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All - July 28, 2017

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Dallas Morning News - July 27, 2017

Attorney General Ken Paxton will fight felony indictment in December trial

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton will face a jury Dec. 11 to fight allegations that he broke state securities law during his time as a state representative. The trial will take place in Harris County, where a jury will be chosen Dec. 1. Paxton, a Republican, will first be tried on third-degree felony charges stemming from allegations that he failed to register as an investment adviser representative with state securities regulators. After that case is resolved, he will be back in court to fight two first-degree felony fraud charges. Paxton is accused of duping investors into buying stock in Servergy Inc., a McKinney technology startup. One of these investors, Byron Cook, is a Republican state representative and House committee chairman from Corsicana.

The Hill - July 27, 2017

Scaramucci: Priebus is a 'paranoid schizophrenic,' will be asked to resign

White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci unloaded on chief of staff Reince Priebus, accusing him of leaking details of a private dinner with President Trump and claiming he will be asked to resign. “Reince is a fucking paranoid schizophrenic, a paranoiac,” Scaramucci told New Yorker writer Ryan Lizza in a Wednesday phone call. “They’ll all be fired by me,” he said of the White House communications staff. “I fired one guy the other day. I have three to four people I’ll fire tomorrow. I’ll get to the person who leaked that to you. Reince Priebus — if you want to leak something — he’ll be asked to resign very shortly.” Scaramucci was angry that Lizza found out he planned to dine with Trump, Fox News host Sean Hannity and former Fox News executive Bill Shine at the White House. He believed that Priebus, whom he has feuded with for months, was the one who told Lizza about it.

Texas Tribune - July 27, 2017

Key lawmaker wants ethics reform on special session agenda

A Texas lawmaker in charge of investigating wrongdoing and mismanagement in state government said Thursday she will ask Gov. Greg Abbott to put ethics reform on the agenda of the ongoing special session. Republican state Rep. Sarah Davis, R-West University Place, who chairs the House General Investigating & Ethics Committee, said having lawmakers focus on ethics issues would help “restore trust” in state government at a time when it’s dropping. “As we are all well aware, ethics has been designated as an emergency item by the governor for the past two sessions,” Davis said during the committee’s first hearing of the special session.

National Review - July 25, 2017

A ‘bathroom bill’ could make or break the Texas governor’s career.

Calling a special session is a huge political gamble for Abbott. But the risk is not that passing a bathroom bill will prompt the kind of backlash that cost North Carolina governor Pat McCrory his reelection bid last year. The risk is that if the bill doesn’t pass, Abbott could face a well-funded GOP primary challenge next year from Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick. Abbott isn’t exactly passionate about the bathroom bill — but Patrick is. So much so, in fact, that Patrick leveraged his role overseeing the state senate to force Abbott to call this special session in the first place. Patrick, who has styled himself a staunch Christian conservative since winning the lieutenant governorship in 2014, has been pushing for the bathroom bill since before the regular session began, making it one of his top priorities.

Valley Morning Star - July 25, 2017

Cornyn pushes back on wall

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn pushed back against federal moves to build the border wall in ecotourism areas in Texas by advocating for using technology instead, as he previewed his comprehensive border security legislation. At issue are initial moves by contractors for the Department of Homeland Security to prepare land for a physical barrier in the Santa Ana Wildlife Refuge in Alamo and the National Butterfly Center in Mission. DHS is anticipating fiscal year 2018 funding for building 60 miles of a border wall in Texas.

State Stories

Texas Tribune - July 27, 2017

Texas House approves bill requiring more reporting on abortion complications

The Texas House has given early approval to a bill that would require physicians and health care facilities to report more details on abortions complications to the state — and would fine those that do not comply. In abortion cases where complications arise, reporting to the state is already required. Under state Rep. Giovanni Capriglione’s House Bill 13, those requirements would get more strict: Physicians would have to submit reports to the state health commission within three days that include detailed information such as the patient’s year of birth, race, marital status, state and county of residence, and the date of her last menstrual cycle. Physicians and facilities that fail to comply with the reporting requirements would face a $500 fine for each day in violation.

Texas Tribune - July 27, 2017

Where do Texans in Congress stand on Trump's ban on transgender troops?

President Donald Trump set off even more confusion and chaos than usual at the U.S. Capitol this week with a series of tweets announcing he would ban transgender people from serving in the military. "After consultation with my generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States government will not accept or allow ... transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. military," Trump tweeted. "Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming ... victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption."

Texas Tribune - July 27, 2017

Hinojosa: Dark money, darker politics

Imagine if nothing prevented the Republican Party from setting up Texas Republicans, Inc., a corporation to shield billionaire donors and hide campaign activity. It is a conservative hack’s dream: Think Citizens United on steroids. What if they launched a corporation for campaigns to outsource activities and avoid all Texas political disclosure requirements? Let’s say you’re a candidate who needs a nasty mail piece against your opponent, but you don’t want to take the heat for running a negative campaign. Or you want someone to intimidate voters at the polls to stomp out opposition, but you’re worried about that stain of voter suppression getting on your campaign. Discrimination doesn’t clean up so easily. In this dark money dreamland, there would be no disclosures, no limits and no state ban on corporate contributions to political campaigns.

Austin American-Statesman - July 27, 2017

House passes tree bill decried as ‘a poke in the eye of the governor’

Texas House members gave preliminary approval Thursday to an appropriations bill and measures to lower homeowner fees for tree removal and more strictly report abortion complications — all as discontent grew among conservative members claiming moderate roadblocks to their agenda. House Bill 7, which received preliminary approval in a 132-11 vote, would require cities charging tree removal fees to allow the planting of new trees as an option to offset fees. The bill is largely the same as one Gov. Greg Abbott vetoed last month, while a bill the governor requested to abolish local tree ordinances remains stalled in committee. Two Democrats opposed HB 7 along with nine Republicans — many of them members of the conservative Freedom Caucus.

Austin American-Statesman - July 27, 2017

Lawmakers scaling back provisions in ‘hyper-grandfathering’ bill

Senate Bill 12, the so-called hyper-grandfathering bill that has the potential to roll back land use codes on some properties by decades, has been lanced after lawmakers expressed concerns over how it could undermine health, fire and safety codes. The bill, one of Gov. Greg Abbott’s priorities for the special session, was one of the few that did not pass during Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s breakneck week at the Senate in which he vowed to go “20 for 20” with all of Abbott’s legislative priorities. It became mired in a Senate committee over the weekend and never made it to the floor. Patrick gave senators the day off Thursday. But in the meantime, the bill’s author, Sen. Dawn Buckingham, R-Lakeway, has created a substitute version of the bill and lawmakers were working on amendments that would rewrite much of the original bill.

Austin American-Statesman - July 27, 2017

Herman: I’ve got the answer for the Texas bathroom situation

While we’re talking and legislating about bathrooms let’s do some thinking about bathrooms, which I sometimes fear is not being done while we’re talking and legislating about bathrooms. Sometimes it can be difficult to talk and legislate and think simultaneously. I’m biased on this topic. I’m in favor of bathrooms. Not trying to be boastful here, but I have them in my home. And I’ve used and enjoyed them in each of the 50 states and on four continents. In Asia, where bathroom quality varies, you learn the true meaning of American Exceptionalism. We’re No. 1 when it comes to doing numbers one and two and any other numbers Americans do in our American bathrooms.

Austin American-Statesman - July 27, 2017

House panel advances teacher pay, retiree health care bill

The Texas House Appropriations Committee on Thursday unanimously approved two bills that would use the state’s rainy day fund to give current teachers a $1,000 pay raise as well as cut health insurance costs for retired teachers. House Bill 24, filed by Rep. Drew Darby, R-San Angelo, would raise minimum salaries for teachers, librarians and counselors in statute as well as give them a $1,000 annual raise starting next school year, to the tune of $848 million over the next two years. HB 20 by Rep. Trent Ashby, R-Lufkin, would inject $213 million into the Teacher Retirement System of Texas to reduce health insurance premiums, deductibles and out-of-pocket expenses.

Austin American-Statesman - July 27, 2017

Austin no longer holds No. 1 spot on list of America’s best cities to live in

Pack up. You’re no longer living in the No. 1 best place to live in America. Or the No. 2 best place. Yeah, not the No. 3 either. According to WalletHub’s new list, which considered factors like affordability, economy, safety, quality of life, education and health, Austin is only the sixth best place to live in America. The same list, which looks at the 62 biggest cities in the country, had Austin ranked as the top city in 2015. While Austin did well in economy, education, health and quality of life, it (unsurprisingly) performed less well in the affordability category. The next highest ranking Texas city was El Paso at No. 25.

Austin American-Statesman - July 27, 2017

House gives preliminary OK on stricter abortion reporting requirements

In its first day of bill voting on supplemental items on Gov. Greg Abbott’s special session agenda, the House on Thursday gave preliminary approval, 97-46, on a bill that would require stricter reporting of abortion complications. House Bill 13 by Rep. Giovanni Capriglione, R-Southlake, would require abortion providers and health care facilities to report within three business days to the Texas Health and Human Services Commission any abortion-complications, including death, uterine perforation, infection or a fetus born alive after the procedure. Under the bill, names of physicians and patients would be confidential, but the commission would aggregate the data to develop an annual report about abortion complications.

Houston Chronicle - July 25, 2017

$100,000 Club - mega-donors to Texas statewide candidates

Although a couple from Gillespie County grabbed the headlines by recently contributing $1 million to Gov. Greg Abbott's re-election campaign, ranchers Michael and Mary Porter are part of a bigger club. The Porters are among 36 contributors who gave Abbott $100,000 or more in the final days of June. That enabled Abbott to build a $41 million war chest, based on his campaign finance report filed July 17. Abbott, however, is not the sole statewide officeholder with a $100,000 club from the most recent campaign finance report, which covers Jan. 1 through June 30.

Houston Chronicle - July 25, 2017

Lawmakers consider shoring up ASATR school districts in special session

Texas lawmakers are hoping to figure out what they can do during the special legislative session to soften the blow to about 200 mostly rural school districts losing state money with the end of a hold harmless program. Several of the school districts have said the expiration of Additional State Aid for Tax Reduction, referred to as ASATR, will cause their school systems to close in the next few years without additional help from the state. Lawmakers in both chambers are mulling whether and how much money the state should give to the districts, which are scheduled to lose ASATR funding Sept. 1. Proposals include spending $335 million over the next biennium to extend the funding until 2019, offer funding to the 16 districts that are the sole districts in their counties, or create temporary grants for districts loosing funds.

Houston Chronicle - July 27, 2017

Calpine wins bid to build solar farm on University of Texas land

Houston-based Calpine Corp. has won a bid to build a solar farm on West Texas land owned by the University of Texas, the first time the university has offered a lease on its reserved lands for solar power generation. The university declined to provide any details about Calpine's bid or the proposed lease terms. Public records confirmed that three companies had won a bid, including Calpine, a merchant power company that operates natural gas-fired power plants. The are two companies that won bids are Recurrent Energy Development Holdings, a California-based developer of utility-scale solar farms and a subsidiary of Canadian Solar and Hecate Energy, a Tennessee-based renewable energy company with operations in the U.S., the Middle East and Africa.

Houston Chronicle - July 25, 2017

DPS gang assessment includes Tango Blast, MS-13 as top threats

Tango Blast is considered the greatest gang threat in Texas, according to a new report, while a previous powerhouse - the Texas Syndicate - has been downgraded from the top tier because of disruptions from law enforcement and Tango affiliates. The other most significant gangs in Texas are Latin Kings, Texas Mexican Mafia and Mara Salvatrucha, known as MS-13, according to the 2017 Texas Gang Threat Assessment from the Texas Department of Public Safety. The report, released Tuesday, estimates that as many as 100,000 gang members operate in Texas. Officials say Tango Blast, with more than 19,000 members, is the state's largest. Harris County is identified among the areas with the highest concentration of gang activity. The top gangs in the region are the Houstone, a Tango Blast clique, all sets of Bloods and Crips, as well as the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas.

Houston Chronicle - July 27, 2017

Sheriff will charge DPS to use his jail over lab fee dispute

A North Texas sheriff is planning to bill the Texas Department of Public Safety for lodging state prisoners in his county jail, a response to last week's surprise announcement that DPS will begin charging for forensic testing done in state crime labs. Wise County Sheriff Lane Akin, a former Texas Ranger, narcotics agent and highway patrol trooper during a 27-year career with the DPS, was upset that the agency is pulling back from its traditional support of local law agencies. The DPS has not charged Texas law agencies for forensic tests conducted at 14 state crime labs, but Director Steven McCraw issued a press release last week saying that the state budget approved by lawmakers in May requires the agency to begin charging for lab fees, beginning Sept. 1.

Dallas Morning News - July 27, 2017

DMN: Joe Straus is fighting for sanity in Austin — here's how you can help him

House Speaker Joe Straus is a lonely man in Austin, where he stands as a bulwark against a rash of potentially disastrous bills cascading from the Senate into his chamber's lap. Texans on the right and the left should do all they can to keep Straus strong in his efforts to steer us through what will otherwise be a dismal and damaging special session of the Legislature. The speaker is standing up to the Senate on the so-called bathroom bill, and that takes courage. Call him to tell him to keep strong. Texas' leading businesses and many of America's most powerful CEO's have warned that the bill's passage would make recruiting talent to Texas difficult and expose the state to economic reprisals. Straus shares those concerns. He has also spoken directly about the human cost the bill would impose on transgender Texans.

Dallas Morning News - July 27, 2017

Update -- Wilonsky: Gov. Greg Abbott to Texas' big-city mayors: Take a leap

The governor of Texas has a message for Dallas residents: You don't matter. Oh, and you, too, good people of Fort Worth, Houston, Austin and San Antonio. Take a flying leap. At the moment, at least, it would appear Greg Abbott doesn't have any interest in meeting with the mayors of Texas' five biggest cities, who last week signed a missive asking him for a sit-down to discuss his ever-escalating war on city halls. Mayor Mike Rawlings had yet to receive a response from Austin Thursday. Neither has Austin Mayor Steve Adler, his office confirmed. ... Update: Shortly after this column posted Thursday afternoon, Gov. Greg Abbott's office set up a meeting Tuesday with Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings and Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price, according to Rawlings' office.

Dallas Morning News - July 27, 2017

CPS staff saw bruises on 4-year-old girl's face a year before fatal beating but ruled out abuse, report says

A year before she was beaten to death, Leiliana Wright told a child welfare worker that her mother had "smacked" her face. The little girl made a slapping motion to show what she meant, and the social worker snapped photos of her bruises. The Child Protective Services employee didn't upload the images for future reference, and the agency believed the girl's mother a month later when she said Leiliana had run into a wall. That was early 2015. It was the first but not the last time a CPS worker saw bruises on Leiliana but left her with her mother.

Dallas Morning News - July 27, 2017

Marchant: NAFTA negotiator should adopt the mantra more trade, not less

"Our first goal is to have more trade not less, our objective is to first of all do no harm." This was Robert Lighthizer's answer to a question I posed during his June appearance in front of the House Ways and Means Committee. Confirmed by the U.S. Senate just weeks earlier, Ambassador Lighthizer is the Trump Administration's U.S. Trade Representative, America's ambassador to the international trade community. As America's No. 1 exporter, Texas is a prime beneficiary of American trade agreements. Look no further than North Texas to view the positive economic impact of America's trade relationships on our local businesses.

Dallas Morning News - July 27, 2017

Watchdog: You could be part of a medical experiment that almost no one knows about - not even you

Have you heard of non-consent medical studies, in which trauma victims may get a placebo or an alternative treatment instead of regularly used medical techniques. It's all in the name of science. Watchdog Dave Lieber investigates. If you suffer cardiac arrest and are taken by ambulance to UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, you might become part of a medical experiment that tests different breathing assistance techniques used to revive you. You're probably unconscious, so this may be done without your permission. Unlike most medical experiments in which you must agree to take part, paramedics don't need to ask. You're a human guinea pig and don't even know it. The Watchdog first raised the alarm about these non-consent medical experiments in 2008 when many of our North Texas emergency rooms were participating in a study in which some trauma victims were given blood transfusions, while others were given a highly concentrated salt solution instead.

San Antonio Express News - July 24, 2017

Pimentel: A list as threat part of a toxic political culture

Votes for and against bills in the Legislature are a matter of public record. And statements expressing support for or unmovable opposition to various measures are generally made, well, out in the public square. Such stances are no mystery for those interested in the issues. Gov. Greg Abbott, however, wants to help you out in this matter of transparency. He has promised a daily “list” of those opposed to measures he wants approved in the special session, which began last week. “No one gets to hide,” he told a forum hosted by the conservative Texas Public Policy Foundation on Monday. But shining a light on what’s unhidden isn’t really a matter of transparency. Rather, it is part and parcel with the kind of toxic political culture that has long afflicted Texas, though it enjoys national expression as well.

