigh in on clock changes never gained traction in the Senate. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick didn't refer either Larson measure to a Senate committee. As end-of-session deadlines approached, Patrick's inaction all but killed them.

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Dallas Morning News - May 21, 2019

Rep. Van Taylor of Plano is not like other Congress members as he works to be ‘Mr. Bipartisan’

Freshman Rep. Van Taylor of Plano is without question a conservative Republican. But watching him work the House floor, you might not know it, because he spends much of his time working the other side of the aisle. That’s not uncommon in Austin, where Taylor served in the state House and Senate for eight years before heading to Congress. In the Legislature, lawmakers in both parties routinely work together.

In Austin, lawmakers are assigned desks on the floor of each chamber based on seniority, regardless of party. Taylor’s first Democratic deskmate was Beaumont Rep. Joe Deshotel in 2013. In the U.S. House, there are no assigned seats or desks, and the center aisle marks a clear border. Republicans spend their time to the left, looking out from the rostrum, with Democrats mingling among themselves across the aisle. “The fact that there is a Republican side and a Democrat side on the House floor is something I still can’t quite wrap my head around,” Taylor said about Washington.

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Dallas Morning News - May 20, 2019

'Save Chick-fil-A' bill approved by Texas House, despite emotional pleas from LGBT members

A bill cast by conservatives as religious freedom protection and by liberals as a tool to discriminate against LGBT people was tentatively passed by the Texas House on Monday. The "Save Chick-fil-A" bill needs one more procedural vote from the House before it heads back to the Senate for final approval of a House amendment.

Then it goes to Gov. Greg Abbott's desk for his signature or veto. Senate Bill 1978 passed by a 79-62 vote; Houston-area Republican Rep. Sarah Davis broke with her party to oppose it. Fort Worth GOP Rep. Matt Krause, the House sponsor, said the bill stops the government from taking adverse action against a business or person for their contributions or memberships in religious organizations.

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Texas Lawyer - May 20, 2019

Texas attorney-politician committed malpractice, wins do-over on $3 million award to litigation funder

McAllen attorney and State Rep. Sergio Munoz Jr., D-Mission, committed legal malpractice when representing a New York-based litigation financing company, but a district court erred when it awarded $2.99 million in damages for Munoz’s negligence, according to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.

The Fifth Circuit remanded the case, The Law Funder v. Munoz, to the district court for a new trial on damages. The good news for Munoz: The appellate panel found the district court improperly awarded attorney fees that the litigation financier, The Law Funder, incurred before it ever hired him.

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San Antonio Express-News - May 20, 2019

Cenotaph still set to move after monument bill dies

A historic monuments bill that would have blocked relocation of the 1930s Alamo Cenotaph — and possibly interfered with its repair — died this week in the Legislature, clearing the way for the city of San Antonio to proceed with the move as part of a major Alamo Plaza overhaul.

The debate over moving the monument about 500 feet south has been one of the most contentious issues in a public-private project to build a museum and convert Alamo Plaza into an open interpretive space, free of traffic and the six-story, monolithic Cenotaph. The monument honoring the fallen Alamo defenders sits at the north end of the plaza, where it was dedicated in 1940 as part of the Texas centennial.

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Texas Observer - May 20, 2019

The $9 billion school finance problem in Speaker Bonnen’s backyard

There’s a $9 billion (and growing) problem looming in the backyard of House Speaker Dennis Bonnen. That problem is formally known as Chapter 313. As Texas’ largest corporate welfare program, it allows school districts to give big corporations steep discounts on property taxes for up to 13 years as a way to incentivize businesses to set up shop in the state.

The forgone property tax revenue that districts would have used to fund their share of educating kids is covered by the state. Such abatements have rapidly expanded in size and scope in recent years. By 2023, Chapter 313 — the program’s section in the state tax code — is projected by the state comptroller to cost Texas more than $1 billion a year in lost revenue. The more than 400 deals that are currently active are estimated to siphon $9.6 billion from state coffers over their lifespan.

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Associated Press and KERA - May 20, 2019

DFW Airport's Terminal F will open up to 24 new gates

A new terminal full of gates is coming to Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport. Terminal F, the airport's sixth, is expected to open by 2025 and provide up to 24 new gates for U.S. and international flights. DFW airport CEO Sean Donohue announced plans for Terminal F on Monday. The airport currently has 164 gates spread across five terminals.

Design work for Terminal F will begin immediately. The new terminal will be constructed south of Terminal D. The airport plans to spend up to $3.5 billion in terminal work, which will include the construction of Terminal F and enhancements to Terminal C. DFW has been growing, inching closer to busier airports such as Atlanta. Donohue says DFW has more than doubled its passenger-carrying capacity to international destinations since 2010.

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KUT - May 20, 2019

Could a potential Whataburger sale change the way we eat burgers in Texas?

Whataburger ranks No. 7 among the country's Top 10 burger chains. But here in Texas, few brands, burger or otherwise, inspire as much loyalty. News that the company has hired investment bank Morgan Stanley to "explore our options," which it said in a statement to the San Antonio Business Journal, has many fans worried about its future. Whataburger's motivation isn't clear, but expansion could be on the menu.

Gary Wilcox is a media and marketing professor at The University of Texas at Austin's Stan Richards School of Advertising & Public Relations. He says loyalty and quality account for Whataburger's success. "I've grown up having Whataburgers since I was a little kid," Wilcox says. "And they still taste the same to me. And so, when you think about a brand that delivers on its promise, that's a brand that really does do that."

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County Stories

Houston Chronicle - May 20, 2019

Harris County Flood Control aims to prevent repeat flooding at Barbara Bush Library

Although the Barbara Bush Library has reopened after Hurricane Harvey in 2017 when the library received feet of floodwater, Harris County Flood Control District is working to ensure the library will not flood again.

During the latest meeting of the Barbara Bush Library Friends, a nonprofit organization with the mission of improving and volunteering for the Barbara Bush Library, Harris County Precinct 4 representatives told the crowd about plans for floodplains and flood prevention for the library and surrounding areas.

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City Stories

Dallas Morning News - May 20, 2019

Dallas vows not to remove Confederate War Memorial for 14 days as case reaches courtroom

On Monday, at least, Chris Carter got what he wanted: a promise from Dallas City Hall that it would not remove the Confederate War Memorial in the next 14 days. That, clearly, is not all Carter wants. Carter — along with Karen Pieroni of the United Daughters of the Confederacy — is suing the city to keep the 1897 monument standing in front of Dallas' downtown convention center forever and ever.

Moyé ultimately declined to grant Carter's request, filed Friday, for a temporary restraining order. The judge saw no need after the city's attorney, Charles Estee, said the memorial would stand in place for at least the next two weeks. The city will spend that time finishing negotiations with the winning bidder for the estimated $500,000 removal job. The two-week promise was fine with Carter. He will take every additional second he can get.

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Dallas Morning News - May 20, 2019

Before Muhlaysia Booker was killed, she was 'looking forward' to life after brutal assault, friends say

With police offering no new details Monday about the fatal shooting of Muhlaysia Booker, her family and friends tried to focus on the life she led before a brutal beating made her a face of the struggle to protect trans people from violence.

Her death — about a month after she was the victim of a mob attack — sparked demands for justice from transgender people and their allies. Police have said they have no evidence tying the man charged in the April attack to Booker's death. Since Booker was identified as the woman who was found facedown Saturday on a street in Far East Dallas, her loved ones have remained in a daze.

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San Antonio Express-News - May 20, 2019

Progressive stronghold embodies San Antonio’s political divide

About 24 hours before Councilman Greg Brockhouse pushed him into a runoff, Mayor Ron Nirenberg took the stage at the Charline McCombs Empire Theatre downtown to welcome Netflix co-founder Reed Hastings and give him a green-glowing digital key to the city.

The crowd of about 760 — a mix of young techies, entrepreneurs and other “creatives” — excitedly called out and hooted as the mayor settled in behind the podium. They were Nirenberg’s people. If it had been up to this audience alone, Nirenberg would have trounced Brockhouse in the May 4 election. The council district where the theater is located and where many in the audience live, work and play came out big for the mayor. District 1 voters chose Nirenberg by 65 percent to Brockhouse’s 28 percent. Among the 10 council districts, it was Nirenberg’s best showing on election day and Brockhouse’s worst.

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San Antonio Express-News - May 20, 2019

Activists call on Brockhouse to address domestic violence allegations

After simmering in the background for weeks, the issue of domestic violence was thrust to the forefront of the San Antonio mayoral campaign Monday. A newly formed group of activists demanded that candidate Greg Brockhouse address in detail two incidents in which women married to him have accused him of assault.

The Brockhouse campaign responded that one of the group’s leaders was in no position to criticize the councilman because she herself was charged with assaulting an ex-boyfriend in 2007. In the first incident, Brockhouse’s second wife, Christine Rivera, from whom he was separated, told police he assaulted her April 29, 2006, when he returned to their home on the Northwest Side to retrieve some belongings.

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Houston Chronicle - May 20, 2019

State of the city: Turner announces park plan, renews pitch for transit, startups

Mayor Sylvester Turner used his fourth annual State of the City address Monday to announce a plan aimed at drawing private investment to city parks in underserved areas, while casting the state of the city as "strong, resilient and sustainable," a depiction his mayoral opponents swiftly rejected.

Turner, who is up for re-election in November, also renewed his call for a multimodal transit system with rail and bus rapid transit, urging residents to give Metro borrowing authority for its long-term plan in November. The agency is expected to put a multi-billion-dollar bond request on the ballot. "This is not the city of the 1990s," Turner said. "This city has changed. The region is changing. People are demanding multimodal options, and we have to give it to them."

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Fort Worth Star-Telegram - May 20, 2019

Fort Worth Police Chief Joel Fitzgerald fired Monday

Fort Worth Police Chief Joel Fitzgerald has been fired after a culmination of problems including a heated confrontation in Washington, D.C. and failed attempt to get a job in Baltimore, city officials announced on Monday. City Manager David Cooke said he determined a change in leadership was necessary for the citizens of Fort Worth and the men and women of the Fort Worth Police Department.

Executive Assistant Chief Edwin Kraus has been designated as interim chief of police. Fitzgerald said he was notified Monday afternoon by Cooke and had no advanced warning. He declined to say what Cooke told him in their conversation, but said the reason given was “nothing that is in any way valid.”

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Austin American-Statesman - May 21, 2019

Austin ISD board adopts principles to guide school closures

At midnight Tuesday, Austin district trustees adopted principles that will guide how to tackle school closures. The board discussed the adopted goals for more than two hours, with debates growing contentious at times. District leaders have said the goals are aimed at taking a districtwide approach toward closures and to ensure schools aren’t consolidated primarily because they have low enrollment.