San Antonio Express News - July 27, 2017

Texas AG Paxton set to stand trial in December, judge rules

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton will face trial in December for the first of three criminal charges, a Houston judge ruled Thursday. Jury selection will begin Dec. 1 and testimony will start Dec. 11 for the count of failing to register as an investment adviser with the state. Paxton, who was indicted in 2015, also faces two first-degree felony charges of securities fraud. The hearing Thursday was the second in the case for state District Judge Robert Johnson of the 177th Criminal Court, a freshman jurist assigned to oversee Paxton’s case after it was moved from the attorney general’s home of Collin County.

San Antonio Express News - July 27, 2017

California official challenges Texas, other oil states

California’s insurance commissioner isn’t backing off from requiring San Antonio’s USAA and other insurers to report their fossil fuel investments, despite threats of being sued by Republican officials in 13 states — including Texas. “My reply to the threats of suit by these 12 oil and coal states attorneys general and governor is simple: Bring it on,” California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones said during a news conference Thursday. “We will not be deterred by threats of lawsuits from oil and coal states where it’s politically popular to deny or ignore climate change, or climate change-related risk.” The 13 Republicans — including Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton — last month signed a letter demanding that Jones, a Democrat, stop requiring insurance companies to disclose their fossil fuel investments and to sign a “pledge” to divest from the coal industry.

Montgomery County Courier - July 27, 2017

Mother of 'Bubble Boy' cheers Brady bill for home treatment

The Shenandoah mother of a boy who was known as the "boy in the bubble" is heartened by the progress of a bill authored by U.S. Rep. Kevin Brady, R-The Woodlands, that would guarantee continued home care for people suffering from the same rare and often fatal disease that led to the death of her son. Brady's so-called "Medicare for Americans" bill would extend a pilot program that provides for people with what's called severe combined immunodeficiency disease, or SCID for short, to receive what's often lifesaving care in their homes. SCID is a genetic condition that weakens the body's immune system so severely that the body has little or no natural immunities to battle against infections and diseases. Babies born with SCID -- because they can't fend off what would frequently be only minor childhood illnesses -- often die before they're a year old.

Business Recorder - July 27, 2017

One of the reddest states in the US is leading the charge toward criminal-justice reform thanks to an unlikely political alliance

Mark Gonzalez had never prosecuted a single case before he was elected district attorney of Nueces County, Texas, last November. The 37-year-old self-described "Mexican biker defense lawyer" spent his first decade in law poking holes through bad cases and defending low-level offenders from what he viewed as unnecessary prosecutions and unduly harsh penalties. So when the 2016 election season approached, Gonzalez thought the Nueces County district attorney's office was ripe for an overhaul. To say Gonzalez isn't the archetype for the chief criminal prosecutor for the southern Texas county is an understatement. He's covered in tattoos — the words "Not Guilty" stretch from shoulder to shoulder in jagged type, and his left forearm is inked with a portrait of Moses because, as his clients say, "he sets people free."

D Magazine - July 27, 2017

How a Federal Court Ruling Could Cost Pete Sessions His Seat

U.S. Rep. Pete Sessions, whose traditionally red North Dallas district slightly favored Hillary Clinton last year, is already facing an unusually tough campaign in 2018. Two well-funded Democratic candidates are challenging the incumbent in an election year that has some national Democratic strategists, conscious of historical trends in the U.S. House of Representatives and an historically unpopular Republican president, smelling blood in the water. A federal court ruling on Texas’ congressional map, expected in the near future, could make Sessions more vulnerable, even if the worst “Armageddon map” scenario doesn’t spell total doom for Texas Republicans in Washington. A New York Times analysis published today looks at how redistricting could endanger Republican representatives across the state—a federal court is now weighing whether Texas discriminated against minority voters when it redrew its congressional map five years ago.

New York Times - July 27, 2017

Cohn: How a Ruling on Texas Districts Could Help Reshape Congress

A federal court is expected to rule soon on whether Texas intentionally discriminated against minorities and failed to draw enough minority-majority districts when it adopted its current congressional map. The decision could put a meaningful dent in the G.O.P.’s advantage in the House heading into next year’s midterm elections. In an oft-quoted Texas Tribune article, Republican lawyers have raised the possibility of an “Armageddon map” — one that endangered a half-dozen Republican districts, fully one-fourth of the 24 seats that Democrats need to retake the House in 2018. “Armageddon” might not be the likeliest outcome. But a victory for Texas Republicans might not be the likeliest outcome either.

Corpus Christi Caller Times - July 26, 2017

Texas spends less than the national average on inmates, study finds

Texas prisons are some of the most populous, and the state's incarceration rate is among the highest, but Texas spends less than the national average per inmate, according to a new study from BackgroundChecks.org. Looking at U.S. and state prison statistics, BackgroundChecks.org found that in 2015 Texas' prison population was 149,159, the highest in the nation. A 2016 Texas Department of Criminal Justice report notes that on Aug. 31, 2016 there were 134,547 prisoners on hand in Texas. The 2015 version counts 135,266 on the same day one year earlier. But the group found that in 2015 Texas on average spent $22,012 per inmate, compared to the national average of about $33,849. Texas also spends less than the national median of aproximately $29,803.

County Stories

Houston Chronicle - July 27, 2017

Stanart questions Russian hacking claims, says elections secure

Despite reports from federal intelligence agencies and media outlets of Russia's widespread targeting of state and local elections around the country and in Texas, election administrators in the nation's third-largest county say Vladimir Putin's government does not pose a unique or heightened cybersecurity threat. Harris County Clerk Stan Stanart said his office, which runs local elections, has a slew of checks in place to prevent hackers from tampering with the vote, including multiple backed-up voter registration databases that are kept offline. He said reports produced by voting machines before every election ensure the machines do not come pre-loaded with votes and after the election allow the county to cross-check against final tallies to make sure the vote is not manipulated.

KGBT - July 27, 2017

Sheriff considers opening crime lab after state announces forensic analysis fees

The Texas Department of Public Safety's crime lab system is set to enter the fiscal year short of $11 million. According to the department, general appropriations from the Texas legislature will provide only $63 million out of the $74.5 million it costs to run the lab. To make up for the loss, DPS will soon begin charging for the normally free services starting Sept. 1. The announcement is not sitting well with Cameron County Sheriff Omar Lucio. "We spend about $50,000 to $60,000 a year on this particular kind of incidents that we that we supply to the state, and now they’re going to charge,” Lucio said. “So, we figure that’s how much it’s going to cost.” Charges could range from $75 for alcohol and controlled substance analysis to $500 for DNA analysis.

City Stories

Dallas Morning News - July 27, 2017

Sanchez: Confederate memorials symbolize racism, and they belong in history museums

As Dallas debates whether to take down statues of Confederate soldiers, some argue that these men fought honorably and the memorials to them should remain. I agree, the statues shouldn't be removed on the grounds that Confederate leaders were particularly villainous. They should be removed because of the racist symbolism embedded in their commemoration and creation. Let's start with some history: The Confederate War Memorial in Dallas was constructed in 1896, 31 years after the Civil War ended. The Robert E. Lee Park in Dallas was established in 1909, 44 years after the Civil War ended.

Houston Press - July 27, 2017

In Houston's Fifth Ward, Concern Over Superfund Site Grows With EPA Budget Cuts

Houston-area activists gathered on a street corner in Fifth Ward on Tuesday, just across from the Many Diversified Interests Inc. Superfund site — which is currently under redevelopment after the federal Environmental Protection Agency allowed years to pass without cleaning up the lead-contaminated site — to announce that they are joining organizers from across the country in influencing how the EPA deals with the Superfund program. The location of the announcement was no accident. Instead of cleaning up MDI — a 35-acre tract of land that was the location of a foundry from 1926 to 1992 that left the the site, along with the groundwater beneath it, laced with lead — the EPA took the site off its priority list in 2010, and allowed a developer to get to work redeveloping it.

Austin American-Statesman - July 27, 2017

Garza, Kingston: How local government will wrest back authority of cities

It’s no surprise to us that opposition is running through our cities. Urban centers have emerged as the leading sites of resistance in the age of Donald Trump, often fighting both his administration in Washington, D.C., and state lawmakers who seek to fulfill the same backwards agenda when the White House can’t. Cities such as Seattle and San Francisco filed the first lawsuits against President Trump’s executive order attacking so-called sanctuary cities. Mayors banded together to defend climate policies when Trump pulled out of the Paris Climate Accord. And as Trump seeks to unravel long-held worker protections, cities are doubling down to provide working people with higher wages, paid sick days and scheduling protections.

National Stories

USA Today - July 27, 2017

Paxton: Donald Trump should keep his promise to dump DACA: Texas Attorney General

Recently, I led a 10-state coalition asking President Trump to rescind the Obama Administration’s 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. I did so because the program represents an unconstitutional exercise of legislative power by the Executive Branch. While in office, President Barack Obama repeatedly exhorted Congress to pass the DREAM Act, which would generally allow unlawfully present aliens who entered the country before age 16 to apply for lawful status. But Congress repeatedly refused, so Obama bypassed the legislature and unilaterally hatched DACA. DACA has far-reaching implications, granting a renewable two-year term of lawful presence and work authorization for unlawfully present aliens who entered the country at least five years before DACA’s promulgation, arrived before age 16 and were 30 or younger as of DACA’s promulgation in June 2012.

Politico - July 27, 2017

Senate Majority PAC raised $4.5M in first half of 2017

Senate Majority PAC, the Democratic super PAC controlled by allies of Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, raised $4.6 million in the first six months of 2017, its fastest-ever fundraising start at the beginning of an election cycle. The super PAC has spent little, and ended June with $4.5 million in the bank. Senate Majority PAC is expected to play a major role in Senate Democrats' defensive effort in 2018, when 10 Democratic senators are facing reelection in states President Donald Trump won last November. In five of those states — Indiana, West Virginia, Montana, North Dakota and Missouri — Trump won by more than 10 percentage points.

Washington Post - July 27, 2017

Senate Republicans release text of the ‘skinny repeal’ health-care bill as it approaches a vote

Senate Republicans released the text of their “skinny repeal” bill late Thursday, setting up a cliffhanger voted slated for midnight on the eight-page document they are calling the “Health Care Freedom Act.” It would eliminate the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that Americans obtain coverage or pay a tax penalty, and suspend for eight years the mandate that firms employing 50 or more workers provide insurance. The measure also would eliminate funds for preventive health care provided under the 2010 law and prohibit Medicaid beneficiaries from being reimbursed for Planned Parenthood services for one year. Instead, the bill dictates the federal funding that would have gone to Planned Parenthood would go to community health centers. It would end a 2.3 percent tax on medical device manufacturers for three years.

WBAP - July 27, 2017

Tax Foundation says sales tax holidays hurt state revenue

Another state sales tax holiday is coming next month but a newly released report from the Tax Foundation argues these sales incentives actually fail to boost sales while reducing state revenue. The report claims tax holidays merely encourage consumers to shift their spending rather than increase it. The Tax Foundation concludes that the holidays hurt state revenue and Texas would be better off reducing the sales tax rate on a year-round basis. George Kelemen doesn’t agree. He’s the president and CEO of the Texas Retailers Association. He says sales tax holidays do generate more overall sales, some of it from consumers from neighboring states.

The Hill - July 27, 2017

Senate Republicans plan to defund Planned Parenthood in 'skinny' repeal

Senate Republicans are planning to include a one-year defunding of Planned Parenthood in their scaled-down ObamaCare repeal bill, according to lobbyists and congressional aides. The sources said the repeal of ObamaCare's individual and employer insurance mandates, as expected, will also be included in the "skinny" repeal bill as a part of Senate GOP leaders' attempt to pass any legislation to keep the repeal process alive. The contents of the scaled-down bill will be discussed at the Senate GOP lunch on Thursday before they are finalized, the sources said.

Dallas Morning News - July 27, 2017

Border tax dies for lack of support, concede Texas' Kevin Brady and other GOP leaders

House Speaker Paul Ryan has agreed to jettison one of the most controversial aspects of his tax overhaul plan, clearing the way for the White House to move forward on its plans for sweeping tax cuts later this year. After months of talks, the Wisonsin Republican and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady, R-The Woodlands, have backed down on their demand that any changes to the tax code include the imposition of a new "border adjustment tax" on imported goods, at least in the short term. The revelation came in a joint statement that Ryan, Brady, top Republicans in the Senate and senior White House officials released on Thursday as way to update the public about the status of their tax overhaul negotiations.

Fox News - July 24, 2017

Can Trump self-pardon? Legal experts weigh in

Whether a president has the ability to issue a self-pardon is a favorite topic for lawyers to debate as there is really no clear resolution, Jonathan Turley, a legal scholar and law professor at George Washington University, told Fox News. A president could make a ‘good-faith’ case for self-pardon Turley has argued in multiple columns and on his own blog that while the Constitution should bar self-pardons, it doesn’t. “The language of Article II is quite explicit in giving the president a pardon power over federal offenses with the only exception related to impeachments. Donald Trump can certainly make a good-faith textual case for the right to self-pardon,” Turley told Fox News. Turley added that he objects to those “who are claiming clarity” in the argument.

Associated Press - July 27, 2017

Bid to restrict transgender bathroom use advances in Montana

Montana election officials on Wednesday allowed a conservative group to move forward with a proposed ballot initiative that would let people sue for emotional or mental distress if they spot a transgender person using a public bathroom that doesn't correspond to their gender at birth. The decision on the measure came the same day that President Donald Trump announced he wanted to ban transgender people from the military. The proposal in Montana would require people to use public restrooms and locker rooms designated for the gender listed on their birth certificate in schools, universities and government buildings, similar to a law passed by North Carolina and legislation being pushed by Republican Texas lawmakers.

This article appeared in the Houston Chronicle

Houston Chronicle - July 27, 2017

Hot mic catches Susan Collins mocking Blake Farenthold: 'He's so unattractive it's unbelievable'

Oh, that dreaded open microphone! Republican Sen. Susan Collins got caught Tuesday at the end of a hearing with a microphone that was still hot — and captured her ripping President Donald Trump and making fun of a fellow lawmaker who had been critical of her on health care. Collins, a moderate from Maine, can be overheard complaining about Trump and his proposed 2018 budget, which slashes spending with deep cuts to domestic agencies, food stamps, Medicaid, highway funding and medical research. "Whenever there was a grant, they just X-ed it out, with no metric, no thinking about it, no nothing," she tells Democratic Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island. "It's just incredibly irresponsible." ... "Did you see the one who challenged me to a duel?" Collins asks. "I know," Reed replies. "Trust me. Do you know why he challenged you to a duel? 'Cause you could beat the s--- out of him." Collins continues, "I don't mean to be unkind but he's so unattractive it's unbelievable."

Politico - July 25, 2017

House Republicans seek to dodge border wall vote

House Republicans are poised to fund $1.6 billion for President Donald Trump's border wall through a procedural maneuver designed to avoid a floor vote that might fail. The House Rules Committee is expected to attach funding for the wall that Trump has proposed building along the Mexican border to the so-called minibus, a downsized spending package for the Pentagon, the Energy Department, the Department of Veterans Affairs and the legislative branch — but not DHS, the Cabinet agency responsible for the wall. If an amendment to fund the wall is adopted by the Rules Committee, this line item can circumvent a floor vote, sparing GOP immigration moderates and fiscal hawks from being pressed to approve a project that their constituents might view as xenophobic, misguided and wasteful — and sparing GOP leaders possible defeat.

Associated Press - July 27, 2017

US Conservatism Expands to Final Frontier: City Hall

For decades, a well-funded conservative group has helped state lawmakers across the U.S. write legislation to rein in unions, expand charter schools and lower taxes. Now, it's expanding to the final frontier: normally nonpartisan city halls and county governments, which have become a bastion of liberal resistance to President Donald Trump. The American Legislative Exchange Council is one of the country's most prominent conservative groups, and its annual convention in Denver last week drew thousands of state legislators and lobbyists for panels on school choice and marijuana legalization, as well as speeches from conservative luminaries like Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and former Senator James DeMint. But as attendees rubbed shoulders with the right's elite, a few dozen crowded into a small conference room for the fourth meeting of the American City County Exchange, the conservative group's new local government wing.

This article appeared in US News

The Hill - July 27, 2017

Intelligence chairman accuses Obama aides of hundreds of unmasking requests

The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee is accusing top political aides of President Obama of making hundreds of requests during the 2016 presidential race to unmask the names of Americans in intelligence reports, including Trump transition officials. Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), in a letter to Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, said the requests were made without specific justifications on why the information was needed. “We have found evidence that current and former government officials had easy access to U.S. person information and that it is possible that they used this information to achieve partisan political purposes, including the selective, anonymous leaking of such information,” Nunes wrote in the letter to Coats.

All - July 27, 2017

Lead Stories

Texas Tribune - July 26, 2017

As lawmakers try to curb local Texas governments, big-city mayors left out of meetings with Abbott

If Gov. Greg Abbott has disdain for how local Texas officials govern their cities, it didn’t show in a Wednesday sit-down with three mayors who were among 18 who jointly requested a meeting to discuss legislation that aims to limit or override several municipal powers. “Whether we changed anybody’s mind or not, you never know,” said Galveston Mayor Jim Yarbrough. “But I will say it was a healthy conversation.” What also remained to be seen Wednesday: whether Abbott plans to meet with mayors from the state’s five largest cities — who were also among those who requested to meet with the governor. So far, Abbott hasn’t responded to the requests from the mayors of Austin, Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston and San Antonio.

NPR - July 24, 2017

Federal Gerrymandering Case Could Give Dems Congressional Seats — In Texas

A three-judge panel is expected to rule soon whether Texas violated Hispanics' voting rights when drawing its congressional and state House maps in 2011. If Texas loses, it could be placed back under federal supervision under the Voting Rights Act, throw some uncertainty into 2018 races and put other states like North Carolina on notice they may follow in Texas' footsteps. ... KEL SELIGER: Clearly it is a partisan process, and nobody makes any bones about that. But intentional discrimination? No. GOODWYN: Kel Seliger is a prominent Republican senator from Amarillo who chaired that body's select committee on redistricting. Senator Seliger says it's not true that the legislature intentionally discriminated against Hispanic voters, the six federal courts that have ruled otherwise notwithstanding. SELIGER: Very often we look at how the people vote. But did - at any time did somebody say, this district has a lot of Latinos, let's divide it up or pack it or something like that? Never was I in discussion of anything like that.

Dallas Morning News - July 27, 2017

Parker: Big Government Republicans are about to cost Texans $15 billion

Make no mistake: Republican politicians in Texas are making a monumental error. Apparently not content with a moral or legal blunder, Greg Abbott and Dan Patrick are probably about to cost Texans at least $15 billion. With their insistence on a range of discriminatory laws, that number may be bigger and would be measured in lost revenue, wages, reputation and even college football games, not over months but years. And Texans will wind up picking up their tab. Abbott's tenure, with Patrick, is remarkable in that it has traded bread for circuses: the Texas Republican Party has abandoned its leadership position in economic, business and fiscal matters. Instead, the governor has set forth an agenda of more restrictions on abortions, a crack-down on undocumented immigrants, regulations on bathrooms and micromanagement of cities.

Politico - July 27, 2017

Pity Paul Ryan: Moderates adopt Freedom Caucus tactics

Moderate Republicans have watched for years as conservative hard-liners tanked legislation in the House — all while dutifully falling in line with leadership and being knocked as "squishes" by some of their colleagues. But lately, some in the centrist Tuesday Group have started to adopt the power-in-numbers strategy of the Freedom Caucus. And the get-tough approach is yielding results. Resistance from moderates almost torpedoed the House Obamacare replacement this spring, and resulted in billions in additional funding to help people with pre-existing conditions — a requirement for some centrists' support. Earlier this month, they banded with Democrats to sink two controversial amendments overwhelmingly supported by their GOP colleagues, including one barring the Pentagon from spending money on gender reassignment changes for troops.

Washington Post - July 27, 2017

Scaramucci: ‘If Reince wants to explain that he’s not a leaker, let him do that’

White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci said Thursday that he doesn't know if his relationship with White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus can be repaired, and he urged Priebus to publicly prove that he has not leaked damaging information to the media. “If you want to talk about the chief of staff, we have had odds, we have had differences. When I said we were brothers, from the podium, that's because we're rough on each other. Some brothers are like Cain and Abel, other brothers can fight with each other and then get along. I don't know if this is repairable or not — that will be up to the president,” Scaramucci said in a phone interview with CNN early Thursday morning, referencing the biblical brothers without mentioning that Cain murdered Abel.

Houston Chronicle - July 26, 2017

Lamar Smith: What if climate change isn't such a bad thing

After years of questioning scientific research showing carbon dioxide emissions from human activity is causing the temperature of the planet to rise, Texas Congressman Lamar Smith has a new question on climate change. What if climate change isn't such a bad thing? In an essay entitled "Don't Believe the Hysteria Over Carbon Dioxide," Smith, a San Antonio Republican, poses the theory that higher temperatures and carbon dioxide levels could have a variety of benefits from increased crop production to opening up shipping lanes in the Arctic.

Politico - July 26, 2017

Sessions' powerful friends stand up to Trump

Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ supporters in Congress and the conservative movement are pressing forward with a loose-knit but determined effort to defend him in the wake of yet another day of pointed Twitter attacks from his boss, President Donald Trump. South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham was among Sessions’ most vocal defenders Wednesday, when he seemed to almost be taunting the president, suggesting that his failure to fire Sessions showed weakness, while also hinting that the impact of such a move could be catastrophic for Trump’s presidency.

TexasGOPVote - July 26, 2017

Cook: Bathroom Debate Distracts From Real Fight Facing Rural Texas

Please don't be distracted by the current "bathroom" debate in Austin. The more serious battle brewing in the Texas legislature's special session is between rural and urban Texas. As the special session continues to unfold, I am disappointed that our great state is continuing to waste so much time over the "bathroom" debate. Especially since all the attention on this issue is smoke-screening a very serious threat facing rural Texas families, rural public schools, and even the economic survival of our state's rural communities. For example, urban special interest groups want to take money away from our rural public schools to fund private school vouchers. While this might be a preferred option for some of the state's under-performing inner city school districts (like Houston, Dallas or San Antonio) it would cripple funding for our rural public school districts.

State Stories

Texas Tribune - July 27, 2017

Here’s where the Texas Legislature is on Gov. Abbott's special session issues

During this year’s regular session, lawmakers failed to pass so-called sunset legislation needed to prevent some state agencies from closing. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick held key sunset legislation hostage in a successful effort to force a special session on other issues. In announcing the special session, Abbott said he would only add an additional 19 issues to the agenda after the Senate passed sunset legislation. On the third day of the special session, the Senate did just that and Abbott significantly expanded the session’s agenda.

Texas Tribune - July 27, 2017

Radio made Dan Patrick powerful in Texas. And it's helping him stay that way.

On Nov. 4, 2014, a flamboyant two-term state senator from Houston and conservative radio show host was poised to become the state’s lieutenant governor-elect, with early election results showing Dan Patrick ahead of his Democratic challenger by nearly 20 points. More than 300 supporters had gathered at the Norris Conference Center in Houston to watch the populist firebrand claim victory, but before addressing the eager crowd, Patrick stole a moment to acknowledge those who had tuned in to his message even before he set his sights on Austin. Sneaking off into a quiet corner, the Houston Republican recorded a special message for his radio fans.

Texas Tribune - July 26, 2017

Sid Miller on Trump's transgender ban: "Military is not the place for leftist social experimentation"

A tweet by President Donald Trump asserting that transgender people would no longer be able to serve in the U.S. military garnered the support of at least one Texas official: Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller. “I am thrilled by President Trump’s decision. I just wonder why it took so damn long. The United States Military is not the place for leftist social experimentation,” Miller said in a statement to The Texas Tribune. Trump tweeted early Wednesday that the U.S. government would no longer accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in the military “in any capacity.” He said his decision was due to the “tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender [people] in the military would entail.”

Texas Tribune - July 25, 2017

Rome: Our priority must be new funding for schools

Gov. Greg Abbott and state lawmakers have recently called for an increase in teacher salaries, and we at the Texas School Coalition certainly agree that improved teacher compensation should be a priority in this state. School districts know better than anyone that classroom teachers have the single greatest impact on a child’s education, and their pay should be increased to reflect that important role. While we agree that teacher pay raises are needed, we have some disagreement in terms of how to fund such an increase. We also take issue with the statements that school districts have not made teacher pay a priority — even with the limited resources available to them.

Texas Tribune - July 27, 2017

Texas universities forced to trim their budgets, even with big state cuts averted

The massive state funding cuts Texas higher education officials dreaded never materialized this year. But that doesn't mean their public universities are out of the woods. Most of them — even some that received slight funding boosts from the state — are asking their staffs to cut costs for the upcoming school year. University of Houston President Renu Khator has asked academic departments to cut 2.5 percent from their budgets. University of Texas at Austin President Greg Fenves ordered a $20 million spending cut, which amounts to a 2 percent reduction. Texas A&M University administrators are sticking with a planned 1.5 percent cut, while Texas Tech University departments were told to trim 1 percent from their budgets.

Texas Tribune - July 26, 2017

Bozelko: This is no way to treat animals, or humans

Anyone who did this to their dog would be arrested. Yet when someone locks a human being in inescapable, rising heat, no one is held accountable. It wouldn’t be summer without reports of people being cuffed and charged for leaving their dogs inside hot, locked cars. A Wesleyan University professor, a concertgoer and a woman who locked her dog in her white Mercedes are just some of the new perps who are feeling the heat for leaving a living creature to die in the hot weather. It also wouldn’t be summer if the issue of air conditioning in Texas correctional facilities didn’t surface. Since 1998, 22 inmates have died from heat-induced illness. The temperature reached 100 degrees during 13 days in 2016, and was between 90 and 99 degrees on 55 days. That means that the heat index was higher inside the facilities.

Texas Tribune - July 26, 2017

McLaren: Don’t cut off redemption for TaiChin Preyor

I cannot look the other way when crooked lawyers prosper by making desperate mothers suffer. Margaret Mendez would do anything she could to save her child. Her son, TaiChin Preyor, was on death row, having gotten addicted to drugs and been convicted of a murder in San Antonio. A long-time employee of the U.S. Postal Service, she searched the internet for lawyers and was unable to find anyone who would take her son’s case for less than $150,000. Then Mendez’s niece introduced her to Philip Jefferson over a holiday dinner. Jefferson impressed her with tales of his work with Johnnie Cochran, the famous lawyer who helped secure a not-guilty verdict for O. J. Simpson. Jefferson held himself out as a “retired” lawyer.

Austin American-Statesman - July 26, 2017

Texas Senate approves bill aimed to speed up building permits

A bill in the Texas Legislature that would create hard deadlines for local governments to rule on building permits cleared the Texas Senate floor on Wednesday as part of the chamber’s march toward Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s vow to go “20 for 20” in the ongoing special session. At about 3:40 p.m., the Senate passed the bill 18-13 on second reading. Most questions surrounding Senate Bill 13 related to hard caps on municipal and county deadlines for approving permits. Under SB 13, sponsored by Sen. Konni Burton, R-Fort Worth, local governments for the most part would have 30 days to approve or deny a building permit. Failure to meet the deadline results in a building permit’s automatic approval.

Austin American-Statesman - July 23, 2017

Giovanetti: How Abbott could introduce regulatory agencies to reality

Seldom has a regulatory agency become so thoroughly discredited as the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission, with seven high-ranking officials resigning in the last few weeks. Not only were agency officials caught boozing it up with the very industry they were supposed to be regulating, they also got smacked down for the overzealous and baseless prosecution of the state’s largest liquor chain. Unfortunately, abuse and overreach is to be expected of regulators like the TABC. What’s surprising is that Texas — a state that has embraced a limited-government, free-market approach — still delegates and defers so much power to outdated regulatory agencies. Most of these agencies were created in the 1930s and still reflect Progressive Era distrust of markets — but maintain faith in the beneficence of technocrats. Though they were created to protect consumers, regulatory agencies are themselves prone to a number of temptations.

Austin American-Statesman - July 24, 2017

Walters: Texas tree ordinances are eminent domain in all but name

During the current special session, the Texas Legislature will address the seemingly simple question: Who owns the tree in your backyard? Nearly 50 municipalities in Texas have ordinances preventing landowners from removing trees from their private property without receiving the city’s permission — and they often require property owners to pay a fee to mitigate the loss of trees. Gov. Greg Abbott made restricting these local ordinances a priority. But such tree ordinances already have questionable legality. The Texas Constitution has a provision — the Takings Clause, which echoes the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution — that states when government takes private property for a public use, it must pay just compensation to the landowner.

Austin American-Statesman - July 25, 2017

Smith: What the Bastrop oil spill says about effective regulation

In all the worry surrounding pipelines like Keystone XL or the Dakota Access Pipeline, it is easy to forget that pipelines are generally the safest and most efficient way to move oil — both environmentally and for the workers involved. Spills like the one in Texas dominate the news whenever they happen, so pipelines often appear much more accident-prone than they are. Although mistakes are inexcusable, news reports have never mentioned how almost all the oil transported that day moved without incident. Lobbying groups for oil and gas routinely laud their safety records: 99.999 percent of oil is transported safely through pipelines. In 2013, the Association of Oil Pipelines reported that 8.3 billion barrels of crude oil were moved via pipeline. That’s more than 22 million barrels a day. Brigham McCown, a former administrator of the Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, argues that, “Pipelines transport the lion’s share of crude oil because they are the safest, most environmentally friendly, and least expensive way to transport large volumes of energy products.”

Austin American-Statesman - July 26, 2017

Russell: Prejudices of bathroom bill will play out in Texas schools

There have been many voices raised about the proposed transgender bathroom legislation in Texas. Plenty have written about the reasons these laws are a bad idea. Others have written about how these laws will provide safety. But there is another impact of such laws that is not getting much attention: the effect on school climate and child development. Public debates about the dignity and worth of individual people and groups of people are toxic, especially to children. As adults, we think that children are not aware of the ugly public debates about marginalized people, whether they are Muslims, immigrants, lesbians and gays, or transgender people. In most families and communities we don’t talk with children about these issues; we think that they don’t know or wouldn’t understand.

Austin American-Statesman - July 26, 2017

Senate clears most Abbott priorities, shifting attention to House

After deliberating until almost 2 a.m. Wednesday, then returning to work eight hours later, the Texas Senate cleared most of its calendar, sending 18 bills to the House that are favored by Gov. Greg Abbott, including legislation on transgender bathroom use, abortion regulations and limits on the authority of cities. Events may have moved slower than expected, requiring 16 hours of nonstop work starting at 10 a.m. Tuesday and a session last week that began minutes after midnight, but the Senate was able to largely meet Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s goal of passing Abbott’s priorities by midweek. Senate Republicans took a quick victory lap, celebrating a list of conservative priorities that they had laid upon the House’s doorstep.

Austin American-Statesman - July 26, 2017

Texas maternal mortality bills marked by key difference

Extending the work of a task force studying pregnancy-related deaths is one of the few issues on Gov. Greg Abbott’s special session agenda that inspires bipartisan support. However, the Texas House and Senate are taking somewhat different approaches to what the task force should be prioritizing in its work. Rep. Shawn Thierry, D-Houston, said Wednesday that a bill she authored to extend the task force, House Bill 11, takes a more narrow approach than the Senate version, Senate Bill 17, which the Senate approved Wednesday.

Austin American-Statesman - July 24, 2017

Miller: Whole Woman’s Health is fighting for 5.4 million Texans

Last week, Texas clinics — led by Whole Woman’s Health and represented by the Center for Reproductive Rights and Planned Parenthood — came together to sue Texas over its latest attempt to undermine a woman’s right to access abortion. If that story sounds familiar, it’s because it is. Just over a year ago, I was the lead plaintiff in a historic Supreme Court victory: Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt. The case challenged Texas’ unconstitutional clinic shutdown law — House Bill 2 — and the victory was one of the most significant for reproductive rights in a generation. Yet, despite the landmark ruling from the Supreme Court, anti-abortion lawmakers have continued to prioritize a political agenda over women’s health.

Austin American-Statesman - July 26, 2017

House panel mulls special session abortion items

Heeding Gov. Greg Abbott’s special session call to address abortions, the Texas House State Affairs Committee considered on Wednesday three bills that would require more reporting of such procedures as well as further restricting funding for abortions. Similar bills have moved swiftly through the Senate. House Bill 14 by Rep. Drew Springer, R-Muenster, would prohibit local governmental entities, like cities and counties, from contracting with an abortion provider or an affiliate. The state pinched off all state funding for abortion providers such as Planned Parenthood in 2011.

Austin American-Statesman - July 26, 2017

Senate gives intial OK to voter fraud bill

The Texas Senate tentatively passed a bill Wednesday that would set up safeguards to prevent mail-in ballot fraud in Texas and increase penalties for people who try to steal votes. The bill requires one more vote before it’s sent to the House. Senate Bill 5 by Sen. Kelly Hancock, R-North Richland Hills, would require a signature verification process for early ballots, notification of rejected ones within a month after an election and a process for correcting errors. Punishment for committing mail-in voter fraud in some cases could reach $4,000 and up to a year in jail. Hancock and bill supporters have said the bill would protect the most vulnerable voters: seniors and people with disabilities.

Austin American-Statesman - July 26, 2017

Bill to ban tree ordinances passes Texas Senate

When Texans buy property, they buy the trees that come on it, and have the right to do whatever they please with them, the Texas Senate said Wednesday in a 17-14 vote on a bill to ban local tree ordinances. If passed by the Texas House and signed, Senate Bill 14 would overturn ordinances in Austin and at least 90 other Texas cities and counties that provide varying protections to trees. The measure affects only regulations of residential property and still allows counties to ban clear-cutting in unincorporated areas.

Houston Chronicle - July 26, 2017

Difficult road ahead for bathroom bill in House

Dangerous. Discriminatory. Chilling. Hurtful. Those are words used by House State Affairs Chairman Byron Cook to describe bathroom legislation headed to his committee in the Texas House in the coming days. The Republican from Corsicana said legislation that would force transgender people to use bathrooms in line with their birth sex "puts people at risk," but stopped short of saying what he plans to do with the bills headed to his committee during the special legislative session. "Requiring those people to go to the women's restroom when they look like men, that can be dangerous. Requiring men who are trans women and wear dresses and makeup and look just like women, requiring them to go to the men's room creates a dangerous situation," he said.