The principles also ensure students have equitable access to academic programs and families continue to have the ability to choose other school programs across the district. “The purpose of this document is to ensure that the school change process is implemented with thought and care around issues of equity, customer services, student success and the academic vision that all students in Austin ISD deserve the highest quality schools, teachers and coursework,” said Trustee Amber Elenz.

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National Stories

Washington Post - May 20, 2019

Pelosi's leadership team strikes rebellious tone, presses her to begin impeachment inquiry

Members of Speaker Nancy Pelosi's own leadership team confronted her in a contentious Monday night meeting and argued that it was time to begin an impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump, according to sources in the room.

At least five members of Pelosi's leadership team - four who also sit on the House Judiciary Committee with jurisdiction over impeachment - pressed Pelosi to allow the panel to start the inquiry, which they argued would help investigators attain documents and testimony Trump has blocked. Pelosi, according to sources in the room, pushed back on the idea with senior leaders, including House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md. Pelosi has also long been an impeachment skeptic and tried to tamp down impeachment talk in her caucus as recently as last week by encouraging members to focus on their legislative agenda.

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Washington Post - May 20, 2019

Trump uses economic argument to take on Biden in Pennsylvania

President Donald Trump mocked former Vice President Joe Biden for his views on trade and focus on foreign policy, taking aim Monday at the Democrat leading the polls in the state Biden has made his proving ground for defeating Trump next year.

He touted an economic turnaround on his watch, saying Pennsylvania now has historically low unemployment that no political competitor could best. Trump's "Make America Great Again" rally at an airport hangar in this small north-central Pennsylvania town was nominally a show of support for Republican state Rep. Fred Keller, the heavy favorite in a special election Tuesday to fill the congressional seat vacated in January by Tom Marino, a Republican who had just been reelected to his fifth term.

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Politico - May 19, 2019

O'Rourke stocks campaign with Obama and Clinton alums

Beto O’Rourke is adding a pair of seasoned strategists to his campaign, injecting a measure of establishment credibility that was lacking in his improvisational Senate bid against Ted Cruz last year.

Lauren Brainerd, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee’s field director in 2018, has been hired as national organizing director. And Lise Clavel, who worked in former Vice President Joe Biden’s office as director of public engagement and for Barack Obama's 2012 reelection, has been named states director, campaign sources told POLITICO. The moves are an attempt by O’Rourke to shift toward a more mainstream operation after a Senate run in which his campaign focused heavily — almost indiscriminately — on voter turnout.

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Associated Press - May 20, 2019

Judge sides with Congress over Trump in demands for records

A federal judge ruled against President Donald Trump on Monday in a financial records dispute with Congress and said lawmakers should get the documents they have subpoenaed. Trump called it a "crazy" decision that his lawyers would appeal.

The ruling by U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta comes amid a widespread effort by the White House and Trump's attorneys to refuse to cooperate with congressional requests for information and records. Earlier Monday, Trump directed former White House counsel Don McGahn to defy a congressional subpoena that had compelled McGahn, a pivotal figure in special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation, to testify before the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday.

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Wall Street Journal - May 21, 2019

US slows hiring of Chinese nationals by chip makers

The U.S. has sharply slowed approvals for the nation’s semiconductor companies to hire Chinese nationals for advanced engineering jobs, according to industry insiders, who say the delays are limiting access to vital talent.

The disruption, which started last year, has affected hundreds of jobs across the industry at companies including Intel Corp., Qualcomm Inc. and Globalfoundries Inc., impeding their ability to hire Chinese employees or move existing employees to key projects in the U.S., these people said. It is significant in part because Chinese nationals account for a large share of non-U.S. citizens hired for such technical roles, where the talent supply domestically is often scarce.

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Law and Crime - May 21, 2019

Conservative SCOTUS Justices Kavanaugh and Gorsuch disagreed on three decisions in one day

After Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh seemed to upset the court’s partisan balance by voting with the court’s liberal bloc of justices in last week’s Apple v. Pepper decision, Monday’s opinions from the high court showed that its conservative justices are not as like-minded as previously billed or assumed.

The proof? President Donald Trump’s two appointments to the bench, Kavanaugh and Justice Neil Gorsuch, disagreed on three separate decisions in one day. Each case dealt with a different area of law, and each sparked disagreement between the most recently minted SCOTUS justices. In Merck Sharp & Dohme Corp. v. Albrecht, the two conservative justices we now discuss ultimately reached the same judgment, but with marked differences in their rationales. Justice Stephen Breyer wrote the court’s opinion, joined by Gorsuch, Justice Clarence Thomas, and the court’s remaining three liberals. Kavanaugh, on the other hand, joined a concurring opinion by Justice Alito and Chief Justice John Roberts.

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KUT - May 20, 2019

Teenager is latest migrant child to die in US custody

A 16-year-old migrant boy has become the fifth migrant child since December to die after being apprehended at the U.S. border. In a statement, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection said the boy, whose name was not released, was "found unresponsive" during a routine welfare check Monday morning at Weslaco Station, the facility where he was being held.

The boy was taken into custody after crossing the U.S. border in Texas' Rio Grande Valley on May 13, and was due to be moved into custody of the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Refugee Resettlement, which oversees care of unaccompanied or separated migrant children after they are initially processed by immigration authorities. The cause of death is unknown and the incident is being reviewed by CBP's Office of Professional Responsibility.

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Newsclips - May 20, 2019

Lead Stories

Washington Post - May 20, 2019

The little-noticed surge across the U.S.-Mexico border: It’s Americans heading south

President Trump regularly assails the flow of migrants crossing the Mexican border into the United States. Less noticed has been the surge of people heading in the opposite direction.

Mexico’s statistics institute estimated this month that the U.S.-born population in this country has reached 799,000 — a roughly fourfold increase since 1990. And that is probably an undercount. The U.S. Embassy in Mexico City estimates the real number at 1.5 million or more. They’re a mixed group. They’re digital natives who can work just as easily from Puerto Vallarta as Palo Alto. They’re U.S.-born kids — nearly 600,000 of them — who’ve returned with their Mexican-born parents. And they’re retirees like Guzmán, who settled in this city five years ago and is now basically the pickleball king of San Miguel.

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Rio Grande Guardian - May 19, 2019

Feds urge Texas to help fund Census 2020 outreach

The State of California has allotted $100 million to help get an accurate count in next year’s census. This is in sharp contrast to the State of Texas, which has so far committed zero dollars. The City of Houston is committed to spending $6 million, with $800,000 earmarked for kiosks.

In the Rio Grande Valley, the cities of McAllen and Harlingen have each allocated $25,000 for census outreach work, while Weslaco has allocated $10,000 this year and $15,000 next year. Cameron County has allocated $25,000 this fiscal year, and $120,000 next year.These and other statistics about the 2020 Census were relayed to McAllen Economic Development Corporation by Ana Leonard, partnership coordinator in the Dallas regional census center.

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Texas Monthly - May 17, 2019

Is a proposed ban on a state income tax really a stealth move to undermine the state’s business tax?

The proposed ban on a personal income tax that’s flying through the Legislature may also blow a hole in the state’s business franchise tax—a tax that Governor Greg Abbott has said he wants to put in “a coffin.”

On Friday, Senator Kirk Watson, D-Austin, questioned whether the real purpose of the income-tax ban was to undermine the state’s business tax, calling the proposal a “stalking horse.” If Watson’s right, the state could lose billions of dollars in revenue and decrease the chances of property tax relief in the future. In the previous two legislative session, Abbott called for seriously reducing or eliminating the franchise tax, but the effort failed because the tax just produces too much money—a little more than $7.4 billion for every two-year state budget.

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Associated Press - May 19, 2019

Texas church opens new sanctuary 18 months after massacre

A South Texas church began a fresh chapter of worship on Sunday as it unveiled a new sanctuary a year and a half after a gunman opened fire and killed more than two dozen congregants in the deadliest mass shooting in state history.

Parishioners, elected leaders and relatives of those killed or injured at the First Baptist Church in the tiny town of Sutherland Springs gathered at the new sanctuary for its dedication. Some among the hundreds in attendance wore royal blue shirts with "#evildidnotwin" written across the back. In the large, white sanctuary amid a stained glass panel, Pastor Frank Pomeroy told the crowd they were celebrating God's glory while remembering "those who have paid a price for this incredible facility."

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State Stories

Dallas Morning News - May 19, 2019

Controversial Texas voting bill likely dead this year after failing to be set for debate

Some of your favorite Game of Thrones characters weren't the only ones left for dead Sunday night. Just before the HBO show aired its much-anticipated finale, Texas Democrats marked the death of a divisive piece of legislation they argued would have suppressed voter turnout.

The bill had a quiet end, killed by a House committee that decided against scheduling it for debate in the final days of the 2019 session. Senate Bill 9 by Sen. Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola, would have increased criminal penalties for providing false information on a voter registration application, as well as the investigative powers of law enforcement over elections, and would have required those assisting voters to fill out more detailed forms on how they are helping.

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Dallas Morning News - May 20, 2019

Gerald Britt and Dan Hooper: The war on poverty in Texas will be won in public education, and the Legislature must do its part

What do a poverty-fighting nonprofit and a college success program for first-generation college students have in common? Nagging, persistent poverty makes their work a necessity. Whether we are supporting students unprepared for college or adults struggling to enter the workforce, our work is necessitated by systemic causes of poverty. We believe public education has the power to break these.

This legislative session, lawmakers have the opportunity to take a giant step toward more effectively funding Texas schools. Great strides have been made through the years to increase the high school graduation rate, yet only 23% of students are graduating college-ready, as defined by the College Board's SAT or ACT standards. Among low-income students — the fastest-growing demographic in the state — that number drops below 10%.

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Dallas Morning News - May 19, 2019

Amid opioid crisis, Texas becomes first state where life-saving drug is sold online

With opioid-related deaths on the rise each year in the U.S., Texas has become the first state to offer a life-saving overdose drug online, freeing users of the stigma associated with drug use.

Last week, Texas began offering naloxone, an opioid antagonist, for purchase online. Experts say the drug reverses opioid overdoses and is not addictive. The website, naloxoneexchange.com, is the brainchild of James Lott, 33, a Chicago pharmacist who hoped removing the stigma from the purchase and increasing accessibility online would allow anyone to prepare for the worst. Texas is a sort of pilot state for Fiduscript's Naloxone Exchange, which intends to launch in other states in a few months, though there is no hard timeline yet, Lott said.

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Dallas Morning News - May 19, 2019

Raid on Dallas Diocese inspires Catholics to close ranks or lose faith: 'Enough is enough'

Catholics across the area wrestled with sadness, disappointment and outright anger after last week's raid on the Dallas diocese, which police say hasn't fully cooperated with a sexual abuse investigation.