Houston Chronicle - July 27, 2017

Texas Senate intensifies attack on cities over local control

The Texas Senate's conservative majority took aim Wednesday at local laws its members feel infringe on freedom and property rights, rushing through bills that place new limits on cities' ability to annex land and protect trees on private lots. The passage of those bills limiting local control, and a third that conversely requires local governments to speed up the issuance of building permits, came during an action-packed, contentious day at the state Capitol. Police arrested immigration protesters, and gay rights activists and abortion rights supporters also demonstrated against the Senate Republicans' aggressive tactics aimed at passing as much of Gov. Greg Abbott's highly conservative special session agenda as quickly as possible.

Houston Chronicle - July 26, 2017

Fewer cross, but many still die

FALFURRIAS - The deaths of 10 immigrants trapped inside a tractor-trailer in San Antonio has thrown a harsh spotlight on the persistent humanitarian crisis that tests the limits of agents whose mission is to catch immigrants entering the country illegally - and rescue them when they are in danger. The Department of Homeland Security regularly warns migrants against nefarious smugglers and the perils of the journey, but the message has done little to deter migrants fleeing violence and extreme poverty. "Bottom line, there is more of an incentive for them to take on those risks," said Robert C. Gilloon, deputy patrol agent in charge of the Falfurrias station of the U.S. Border Patrol, which has borne the brunt of immigrant deaths and rescues in Texas. "They'll hide in a tractor-trailer if they think that's going to increase their chances."

Houston Chronicle - July 26, 2017

Tomlinson: Texas needs to shake up retail electricity market -- again

Texas electricity retailers offer consumers more than 2,000 plans, creating a dizzying array of prices and options that are often difficult to comprehend. Prices are at the top of every offer, ranging from 6.8 cents per kilowatt-hour to 12 cents. Terms range from one to three years, with special introductory offers, clean energy options, free nights and weekends, and even home security bundles. But how much electricity do you really need, and when do you need it? What is a kilowatt-hour, anyway? Readers frequently complain about the process of choosing a retailer and then feeling disappointed when the plan wasn't what they expected. Some even miss the old days when Houston Lighting & Power Co. hooked up every house and the Public Utilities Commission set the rates.

Houston Chronicle - July 26, 2017

Buchanan, Kreuzer: Lawmakers should turn concern to action on maternal deaths

For pregnant women in America, there is no more dangerous state than Texas. While U.S. Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz push proposals on the federal level that would cut Medicaid and take away access to maternity care, the state they are supposed to represent remains the deadliest in which to give birth, and the deadliest state for new mothers. Last year, the maternal mortality rate was found to be rising in the United States, despite death rates dropping by nearly half in the past several decades globally - with Texas leading not only our country, but most of the developed world, in the number of women who die from pregnancy-related complications during or up to a year after birth. There is a devastating story to tell for every one of these maternal deaths. Several years ago, one of us, Donna Kruezer of Austin lost her daughter, Kristi, to postpartum depression - found to be a leading cause of maternal mortality by the Texas Maternal Mortality and Morbidity Task Force.

Dallas Morning News - July 26, 2017

Vouchers, squabbles on how to pay could kill Texas lawmakers' tweaks of school finance

Although the House and Senate's chief education policy writers have narrowed their differences on tweaking school finance, the two chambers still disagree over school vouchers for disabled students and how to pay for more school aid. Prospects for any major education accomplishments in the special legislative session remain very uncertain, lawmakers and school group lobbyists said Wednesday. Senate Education Committee Chairman Larry Taylor, asked if tax credit scholarships for disabled students to attend private schools must be part of any bill on school finance, replied, "We'll have that discussion when we get there."

Dallas Morning News - July 27, 2017

Charity leaders in Texas caution that revamp of tax code could cause unintended drop in giving

As lawmakers consider all manner of ways to overhaul the nation's byzantine tax code, there's at least one provision that appears almost certain to avoid the chopping block: the charitable tax deduction. And yet, philanthropic leaders in Texas and beyond are still sounding the alarm that prevailing tax revamp proposals could have the unintended effect of depressing charitable giving. The reason is simple: Ideas like lowering tax rates and raising the standard deduction — measures aimed at providing Americans tax relief — would have the result of minimizing the incentive that comes from taxpayers being able to claim the charitable deduction on their tax returns.

Dallas Morning News - July 26, 2017

Trump's transgender ban for military catches Texans off guard, splits lawmakers

President Donald Trump's abrupt decision Wednesday to ban transgender individuals from serving in the military caught key Texas lawmakers by surprise, and drew sharply divergent views. Rep. Mac Thornberry, chairman of the House Armed Services committee, had no idea the decision was coming. "It was a surprise to me, and I think the Pentagon is referring questions to the White House because it was a surprise to them too," said the Clarendon Republican. "I don't know what to think," he said, adding that all he knew was what he saw in the president's early morning tweets. "There are obviously questions to be answered about, 'Now what?'"

Dallas Morning News - July 26, 2017

Neiman Marcus to cut 225 jobs, assess Last Call's future

Neiman Marcus said Wednesday that a reorganization of its business to reflect changing customer shopping habits will include a reduction of its workforce. The Dallas-based retailer also said it's assessing its Last Call outlet division. The Dallas-based retailer, struggling with almost $5 billion in leveraged buyout debt, said it will cut 225 employees, including less than 20 in Dallas. Neiman Marcus said it's committed to being "a leader in high-end luxury retail" and is streamlining its operations to match its focus to provide a personalized shopping experience driven by digital performance and analytics.

Dallas Morning News - July 26, 2017

Why new data on former NFL players' brains is important to Texas kids

Researchers released alarming evidence this week that suggests the link between professional football and chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, is much more common than realized. A study by Boston researchers found that 99 percent of the brains donated by families of former NFL players showed signs of this degenerative disease — all but one of the 111 studied. What's more, overall, CTE was found in 87 percent of the 202 brains that belonged to deceased men who played football at all levels. That number included three men who played in high school and 48 who played in college.

Dallas Morning News - July 27, 2017

House panel OKs teacher pay raise, retiree health bills

The Texas House Appropriations Committee on Thursday unanimously approved two bills that would use the state’s rainy day fund to give current teachers a $1,000 pay raise as well as cut health insurance costs for retired teachers. House Bill 24, filed by Rep. Drew Darby, R-San Angelo, which would raise minimum salaries for teachers, librarians and counselors in statute as well as give them a $1,000 annual raise starting next school year, to the tune of $848 million over the next two years. The panel also heard HB 20 by Rep. Trent Ashby, R-Lufkin, which would inject $213 million into the Teacher Retirement System of Texas to reduce health insurance premiums, deductibles and out-of-pocket expenses.

Dallas Morning News - July 27, 2017

How did another 4-year-old die under Dallas CPS' watch when it says it's improving?

The deaths came more than a year apart, one a horrifying echo of the other. Grand Prairie police found 4-year-old Leiliana Wright in a hallway by the bathroom where her mother said the girl had collapsed while she showered. She was purple from head to toe, her back streaked with whip marks. Leiliana's savage beating in March 2016 highlighted the urgency of the staffing crisis at Child Protective Services, spurring lawmakers to give raises to caseworkers and boost the ranks at the agency.

Dallas Morning News - July 26, 2017

Senate boosts Gov. Greg Abbott's mission to overrule local governments

The Texas Senate on Wednesday gave a boost to Gov. Greg Abbott and his mission to reel in overreaching local governments, approving a handful of bills that would limit the regulatory authority of cities and counties. Abbott, who convened a special session this summer to address a number of conservative priorities, has said the state must curb local governments that have gone too far in regulating everything from cellphone use to when homeowners can remove trees on their property. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and the hard-line Republicans in the Senate have worked to quickly approve Abbott's 20-point agenda for the 30-day special legislative session.

Dallas Morning News - July 26, 2017

Jeffers: House Speaker Joe Straus is Texas' last shield against bathroom bill

On the grounds of the Texas Capitol, Phillip Jones, a leader in Dallas' hospitality industry, said he was disappointed Republicans like Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick are backing a bill he says discriminates against transgender residents and could adversely affect the state's economy. Then he had a moment of optimism. "Thank God for Joe Straus," he said, cracking a smile. Straus is the last major barrier to the "bathroom bill" being pushed by Patrick and supported by Abbott, who put the matter on his agenda for the special legislation session that began last week. The Senate, working at a fast clip to approve Abbott's priorities, gave a final nod to a bathroom bill early Wednesday morning. Now the House gets its turn, where Straus is presumably waiting to kill the legislation.

Dallas Morning News - July 26, 2017

Bathroom bill is 'unnecessary,' says the one Republican who could determine its fate

The Texas lawmaker who could determine the fate of the so-called bathroom bill says the controversial legislation is unnecessary and bad for Texas business. In an interview with The Dallas Morning News on Wednesday, Rep. Byron Cook, R-Corsicana, said he didn't see the need for the bill, which would limit restroom use by transgender men, women and children in Texas. When asked whether he opposed the legislation, he said, "I'm not for it." "I'm struggling with, where is the necessity of this bill?" Cook said when asked whether he thinks the legislation is discriminatory. When asked a second time, he added, "The bill is unnecessary."

Dallas Morning News - July 26, 2017

Texas Senate passes bills banning abortion coverage in insurance plans and targeting Planned Parenthood

The Senate passed two anti-abortion bills Wednesday after hours of debate that fell on timeworn lines. During the regular legislative session that ended in May, lawmakers passed sweeping anti-abortion legislation, but Gov. Greg Abbott in June said he wanted legislators to do more to limit the procedure. Abbott listed three abortion-related items on the agenda for the special legislative session, assuring that debate would flare again in the Capitol, as it did Wednesday. The Senate gave final approval on a 20-10 vote to Sen. Brandon Creighton's Senate Bill 8, which would ban coverage for elective abortions under primary heath insurance plans. Women wanting abortion coverage would be forced to buy supplemental plans under the measure.

San Antonio Express News - July 27, 2017

Cement companies, oil industry to fund air pollution studies

Local cement and aggregate companies and the oil and gas industry will fund efforts by the Alamo Area Council of Governments to study emissions that affect San Antonio’s air quality. Capitol Aggregates, Martin Marietta, CEMEX, Alamo Cement Co., the South Texas Energy and Economic Roundtable and the Texas Aggregates and Concrete Association will contribute a total of $60,000, AACOG director Diane Rath said at a Wednesday meeting of local officials. The roundtable’s members include oil and gas producers in the Eagle Ford shale. “We all have a part in air quality, whether we’re oil and gas, or cement, or a local person living in this community,” said Chris Ashcraft, vice president of the roundtable. “We need to understand our impacts in order to tackle the impacts.”

San Antonio Express News - July 26, 2017

Classes start earlier for more than half of Texas public schoolchildren

Parents might want to double-check their school calendars next month. Gone are the days when Texas public school students all returned to the classroom on the same day. This year, starting Aug. 10, there are four different “first” days of school among Bexar County’s 16 traditional school districts. The earliest, Aug. 10, belongs to Lamar Elementary School in the San Antonio Independent School District, which is piloting a “year-round” model, with a six-week summer break offset by shorter breaks throughout the year. The rest of SAISD goes back to school Aug. 14.

San Antonio Express News - July 26, 2017

Senate approves bill giving people right to vote on annexation

State senators intent on giving residents the right to vote before large Texas cities could annex them approved a bill Wednesday overhauling the state’s annexation statutes. Under current law, cities can annex unincorporated areas of counties without voter approval. City officials across the state argue this is a way to prepare for growth, because they can better control development within their boundaries and expand their tax bases, a concern because the state offers little financial help to Texas cities. The bill now moves to the House.

San Antonio Express News - July 24, 2017

Collins: Raise the age from 17 in criminal cases

During the past 10 years, Texas has made incredible progress both in reducing the number of individuals incarcerated and in creating alternative programs for low-risk offenders. This progress, including mandatory sex offender rehabilitation and supervision programs, have contributed to decreased recidivism rates in Texas. However, much can still be done. In Texas, a 17-year-old can be charged as an adult and held criminally responsible for an offense he or she allegedly committed. Our state is one of only nine states that sends all 17-year-olds accused of a crime to the adult criminal justice system. Forty-one other states treat those younger than 18 as juveniles.

San Antonio Express News - July 27, 2017

Abortion in Texas

As some 1,200 anti-abortion protesters began to make their way down Main Street, holding aloft oversized crucifixes and posters of smiling babies, two women faced off on opposite sides of the block. In between them, South Texas’ sole remaining abortion clinic, Whole Woman’s Health, stands behind metal bars. Sofia Peña and Mercedes Soto, two women whose lives are alike in many ways — both are McAllen natives, both mothers to 8-year-old daughters, both contemplated ending a second pregnancy — could stand as representatives in the divide that fuels the abortion wars in Texas.

National Review - July 25, 2017

A ‘bathroom bill’ could make or break the Texas governor’s career.

Calling a special session is a huge political gamble for Abbott. But the risk is not that passing a bathroom bill will prompt the kind of backlash that cost North Carolina governor Pat McCrory his reelection bid last year. The risk is that if the bill doesn’t pass, Abbott could face a well-funded GOP primary challenge next year from Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick. Abbott isn’t exactly passionate about the bathroom bill — but Patrick is. So much so, in fact, that Patrick leveraged his role overseeing the state senate to force Abbott to call this special session in the first place. Patrick, who has styled himself a staunch Christian conservative since winning the lieutenant governorship in 2014, has been pushing for the bathroom bill since before the regular session began, making it one of his top priorities.

Houston Chronicle - July 25, 2017

$100,000 Club - mega-donors to Texas statewide candidates

Although a couple from Gillespie County grabbed the headlines by recently contributing $1 million to Gov. Greg Abbott's re-election campaign, ranchers Michael and Mary Porter are part of a bigger club. The Porters are among 36 contributors who gave Abbott $100,000 or more in the final days of June. That enabled Abbott to build a $41 million war chest, based on his campaign finance report filed July 17. Abbott, however, is not the sole statewide officeholder with a $100,000 club from the most recent campaign finance report, which covers Jan. 1 through June 30.

Houston Chronicle - July 25, 2017

DPS gang assessment includes Tango Blast, MS-13 as top threats

Tango Blast is considered the greatest gang threat in Texas, according to a new report, while a previous powerhouse - the Texas Syndicate - has been downgraded from the top tier because of disruptions from law enforcement and Tango affiliates. The other most significant gangs in Texas are Latin Kings, Texas Mexican Mafia and Mara Salvatrucha, known as MS-13, according to the 2017 Texas Gang Threat Assessment from the Texas Department of Public Safety. The report, released Tuesday, estimates that as many as 100,000 gang members operate in Texas. Officials say Tango Blast, with more than 19,000 members, is the state's largest. Harris County is identified among the areas with the highest concentration of gang activity. The top gangs in the region are the Houstone, a Tango Blast clique, all sets of Bloods and Crips, as well as the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas.

Houston Press - July 26, 2017

Who's Lining the Pockets of the State's Top GOP Leaders?

Nobody wants to remember the time an East Texas millionaire named Lonnie Bo Pilgrim, a chicken processor, handed out 31 $10,000 checks on the Senate floor in Austin during a special session — when senators were set to consider worker's comp laws that affected his business. The case made a laughingstock of the Texas Legislature and prompted calls for reform of Texas campaign finance laws, which prohibit Texas lawmakers from accepting political contributions during the regular session but allow a free-for-all during the special session. But unfortunately, since 1989, that law hasn't changed, and as you read this, there's probably a lobbyist somewhere in the shadow of the capitol writing a check to a Texas lawmaker (or ten) in hopes of swaying votes. But unfortunately, since 1989, that law hasn't changed, and as you read this, there's probably a lobbyist somewhere in the shadow of the capitol writing a check to a Texas lawmaker (or ten) in hopes of swaying votes. The ban on regular-session political campaign donations ended June 19, after Governor Greg Abbott was done signing or vetoing bills, and a mid-year campaign finance reporting deadline came up in early July.

Texas Monthly - July 26, 2017

Climate Change to Bring Rising Energy Costs

It’s been another hot year in Texas. Back in May, before the year was even half over, the Austin-American Statesman made the call that 2017 would be the hottest year on record for the state. According to records from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Texas had an unusually warm winter, which gave way to above-average temperatures so far this summer. Hot summers are nothing new in the Lone Star State, of course. And when it’s hot outside, most Texans dial down the thermostat to keep cool indoors. A recently published study in Science has some bad news about that: in the years to come, it will only get more expensive to crank up the air conditioner or keep your fridge (with those ice-cold drinks) running.

The Atlantic - July 24, 2017

Why Texas Courts Will Stop 'Nickel-and-Diming' the Poor

The Justice Department’s 2015 report examining police practices in Ferguson, Missouri, revealed the ways that the local government’s dependency on money from court fines and fees turned law-enforcement officials into de facto tax collectors and citizens into deliberate sources of revenue for the city. But while Ferguson put this practice on the map, it’s hardly isolated there. In the years since the report’s release, officials elsewhere have examined how their own fines and fees, to varying degrees, burden residents—particularly poor ones. This is the case in Texas, which last month marked a turning point: To reduce the disproportionate impact these debts have on low-income people, the Republican-led state legislature passed a law to curtail the practice of jailing those who can’t pay court-imposed bills.