Police say the diocese has hidden records of complaints about priests, including former St. Cecilia pastor Rev. Edmundo Paredes. Even as some say the new developments continue to test their beliefs, there are Catholics who say the church needs their support more than ever during this latest crisis, expressing almost familial obligations.

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Austin American-Statesman - May 19, 2019

In addressing opioid crisis, Texas lawmakers shy away from controversial bills

State lawmakers are taking aim at the opioid crisis this session largely through education initiatives and regulations on prescribing of opioids, letting some of the more controversial bills — like those that would have protected drug addicts who call to report overdoses and legalized needle exchange programs — die in the House and Senate.

Legislation by Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, that would have given Texas counties the authority to decide whether to make programs that hand out syringes to drug users legal, did not make it to a vote in the House. None of the bills that would have protected drug users who call to report drug overdoses from prosecution got hearings either, despite advocates saying that the measure would lead to a significant drop in overdose deaths, as seen in other states with such laws.

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Austin American-Statesman - May 19, 2019

Senate approves fix to ‘revenge porn’ law

The Texas Senate on Sunday approved legislation designed to protect the 2015 “revenge porn” law, which made it a crime to share intimate or sexually explicit photos and videos without consent, from a court challenge. Approved 31-0 by the Senate after last month’s 136-0 vote in the House, the bill next goes to Gov. Greg Abbott.

House Bill 98 seeks to address concerns cited by the Tyler-based 12th Court of Appeals, which ruled last year that the revenge porn law was unconstitutionally broad because it could be used to punish anybody who reposted an image online, even those who did not know that the visual material came from a revenge porn scenario. HB 98 specifies that photos and videos must be posted “with the intent to harm” the person depicted and that the offender knew that the victim had a reasonable expectation that the material would remain private.

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Houston Chronicle - May 20, 2019

Special education advocates hoped for more from 2019 Texas Legislature

Rep. Briscoe Cain stood in front of the Texas House and shared a secret. The Deer Park Republican has Asperger’s Syndrome, making him one of the estimated 400,000 Texans with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Cain was the third lawmaker to talk openly this year about having a disability — including the House Speaker and the head of the House education committee — in a series of testimonials cheered by advocates who want to dispel stigma around disorders such as autism and dyslexia. That outpouring of support for people who struggle with disabilities will translate to more money to serve special education students this legislative session as the state beefs up its investment in public schools by more than $6 billion.

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Houston Chronicle - May 20, 2019

Mental health services still needed at Houston schools in wake of recent storms

Even though Hurricane Harvey struck Texas almost two years ago, Communities in Schools (CIS) of Houston, are still providing mental health services related to the hurricane, and are seeing a need to keep those services going.

According to cishouston.org, CIS is a campus-based dropout prevention program. CIS works with the school system on campuses to provide direct social services to at-risk students and connect students with available community resources. Spring Branch Independent School District is one of the Houston area districts that has CIS at their Title I schools. At Spring Branch ISD, the need for CIS for storm related help has come full circle.

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KUT - May 20, 2019

Why Is Julián Castro the only Democratic presidential candidate with an immigration plan?

Immigration is likely to be a key issue in the 2020 presidential election, but so far Democratic candidates have largely shied away from the issue in their campaigns. Julián Castro hasn't. The former HUD Secretary and mayor of San Antonio is currently the only major Democratic candidate with an actual plan on how to tackle immigration.

Earlier this year, Castro released a plan to decriminalize immigration, as well as rollback several Trump administration policies. It's a sweeping plan that would revamp the way the U.S. handles illegal immigration– as well as legal immigration programs like visas, refugee resettlement and asylum. During a small fundraiser earlier this month at a bar in a stylish hostel in East Austin, Castro talked about his plan, as well as what he saw as serious issues with the way the Trump administration is handling families seeking asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border.

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KUT - May 20, 2019

Austin's Mayor Steve Adler says more lanes on I-35 won't solve Austin's traffic problems. But it's a start.

Austin Mayor Steve Adler wants you to know something. “I do not believe that adding lanes to I-35 … is the answer to congestion,” Adler said in an interview with KUT, adding that, he believes, merely adding lanes will make traffic worse on the notoriously congested highway.

Adler was responding to criticism of his vote in support of the Capital Express Project. The plan would expand about 30 miles of Interstate 35 between Round Rock and Buda and add up to four non-tolled “managed lanes” of traffic on the highway through Austin. It was approved by the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization's Transportation Board earlier this month.

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Austin Chronicle - May 15, 2019

Texas Legislature grants big win to small farmers

It’s no secret that the city of Austin’s health permitting procedures are nightmarish, both in terms of finances and time. In hopes of alleviating some of that tension, the Texas House pushed through Senate Bill 932 on May 14. The bill will cap health permit fees imposed on farmers and other farmers’ market vendors at $100 per year, per jurisdiction.

This is a big victory for small vendors, said Christiano Prado, founder of Lua Brazil, who says that in past years he has paid $650 annually for his health permits in Austin. Although the local laws changed on April 1 and vendors are forking over less for city health permits than they used to, it’s still a steep price. There are three different permit classes and each is progressively more expensive.

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SE Texas Record - May 13, 2019

Mostyn Law files preemptive suit against Beaumont firm over past work, records show firms still working together on active Ike case

Perhaps opting to strike first, The Mostyn Law Firm has filed a petition seeking declaratory judgment against a Beaumont law firm, asserting the statute of limitations has elapsed for it to be sued. The petition was filed against attorney Hart Green and his firm, Weller Green Toups & Terrell.

According to the lawsuit, green provided legal services to Mostyn Law beginning in 2010 and ending in the first in the first quarter of 2014. The parties allegedly had no written agreement and the amount of money to be paid at time is in dispute. In November of 2017, Steve Mostyn, the firm’s founder, committed suicide. Mostyn law contends his testimony “would have been critical to rebut any of Green’s allegations regarding the payment terms” between him and Mostyn.

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County Stories

Houston Chronicle - May 17, 2019

Public not notified of high benzene reading after Ship Channel collision for hours

Seven hours after two vessels collided in the Houston Ship Channel this month, causing a massive spill of a gasoline blend with high concentrations of benzene, a state contractor detected levels of the cancer-causing chemical that exceeded the state’s threshold for short-term exposure.

In fact, some Seabrook residents could have been exposed to levels of benzene 14 times higher than the point at which state officials consider it a cause for worry. Yet, no one was notified for hours. The lapse in communication is a symptom of a system that fails to inform communities when they are potentially exposed to dangerous chemicals, critics say. Some believe the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality could be doing more.

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Rio Grande Guardian - May 17, 2019

Starr County, known for wind energy, is branching into solar

Starr County is about to get a major solar energy project, county leaders say. The name of the company involved in developing the 3,000-acre solar farm has yet to be named. However, negotiations are at an advanced stage.

“We are happy to report that within the next few weeks, we may be able to begin the final negotiations in earnest for our first solar farm,” said Rose Benavidez, president of Starr County Industrial Foundation, in an exclusive interview with the Rio Grande Guardian and RGV Public Radio 88 FM.

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City Stories

Austin American-Statesman - May 17, 2019

‘An Austin treasure’: $2.1M gift gets Barton Springs Bathhouse to goal for rehab

The guests gathered at the lip of Barton Springs Pool at dusk on Thursday beamed with long-delayed pleasure as philanthropist Ross Moody announced his family foundation’s $2.1 million gift to complete the rehabilitation of the Barton Springs Bathhouse, an estimated $8 million project that has been some 20 years in the making.

“It’s an Austin treasure,” said Moody, who has been swimming at the pool since 1980. “The project brings together health, wellness and nature as well as historical, cultural and environmental preservation. It’s a one-stop shop.” The bathhouse, designed in 1947 by Recreation Department staff architect Dan Driscoll in the streamlined moderne style, has long needed an upgrade. The Austin-based firm of Limbacher & Godfrey Architects has been charged with the rehab project.

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Austin American-Statesman - May 19, 2019

Austin largely greets Ilhan Omar with unity, ‘Southern hospitality’

For Ilhan Omar, the Muslim-American freshman congresswoman from Minnesota who has been the target of a menacing tweet from President Donald Trump and the suggestion by Vice President Mike Pence that she be bounced from the House Foreign Affairs Committee, her weekend in Austin may be remembered as a relatively placid interlude.

Yes, there were more than two dozen demonstrators outside a North Austin hotel where Omar spoke Saturday night at the fourth annual Citywide Iftar, a ceremonial dinner during Ramadan, the month when Muslims fast from sunrise to sundown. But while some were armed with rifles and hostile signs, others held banners and banged drums of welcome.

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Dallas Morning News - May 18, 2019

Scooter rider drowns after jumping into reflecting pool outside Dallas City Hall

Police are investigating a drowning late Friday in the reflecting pool in front of Dallas City Hall.

Officers were called shortly before midnight after an unidentified man parked his scooter near City Hall Plaza and jumped into the water, said Sgt. Warren Mitchell, a police spokesman.

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Dallas Morning News - May 19, 2019

Transgender woman who was attacked on video found fatally shot in Far East Dallas

A transgender woman who was attacked in April by a group of people in an incident that was recorded on video was found fatally shot Saturday morning on a Far East Dallas street. Muhlaysia Booker, 23, was found about 6:40 a.m. in the 7200 block of Valley Glen Drive, near Ferguson Road. She was pronounced dead at the scene, the victim of "homicidal violence," police said.

Police said Sunday that they had no leads in the case. Assistant Chief Avery Moore said he did not have enough information to say whether her slaying was motivated by hate or retaliation. "We recognize that hate crimes, if you will, are a serious topic," he said. "We at the Dallas Police Department take them serious." Police declined to say whether Booker had reported receiving threats before they found her lying facedown in the road Saturday with a gunshot wound.

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San Antonio Express-News - May 18, 2019

Gilbert Garcia: Brockhouse tries moving to the middle with new proposals

There’s an old maxim in presidential politics that once you’ve nailed down your party’s nomination, you start moving to the ideological center. San Antonio municipal elections are nonpartisan affairs, but we’re seeing the same principle at work in the mayoral campaign of Greg Brockhouse.

By finishing within 3 percentage points of Mayor Ron Nirenberg in the May 4 municipal election, Brockhouse asserted his dominance with conservative north-of-the-loop voters. Now that the race has come down to a June 8 runoff, Brockhouse seeks to broaden his appeal with a series of “Action Plan SA” proposals for his first 90 days as mayor. These five platform planks — which Brockhouse rolled out over the course of the past week — offer broad suggestions but few substantive ideas.

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San Antonio Express-News - May 17, 2019

San Antonio unemployment rate approaching 20-year low

The San Antonio region’s unemployment rate fell to 2.9% in April, a low not seen since May 1999, the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas reported Friday. Unemployment rates for the month drpped in all nine of Texas’ major metros as late-2019 fears of an economic downturn were replaced with a first-quarter rebound in optimism.

Oil prices in recent weeks have stabilized at about $60 to $65 per barrel, he noted. Job growth, combined with an upturn in a composite of economic indicators known as the Texas Leading Index, prompted Dallas Fed economists to raise the state’s 2019 job growth forecast to 2.3% from the 1.8% predicted in March.

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National Stories

New York Times - May 20, 2019

EPA could make thousands of pollution deaths vanish by changing its math

The Environmental Protection Agency plans to adopt a new method for projecting the future health risks of air pollution, one that experts said has never been peer-reviewed and is not scientifically sound, according to five people with knowledge of the agency’s plans.

The immediate effect of the change would be to drastically lower an estimate last year by the Trump administration that projected as many as 1,400 additional premature deaths per year from a proposed new rule on emissions from coal plants. That, in turn, would make it easier to defend the new regulation, known as the Affordable Clean Energy rule, which is meant to replace former President Barack Obama’s signature climate change measure, the Clean Power Plan.

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New York Times - May 18, 2019

In cities where it once reigned, Heroin is disappearing

Heroin has ravaged this city since the early 1960s, fueling desperation and crime that remain endemic in many neighborhoods. But lately, despite heroin’s long, deep history here, users say it has become nearly impossible to find.

Heroin’s presence is fading up and down the Eastern Seaboard, from New England mill towns to rural Appalachia, and in parts of the Midwest that were overwhelmed by it a few years back. It remains prevalent in many Western states, but even New York City, the nation’s biggest distribution hub for the drug, has seen less of it this year. The diminishing supply should be a victory for public health and law enforcement alike. Instead, in cities like Baltimore, longtime users who managed to survive decades injecting heroin are now at far higher risk of dying from an overdose.

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Houston Chronicle - May 18, 2019

Africans, Cubans pack Mexican shelters, hoping for a shot at asylum

Tired? Check. Poor? Certainly. Yearning for American oxygen? Lord, yes. “I can see Texas across the river, but I am not sure when we’ll get there or where we go then,” said Igor Nyangi, 36, a lawyer from the Democratic Republic of Congo, huddling with his wife and two young children. They and 700 other migrants are staying in a teeming compound a dozen blocks south of the Rio Grande.

Even as President Trump tightens the screws along the Southwest U.S. border, migrants and refugees — from Central America, Cuba, West Africa, Mexico and elsewhere — are pouring into Nuevo Laredo and other Mexican border cities by the thousands. These travelers say they’re determined to grasp a future that providence so far has denied them. Trump’s rampart, they insist, is but another stone in their well-worn shoes.

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CNBC - May 20, 2019

The trade war seems to be losing its power to frighten this resilient stock market

The stock market has so far withstood its ongoing “gut check,” with a three-day bounce after last Monday’s mini-tariff-panic sell-off preserving its longer-term uptrend and leaving the S&P 500 about 3% from its recent record highs.

Still, for a market so close to all-time heights, its resilience to date owes a lot to cautious, risk-evading behavior rather than optimistic conviction about the future. Stocks have been supported to a significant degree by compressed Treasury yields, which themselves embed high market-implied odds of a Federal Reserve interest-rate cut within months, which would come about only in response to waning economic momentum and a rollover in inflation trends.

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NBC News - May 20, 2019

San Francisco's facial recognition ban is just the beginning of a national battle over the technology

Police say facial recognition is “essential” and “imperative” — a groundbreaking tool that allows them to track down criminals who would otherwise escape justice. Opponents say the technology is “nefarious” and “dangerous” — an omen of repressive government surveillance.

The two sides are engaged in an escalating battle over public opinion that will reach a turning point this week, when San Francisco is expected to become the first city in the country to adopt a ban on government use of facial recognition. Other cities in the Bay Area, including Oakland and Berkeley, along with Somerville, Massachusetts, could follow later this year. State lawmakers in Massachusetts will soon begin debating whether to enact a statewide moratorium on the technology.

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NPR - May 19, 2019

Biden eschews anger, hoping 'unity' can lift him to the presidency

It's not a message for everyone — even though that's exactly what it's intended to be. Many Democrats are angry. They're angry with President Trump's election and what it represents. And they're angry about the direction of the country, and the inequities in American life.

So it would make sense that the person running for the Democratic nomination for president would channel that anger. President Trump did it to win over the Republican base in 2016, saying he gladly carries the "mantle of anger." Not Joe Biden. The Democrat tried to put forward a message of unity Saturday at a major campaign rally in Philadelphia before 6,000 people, according to a security official with the campaign, capping off his presidential campaign kickoff.

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Newsclips - May 19, 2019

Lead Stories

KUT - May 17, 2019

Legal experts say Ken Paxton is following Trump's lead by shutting out Congressional investigations.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is refusing to cooperate with two separate congressional investigations, arguing Congress lacks the authority to investigate the state. It’s a move that constitutional law experts say is both unprecedented and is likely inspired by President Trump’s recent refusals to comply with congressional investigations.

"I think that’s a troubling reflection of the time we are in," said Stephen Vladeck, a professor at the University of Texas School of Law. "It’s not surprising that state attorneys general like Ken Paxton are looking at the president and basically following his lead." According to a press release from the attorney general's office Thursday, Paxton characterized calls by two subcommittees of the U.S. House for documents as an attempt to assert "control over core state functions," arguing that it violated "constitutional principles of federalism." The subcommittees are investigating concerns over discrimination against same-sex couples in Texas and child welfare funding.

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Houston Chronicle - May 18, 2019

Santa Fe community strives for normalcy on first anniversary of school shooting

On a humid Saturday one year to the day after a mass shooting at Santa Fe High School changed the town forever, the community strived for normalcy.

At Runge Park, 2 miles from the campus, faculty members organized a kickball tournament. Country and pop music blared from underneath a pavilion as two dozen teams squared off in friendly competition — an event designed to give the community a distraction from 12 months of grieving. A city proclamation marks May 18 as “Resiliency Day” in Santa Fe — an official acknowledgment of the day a 17-year old student opened fire in two art classrooms, killing 10 people and wounding 13.

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NPR - May 19, 2019

Companies that rely on Census data worry citizenship question will hurt

Some critics of the citizenship question the Trump administration wants to add to the 2020 census are coming from a group that tends to stay away from politically heated issues — business leaders.

From longtime corporations like Levi Strauss & Co. to upstarts like Warby Parker, some companies say that including the question — "Is this person a citizen of the United States?" — could harm not only next year's national head count, but also their bottom line. How governments use census data is a common refrain in the lead-up to a constitutionally mandated head count of every person living in the U.S. The new population counts, gathered once a decade, are used to determine how congressional seats and Electoral College votes are distributed among the states.

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Corpus Christi Caller-Times - May 17, 2019

Corpus Christi Caller-Times Editorial: Your Texas Legislature declared war on your city and county. How do you choose sides?

Most of us live in cities. And all the cities in Texas take up only 4 percent of its surface. If by "cities" you're thinking Houston or Dallas, you're right. But if you're thinking Three Rivers or Monahans, you're still correct. What they all have in common are elected city governments, property taxes, fees for services, and local ordinances.

What you should know about all Texas cities, including yours or the nearest one to you if you live out in the country, is that they are under attack. So is your county government. Your Texas Legislature is in session and part of its agenda during this session is to take away a lot of the power your local governments wield by tradition.This agenda is based on a prevailing attitude that local governments tax you too much, overstep their authority, and basically just don't have your best interests in mind. You may agree with some or all of that.

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State Stories

Dallas Morning News - May 17, 2019

‘A lot of upset Texans’: How much property tax relief should you expect? Not much, experts say

GOP leaders in the Texas Legislature said this is the year they would finally deliver property owners the tax relief they’ve been demanding. First, lawmakers passed legislation that slows how fast property tax bills rise. They called it one of the most transformational tax changes the Legislature has ever passed.

“This not only provides relief, but it reforms the system,” said Sen. Brandon Creighton, R-Conroe, last month. “It’s true change that will be generational.” Then the Legislature passed another bill that lowers school property tax rates. This is the bill where taxpayers would see and feel the tax cut, lawmakers said. “Texas taxpayers will see property tax reductions,” House Speaker Dennis Bonnen said after passing the school funding bill.

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Dallas Morning News - May 17, 2019

After $367.5 million, Texas gets no new child support computer software – just painful lessons

Budget writers are urging the Legislature to cut off further funding of a massive, 12-year technology overhaul at the state's child support enforcement unit that they say has been a disappointing waste of hundreds of millions of dollars.

Key legislators dropped the bombshell this week over the so-called "T2" project at the attorney general's office. "Stop the bleeding," said Sen. Jane Nelson, a Flower Mound Republican who is co-chairwoman of the House-Senate budget conference committee. Added Rep. Giovanni Capriglione, a GOP budget writer from Southlake who was instrumental in persuading House colleagues to pull the plug: "This was a $60 million idea — $340 million ago."

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Dallas Morning News - May 17, 2019

Texas House approves bill to cut off cities’ contracts with abortion providers

Texas House members approved a bill late Friday night that would bar local governments from contracting with abortion providers and could keep Austin from supporting a low-income women’s health clinic.

The bill heads back to the Senate for final approval of an amendment, and then could go to Gov. Greg Abbott for signing. It passed the House 81-65, with Republican Rep. Sarah Davis of Houston crossing the aisle to vote with Democrats. The bill would prohibit local government entities from making “taxpayer resource” transactions with abortion providers or their affiliates. Those transactions, the bill says, would include the sale, purchase, lease or donation of money, goods, services or property.

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Dallas Morning News - May 19, 2019

Mitchell Schnurman: Don’t just blame hospitals and docs for high health spending. Texas keeps dropping the ball

Health care prices are high in Dallas, and utilization is even higher. But don’t just blame hospitals, doctors and other providers. Many factors contribute to rising health costs, from government policies to obesity rates to the number of physicians per person. Not surprisingly, Texas ranks low on many such measures.

And when lawmakers get a chance to move the needle, they often disappoint. Gov. Greg Abbott recently resisted a 10% tax on e-cigarettes and vaping products, and the bill later died. That frustrated Stephen Love, CEO of the Dallas-Fort Worth Hospital Council, because he believes it will lead to more young people becoming addicted to nicotine.

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Dallas Morning News - May 17, 2019

Bill to ban red light cameras in Texas is one step from becoming law

A bill to outlaw red light cameras in Texas passed its final hurdle Friday. The Texas Senate approved House Bill 1631 by a vote of 23-8. It now heads to Gov. Greg Abbott, who is expected to sign it into law.