Texas Observer - July 26, 2017

Bova: 15 Protesters Arrested After Demonstration Defending DACA at Texas Capitol

Fifteen immigrants rights supporters were arrested Wednesday outside the Texas Capitol after they blocked traffic in an effort to defend existing immigrant protections and demand permanent legal status. A supportive crowd of dozens chanted “undocumented and unafraid” and “sí se puede” as the demonstrators were handcuffed with zip-ties and led into a nearby state building by Department of Public Safety troopers. The arrests came after troopers removed the protesters from the street, where they blocked traffic in downtown Austin on the north side of the Capitol. The 15 activists are charged with obstructing a highway, a Class B misdemeanor, and range in age from 20 to 42, police said.

Forbes - July 24, 2017

Lindsay: State Regulation Of Cities Does Not Illegitimately Infringe On "Local Control"

Critics of state intervention in local affairs charge that conservatives protest federal overreach into the affairs of the states, but these same leaders then miss the contradiction when they reach into the affairs of political subdivisions. But state regulation of cities constitutes neither a change in attitude nor hypocrisy. It represents what the U.S. Constitution enables and requires. ... In short, the argument that a state’s regulation of its political subdivisions hypocritically violates conservatives’ allegiance to local control misses entirely the existence and meaning of the Tenth Amendment. If the Texas Constitution contained a provision that stated—“The powers not delegated to the state by the U.S. and Texas Constitutions, nor prohibited by either to the state’s political subdivisions, are reserved to the political subdivisions respectively, or to the people”—the charge of hypocrisy would stick. But, as I have argued previously, no such clause exists in the Texas Constitution.

County Stories

Texas Observer - July 26, 2017

The Interview: Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg

Q: What pushback have you faced in Texas? A: The lieutenant governor accused me of creating a sanctuary city. I think he’s looking to pick a fight with Houston. It seemed like a partisan attack more than a substantive one. He said Houston would become a drug-user sanctuary, and then I heard the same language being used by [DA] Brett Ligon of Montgomery County. They have the same political consultant, Allen Blakemore. I think it was posturing simply because I did something that was popular and pragmatic. The program will save about $27 million a year — either save it or redirect it. I think this presents a clear and present threat to the Republican power structure, the fact that local Democratic government in Harris County is moving forward on this reform agenda that has bipartisan support. They’ve got an eye toward the 2018 election cycle.

City Stories

Dallas Morning News - July 26, 2017

DMN: The Dallas Morning News calls for Dallas to remove certain tributes to Confederate leaders

We're pleased Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings has called for the Communities Foundation of Texas to tackle the long-thorny issue of the Confederate memorials in this city. What to do about these divisive and painful reminders of this country's racist past seems exactly what the W.W. Kellogg Foundation had in mind when it awarded the foundation a $1.75 million grant in its campaign to provide more racial equity and healing. This city needs that today more than ever. Rawlings isn't dictating an outcome, he wants citizens to decide. But he knows too well that Dallas and this country are still living in the shadows of slavery and the enduring legacy of Jim Crow segregation. It's this dark and brutal past that these statues have come to symbolize.

Dallas Morning News - July 26, 2017

Murchison: Pulling down Confederate statues does nothing to change society

Once the statues are down, what have you got besides some suddenly vacant pedestals? Well, not moral unity, that's for sure. You've made a lot of people mad who weren't previously mad at you. You've called into question your intellectual bona fides by twisting historical facts to fit a manufactured and distorted narrative. To espouse a silly cause is to run the risk of becoming known as silly. The matter goes still further. So Dallas goes along with unhorsing Gen. Lee, right there in the park bearing his name (which name, of course, has to be changed to something appropriately anodyne). Yet that's hardly the logical end. The revolution is hungry. We have to wipe out school names, street names, fort names redolent of the late Confederacy. And not just the Confederacy. The American slaveocracy was large; it was powerful. Among its members: George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, with their large monuments and even larger legacies. What makes Robert E. Lee a likelier target than the Father of Our Country?

National Stories

Associated Press - July 27, 2017

US weekly requests for jobless aid up 10K, to 244,000

More Americans applied for jobless aid last week, though the number of people seeking benefits remains near historic lows pointing to a healthy job market. THE NUMBERS: Weekly unemployment applications rose by 10,000 to 244,000, the Labor Department said Thursday. It was the largest weekly increase since late May. The less volatile four-week average was unchanged at 244,000. The number of people collecting unemployment benefits has fallen 8.3 percent over the past 12 months to 2 million. THE TAKEAWAY: The job market appears solid as the U.S. enters its ninth year of recovery from the Great Recession. Employers are holding onto workers with the expectation that business will continue to improve.

This article appeared in the Houston Chronicle

Dallas Morning News - July 26, 2017

Sen. Ted Cruz's health care compromise may be down but not out

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s controversial proposal to let insurers sell skimpy health insurance plans may have failed in a procedural vote late Tuesday. But, as the Senate takes up a dizzying number of amendments this week in its bid to overhaul the Affordable Care Act, it’s not dead — yet. Cruz’s Consumer Freedom amendment, which would allow insurers to sell bare-bones policies alongside ACA-compliant plans, could be resurrected once the Senate passes a health care bill and negotiates a final compromise with the House, according to fellow Texas Sen. John Cornyn. First, the Senate has to secure 50 GOP votes on a health care measure — a goal that’s remained out of reach amid disagreements between conservative and moderate Republicans.

The Hill - July 26, 2017

Why Donald Trump flipped a Dem county in blue Connecticut

WINDHAM COUNTY, Conn. — In what had been one of the Northeast’s liberal strongholds, Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton by 8 percentage points in the November presidential election. Now, Republicans hope they have established a beachhead that could lead them back to power, or at least relevance, in a region that has proved politically elusive. The submarine base in New London is hard at work producing the next generation of Navy warships. The financial services sector that makes the New York suburbs some of the richest areas in America has recovered from the recession. But in the rolling hills of eastern Connecticut the textile mills have shut down, and what few manufacturing giants remain are shedding jobs.

Wall St. Journal - July 26, 2017

Trump Eyes Tax-Code Overhaul, With Emphasis on Middle-Class Break

On the day the Senate moved on long-promised health-care legislation, President Donald Trump signaled his next priority: overhauling the tax code to push corporate rates down and give middle-class taxpayers a break, even if it means some of the wealthiest pay more. “The people I care most about are the middle-income people in this country, who have gotten screwed,” Mr. Trump told The Wall Street Journal on Tuesday, reiterating that he wants to bring down the corporate tax rate to 15%. “And if there’s upward revision it’s going to be on high-income people.” Sitting behind his desk in the Oval Office, Mr. Trump hopscotched across a variety of policy and personnel topics over the course of the 45-minute interview.

Washington Post - July 27, 2017

Senate Republicans have tolerated Trump’s controversies. His treatment of Sessions is different.

Sen. John Cornyn counts Attorney General Jeff Sessions as one of his best friends in Washington, and their wives are even closer, making the couples regular double-date partners. “We occasionally get together to break bread,” the Senate majority whip said Wednesday. One of those double dates came recently enough that Cornyn (R-Tex.) and Sessions could not avoid the elephant in the room: President Trump’s public taunting of his attorney general, in a manner that suggests he wants Sessions to resign. “We didn’t talk in any great detail about this, but obviously it’s in the news,” Cornyn said, reiterating his strong support of Sessions remaining in office.

Valley Morning Star - July 25, 2017

Cornyn pushes back on wall

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn pushed back against federal moves to build the border wall in ecotourism areas in Texas by advocating for using technology instead, as he previewed his comprehensive border security legislation. At issue are initial moves by contractors for the Department of Homeland Security to prepare land for a physical barrier in the Santa Ana Wildlife Refuge in Alamo and the National Butterfly Center in Mission. DHS is anticipating fiscal year 2018 funding for building 60 miles of a border wall in Texas.

Politico - July 25, 2017

House Republicans seek to dodge border wall vote

House Republicans are poised to fund $1.6 billion for President Donald Trump's border wall through a procedural maneuver designed to avoid a floor vote that might fail. The House Rules Committee is expected to attach funding for the wall that Trump has proposed building along the Mexican border to the so-called minibus, a downsized spending package for the Pentagon, the Energy Department, the Department of Veterans Affairs and the legislative branch — but not DHS, the Cabinet agency responsible for the wall. If an amendment to fund the wall is adopted by the Rules Committee, this line item can circumvent a floor vote, sparing GOP immigration moderates and fiscal hawks from being pressed to approve a project that their constituents might view as xenophobic, misguided and wasteful — and sparing GOP leaders possible defeat.

Austin American-Statesman - July 26, 2017

US Attorney General threatens to cut some grants to ‘sanctuary cities’

The Department of Justice is imposing new conditions to ensure some federal grant money does not make it into the hands of so-called sanctuary cities. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Tuesday that anyone wishing to apply for the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Programs must comply with two new conditions — allow federal immigration agents access to detention facilities, and provide 48 hours notice before they release inmates who are wanted by federal authorities on suspicion of being in the country illegally. Texas has received more than $390 million from the program since 2003, including $13.4 million in 2016. Dallas took in $1 million last year for safety emergency funding.

Washington Post - July 26, 2017

Trump talks privately about the idea of a recess appointment to replace Sessions

President Trump has discussed with confidants and advisers in recent days the possibility of installing a new attorney general through a recess appointment if Jeff Sessions leaves the job, but he has been warned not to move to push him out because of the political and legal ramifications, according to people briefed on the conversations. Still raging over Sessions’s recusal from the Justice Department’s escalating Russia investigation, Trump has been talking privately about how he might replace Sessions and possibly sidestep Senate oversight, four people familiar with the issue said. Two of those people, however, described Trump as musing about the idea rather than outlining a plan of action, and a senior White House official said no action is imminent. Several people familiar with the discussions said that Trump’s fury peaked over the weekend and that he and Sessions now seem to be heading toward an uneasy detente.

Washington Post - July 26, 2017

Voter by voter, GOP super PAC tries to separate the party from Trump

It was a humid Saturday morning, 473 days before the next election, and Jack Mowat was walking door to door to support his congressman. At home after suburban home, voters heard a knock, then heard the pitch. “I’m with the Congressional Leadership Fund,” Mowat, 17, told a voter in workout gear. “Do you support Congressman Don Bacon?” The answer was yes. “Awesome,” said Mowat, updating his doorknocking phone app. “And what would you say is your most important issue?” The answer: Bacon was a “military guy.” That was all Mowat needed to hear. As one of dozens of volunteers for the Congressional Leadership Fund, the deep-pocketed super PAC backed by Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.), he was on a months-long mission to knock on the doors of semi-frequent voters and tell them that their congressman was doing what they sent him to do. In Nebraska’s 2nd Congressional District, where Bacon narrowly defeated Democrat Brad Ashford last year, the goal was to build up the Republican before Democrats had a chance to try to tear him down.

Houston Chronicle - July 27, 2017

McCain's brain cancer draws renewed attention to possible Agent Orange connection

When Amy Jones' dad, Paul, was diagnosed with glioblastoma last month, she wondered whether it might be tied to his time in Vietnam. Then, last week, when Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, also a Vietnam veteran, was diagnosed with the same aggressive brain cancer, Jones searched online for glioblastoma and Vietnam vets. She soon learned the disease is one of a growing list of ailments that some Vietnam veterans and their relatives believe is caused by exposure to Agent Orange, the toxic herbicide sprayed during the war.

Politico - July 26, 2017

Trump's Transgender Ban Is a Legal Land Mine

President Donald Trump’s Wednesday announcement on Twitter that transgender men and women will not be allowed to serve in the military “in any capacity” was not a complete surprise: Last month, Defense Secretary James Mattis announced that the military was hitting the pause button on an Obama-era plan to welcome openly transgender people into the military. But the announcement was a legal land mine. The Trump administration may soon learn that singling out a class of people for exclusion violates the constitutional guarantee of equal protection under the law. And as to those transgender soldiers already serving openly, any effort to expel them would face even more profound difficulties.

San Antonio Express News - July 26, 2017

‘Duel’ comment unlikely to cost Farenthold

Blake Farenthold would seem to have little to fear — except from a certain “female senator from the Northeast” who was inadvertently recorded commenting on his looks, which she found wanting. The Republican congressman from Corpus Christi has survived a failed sexual harassment suit and campaign billboard depicting him in duck print pajamas posing with a scantily clad waitress. He was still re-elected to a fourth term in November with nearly 62 percent of the vote over Democrat Wesley Reed. So it seems unlikely that voters will punish him for alluding to the possibility of a duel with “some female senators from the Northeast” during a radio interview Friday with Bob Jones of Corpus Christi radio “1440 Keys.”

Houston Chronicle - July 26, 2017

Senate soundly rejects repeal-only health bill

The Senate on Wednesday soundly rejected a measure that would repeal major parts of the Affordable Care Act without providing a replacement, leaving Republicans still searching for a path forward to fulfill their promise of dismantling President Barack Obama's signature health law. Seven Republican senators joined Democrats to vote against the measure, which had been embraced by conservatives but could have left millions of people without health coverage. The rejection of "clean repeal" pushed by Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., laid bare the deep divisions within the Republican caucus about how best to proceed. The night before, nine Republicans, including both conservatives and moderates, voted against comprehensive legislation to repeal the health law and provide a replacement.

Associated Press - July 26, 2017

New York eyes textalyzer to bust drivers using cellphones

Police in New York state may soon have a high-tech way of catching texting drivers: a device known as a textalyzer that allows an officer to quickly check if a cellphone has been in use before a crash. Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday directed the Governor's Traffic Safety Committee to examine the technology and the questions about privacy and civil liberties its use would raise. "Despite laws to ban cellphone use while driving, some motorists still continue to insist on texting behind the wheel — placing themselves and others at substantial risk," Cuomo said in a statement first reported by The Associated Press. "This review will examine the effectiveness of using this new emerging technology to crack down on this reckless behavior and thoroughly evaluate its implications to ensure we protect the safety and privacy of New Yorkers."

This article appeared in the San Antonio Express News

Huffington Post (HuffPost) - July 26, 2017

Trump Interior Nominee Has A History Of Contempt For The Agency She’s About To Lead

Former Texas Comptroller Susan Combs once likened proposed Endangered Species Act listings to “incoming Scud missiles” headed for her state’s oil and gas-rich economy. Combs, also a former state representative and Texas’s first female agriculture commissioner, regularly sparred with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service over species listings, petitioning in 2015 to have protections removed for an endangered songbird native to central Texas. She secured $10 million in state money for the comptroller’s office to fund scientific studies on species subject to federal listing — with a clear goal of protecting Texas’s economy, but which critics allege sought to undermine the federal government’s assessment and keep species off the list, according to a 2015 investigation by the Austin American-Statesman.

Politico - July 27, 2017

Hillary Clinton to open up about the 2016 election in new book titled 'What Happened'

The title of Hillary Clinton’s upcoming memoir on the 2016 presidential election will be “What Happened,” which, according to the Associated Press, will be released on Sept. 12. “In the past, for reasons I try to explain, I’ve often felt I had to be careful in public, like I was up on a wire without a net,” Clinton wrote in a statement from the book’s publisher, Simon & Schuster, “Now I’m letting my guard down.” This is her seventh book with Simon & Schuster since 1996, and the publisher in a press release said Clinton’s latest work is a “cautionary tale” of forces that might have worked against her during the election.

Dallas Morning News - July 26, 2017

Leubsdorf: GOP split could lead to a 3-way presidential race in 2020

The reasons for the Republicans' difficulties in redeeming their seven-year promise to repeal Obamacare range from President Donald Trump's erratic leadership and unfocused salesmanship to the unpopular GOP health proposal's inherent problems. But underlying their problems is a split in the Republican Party that existed before Trump's election and threatens to grow as House and Senate members confront the political fallout that could envelop them in the 2018 and 2020 elections. The way that the party's conservative majority has been resisting the concerns of more moderate senators and Republican governors raises the question whether this widening split could become a full-fledged rupture, leading to the first real three-way presidential race since Ross Perot's candidacy in 1992.

San Antonio Express News - July 27, 2017

Russia sanctions bill exposes Trump's legislative tug of war

President Donald Trump is likely to sign a tough new sanctions bill that includes proposed measures targeting Russia — a remarkable concession that the president has yet to sell his party on his hopes for forging a warmer relationship with Moscow. Trump's vow to extend a hand of cooperation to Russian President Vladimir Putin has been met with resistance as skeptical lawmakers look to limit the executive power's leeway to go easy on Moscow over its meddling in the 2016 presidential election. The House this week passed the legislation, 419-3, to enact new sanctions against Russia, Iran and North Korea, clearing the far-reaching measure for action by the Senate, where its future is less certain.

Houston Chronicle - July 27, 2017

Houston Democrats take pre-emptive measures against Trump

Congressman Al Green plans to take to the House floor Thursday morning to roll out a constitutional amendment to prevent President Donald Trump from pardoning himself. "No one is above the law, and this includes the President of the United States of America," the Houston Democrat said in a statement. "The legislation I plan to introduce will make that clear." Green's initiative involves a draft resolution proposing a constitutional amendment that would read: ''The President shall have no power to grant to himself a reprieve or pardon for an offense against the United States.''