The bill would prohibit cities from operating photographic traffic camera systems that catch citizens speeding or running red lights and issue them fines. A handful of Texas cities, including Arlington and Richardson, have quit using the devices, or, like DeSoto, decided against installing them. But several others, including Dallas, Irving, Garland and Plano, continue to champion the cameras, which they say improve public safety.

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Houston Chronicle - May 19, 2019

Beto O'Rourke: Here’s how I'd stop gun violence

In the year since the Santa Fe shooting, far too many more school shootings have occurred — most recently in Highlands Ranch, where a brave young man named Kendrick Castillo died rushing toward the gunmen, saving the lives of others in his classroom. It was not unlike the sacrifice made by Riley Howell at UNC Charlotte the week before. These tragedies followed other shootings in synagogues and churches, malls and movie theaters, nightclubs and newsrooms.

Following the lead of those on the ground in Santa Fe, students walking out of their classrooms and marching for their lives, and all the moms demanding action, here are a few human solutions that I propose. First, universal background checks without exceptions. Close the boyfriend loophole, the Charleston loophole, the gun show loophole, the online loophole — no more loopholes and no more excuses for refusing to close them. States that have adopted universal background checks have already seen a reduction in gun violence. Second, stop selling assault weapons that were designed, engineered, and sold to the United States military for the express purpose of killing people as effectively, as efficiently, in as great a number as possible.

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Houston Chronicle - May 19, 2019

Texas lawmakers pass transparency bill to disclose government contract records

A bill that would bring records disclosing how government agencies spend taxpayer money back into public view is likely headed to Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk. Senate Bill 943, which passed in the Senate and received initial approval from the House on Friday, would re-establish in the law that information about contracts that governments make with businesses must be public, with some exceptions.

State agencies and local governments had been able to withhold much of that information after a 2015 Texas Supreme Court ruling in Boeing v. Paxton gave them and affected businesses the ability to deny requests if they claimed it could give their competitors an unfair advantage. The ruling was the basis for the city of McAllen’s refusal in 2015 to disclose how much it paid Latin pop singer Enrique Iglesias for performing at a concert that was part of the festivities at a holiday event that lost hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars. Abbott signed a bill Friday that would require such event information to be public.

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Houston Chronicle - May 17, 2019

Harvey flood victims close case against Army Corps

A two-week trial revisiting the anguish that flood victims experienced during Hurricane Harvey came to a close Friday in a lawsuit brought by property owners upstream of the Addicks and Barker reservoirs seeking compensation from the Army Corps of Engineers for using their land to store floodwater during the historic deluge.

The matter will be decided by a Washington, D.C.-based jurist from the specialized U.S. Court of Federal Claims who borrowed one of the stately upper-floor courtrooms used by district court judges in downtown Houston. An array of witnesses included home and real estate owners, a renter now living in a tiny trailer, an airport owner and a vast array of experts in hydrology, federal flood insurance and mapmaking. U.S. Judge Charles F. Lettow also donned Wellington boots on a soggy afternoon last week to accompany a small busload of lawyers to dams, spillways, businesses and homes — in various states of disrepair — that took on water after Harvey.

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Houston Chronicle - May 19, 2019

Erica Grieder: Alabama’s restrictive law gives anti-abortion politicians an opportunity to take a stand

Celebrations over this week’s passage of the Alabama Human Life Protection Act have been muted, and understandably so. Supporters of the new abortion ban see its passage as an opportunity for the Supreme Court to revisit the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling. Its opponents do, too.

Several states have passed laws severely restricting access to abortion this year; others are attempting to do so. Texas, surprisingly, is not among them. On Friday, the Texas House took up Senate Bill 22, which would prevent the state and local governments from partnering with abortion providers for any services. That bill would appear to target groups such as Planned Parenthood, the century-old organization that provides a range of women’s health services.

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Austin American-Statesman - May 17, 2019

House approves hazing bill after addressing Abbott’s concerns

The Texas House has approved legislation that would add coercing a student to consume an alcoholic beverage, liquor or drug to the definition of hazing, which is a crime under state law and a violation of college and university conduct codes.

The measure, Senate Bill 38, passed Friday night after it was tweaked on the House floor to satisfy Gov. Greg Abbott’s concerns about possible over-criminalization. The bill now returns to the Senate, which is expected to accept the House changes. In advance of the House action, the Republican governor warned through his spokesman that he had serious reservations about the Senate-approved version.

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Austin American-Statesman - May 17, 2019

House backs abortion bill after heated debate bogs down Legislature

Progress at the Capitol came to an abrupt halt Friday as the Texas House got bogged down in a sometimes heated debate over banning cities and counties from doing business with Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers and their affiliates.

As proposed amendments and time-consuming points of order piled up, the tensions spilled over into the Senate, which was voting out House bills in the closing days of the session. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who presides over the Senate, halted voting in the afternoon, saying that if the House was going to spend hours on one bill — putting in jeopardy a long list of Senate bills that must receive House approval by Tuesday — then the Senate would halt action on House bills as well.

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Penn Record - May 14, 2019

ALI sends in lobbyists as Texas lawmakers consider denouncing group's insurance Restatement

New records show that the American Law Institute has hired lobby assistance to oppose legislation filed by Texas lawmakers to discourage the Restatement of the Law of Liability Insurance from being relied upon by courts.

According to information on file with the Texas Ethics Commission, the ALI hired James W. Dow and Nelson H. Nease of Cross Oak Group in Austin, Texas, last week, in apparent response to bills created in the Texas legislature earlier this year that seek to refute the ALI's controversial liability insurance Restatement. Dow lobbies on behalf of clients in business development and government affairs. He also does private business consulting on behalf of major corporations and private equity in aerospace, financial services, public pensions and healthcare.

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SE Texas Record - May 14, 2019

Texas Bar launches counterattack in legal fight to stop collection of mandatory dues

The State Bar of Texas has launched an all-out offensive, firing a barrage of filings yesterday in hopes of killing a lawsuit brought by three attorneys who contend paying mandatory dues violates their First Amendment rights.

In March, the plaintiff attorneys sued the State Bar Board of Directors, a lengthy list of individuals that includes Bar President Joe Longley, who, in light of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling, made an opinion request to the AG’s Office earlier this year questioning the constitutionality of collecting mandatory dues from members. In Janus v. AFSCME, the high court returned First Amendment rights to public sector workers, essentially finding that millions of public servants no longer have to pay a government union as a condition of employment. Under Janus, the plaintiff attorneys argue that it violates the First Amendment to compel attorneys to financially support the Bar in order for them to engage in their chosen profession.

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Fort Worth Star-Telegram - May 18, 2019

Bud Kennedy: From Fort Worth, they could see the world: Schieffer brothers win Golden Deeds Award

Between them, the Schieffer brothers of Fort Worth have moderated presidential debates, anchored network newscasts for 35 years, built a pro baseball stadium and team, and served America as one of our leading diplomats.

From their upbringing 10 years apart in River Oaks and Benbrook, Bob and Tom Schieffer became Fort Worth’s emissaries to Washington and the world. Last week, both talked about growing up in Fort Worth. For years, people here actually argued about whether they were Democrats or Republicans, and sometimes even about whether they were brothers. Bob Schieffer, now 82, was the calm voice delivering even-handed CBS News reports as an anchor and host from 1975 until as recently as as “Face the Nation” appearance April 21.

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Texas Public Radio - May 17, 2019

Texas religious liberty bill, condemned as anti-LGBTQ, moves To House floor

A Texas Senate bill banning any governmental entity from punishing a private business for its past donations to religious organizations was one short step away from becoming law. Critics condemn it as anti-LGBTQ legislation.

A Texas Senate bill banning any governmental entity from punishing a private business for its past donations to religious organizations was one short step away from becoming law. Critics condemn it as anti-LGBTQ legislation. The bill resulted from a controversial decision by the City of San Antonio prohibiting Paradies Lagadère, a concessions operator for the airport, from including Chick-fil-A in its concession plan.

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Texas Tribune - May 17, 2019

Texas medical marijuana expansion gains steam in Senate, even after previous stonewalling

Even as the Senate stonewalls a handful of bills aimed at lessening criminal penalties for possession of marijuana, an upper chamber committee advanced legislation Friday that aims to vastly expand who has access to medical cannabis in the state.

As filed, state Rep. Stephanie Klick’s House Bill 3703 would add multiple sclerosis, epilepsy and spasticity to the list of debilitating medical conditions that qualify for cannabis oil. The progress on her bill comes four years after Klick authored legislation that narrowly opened up the state to the sale of the medicine. The bill requires approval by the full Senate chamber before it can return to the Texas House, where lawmakers have already approved two bills to drastically expand the Compassionate Use Program, which currently only allows the sale of cannabis oil to people with intractable epilepsy who meet certain requirements.

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KUT - May 15, 2019

A change to Texas' voting bill could limit voting centers In minority areas, opponents say

County judges and voting groups say they're concerned an update to a sweeping voting bill could reduce the number of countywide polling places in minority communities – particularly in larger metropolitan areas in Texas.

Senate Bill 9 would change the state's formula for how counties figure out where to put polling places. If passed, counties would look solely at the number of registered voters in a given area, which could favor whiter neighborhoods with historically higher registration numbers. According to the bill, the distribution should be “as equal as mathematically possible to the percentage of registered voters of the county whose registrations are effective on the date of the election residing in each state representative district.”

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Texas Observer - May 19, 2019

Texans could soon face higher fees for late rent, with little recourse to fight back

In July 2014, Cathi and Tara Cleven signed a one-year lease and moved into an apartment at Colonial Grand at Canyon Creek, a sprawling, shady complex in northwest Austin owned by Mid-America Apartments. Like most leases, their agreement specified penalties for late payment of rent: After the third day of the month, they’d owe an initial late fee of $75, plus a daily late charge of $15 for up to 15 days.

The Clevens are plaintiffs in a class action lawsuit filed in federal court in 2016 that alleges the late fees they and other Mid-America Apartments tenants were charged and paid were arbitrary and illegal. The case is one of six class action lawsuits that have been filed since 2016 against large apartment operators in Texas for charging “unreasonable” late fees. Now, at least in part because of those lawsuits, the Texas Apartment Association, a trade group for the rental housing industry that donated more than $450,000 to Texas lawmakers in the 2018 campaign cycle, is trying to change the law to allow landlords to charge some of the highest late fees in the country.

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City Stories

Houston Chronicle - May 16, 2019

Houston housing market takes a turn as demand for higher-end homes sags

The air is starting to come out of Houston’s robust housing market. The number of homes on the market has been rising, and the average time it took to sell a home has been growing longer.

In addition, a large numbers of homes have been selling for less than their list price. These indicators come as mortgage rates have been in decline since November, a factor that should spur homebuyers to enter the market. “Altogether, those are signs that the market is slowing,” said Javier Vivas, director of economic research for Realtor.com. Now, two independent reports bear that out.

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Houston Chronicle - May 17, 2019

Blistering report details serious safety lapses at St. Luke’s

When government inspectors descended on Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center in March, they found a once-renowned hospital system beset with problems threatening the health and safety of patients. It was a place where some people were given medications not ordered by their doctors, where objects had been mistakenly left in patients after surgery, and where sewage backed up into a kitchen stocked with moldy vegetables.

It was also a place where transvaginal ultrasound probes, the type used to examine a fetus during an early pregnancy, were not always disinfected properly before being used in subsequent patients, and where staff members weren’t always following protocols needed to prevent air from seeping into the blood of patients receiving dialysis, a potentially fatal complication. In area after area, from infection control to quality assurance, from the kitchen to the executive suite, inspectors found that hospital administrators didn’t have adequate processes in place to ensure the staff always followed safety standards and learned from serious mistakes.

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San Antonio Express-News - May 17, 2019

Some wonder why domestic violence not a focus of San Antonio’s mayoral campaign

After news broke in March of mayoral candidate Greg Brockhouse’s two past alleged instances of domestic violence, some hoped the revelations would spark a public discussion, especially at a time when family violence deaths in San Antonio are on the upswing.

But the reaction — apart from scattered protests by activists and a plea from a handful of City Council members for more domestic violence funding — largely has been silence. Far from becoming a cause célébre as voters choose their next leader, the issue seems to be getting brushed under the rug — a reflection, women’s advocates say, of a widespread discomfort with talking about domestic violence, still viewed by some as a “private matter” between adults.

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San Antonio Express-News - May 19, 2019

Eric Mapes: No vote until city leaders step up

A friend asked if I was going to vote this year in the San Antonio elections for mayor and City Council. I said, “I don’t vote in the midterm elections unless it’s for a school bond.” told her I feel the overall leadership of local public offices is — and has been — the same for years and is not likely to change. I believe the mentality of most elected officials has been that of a second-rate vision of what San Antonio could be.

I believe San Antonio is a perpetual economy — as more people move to San Antonio, there is a need for more schools, restaurants, box stores, gas stations and so on. There hasn’t been a new large corporation move to the area, with exceptional pay, for years. Many city leaders will argue that San Antonio is a great place to live and raise a family. And they are correct. I’m a product of San Antonio — I attended schools in the North East Independent School District and graduated from UTSA, and now I work in the city and my girls attend schools in NEISD.

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Texas Public Radio - May 17, 2019

TEA: Southside School Board ready for return to local control

The Texas Education Agency has set a date for a gradual transition back to independent governance in the Southside school district: May 2020.

TEA deputy commissioner Jeff Cottrill publicly announced the news Thursday shortly before four newly elected trustees took their oaths of office. A state-appointed board of managers has been in charge of the district since 2017, when a TEA investigation found that trustees had procured contracts illegally. None of the candidates elected to the Southside school board earlier this month were on the board at the time of the state takeover.

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National Stories

Associated Press - May 19, 2019

China's ban on scrap imports a boon to US recycling plants

The halt on China's imports of wastepaper and plastic that has disrupted U.S. recycling programs has also spurred investment in American plants that process recyclables. U.S. paper mills are expanding capacity to take advantage of a glut of cheap scrap. Some facilities that previously exported plastic or metal to China have retooled so they can process it themselves.

And in a twist, the investors include Chinese companies that are still interested in having access to wastepaper or flattened bottles as raw material for manufacturing. "It's a very good moment for recycling in the United States," said Neil Seldman, co-founder of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, a Washington-based organization that helps cities improve recycling programs. China, which had long been the world's largest destination for paper, plastic and other recyclables, phased in import restrictions in January 2018.

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Associated Press - May 17, 2019

Border Patrol flies migrants from Texas to California

The U.S. Border Patrol said Friday that it would fly hundreds of migrant families from south Texas to San Diego for processing and that it was considering flights to Detroit, Miami and Buffalo, New York.

The flights are the latest sign of how the Border Patrol is struggling to keep up with large numbers of Central American families that are reaching the U.S. border with Mexico, especially in Texas. Moving migrants to less crowded places is expected to distribute the workload more evenly. Flights from Texas' Rio Grande Valley to San Diego were to begin Friday and continue indefinitely three times a week, with each flight carrying 120 to 135 people, said Douglas Harrison, the Border Patrol's interim San Diego sector chief.

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Wall Street Journal - May 19, 2019

Big companies tightened spending as trade fears intensified

Spending on factories, equipment and other capital goods slowed in the first quarter among a broad cross-section of large, U.S.-listed firms, highlighting investor concerns that a key driver of economic growth is fading.

Capital spending rose 3% from a year earlier in the first quarter at 356 S&P 500 companies that had disclosed figures in quarterly regulatory filings through midday May 8, according to an analysis by The Wall Street Journal of data supplied by Calcbench, a provider in New York and Cambridge, Mass. That is down from a 20% rise in the year-ago period for the same companies, the analysis shows.

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New York Times - May 19, 2019

Abortion fight or strong economy? For GOP, cultural issues undercut 2020 message

The unemployment rate is at a 50-year low, companies are adding jobs and the gross domestic product grew by 3.2 percent in the first quarter, undercutting predictions of a coming recession. Yet for all that political upside, Republicans demonstrated repeatedly last week that they were not positioning themselves to wage the 2020 election over the strength of the economy.

President Trump and his top advisers sent mixed signals about a possible war with Iran. Mr. Trump outlined a hard-line immigration proposal that had little chance of passing, but refocused attention on the most incendiary issue of his presidency. His drumbeat about tariffs on China sent the stock market gyrating. And in Alabama, the Republican governor signed a bill that would effectively ban abortion, the most recent and far-reaching of new state restrictions and a step toward a possible Supreme Court showdown over abortion rights.

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Bloomberg - May 17, 2019

Toyota rebukes Trump for sending message that carmaker ‘not welcomed' in U.S.

Toyota Motor Corp. rebuked President Donald Trump’s declaration that imported cars threaten U.S. national security, signaling contentious talks are ahead for the White House and America’s key trading partners.

In an unusually strong-worded statement, Japan’s largest automaker said Trump’s proclamation Friday that the U.S. needs to defend itself against foreign cars and components “sends a message to Toyota that our investments are not welcomed, and the contributions from each of our employees across America are not valued.” The company said it has spent more than $60 billion building operations in the country, including 10 manufacturing plants.

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Dallas Morning News - May 19, 2019

Billions at stake as Trump’s diversion of border resources puts the squeeze on business

Luis A. Bazan looks at his port of entry nestled up against the Mexican city of Reynosa and sees a maze of 18-wheelers mostly stuck, waiting and waiting before creeping along the highway that links north and south at a snail’s pace.

Pharr, a small city of about 80,000 people, usually thrives on its border crossing –– fresh Mexican produce –– many kinds of peppers, including jalapenos –– mangos, avocados and more are bound for the north, including Dallas grocery stores. The crossing here handles more produce than anywhere else along the U.S.-Mexico border. But that record trade has come to a slow crawl, hit hard by the loss of at least 60 of its customs officials who have been diverted to other duties by the Trump administration.

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USA Today - May 17, 2019

Rep. Michael McCaul on Iran threat: Directive was to 'kill and kidnap American soldiers'

A top Republican lawmaker said Friday that the threat from Iran picked up by U.S. intelligence – which sparked a U.S. military deployment to the Middle East and heightened tensions across the region – was very specific and involved the possible kidnapping and killing of American soldiers.

"To the extent I can discuss it, it was human intelligence," Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, the ranking Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, told USA TODAY on Friday. He was referring to intelligence information that prompted the Pentagon to deploy an aircraft carrier, along with B-52 bombers and other military forces, to the Middle East. Trump administration officials said the move was made to counter what they described as credible threats from Iran to U.S. forces in the region.

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ProPublica - May 19, 2019

The country that exiled McKinsey

In 2010, amid a historic commodities boom fueled by the explosion of China’s economy, international companies began turning their attention to Mongolia as it opened its vast deposits of coal and copper to commercial exploitation.

To make that happen, Mongolia concluded that it needed to lay thousands of miles of railroad tracks. Such a project would cost billions of dollars and throw off hefty fees for construction companies, banks, law firms and consultants of various stripes. The consulting contracts alone could be worth tens of millions over a decade. And if the railroad expansion worked out, there’d be even more opportunities after that. McKinsey & Co., the global consulting behemoth, was interested.

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Washington Post - May 19, 2019

Obama and Trump broke the mold. What does that mean for the future of the presidency?

For more than two centuries, until the election of 2008, American presidents all looked alike. They were white and male and every one of them came to office with experience in the government, military or both. Barack Obama, the first African American president, broke one mold. Donald Trump, who had neither military nor government experience, broke the other.

In their own ways, Obama and Trump were two of the most unlikely people ever elected to the presidency, raising the question of whether voters in America are using a new lens through which to judge the qualities and qualifications of presidential aspirants. Trump’s presidency continues that experiment, as does the competition among the candidates seeking the Democratic nomination to oppose him in 2020.

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Newsclips - May 17, 2019

Lead Stories

Washington Post - May 16, 2019

Judge orders public release of what Michael Flynn said in call to Russian ambassador

A federal judge on Thursday ordered that prosecutors make public a transcript of a phone call that former national security adviser Michael Flynn tried hard to hide with a lie: his conversation with a Russian ambassador in late 2016.

U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan in Washington ordered the government also to provide a public transcript of a November 2017 voice mail involving Flynn. In that sensitive call, President Donald Trump's attorney left a message for Flynn's attorney reminding him of the president's fondness for Flynn at a time when Flynn was considering cooperating with federal investigators.

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San Antonio Express-News - May 16, 2019

San Antonio-based Whataburger hires Morgan Stanley to ‘explore our options’

Whataburger — with its yellow-wrapped burgers, fries and Spicy Ketchup — is as familiar to Texans as H-E-B and as beloved as the Dallas Cowboys when they’re having a good season. Now the San Antonio fast-food chain is looking to put its iconic orange-and-white stores on many more street corners, and it’s turned to Wall Street for help.

Whataburger confirmed Thursday it has hired investment banking firm Morgan Stanley to help the company determine how best to fuel its expansion. That will mean considering several potential strategies: selling the company or part of it, re-franchising, finding large private investors or selling Whataburger shares through an initial public offering. For now, company officials are vague about their next steps.

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Houston Chronicle - May 17, 2019

Texas part of national push for laws promoting fledgling chemical recycling industry

The Texas Legislature has passed a bill that would support a fledgling industry that aims to reduce waste by returning plastic back to its original chemical components, which can then be reused for fuels and feedstocks of new plastic products.