Dallas Morning News - July 27, 2017

Goodman: If Republicans could get past their Obamacare obsession, they might fix health care

Republicans are bogged down in their efforts to pass a health reform bill for one basic reason: they are too obsessed with repealing the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) instead of reforming the health care system and solving people's problems. They have forgotten Donald Trump's campaign promise to make health insurance better and less expensive and leave no one behind. For the past two years, I have worked with Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Dallas) and Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-Louisiana) on an alternative. The bill keeps all the Obamacare revenue. There are no tax cuts for the rich or for special interests. Instead, we give tax cuts to ordinary people so they can afford health insurance.

All - July 26, 2017

Lead Stories

Austin American-Statesman - July 25, 2017

Mayors of Texas’ largest cities left out of meeting with Gov. Abbott

The mayors of Texas’ five largest cities, including Austin Mayor Steve Adler, were left off the list of mayors who will meet with Gov. Greg Abbott over the coming week to discuss city-related issues at the Texas Legislature. Mayors from Houston, San Antonio, Dallas, Austin and Fort Worth will not be in any of the meetings taking place Wednesday and Thursday at the governor’s mansion. Last week, 18 Texas mayors signed a letter requesting to meet with Abbott to talk about many of Abbott’s proposals they think would “impede the ability of Texas cities to provide vital services.”

Yahoo! News - July 22, 2017

Gov. Greg Abbott may be looking beyond Texas, as he runs even farther to the right

The Rio Grande Valley was the first place Abbott visited after launching his first campaign for governor, and nearly four years later, it was his first stop again, even as he has pursued an agenda that has grown distinctly more conservative and, in some cases, some have argued, anti-Latino. But Abbott hadn’t given up trying to win over voters here. “I have a vision. I have a goal that I intend to achieve,” Abbott bluntly told a group of volunteers who had gathered to go knock doors on his behalf. “Whether it be this election or some election in the future, my goal is to ensure that in my lifetime the Rio Grande Valley is gonna be voting Republican every single election.” Abbott’s campaign had chosen this block in particular, as it was home to what an aide described as “soft Democrats” — moderate, swing voters they believed could be convinced to support a Republican.

Texas Tribune - July 26, 2017

Ramsey: Texas Republicans deciding where to go on bathrooms

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Gov. Greg Abbott have figured out how to make mainstream Republicans a splinter group in their own party. Or maybe it’s the other way around: The party’s traditional establishment has slipped out of the mainstream and is just now coming to realize what a pickle it’s in. The “bathroom bill” is popular with social conservatives, who are loud and energetic about it, and not with business conservatives, who have been quiet and passive for most of the year. The lieutenant governor is on the side of the social conservatives. Abbott was late to the game, but he joined in with Patrick by resurrecting the issue for consideration during the special session when the business community would have preferred leaving it in the legislative mortuary.

Austin American-Statesman - July 25, 2017

Herman: Again, Texas’ bathroom bill a solution in search of a problem

One of the more anticipated summer re-runs at Your Texas Capitol aired Tuesday as GOP senators, against the advice of cops, advanced the bathroom bill. That’s the thing with reruns — they always come out the same. Or do they? We’ll find out when the bill gets to the House. During the regular session, the House OK’d a version that Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said didn’t do enough to protect girls and women from crimes perpetrated by men posing as women to get in the female bathroom. Let’s get this out of the way first. I think the bill is unnecessary, not because the topic isn’t part of a broader topic that must be addressed, but because I believe this part is best handled locally, as it has been to date.

Houston Chronicle - July 26, 2017

Zeller: Legislature has shifted state's share of tax burden to locals

As a conservative Republican county judge in a growing county, I'm concerned by state Sen. Paul Bettencourt's property tax plan, Senate Bill 1. Titled the "Texas Property Tax Reform and Relief Act of 2017," it failed to pass during the regular session, but is again under consideration in the special session. I believe the bill will never live up to its promising name. Unfortunately, it doesn't cut taxes. It's just a distraction from a problematic school finance system, and the eagerness of many in Austin to use unfunded mandates to pay for things they haven't found the money to cover.

Dallas Morning News - July 25, 2017

Stromberg: Trump insults everything the Boy Scouts stand for

I don't blame the Boy Scouts of America for inviting President Donald Trump to speak at the National Scout Jamboree. But I would blame the BSA's leaders if they ever invited him back. I love the Boy Scouts. As a scrawny city boy, I worked my way toward Eagle Scout, honing my mind, body and conscience. If I had ever been forced to sit through a BSA-sponsored political rally about partisanship and egotism, I would have rethought my membership and, perhaps, never learned the fine lessons the organization imparts. The president called the nation's capital city a "sewer." He informed the religiously mixed crowd that more people would say "Merry Christmas" under his watch. He spent much of the speech glorifying his election victory: "Do you remember that famous night on television? On Nov. 8th?" Trump said, as he insisted that winning the popular vote — which he failed to do — is a lot easier than his feat, winning the electoral college

Amarillo Globe News - July 23, 2017

Senate hopefuls could give Kel Seliger a run for his money

When it comes to political campaign fundraising, few in the Texas Senate have the firepower of state Sen. Kel Seliger. The Amarillo Republican is sitting on a massive $1.7 million campaign bank account, and he’ll likely use it in a 2018 rematch with Mike Canon, a Republican from Midland. Canon, a former Midland mayor who announced his Senate bid in May, has $89,000 on hand after raising $73,000 in June, recent campaign filings show.

Politico - July 25, 2017

Senate Dems plan to drop nominations blockade if health bill fails

Senate Democrats have dragged out confirmations for even the least controversial nominees while the chamber remained mired in the health care debate. But they’re pledging to drop their blockade if the GOP’s Obamacare repeal effort fails, according to senior Democratic sources. In recent weeks, the Senate has slowed to a crawl, taking days to process nominees such as a federal judge from Idaho and the second-ranking official at the Pentagon as a protest of sorts against the Republicans’ secretive health care drafting process. The GOP also claims that Democrats aren’t negotiating on a budget deal, veterans’ legislation and Food and Drug Administration fees until the Obamacare debate is over.

New York Times - July 26, 2017

Trump Says That Transgender People Will Not Be Allowed in the Military

President Trump announced on Wednesday that the United States will not “accept or allow” transgender people in the United States military, saying American forces “must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory” and could not afford to accommodate them. Mr. Trump made the surprise declaration in a series of posts on Twitter, saying he had come to the decision after talking to generals and military experts, whom he did not name. “After consultation with my generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States government will not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. military,” Mr. Trump wrote. “Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail.”

State Stories

Texas Tribune - July 25, 2017

Texas Senate approves teacher bonuses, benefits — but not pay raises

The Texas Senate on Tuesday approved legislation to give teachers bonuses and to improve retired teachers' health benefits — but only after the bill's author removed a controversial provision requiring school districts to cover the cost of teacher pay raises. The upper chamber voted 28-3 to give initial approval to Senate Bill 19, authored by Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, which would borrow money from the Texas Health and Human Services Commission to pay for $193 million in statewide teacher bonuses and inject $212 million into a faltering state-run health insurance program for retired teachers. If the measure gets final approval from the Senate, it will head to the House.

Houston Chronicle - July 26, 2017

DePillis: Governor Abbott shuns Texas' economic base

As the legislative session has worn on, Governor Greg Abbott has picked fight after fight with Texas' cities, accusing them of trying to "California-ize" the Lone Star State with their protections for immigrants and local tree ordinances. Abbott and the Republican Senate are also working hard to constrain cities' and counties' power to raise property taxes and require voter approval for annexations. Abbott seems to particularly dislike the state's largest urban outposts. In the latest slight, Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, Austin and San Antonio were left off an invitation to a meeting that 18 mayors requested last week to discuss the ways in which the state is attacking local control. Abbott's disdain is puzzling, however. Those five cities are both the economic engine of Texas and a large chunk of its votes.

Texas Tribune - July 25, 2017

Senate gives early OK to bill regulating do-not-resuscitate orders

The Senate on Tuesday gave early approval to a bill that would mandate physicians take certain steps before issuing do-not-resuscitate orders to patients. Senate Bill 11, authored by state Sen. Charles Perry, R-Lubbock, passed the upper chamber in a 21-10 vote on second reading after about an hour of discussion. The measure regulates the issuance of do-not-resuscitate orders, directives that instruct medical professionals to not perform certain life-sustaining actions if a patient goes into cardiac or respiratory arrest.

Texas Tribune - July 25, 2017

Persistence pays off for rural Texans besieged by sky-high power prices

After struggling to pay sky-high power line rates for more than three years, thousands of rural Texans are set to get relief. Sharyland Utilities, which charges the highest power delivery rates in Texas, announced a deal on Monday that should substantially ease the burden for roughly 54,000 customers scattered across North, West and West Central Texas. The tiny utility signed an agreement with Oncor Electric Delivery to exchange assets and operations. The proposal, which requires approval by the Public Utility Commission of Texas, would transform Sharyland ratepayers into Oncor customers. As the state’s largest electric transmission utility, Oncor charges the lowest rates.

Texas Tribune - July 25, 2017

Almost half of Texas' supply of execution drugs just expired

WHY THIS MATTERS: Since 1977, lethal injection has been the method for executing Texas criminals sentenced to death. But the drugs used in executions have changed over the years, as the state has struggled to get a hold of enough life-ending doses. Texas, along with other states that hold executions, has been engaged in a battle for years to keep an adequate inventory of execution drugs. Currently, the state uses only pentobarbital, a sedative it has purchased from compounding pharmacies kept secret from the public. To promote transparency, The Texas Tribune has obtained the inventory history and current supply of execution drugs held by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.

Texas Monthly - July 21, 2017

New Energy in the Senate Republican Primary

Houston energy lawyer Stefano de Stefano announced that he will run against Ted Cruz in the Texas primary race, according to the Houston Chronicle. De Stefano will be tabling his legal career with Diamond Offshore Drilling, a deepwater drilling contractor that posted a $1.6 billion revenue in 2016, to focus on the race. The political novice says that he will “leverage his private sector leadership and negotiation acumen” to help small business owners and entrepreneurs in Texas. As a senator, he said he would focus on “supporting the economic engines of the state by simplifying regulations that limit competitiveness.” ... It’s unclear if Texas’s energy giants will choose to back one of their own, but they’ve been steadily pumping black gold into Cruz’s coffers for years. According to OpenSecrets, the oil and gas energy gave more money to Cruz than any other candidate in any national race in 2016, coming in at $1,457,628 in total contributions. In his 2012 Senate race, oil and gas gave Cruz $780,282, more than any other congressional candidate that year.

Texas Tribune - July 25, 2017

House committee debates addressing property tax bill increases from several angles

A Texas House committee on Tuesday spent more than seven hours plowing through more than 30 bills that aim to tackle rising property tax bills — months after similar legislation died amid an intra-GOP war over how conservatively state officials should govern. And while the Senate spent the past five days — including the weekend— tearing through the 20 issues Gov. Greg Abbott wants addressed in the special legislative session, the House Ways and Means Committee on Tuesday tackled property taxes from several angles that collectively go far beyond the upper chamber’s major property tax bill that's poised to pass this week.

Austin American-Statesman - July 26, 2017

Senate OKs limits on union payroll deductions

The Texas Senate late Tuesday voted largely along party lines to ban payroll deductions for union dues for many state and local government employees. Senate Bill 7 — given initial approval on a 19-12 vote at 11:33 p.m. after almost 2½ hours of debate — would exempt unions serving police, firefighters and emergency medical workers, instead applying to government employees that include teachers, correctional officers and Child Protective Services caseworkers. Only one senator crossed party lines in the vote — Sen. Robert Nichols, R-Jacksonville, who voted “no.”

Austin American-Statesman - July 25, 2017

Cornyn pushes back on plan to build wall in South Texas eco areas

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, pushed back Tuesday against federal moves to build the border wall in eco-tourist areas in South Texas, instead calling for the use of increased technology to better secure the border. At issue are initial moves by the Department of Homeland Security to prepare land for a physical barrier in the Santa Ana Wildlife Refuge in Alamo and the National Butterfly Center in Mission. The agency is anticipating fiscal year 2018 funding for building 60 miles of a border wall in Texas. Building a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border was President Donald Trump’s signature campaign promise, and Cornyn Tuesday told Texas reporters that he believed Trump had been elected in “significant part” because of it.

Austin American-Statesman - July 26, 2017

Overnight: Senate approves ban on tax money for abortion providers

Voting at 1:50 a.m. Wednesday, the Texas Senate gave initial approval to a bill that would bar state and local governments from providing money to abortion providers or their affiliates. The Republican author of Senate Bill 4, Sen. Charles Schwertner of Georgetown, said the legislation was demanded by Texans who do not want their tax money helping the bottom line of organizations that provide abortions, including Planned Parenthood. “This will provide the people of Texas with the assurance that no local tax dollars will go to abortion providers or their affiliates,” Schwertner said.

Austin American-Statesman - July 25, 2017

UT profs say they will appeal ruling in campus carry lawsuit

Three University of Texas faculty members will appeal a federal judge’s ruling to dismiss their lawsuit over a state law that permits students to carry concealed handguns in most campus buildings. On Monday, attorneys for professors Jennifer Lynn Glass, Lisa Moore and Mia Carter filed a notice saying they will appeal the decision to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. The professors argued the possible presence of firearms could bring a “chilling effect” to classroom discussion. But on July 6, U.S. Judge Lee Yeakel issued a seven-page ruling saying the threat of physical harm is not heightened just because a student might have access to a gun.

Austin American-Statesman - July 26, 2017

In late votes, transgender bathroom bill, 10 others sent to House

In a flurry of votes that extended beyond midnight, the Texas Senate gave final approval to almost a dozen bills early Wednesday, including legislation cracking down on transgender-friendly bathroom policies. Most of the bills, which received initial Senate approval Monday and Tuesday, were sent to the House with little or no debate in about a half-hour of action. One exception was Senate Bill 3, which seeks to bar public schools and local governments from adopting policies that would let transgender people use restrooms, locker rooms and changing rooms that correspond with their gender identity.

Austin American-Statesman - July 25, 2017

Senate tentatively approves teacher bonus, retiree health bill

The Texas Senate has tentatively approved a bill 28-3 that would give many Texas teachers a bonus as well as reduce health care costs for retired teachers. Before sending Senate Bill 19 to a vote Tuesday night, author of the bill Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, removed a major provision in the bill to give teachers a $1,000 pay raise because she couldn’t guarantee funding for it in the bill. The provision was a point of contention for representatives from teacher groups, who testified during a Senate committee hearing over the weekend that they didn’t want public schools to have to cut staff and student programs to pay for the raises.

Austin American-Statesman - July 24, 2017

Gov. Greg Abbott says Kid Rock Senate run will ‘shake up Washington’

A few days after Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller took to Facebook to endorse Kid Rock in his Michigan Senate run, Gov. Greg Abbott tweeted out, “IT’S HAPPENING!” The Sunday tweet was in reference to a poll that shows the rap-rock artist with a 4-point lead over opponent Debbie Stabenow. “THIS will shake up Washington,” Abbott claimed. The tweet, which was retweeted about 3,000 times and garnered some 6,000 likes, was considerably more popular than many of Abbott’s other tweets.

Austin American-Statesman - July 25, 2017

Travis judge: Woman can tape Capitol hearings

A Texas House committee chairman, sued by a woman who was forcibly removed from a March hearing at the Capitol, cannot bar her from videotaping future committee meetings, a Travis County judge ordered. District Judge Lora Livingston’s temporary injunction bars Rep. Byron Cook, R-Corsicana, from following his longstanding policy of limiting filming to reporters and photographers who have a Capitol media credentials — but only as it applies to Amy Hedtke, who sued Cook after she was forcibly removed from a State Affairs hearing in March for continuing to record the event using Facebook Live.

Austin American-Statesman - July 25, 2017

In Review: Abortion restrictions in the 85th Texas Legislature

The 85th Texas Legislature passed some abortion restrictions during its regular session, but Gov. Greg Abbott is pushing for more. Abbott included three separate abortion-related agenda items on his 20-item special session wish list that lawmakers will consider during the 30-day session. What abortion-related laws did lawmakers pass during regular session? Following grumbling by conservative Republicans about the slow pace of abortion-related bills in the Legislature, abortion-related Senate Bill 8 passed. It contained several distinct policies.

Austin American-Statesman - July 25, 2017

Texas law enforcement leaders call ‘bathroom bill’ unnecessary, harmful

Law enforcement leaders from across Texas — including Austin interim Police Chief Brian Manley — gathered at the state Capitol on Tuesday to warn that so-called “bathroom bills” under debate in the Legislature will sap police resources if any of them become law and could lead to an increase in crime. The proposals to require transgender people to use public bathrooms that match the gender listed on their birth certificates won’t solve any existing crime problem or bring any criminal-justice benefits to Texas, the law enforcement officials said. “Instead, it could in fact jeopardize the safety of many in our community,” Manley said, joined with top police officials from Houston, San Antonio, Dallas, El Paso and other cities.