The bill, supported by chemical makers such as Chevron Phillips Chemical of the Woodlands and the Texas oil major Exxon Mobil, is a response to the growing public outcry over plastic waste that is choking the world’s oceans, contaminating soil and threatening marine and wild life. Chemical recycling is not only viewed by chemical makers as a way to reduce plastic pollution, but also as a new and potentially $10 billion industry.

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Dallas Morning News - May 16, 2019

Sharon Grigsby: Dallas-area lawmaker's powerful sex-abuse bill moves forward in original form

In a huge victory for sexual-abuse survivors — and all of us who care about those women and men — a Senate committee on Thursday unanimously approved the original version of smart and righteous legislation from state Rep. Craig Goldman, R-Fort Worth, that expands the time frame for civil action against perpetrators.

Becky Leach, the wife of state Rep. Jeff Leach, R-Plano, has driven momentum on HB 3809. In testimony before the state House Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence Committee in support of the bill, Becky Leach disclosed publicly for the first time that she was sexually abused as a child. But in the days after her testimony, HB 3809, which would lengthen the period for civil action from 15 to 30 years after a victim's 18th birthday, was quietly and significantly changed.

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State Stories

Houston Chronicle - May 17, 2019

Opponents line up to testify against Texas voter fraud bill

More than a hundred people on Wednesday filled two rooms in the Texas Capitol, most of them to speak in opposition to a bill that they call a voter suppression tool.

The Texas House election committee heard about six hours of testimony that went past midnight, mostly from people who were against Senate Bill 9, but did not take a vote. The bill is one of Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s priorities this session, and has already passed in the GOP-led Senate. The multipronged legislation would raise criminal penalties — making false statements on a voter registration form, for example, would be treated as a state jail felony — as well as create new offenses, such as a misdemeanor charge for blocking people’s pathway to a polling place.

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Houston Chronicle - May 16, 2019

Ted Cruz not laughing about space pirate jabs on MSNBC, Twitter

Ted Cruz has had enough of the media mocking him for his concerns about space pirates. At a hearing this week in Washington, the Republican U.S. Senator from Texas delivered an introductory speech at a subcommittee he chairs in which he endorsed President Donald Trump’s call for a Space Force to defend American interest in space.

“Since the ancient Greeks first put to sea, nations have recognized the necessity of naval forces and maintaining a superior capability to protect waterborne travel and commerce from bad actors,” Cruz said. “Pirates threatened the open seas and the same is possible in space. In this same way, we too must now recognize the necessity of a Space Force to defend the nation and to protect space commerce and civil space exploration.”

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Houston Chronicle - May 16, 2019

Muslims decry Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller’s comments about Rep. Ilhan Omar

After Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller called on Austin Mayor Steve Adler not to attend a Ramadan event headlined by U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar, the group hosting this weekend’s dinner fired back.

“Hate has no home here,” Sana Shahid of Emgage, a Muslim American advocacy group, said in a statement Thursday morning, adding that Miller’s “immoral” comments “do not reflect the views of everyday Texans.” Omar, D-Minnesota, is the keynote speaker Saturday night at the Annual Austin Citywide Iftar Dinner, a ceremonial meal to break the fast during Ramadan. Adler, who has attended each of the previous city-wide Iftars, is the guest of honor.

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Houston Chronicle - May 16, 2019

Trade war could delay LNG projects on Gulf Coast, analyst says

Escalating trade tensions with China could jeopardize or delay proposed liquefied natural gas projects on the Gulf Coast by raising construction costs in the United States and prices in China, hurting the emerging industry's competitiveness in one of the world's biggest energy markets, analysts and economists say.

China's decision to impose 25 percent tariffs on U.S. LNG comes as developers are poised to make final investment decisions for several Gulf Coast projects, including Driftwood LNG near Lake Charles, La., and Calcasieu Pass LNG in Cameron Parish, La. Cheniere Energy of Houston also is nearing a final investment decision on an expansion of its Sabine Pass complex in Louisiana.

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Houston Chronicle - May 16, 2019

Weatherford delisted from New York Stock Exchange in latest woes

Struggling oilfield service company Weatherford International is now trading as a penny stock after being delisted from the New York Stock Exchange. In a Thursday afternoon filling with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Weatherford reported that the company received a letter from NYSE stating that it's stock had been suspended and that it was going to be delisted.

The NYSE decision comes days after the Swiss company with principal offices in Houston announced it had reached a deal with its top creditors and plans to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy by July 15. Traded on NYSE under the stock ticker symbol WFT, shares of Weatherford had been trading below $1 per share since mid-November. Weatherford's stock is now being traded on the "pink sheets" section of the OTC Markets under the stock ticker symbol WFTIF.

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Houston Chronicle - May 16, 2019

Bill to force Houston to sell water rights heads to governor’s desk

A bill that would force Houston to sell its water rights in a proposed reservoir west of Simonton, a maneuver Mayor Sylvester Turner has blasted as favoring industry over the city’s long-term interests, is headed to Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk.

The bill, which sailed through the Texas House last month and passed the Senate 26-5 on Thursday, would require Houston to sell its rights in the proposed Allens Creek Reservoir by the end of this year for up to $23 million. Turner said he was disappointed in the Senate vote and suggested the city may turn to the courts to block the bill, should the governor sign it into law.

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Dallas Morning News - May 17, 2019

Tiffany Muller: Rep. Allred is working to reform the campaign finance system, not undermine it with an online app

Last fall, Rep. Colin Allred helped organize a letter with over 100 House challengers demanding congressional leaders make reforming our broken campaign finance system the first priority of the 116th Congress.

Allred was part of the wave of reformers elected last fall who got down to business as soon as they were sworn in to fight corruption in Washington. Allred co-sponsored and voted for H.R. 1, the For the People Act, aimed at ending the dominance of big money in politics, making it easier to vote, and ensuring public officials are working in the public interest. His amendment to require voters be notified of changes in their polling place was included as part of the legislation that passed the U.S. House in March.

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Dallas Morning News - May 16, 2019

Dallas could land major Uber expansion, thousands of jobs

Dallas is a leading contender for a major expansion by ride-hailing giant Uber that would transform the city into one of the tech company’s largest hubs outside of San Francisco, company officials confirmed Thursday.

Uber has zeroed in on a site in Deep Ellum for an office that’d have several thousand employees, from engineers and finance executives to salespeople. The office would span Uber’s businesses, from delivering food to developing a new urban air taxi service.

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Dallas Morning News - May 17, 2019

Hoping to fix long lines at driver's license centers, Texas House gives initial OK to DPS changes

The Texas House on Thursday gave initial approval to changes meant to alleviate long lines at the Department of Public Safety’s driver’s license centers.

Senate Bill 616 by Brian Birdwell, R-Granbury, would increase the expiration term of driver’s licenses from six to eight years -- the maximum allowed under federal law -- and would commission a third-party study on moving the issuance of driver’s licenses from DPS to the Department of Motor Vehicles, which oversees in the process in many other states.

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Austin American-Statesman - May 15, 2019

Ken Herman: You probably won’t see Sid Miller’s gas pump stickers much longer

The Texas House, following the lead of the Texas Senate, voted Wednesday to stop Texas Ag Commish Sid Miller from sticking his stickers on the gas pumps of Texas. The voice-vote preliminary approval was on Senate Bill 2119, which would move the regulation of fuel pumps from Miller’s Texas Department of Agriculture to the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation.

The bill would change the way gas pumps have been regulated in Texas since the 1930s, when it somehow was appropriate for the Texas Department of Agriculture to keep a watchful regulatory eye over such things.

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Austin American-Statesman - May 17, 2019

Group keeps vow to sue UT again over race in admissions

A nonprofit group sued the University of Texas on Thursday in state District Court in Travis County, contending that it is violating the Texas Constitution and state law by considering the race and ethnicity of applicants for admission.

Students for Fair Admissions Inc. filed a virtually identical lawsuit against UT in 2017, but Judge Scott H. Jenkins dismissed it in rulings last December and March. Jenkins found that the case was fatally flawed because the sole person put forward as a “standing member” was seeking to enroll in UT’s Butler School of Music, a category of applicants whose race and ethnicity are not considered.

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Austin American-Statesman - May 16, 2019

Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen blocked gun activists on Facebook, lawsuit says

The ongoing fight between Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen and pro-gun rights activists has escalated into federal court with a lawsuit that accuses Bonnen of blocking them from posting on his public Facebook account and of removing comments in support of legislation that would let Texans carry firearms without a state-issued license to carry.

The lawsuit, filed Wednesday in Austin, says Bonnen, R-Lake Jackson, violated the First Amendment by silencing those who peacefully support so-called constitutional carry. The activists Bonnen blocked, the lawsuit says, are Lone Star Gun Rights co-founder Justin Delosh and senior editor Derek Wills, along with another man who lives in the district that Bonnen represents. Without full access to the lawmaker’s Facebook account, the men could not post comments or express disapproval of any of Bonnen’s posts, the lawsuit says.

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Columbus Dispatch - May 16, 2019

Austin political consultant John Weaver registers to lobby for Russians, then backs out

Austin-based political consultant John Weaver, a top adviser to former Ohio Gov. John Kasich, long has been a critic of most things Russian. On Twitter, he has denounced what he portrays as President Donald Trump’s chummy relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin and the lack of harsher U.S. sanctions on the country.

For a short period, Weaver intended to work for the Russians — for a reported payment of $350,000 for a six-month assignment to lobby against possible additional sanctions on Russia. Politico reported Wednesday night that Weaver registered as a foreign agent and signed a contract to lobby Congress and the Trump administration on behalf of the Tenam Corporation, a subsidiary of Rosatom, the Russian state-owned nuclear energy company.

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San Antonio Express-News - May 16, 2019

John Cornyn: Preventing another Sutherland Springs

Evil never triumphs. Just ask Mark Collins, associate pastor of the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs. Unthinkable tragedy shook his church when a deranged shooter opened fire during a Sunday service and killed 26 parishioners on Nov. 5, 2017. But the next Sunday — Collins was witness to something remarkable: One week after the shooting, the congregation overflowed and smashed its 100-year attendance record.

The shooter should not have been able to purchase a weapon. His previous convictions legally disqualified him. But because the Air Force did not upload this information into the federal background check database, he was able to unlawfully bring home four firearms from the store one day. Sadly, this tragedy is not an isolated incident. At that time, it was estimated that some 7 million criminal convictions, mental illness diagnoses and records — including at least 25 percent of felony convictions and a large number of convictions for misdemeanor domestic violence — were absent from the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, or NICS. Something had to be done.

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Texas Monthly - May 15, 2019

Chris Hooks: Inside the story of how Democrats killed a law that could have saved Sandra Bland

After Sandra Bland was arrested for a traffic infraction and later committed suicide in a Waller County jail in 2015, criminal justice reform advocates proposed reforms inspired by Bland’s case. Among the most important was a proposal to bar cops from arresting people for minor offenses punishable only by a fine.

House Bill 2754 died due to a toxic mixture of incompetence and bad faith in a lawmaking environment that speeds to a blur in the weeks at the end of the session, when it can be difficult for even veteran lawmakers to keep track of what’s going on on the floor. The trouble started just before the bill was passed, when its author, state representative James White, offered up a last-minute amendment. State representative Shawn Thierry, a Democrat from Houston, rose to ask White about his change.

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County Stories

Houston Chronicle - May 16, 2019

State agency rejects Montgomery County aquifer plan

A state agency has rejected the management plan submitted by new officials in charge of regulating Montgomery County’s aquifers, complicating their efforts to roll back limits on extraction of underground water. Texas Water Development Board officials notified the Lone Star Groundwater Conservation District on Wednesday afternoon that, in their opinion, the district’s new plan did not meet legal standards.

This means the board must continue to operate under its old rules for now. It cannot use a draft plan until the state board approves it. The state development board provided a copy of its letter to the Houston Chronicle. An attorney for the conservation district, Stacey Reese, wrote in an email Thursday that the district was still deciding how they would respond to it. Seven board members were elected last fall to oversee the conservation district, an entity charged with protecting the county’s aquifer supply while allowing as much water to be pumped as practical.

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Houston Chronicle - May 16, 2019

Attorneys square off over Harris County’s anti-prostitution lawsuit

Harris County’s attempts to crack down on prostitution came down Thursday to a series of basic questions. What makes a gesture lewd? What clothing is intentionally provocative? When does waving a hand become a proposition?

Those were among the questions lawyers tackled Thursday at a civil court hearing on the county’s unusual nuisance lawsuit aimed at halting open-air sex trafficking in the Bissonnet Track, a section of southwest Houston that has gained international notoriety among johns as a hotspot for pickups. Despite steady arrests by police, rampant in-your-face prostitution has persisted for decades on the Track, impeding the safety and everyday existence of residents and workers in Westwood and Forum Park.

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City Stories

Dallas Morning News - May 16, 2019

Robert Wilonsky: Dallas plan commission does the right thing with vote to uphold Confederate War Memorial removal

Usually, city security doesn't put up metal detectors outside council chambers for City Plan Commission meetings. Last time I or anyone else can remember it happening was in 2013, when the commission shot down permits that would have allowed fracking in the floodplain in northwest Dallas. A simpler time.

The detectors were in place again Thursday because it was the plan commission's turn to hear The Case of the Confederate War Memorial — specifically, the appeals of Karen Pieroni and Chris Carter. Each paid their $700 to protest the Landmark Commission's determination that the Dallas City Council was correct in February when it said the 122-year-old Frank Teitch sculpture in Pioneer Park Cemetery is a "a non-contributing structure" inside its historic bounds. It was not money well spent. After five hours of waiting and two hours of debating, the plan commission unanimously sided with Landmark and the council.

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Dallas Morning News - May 16, 2019

Did Dallas Catholic Diocese properly report allegations to CPS? Victims' advocates say officials should’ve done more

In their search-warrant affidavit that allowed officers to seize boxes of files from Dallas Catholic Diocese offices Wednesday, Dallas police launched a salvo of accusations against church officials about their handling of sexual abuse allegations. Among them: Diocese’ leaders over the years hadn’t properly reported allegations to Child Protective Services.

State law requires anyone who suspects child abuse and neglect to make a report to the Department of Family Protective Services, which oversees the CPS. But children’s advocates and the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests — known as SNAP — said Thursday that the diocese's reporting efforts appeared minimal, and that officials should’ve better involved proper law enforcement agencies from the beginning.

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San Antonio Express-News - May 16, 2019

San Antonio group takes aim at domestic violence and Brockhouse’s mayoral bid

A group of San Antonio women leaders, many of them mothers, women of faith and some of them former victims of domestic violence, have been pressed into action to denounce the mayoral candidacy of Councilman Greg Brockhouse.

Within a few days, its members will go before the public to declare that his election would send a terrible message to victims of domestic violence, who are already reluctant to report husbands, boyfriends, co-workers and friends, people who purport to love them but instead hurt them physically, psychologically, professionally and financially.

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Fort Worth Star-Telegram - May 16, 2019

Lawsuit: Hackers stole $515,000, Fort Worth employee data compromised in security breach

Hackers stole more than $515,000 from the city of Fort Worth and employees with criminal convictions were allowed access to a confidential FBI criminal database, according to a lawsuit filed Wednesday by a former IT manager against the city.

William Birchett alleges that he was fired in February in retaliation for reporting to officials that the city’s cybersecurity had been severely compromised, including that the city had lied about its compliance with FBI crime database regulations, and had left city employees’ medical and personal information accessible to anyone with internet access. The lawsuit states Birchett reported his findings and a proposal to fix the issues to Kevin Gunn, the city’s acting chief financial officer, and Roger Wright, the city’s acting chief technology officer, but to no avail.

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National Stories

Houston Chronicle - May 17, 2019

A Bush, a Yeltsin and a Blair turn up heat on Kuwait over CEO’s imprisonment

Neil Bush, son of the late former president, is deeply involved in a legal fight playing out in the Middle East over the fate of an imprisoned Russian woman, a battle featuring a cast of global characters and an unusual alliance of American and Russian interests.

Bush, of Houston, made his fourth trip to Kuwait this month on behalf of Marsha Lazareva, a U.S.-educated investment manager who was convicted of embezzlement and faces other charges related to alleged financial crimes. As a consultant to a company run by Lazareva, Bush invokes the Gulf War and George H.W. Bush’s success in freeing Kuwait from Saddam Hussein-led Iraq, warning that keeping Lazareva locked up threatens Kuwait’s standing in the world.

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Houston Chronicle - May 14, 2019

Erica Grieder: America’s farmers probably aren’t convinced that trade wars are ‘easy to win’

The people of the United States are rejoicing this week, thanks to President Donald Trump’s decision to raise tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese imports. The celebrations have been particularly clamorous in Texas, which leads the nation in exports. There’s really nothing better for our state’s economy than a good old-fashioned trade war. I’m kidding, of course.

Trade wars are really bad for Texas; we all know that, even though our state’s Republican leaders have been reluctant to tell Trump as much in public. It would have been nice for someone in a position of high office in Texas to have taken notice last week, when trade talks in Washington failed to yield an agreement between the United States and China.

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Governing - May 16, 2019

Do tax breaks help or hurt a state’s finances? New study digs deep.

The debate over tax incentives usually centers on whether they lead to job creation and other economic benefits. But governments must also pay attention to their own bottom lines. This begs the question: How do all the financial incentives that states offer actually influence fiscal health?

New research seeks to answer that question. Using data from the W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research, researchers at North Carolina State University tallied all incentives offered by 32 states from 1990 to 2015, effectively covering 90 percent of incentives nationally. What they found doesn’t portray incentives in a positive light. Most of the programs they looked at -- investment tax credits, property tax abatements, and tax credits for research and development -- were linked with worse overall fiscal health for the jurisdiction that enacted them.

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Construction Citizen - May 15, 2019

Ridesharing giant Uber moves to settle worker misclassification claims

Prior to what turned out to be a disappointing IPO for investors, ridesharing giant Uber Technologies told the federal government that it was moving to settle thousands of claims by drivers that they should be compensated as employees rather than independent subcontractors.

Worker misclassification spans many industries and has been called a “scourge” in construction. Many workers are paid by the piece when they should, under law, be compensated as employees entitled to benefits like accident insurance and a retirement. In a document filed with the Securities & Exchange Commission, Uber said the independent contractor status of its drivers “is currently being challenged in courts and by government agencies in the United States and abroad.”

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Roll Call - May 15, 2019

Administration wants to reimburse Taliban’s travel expenses

The Trump administration asked Congress earlier this year for funds to reimburse Afghanistan’s Taliban for expenses the insurgent group incurs attending peace talks, according to a spokesman for the chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense.

The money would cover the Taliban’s costs for expenses such as transportation, lodging, food and supplies, said Kevin Spicer, spokesman for Indiana Democrat Peter J. Visclosky, in a statement for CQ Roll Call. “The Defense Department requested fiscal 2020 funding to support certain reconciliation activities, including logistic support for members of the Taliban and, in March 2019, they sent a notification letter to the Committee on using fiscal year 2019 funds for similar activities,” Spicer said.

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CityLab - May 8, 2019

David Swenson: Most of America’s rural areas are doomed to decline

Since the Great Recession, most of the nation’s rural counties have struggled to recover lost jobs and retain their people. The story is markedly different in the nation’s largest urban communities. I’m writing from Iowa, where every four years presidential hopefuls swoop in to test how voters might respond to their various ideas for fixing the country’s problems.

But what to do about rural economic and persistent population decline is the one area that has always confounded them all. The facts are clear and unarguable. Most of the nation’s smaller urban and rural counties are not growing and will not grow. Let’s start with my analysis of U.S. Commerce Department data. Metropolitan areas consist of those counties with central cities of at least 50,000, along with the surrounding counties that are economically dependent on them. They make up 36 percent of all counties.

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Wall Street Journal - May 16, 2019

Intelligence suggests US, Iran misread each other, stoking tensions

Intelligence collected by the U.S. government shows Iran’s leaders believe the U.S. planned to attack them, prompting preparation by Tehran for possible counterstrikes, according to one interpretation of the information, people familiar with the matter said.

That view of the intelligence could help explain why Iranian forces and their allies took action that was seen as threatening to U.S. forces in Iraq and elsewhere, prompting a U.S. military buildup in the Persian Gulf region and a drawdown of U.S. diplomats in Iraq. Meanwhile, administration officials said President Trump told aides including his acting defense chief that he didn’t want a military conflict with Iran, a development indicating tensions in the U.S.-Iran standoff may be easing.

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Austin American-Statesman - May 16, 2019

Why Trump judicial nominees won’t endorse Brown v. Board of Education

Sitting before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, Ada Brown, one of only two African American state appellate jurists in Texas, was asked whether she thought the landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling Brown vs. Board of Education was correctly decided. She wouldn’t say.

Brown, nominated to be a federal district judge in Dallas, said she benefited from the decision personally but cited a judicial canon that she and dozens of Trump administration judicial nominees, including six others from Texas, have said in their confirmation hearings prevents them from commenting on court decisions. The Brown ruling, issued 65 years ago Friday, ended state laws establishing a “separate but equal” system of racial segregation in public schools.

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