Austin American-Statesman - July 25, 2017

Dozens of people tell House committee to scrap tree bill

Dozens of people told the Texas House Urban Affairs Committee on Tuesday to let their own communities set local tree and land use regulations. The panel heard testimony for more than five hours on three bills. House Bill 77 by Rep. Drew Darby, R-San Angelo, would require cities to allow builders to pay a fee instead of dedicating parkland “as a condition of approval for the development of real property.” Darby said the intent behind the bill is to give builders a choice, especially when dedicating parkland is not feasible. Supporters of the bill, builders in particular, said a fee option would allow them to get the most out of their land. But opponents, mostly city officials not wanting the state to preempt local rules and residents who like trees and parks said such local ordinances contribute to quality of life.

Austin American-Statesman - July 25, 2017

Senate gives initial passage to transgender bathroom bill

After more than eight hours of debate and a series of late-adopted changes, a sharply divided Texas Senate gave initial approval Tuesday to a bill cracking down on transgender-friendly bathroom policies and barring transgender athletes from competing in school sports based on their gender identity. Senate Bill 3, approved 21-10, would prohibit public schools and local governments from adopting policies that allow people to use multiple-occupancy restrooms and other private facilities that do not match the sex listed on their birth certificate or — in a change added Tuesday — as listed on a driver’s license or Texas handgun license.

Austin American-Statesman - July 25, 2017

Kiao: Stranded in our own communities: Transit deserts make it hard for people to find jobs and stay healthy

Junfeng Jiao, University of Texas at Austin and Nicole McGrath, University of Texas at Austin (THE CONVERSATION) As any commuter who has experienced unreliable service or lives miles away from a bus stop will tell you, sometimes public transit isn’t really a viable option, even in major cities. In our car-loving society, where 85 percent of Americans use a car to get to work, people who cannot access transportation are excluded from their own communities and trapped inside “transit deserts.” This term, which one of us (Junfeng Jiao) coined, describes areas in a city where demand for transit is high but supply is low.

Austin American-Statesman - July 24, 2017

Miller: Texas is trying to stop abortions. We’ll sue it again.

Last week, Texas clinics — led by Whole Woman’s Health and represented by the Center for Reproductive Rights and Planned Parenthood — came together to sue Texas over its latest attempt to undermine a woman’s right to access abortion. If that story sounds familiar, it’s because it is. Just over a year ago, I was the lead plaintiff in a historic Supreme Court victory: Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt. The case challenged Texas’ unconstitutional clinic shutdown law — House Bill 2 — and the victory was one of the most significant for reproductive rights in a generation. Yet, despite the landmark ruling from the Supreme Court, anti-abortion lawmakers have continued to prioritize a political agenda over women’s health.

Austin American-Statesman - July 25, 2017

House panel advances $1.9 billion schools funding bill

The House Public Education Committee on Tuesday advanced to the full House a bill that would pump $1.9 billion into the Texas public school system. House Bill 21, filed by House Public Education Chairman Dan Huberty, R-Houston, passed the panel 10-1 ; Rep. Morgan Meyer, R-Dallas, voted against it. A major part of the bill would increase the per-student basic allotment from $5,140 to $5,350, which would help reduce recapture payments that property-wealthy school districts must pay to the state to be redistributed to property-poor school districts by $389 million.

Houston Chronicle - July 25, 2017

White: Halt execution and fix overt injustice

We have had the case of the Sleeping Lawyer. Then came the case of the Drunk Lawyer. Now we have the case of the Disbarred Lawyer. As governor of Texas, I authorized 19 executions. Since then, I have seen many cases of profoundly deficient lawyering for people who were sent to death row. But what happened to TaiChin Preyor, who is scheduled for execution on Thursday, is beyond the pale. Preyor was convicted of a murder in San Antonio and sentenced to death in 2005. His mother, Margaret Mendez, would do anything to save her son's life. A longtime employee of the U.S. Postal Service, she did not have hundreds of thousands of dollars to spend on a dream team to get her son's conviction reversed.

Austin American-Statesman - July 25, 2017

House considers tapping rainy day fund for teacher pay, retiree bills

Taking a vastly different approach than the Texas Senate, the House on Tuesday revealed that it wants to give teachers a $1,000 annual pay raise and relieve rising teacher retiree health care costs by tapping the rainy day fund. The method of financing a plan to boost teacher pay and cut teacher retiree health costs, which is on Gov. Greg Abbott’s special session agenda for the Legislature, has become a point of contention between both chambers and could derail such bills. The House Appropriations Committee on Tuesday considered House Bill 24, filed by Rep. Drew Darby, R-San Angelo, which would raise minimum salaries for teachers, librarians and counselors in statute as well as give them a $1,000 annual raise starting next school year, to the tune of $848 million over the next two years.

Houston Chronicle - July 25, 2017

Abbott: Local property tax burden is crushing the Texas dream

Everything is bigger in Texas - including, unfortunately, your property tax rate. In fact, Texas has one of the highest effective real estate tax rates in the nation. Only Illinois and New Jersey beat us. Let that sink in. Illinois. And New Jersey. That's unacceptable. Texas is still the envy of the nation. With our strong economy, overall lower costs of living and high quality of life, Texas remains the best place to raise a family, build a business and create greater opportunity for all. Your hard-earned dollars still stretch further here; you can buy or rent more square footage with them than in many other states.

Houston Chronicle - July 20, 2017

Kolasky: Are nation's chemical stores safe from terrorists?

Chemicals are ubiquitous to our everyday lives. They are the key to developing medicines that maintain our health, providing refrigeration for our food supply, and building the microchip that runs the smartphone in your pocket. They are also - in the hands of a terrorist - weapons that could be used to kill thousands of Americans. It was exactly that concern that prompted Congress in 2006 to establish the Department of Homeland Security's Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards program, known as CFATS, to reduce risk to the nation by better securing chemical facilities. In 2014, Congress reiterated the importance of this program by extending it for four years.

Houston Chronicle - July 25, 2017

Abbott keeping up the pressure to pass his agenda

As he keeps up the pressure to get his agenda approved, Gov. Greg Abbott was accused Tuesday of strong-arming conservative House Republicans to sign on as sponsors for his must-pass bills during the special legislative session. During a Monday meeting with about four dozen conservative House Republicans, Abbott made it clear he wants them to sign on as sponsors by Friday as the governor continues an aggressive approach to get the legislation approved by the time the special session ends in mid-August. He provided them with a list of the bills he wants them to sign onto, participants said. Abbott earlier took a rare step of lining up sponsors for his bills in both the House and Senate, despite outspoken opposition from House Speaker Joe Straus to several proposals including the controversial bathroom bill.

Houston Chronicle - July 25, 2017

Study questions benefit of sales-tax holidays

A new study released Tuesday argues sales-tax holidays such as Texas' upcoming back-to-school break cost states revenue but provide few consumer benefits. The Tax Foundation, an independent think tank, called sales-tax holidays "political gimmicks" that shift shopping patterns without generating economic growth or increasing consumer purchases. It argued that such policies largely benefit retailers that capitalize on the buzz about a relatively small discount. The study noted that sales-tax holidays boost foot traffic, prompting some retailers to raise prices to guard against running of inventory. Those increases could offset consumer savings from the tax break, it argued.

Houston Chronicle - July 25, 2017

Court decision on term limits case all but rules out November election

A state Supreme Court decision this week on Houston's 2015 term limit referendum all but ensures city voters will not see the November mayoral election plaintiffs were hoping to trigger. The Texas Supreme Court on Monday denied plantiffs' attempts to expedite their case challenging the ballot language that lengthened city officials' terms two years ago, making it unlikely the matter will be resolved before the state's August 21 deadline to order a fall election. Instead, the case is positioned to return to trial court for a hearing on whether the wording of the city's proposition authorizing two four-year terms, instead of three two-year terms, was too obscure.

Houston Chronicle - July 26, 2017

Paterson: Would Farenthold dare to duel Sissy?

Corpus Christi Representative Blake Farenthold has survived his share of political controversies. His latest off-color gaffe came in a radio interview Friday, where said he would settle differences with a group of senators in an "Aaron Burr-style" duel — if only they were men from south Texas and not "some female senators from the Northeast." With a comment like that, it's hard to believe that Farenthold is related to the trailblazing feminist icon Sissy Farenthold. But the Republican representative is the step-grandson of the long-time Texas Democrat.

Houston Chronicle - July 26, 2017

House members hope to force action to reverse therapy cuts

Lawmakers in the Texas House voted unanimously to reverse millions of dollars in therapy cuts for children with disabilities Tuesday, although the plan is outside the realm of the governor's special session agenda. Legislators are limited to passing legislation related to the 20 topics Gov. Greg Abbott outlined when calling lawmakers back to Austin for the special session, but the sponsor of the bill said she didn't care her bill was outside his call. "If the governor is going to bring us back here to talk about what bathrooms people can use or what we can do with our trees, the surely the disabled kids should take priority and hopefully we add this to the call," said Rep. Sarah Davis, a Republican from West University Place.

Houston Chronicle - July 26, 2017

Former Lt. Gov. Dewhurst launches Permian business

Former Texas Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst is ready to buy into the booming Permian Basin oil fields and he's looking for investors. Dewhurst's 36-year-old Houston energy business, Falcon Seaboard, is seeking outside investors for the the first time ever to lease or buy acreage in overlooked areas throughout West Texas. He's started the new Falcon Seaboard Permian Fund I to oversee the investments. In an interview, Dewhurst said he hopes to raise anywhere from $145 million to $300 million initially.

Houston Chronicle - July 25, 2017

Farenthold 'duel' comment? Congressman thrives on irreverence

Blake Farenthold would seem to have little to fear - except from a certain "female senator from the northeast" who was inadvertently recorded commenting on his looks, which she found wanting. The Republican congressman from Corpus Christi has survived a failed sexual harassment suit and campaign billboard depicting him in duck print pajamas posing with a scantily clad waitress. He was still reelected to a fourth term in November with nearly 62-percent of the vote over Democrat Wesley Reed. So it seems unlikely that voters will punish him for alluding to the possibility of a duel with "some female senators from the Northeast" during a radio interview Friday with Bob Jones of Corpus Christi radio "1440 Keys."

Dallas Morning News - July 25, 2017

Texas Scouts found Donald Trump's speech inspirational, despite controversy

President Donald Trump’s politically tinged speech Monday at the Boy Scouts’ National Jamboree stirred national criticism, but some North Texans who attended called his words motivational, not controversial. “The message was very inspiring. He talked about momentum and building a successful career,” said Fort Worth Eagle Scout Stratton Thomas, 17. Other Scouts agreed Trump’s message had been misinterpreted. “Every Scout that I’ve encountered at the Jamboree said, ‘That was great.’” said Hunter Reynolds, a Willow Park 17-year-old. “The point of the speech was to gear us to success — to get us ready to become leaders of this world.”

Dallas Morning News - July 25, 2017

DMN: What Texas needs to do as its schoolkids get poorer and poorer

Public school instruction in Texas must catch up with the needs of a student population that's becoming poorer and poorer. That's the urgent message out of preliminary results from the most recent state accountability testing, which showed a drop in students' reading and writing abilities. Only unwavering leadership from Austin and sustained smart efforts in every school district will reverse this dead-end trend. We have long argued that academic outcomes must improve, both for the sake of Texas children and the sake of the state's economic future. Yet schools too often continue to lose ground.

Dallas Morning News - July 25, 2017

Mitchell: How Trump turned the Boy Scout Jamboree into a partisan cringe-fest

Somehow, I'm still dumbfounded that President Donald Trump can take a nonpartisan, feel-good event and turn it into a cringe-worthy partisan moment. But in true Trump fashion yesterday, he turned the Boy Scouts' National Jamboree in West Virginia into a self-aggrandizing rehash of the 2016 election and current political fights. He even threatened (jokingly?) the job security of health secretary and former Boy Scout Tom Price, who "hopefully he's going to get the votes ... to start our path toward killing this horrible thing known as Obamacare."

Dallas Morning News - July 25, 2017

Texas Senate OKs bathroom bill with minor changes

The Senate gave preliminary approval Tuesday to a bathroom bill that would limit restroom use by transgender men, women and children in Texas. Senate Bill 3 passed 21-10 with all Republicans and one Democrat, Brownsville Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr., voting in favor. A majority of senators must give the bill one more nod of approval before it is sent to the House, where it is expected to have a much tougher time passing. The legislation would require public school students to use the multi-use restrooms that match the sex on their birth certificates or state-issued identification cards. It would also strike down parts of city laws that protect the right of transgender people to use the restrooms that match their gender identity.

Dallas Morning News - July 25, 2017

Bill on property taxes debated in Texas House

A panel of Texas House lawmakers on Tuesday got the ball rolling on one of Gov. Greg Abbott's top priorities of the special legislative session, a measure that aims to address local property tax growth. The House Ways and Means Committee debated a bill by Rep. Dennis Bonnen, R-Angleton, that would reduce the tax rate at which cities or counties would be forced to seek voter permission to increase property taxes. Currently, a rollback election is triggered when the tax rate increases 8 percent. Bonnen's House Bill 4 would lower the rollback rate to 5 percent. The 11 members of the House committee left Bonnen's bill pending, and it remained unclear whether they will approve it.

Dallas Morning News - July 26, 2017

Texas’ rural schools need help attracting teachers, and it’s all about the pay

In rural districts across Texas, the struggle to attract and keep teachers is only getting more difficult. Some districts that don't get any takers for open jobs have resorted to livestreaming instruction from other schools or having educators teach more than one grade. And they're constantly working on creative ways to stop their teachers from being poached by better paying districts. Brian Stroman, superintendent of the tiny Bloomburg school district near Texarkana, offers shorter work days, stipends for taking graduate-level courses, peer mentor programs, retention bonuses and more. Still, he routinely loses staff to schools in the Dallas area.

San Antonio Express News - July 25, 2017

Garcia: Nightmare of Victoria repeats itself in S.A.

The scene was the parking lot of a South San Antonio Walmart, not a Victoria truck stop. The driver was a 60-year-old Florida man, not a 32-year-old trucker from Schenectady, New York. The timing was late July, not mid-May. And the death toll, at least for now, is 10, rather than 19. Those differences aside, however, it’s impossible to shake the parallels between two Texas tragedies that happened 14 years apart. Then as now, undocumented migrants, who paid smugglers to get them across the border, were packed into a hot, airless trailer. Then as now, the victims died the most horrific imaginable deaths, banging against the walls of the trailer, straining to be heard as they gasped for their finals breaths.

San Antonio Express News - July 25, 2017

Smuggling victims could be eligible for visas, attorneys say

The survivors of this week’s deadly immigrant smuggling incident that left 10 dead after being brought to San Antonio in a hot, crowded trailer could be eligible for visas provided to crime victims, immigration experts said Tuesday. Lawyers warned, however, that the federal government is often reluctant to offer help obtaining those visas. Twenty-nine people survived and were taken to area hospitals after police discovered the trailer, which had driven up from Laredo, early Sunday.

The Hill - July 23, 2017

Blaine: Why is a Texas Republican blocking union reforms?

Despite the state’s reputation as a conservative bastion, the Republican speaker of the Texas House refused to pass a number of conservative reforms during the regular biennial legislative session. As a result, the state’s governor has called lawmakers back for the first “special session” since he was elected as governor. Gov. Greg Abbott called the legislature back after conservative fallout, spurred by legislative inaction, following the close of the regular session. Items like ethics reform, property tax reform, school choice, and the renewing of a commission that ensures doctors in the state remained licensed were left unaddressed, mostly due to a House blockade under the leadership of Speaker of the state House Joe Straus.

Longview News Journal - July 23, 2017

Special session issues are lower profile, but have big impact

They may not be headline-grabbing bathroom or teacher pay bills, but among the now 20-plus measures that Gov. Greg Abbott placed on the special session in Austin are measures that will dramatically amend some key city functions. One bill would speed up the permitting process, such as when a developer wants to build a dozen homes or a business plans to expand next door. Another would prevent cities from enacting texting while driving bans in deference to a statewide ban. And perhaps the most daring measure on the call would prevent cities from annexing communities unless people in the proposed area OK it at the ballot box first.

Dallas Morning News - July 25, 2017

Kazez: Why the smartest argument for the bathroom bill isn't smart at all

One of my jobs as an ethics professor is to figure out what the best case might be on each side of any contentious issue. And so I find myself earnestly trying to understand what drives the proponents of Senate Bill 3, the bathroom bill. What's the very smartest thing they can say in support of it? Take the proponents' explicit motivation, to stop would-be sexual predators from taking advantage of transgender women being in the women's room. The idea is that cis (non-trans) male opportunists could dress like women and get away with their incursions because trans women can be seen in women's rooms. This can't be the smartest argument for SB 3, because it isn't smart at all. Imagine that trans men started using the women's room, as SB 3 requires.

Waco Tribune - July 25, 2017

Flores takes questions from constituents in first summer telephonic meeting

U.S. Rep. Bill Flores, R-Bryan, held a wide-ranging telephone meeting with constituents Monday night, reaching about 5,000 residents of the northern portion of Congressional District 17. “I thought the questions were great and reflect the issues of today,” Flores said after the 1½-hour conference call that was also live-streamed online. “You had a couple of questions on Russia, lots of questions on health care, veterans, and a couple on tax reform.”

Texas Observer - July 25, 2017

Despite Knowledge of Climate Change in 1970s, Texas Utility Companies Funded Climate Denial

The predecessor companies of Texas’ largest power provider, Vistra Energy, helped fund climate change research in the 1970s and 1980s that warned of the risks of burning fossil fuels, according to a new report by the Energy and Policy Institute, a clean energy think tank. Nonetheless, the electric utilities and their successors spent much of the next 30 years publicly denying the effects of climate change and funding efforts to undermine the science. The report traces the American utility industry’s shifting stance on climate change. As early as 1977, a senior official from the Electric Power Research Institute — one of the industry groups scrutinized in the report — warned Congress that fossil fuels would one day have to be reduced to curb warming. In the ’70s and ’80s, the institute published reports warning about global warming and sea-level rise caused by greenhouse gas emissions. But once climate change became a matter of broad public interest in the late ’80s, the industry joined forces with conservative think tanks to fund campaigns to confuse the public about the science.

County Stories

Laredo Morning Times - July 25, 2017

Webb County Commissioners Court votes against 'show me your papers' lawsuit

Webb County Commissioners Court voted Monday to not take any action on Texas' Senate Bill 4, the so-called "show me your papers" law. Commissioners all voiced plentiful concerns regarding SB 4, but in the end followed the Webb County attorney's advise to not join the lawsuit against the bill. SB 4 permits local peace officers to ask the people they detain or arrest about their immigration status, and furthermore punishes local officeholders who stop police from asking these questions.

Austin American-Statesman - July 25, 2017

Williamson County precinct has new way to collect unpaid traffic fines

Drivers who don’t live in Williamson County but get a traffic ticket while traveling through Precinct 3 might be in for a surprise if they don’t pay the fine. They might not be able to renew their vehicle registration if they live in one of the 11 counties that enforces a Texas scofflaw program. The voluntary program allows county officials to freeze auto registration in case of unpaid fines. The Williamson County Commissioners Court on Tuesday approved a contract with McCreary, Veselka, Bragg and Allen, P.C. to begin handling delinquent cases and submitting them to the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles so drivers’ records can be flagged for nonpayment of tickets.

City Stories

San Antonio Express News - July 26, 2017

San Antonio leaders take on Austin

San Antonio waged a fight against efforts to limit local authority at the Texas Capitol on Tuesday, when Mayor Ron Nirenberg said Gov. Greg Abbott and some top lawmakers are trying to “score cheap political points” with proposed property tax restrictions. “It certainly feels as though some members of this Legislature have declared war on the cities of Texas — the very cities that drive the state economy, the places where the largest numbers of Texans live. And this is troubling to me and cities all around the state,” Nirenberg told the House Urban Affairs Committee. Besides hammering on the tax issue, Nirenberg took aim at a proposal to curb cities’ ability to regulate tree-cutting on private property, saying that “areas will be clear-cut” if their authority is taken away.

Texas Observer - July 26, 2017

Bova: Trump’s New Immigration Lockup Draws Local Opposition in Conroe

The people of Conroe are getting a new, 1,000-bed immigrant detention center whether they like it or not. The GEO Group Inc., one of the largest private prison corporations in the nation, has already broken ground at the site of what will be the first new Trump-era immigration lockup. “It’s going ahead; I don’t think I have any say-so,” said Toby Powell, Conroe’s 76-year-old mayor. In April, the federal government awarded GEO a contract to build and operate the $110 million facility, which the company says will earn $44 million in annual revenue. GEO promises to bring nearly 340 jobs to Conroe, a city of 82,000 tucked in the pines just north of Houston. Conroe already hosts an even larger immigrant detention center and a mental health facility, both run by GEO.

San Antonio Express News - July 25, 2017

UTSA sets start date for new president

UTSA President T. Taylor Eighmy now can be called just that — president. The University of Texas System Board of Regents voted Tuesday afternoon to make him president of the University of Texas at San Antonio after a 10-month search and the mandatory 21-day waiting period following his selection as the sole finalist.

National Stories

Associated Press - July 25, 2017

Justice Dept. rules intensify crackdown on sanctuary cities

The Justice Department escalated its promised crackdown on so-called sanctuary cities Tuesday, saying it will no longer award coveted grant money to cities unless they give federal immigration authorities access to jails and provide advance notice when someone in the country illegally is about to be released. Under old rules, cities seeking grant money needed only to show they were not preventing local law enforcement from communicating with federal authorities about the immigration status of people they have detained. The announcement came as questions swirled about Attorney General Jeff Sessions' future as the nation's top law enforcement officer following days of blistering criticism from President Donald over his performance.

This article appeared in the San Antonio Express News

Dallas Morning News - July 25, 2017

Rick Perry thought he was talking to the Ukranian prime minister about pig manure. It was a prank call.

It was a winding, wonkish and occasionally obscure conversation about foreign coal exploration, natural-gas pipelines and pig manure as a power source. But only one of the men on the line — Energy Secretary Rick Perry — held sway over his nation's energy policy. On the other end of the conversation were Vladimir "Vovan" Kuznetsov and Alexei "Lexus" Stolyarov, who had just added Perry to their list of high-profile hoax victims. "Secretary Perry is the latest target of two Russian pranksters," DOE Spokeswoman Shaylyn Hynes said in an email to The Washington Post. "These individuals are known for pranking high level officials and celebrities, particularly those who are supportive of an agenda that is not in line with their governments. In this case, the energy security of Ukraine."

Dallas Morning News - July 25, 2017

Trump's derision of his own attorney general raises alarms; Cruz dismisses short-list rumor

Donald Trump's public derision of his own attorney general prompted discomfort bordering on alarm Tuesday in Congress, with the president showing no sign of relenting — or of ending the standoff by firing Jeff Sessions. Trump's attacks are extraordinary. Presidents don't generally turn on members of their Cabinet, nor do they torment them on Twitter or pressure aides they can remove at will. ... One name floated has been Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Trump's runner-up for the GOP nomination last year. Cruz has shot down that rumor. "Jeff Sessions is a friend and a strong conservative. I was proud to vote to confirm Jeff and to vigorously defend his confirmation, and I'm deeply gratified that we have a principled conservative like Jeff Sessions serving as Attorney General," he said in a prepared statement. "The stories being reported in the media overnight are false. My focus is and will remain on fighting every day to defend 28 million Texans in the U.S. Senate." Cornyn said he's relieved his fellow Texan isn't interested in replacing Sessions.

Newsy - July 22, 2017

Trump Taps Former Talk Show Host To Be USDA's Lead Scientist

Six months into his term, President Donald Trump is still filling out his Cabinet. And some are questioning one of his latest picks' qualifications. Trump tapped Sam Clovis as undersecretary of agriculture for research, education and economics. He's a 25-year Air Force veteran and former radio talk show host who served as Trump's campaign co-chair and TV surrogate. Clovis also served as Rick Perry's campaign chairman. After Perry dropped out of the 2016 election, Clovis served as an adviser to the Trump campaign and the Trump White House. But Clovis doesn't have any agricultural experience, which might disqualify him from being the lead scientist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Dallas Morning News - July 25, 2017

Levin: Democrats have a major branding problem

The Democrats are having a major branding problem. Ever since they were blindsided by Donald Trump and lost the White House, they've been flapping around violently like a freshly caught fish on the dock, trying to figure out who's to blame for their near-terminal state. Now, the party is at an ideological crossroads, and like many others across the country, I'm not so sure I'm buying what they're selling anymore. The only message I can actually detect is rage. I really don't think their platform of resist everything will attract many people for any length of time. It's a little broad. Plus, it requires too much energy to resist everything. One or two things? Maybe. Everything? Doubtful.

Wall St. Journal - July 24, 2017

Massachusetts State Court Rules Against Immigration Detention Policy

The highest court in Massachusetts dealt a fresh legal blow Monday to the Trump administration’s effort to compel local authorities to assist in its crackdown against illegal immigration. The state’s Supreme Judicial Court ruled that Massachusetts court officials can’t hold people in jail simply because the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency requests it. ICE routinely issues these requests, called detainers, to local officials asking that they hold for up to 48 hours people who are suspected of being in the U.S. illegally. The Trump administration has labeled those that don’t comply “sanctuary” jurisdictions and is looking for ways to compel cooperation.

Washington Post - July 25, 2017

As Senate starts debate to topple the ACA, even senators don’t know where it will lead

On a squeaker of a vote, the Senate began an extraordinary debate Tuesday over profound philosophical and practical changes to the nation’s health-care system — without knowing what the legislation would be. Lawmakers started with a bill that the House passed this spring to dismantle much of the Affordable Care Act. It is a measure that many Senate Republicans have never liked and was brought up Tuesday solely to kick things off. The action then immediately pivoted to another bill that also has no realistic chance of success: a reprise of a plan to kill off big parts of the ACA without any replacements. It was adopted two years ago by both chambers of Congress and was vetoed by President Barack Obama.

Washington Post - July 25, 2017

Democrats, left out of health-care process, double down on protests

On Tuesday, for the second time, Democrats and progressive activists watched a partial repeal of the Affordable Care Act rise from the dead. For the umpteenth time, Democrats and activists fanned across Capitol Hill, trying — failing, for now — to make the vote excruciating for Republicans. And for the umpteenth time, they argued in public about what to do next. The Democrats’ day began with dueling rallies that got sparse media attention. House Democrats held a news conference promoting the “Better Deal” agenda that had been released on Monday; a coalition of progressive groups held their own event on the lawn just north of the House. A press stand set up for cameras stayed empty as Nina Turner, the new president of Our Revolution, emceed a formal introduction of the progressive “People’s Platform.”

Politico - July 25, 2017

How the GOP brought Obamacare repeal back from the dead

As Mitch McConnell strode to the Senate floor on Tuesday, with no votes to spare to keep the GOP’s Obamacare repeal campaign alive, he knew where everyone in his conference stood. Everyone, that is, except for Ron Johnson. The ornery Wisconsinite had been needling the Senate majority leader for weeks, accusing McConnell of a “breach of trust” in selling a health care plan to his caucus. So when Johnson sprinted to the Capitol basement after a party lunch for a meeting with FBI director nominee Christopher Wray, just as a critical procedural vote got underway, Republicans had no idea where he would land, said a person who knows the senator well.

Politico - July 25, 2017

Wasserman Schultz aide arrested trying to leave the country

Imran Awan, a House staffer at the center of a criminal investigation potentially impacting dozens of Democratic lawmakers, has been arrested on bank fraud and is prevented from leaving the country while the charges are pending. A senior House Democratic aide confirmed Awan was still employed by Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) as of Tuesday morning. But David Damron, a spokesman for Wasserman Schultz, later said that Awan was fired on Tuesday. Awan pleaded not guilty on Tuesday to one count of bank fraud during his arraignment in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

Houston Chronicle - July 25, 2017

Senate rejects health care measure with Cruz 'Freedom Option'

A proposal containing Sen. Ted Cruz's measure to allow insurers to sell skimpier, low-cost policies next to Obamacare plans was voted down in the Senate Tuesday night. The Texas Republican's "Consumer Freedom Option" was part of the latest Republican effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare. The vote came after Republicans were able to break an impasse and begin debating a long-delayed health care bill on the Senate floor.

Texas Tribune - July 25, 2017

Every Texan in the U.S. House just voted for sanctions against Russia

Every single Texan in the U.S. House voted Tuesday for legislation that will impose new sanctions on Russia and limit President Donald Trump's ability to lift them. “I cannot overstate the importance of sending a strong message to our adversaries that there will be consequences for their bad behavior,” U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Austin, said on the House floor just before the vote. The 419-3 vote is significant: It's unusual for a Republican-led Congress to restrict a Republican president's handling of foreign affairs. But Russia is an increasingly fraught subject in Washington, D.C., given that the entire U.S. intelligence community believes it was responsible for cyberattacks on the Democratic National Committee, Hillary Clinton's campaign and Democratic House incumbents and candidates.

Austin American-Statesman - July 26, 2017

Cornyn pushes back on plan to build wall in South Texas eco areas

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, pushed back Tuesday against federal moves to build the border wall in eco-tourist areas in South Texas, instead calling for the use of increased technology to better secure the border. At issue are initial moves by the Department of Homeland Security to prepare land for a physical barrier in the Santa Ana Wildlife Refuge in Alamo and the National Butterfly Center in Mission. The agency is anticipating fiscal year 2018 funding for building 60 miles of a border wall in Texas. Building a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border was President Donald Trump’s signature campaign promise, and Cornyn Tuesday told Texas reporters that he believed Trump had been elected in “significant part” because of it.

Associated Press - July 26, 2017

Wasserman Schultz fires IT staffer following fraud arrest

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz has fired an information technology staffer following his arrest on a bank fraud charge at a Virginia airport where he was attempting to fly to Pakistan. Wasserman Schultz spokesman David Damron says Irman Awan was fired by the Florida Democrat on Tuesday. Awan's attorney, Chris Gowen, confirmed that his client was arrested at Dulles Airport on Monday. He says Awan was cleared to travel and had informed the House of his plans to visit his family before the scheduled trip.

This article appeared in the San Antonio Express News

New York Times - July 26, 2017

Senate Votes Down Broad Obamacare Repeal

The Senate voted narrowly on Tuesday to begin debate on a bill to repeal major provisions of the Affordable Care Act, but hours later, Republican leaders suffered a setback when their most comprehensive plan to replace President Barack Obama’s health law fell far short of the votes it needed. The Tuesday night tally needed to reach 60 votes to overcome a parliamentary objection. Instead, it fell 43-57. The fact that the comprehensive replacement plan came up well short of even 50 votes was an ominous sign for Republican leaders still seeking a formula to pass final health care legislation this week.

Politico - July 26, 2017

Poll: Half of Trump voters say Trump won popular vote

Roughly half of voters who said they voted for Donald Trump last November, 49 percent, believe Trump won the popular vote, according to a new POLITICO/Morning Consult poll. That's compared to 40 percent who say Democrat Hillary Clinton won. Overall, a majority of voters, 59 percent, believe Clinton won more votes than Trump, but 28 percent believe Trump won more votes. Respondents were asked which presidential candidate won the national popular vote and the Electoral College after Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach — the vice chair of Trump’s controversial Presidential Advisory Commission on Electoral Integrity — said in a televised interview last week that "we may never know" whether Clinton won the popular vote.

Politico - July 26, 2017

Poll: Voters say Mueller ouster would be inappropriate

By a more than two-to-one margin, voters say it would be inappropriate for President Donald Trump to fire special counsel Robert Mueller over his probe into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, according to a new POLITICO/Morning Consult poll. Nearly half of voters, 48 percent, say it would be wrong to remove Mueller, compared to only 22 percent who say it would be appropriate for the Trump administration to dismiss Mueller. There is a huge gap in partisan perceptions: Democrats say overwhelmingly that firing Mueller would be inappropriate, 67 percent to 11 percent. Independents also tilt heavily against firing Mueller, 47 percent to 19 percent. But Republicans say, 37 percent to 29 percent, that it would be appropriate.

Washington Post - July 26, 2017

Senate embarks on new round of voting to peel back Affordable Care Act

Senate Republicans planned to forge ahead with proposals aimed at revamping the Affordable Care Act Wednesday, hoping to produce some sort of legislation that could garner enough support to serve as the basis of negotiations with the House. But after winning a key procedural victory with the help of Vice President Pence’s tiebreaking vote Tuesday, it appeared unclear what sort of health-care rewrite could gain traction. On Tuesday night, just hours after opening debate, Senate Republican leaders were unable to pass a bill that they had spent weeks crafting but that never gained sufficient traction with the rank-and-file.

Washington Post - July 26, 2017

U.S. attempt to handcuff Trump on Russia could backfire, Europe says

A top E.U. leader warned Wednesday that a U.S. congressional vote to strip President Trump of the ability to remove sanctions against Russia could backfire, dealing a blow to transatlantic efforts to curb Russian aggression against Ukraine and sparking a trade war between Europe and the United States. The House of Representatives approved the measure Tuesday, 419 to 3, after the Senate passed similar legislation last month in a 98-to-2 vote. The White House has not indicated whether Trump will sign the bill. The bill’s main goal is to force Trump to consult with Congress before dialing back sanctions, a reaction to a White House plan mooted in his first weeks in office to unilaterally end the measures against the Kremlin.

Washington Post - July 26, 2017

If the Democrats’ new messaging sounds familiar it’s because it’s Trump’s, FDR’s and Papa John’s

The Democrats unveiled a new agenda on Monday, aimed at setting a positive and populist tone for the economy ahead of the 2018 elections and called “A Better Deal: Better Jobs, Better Wages, Better Future.” In the 2016 election, Democrats appeared out of touch with the concerns of everyday Americans. They were widely criticized for not having a strong economic message, one that appealed to voters in blue-collar communities across the country. Many argue this oversight cost Democrats seats in Congress and contributed to Hillary Clinton's election loss. With their new message, they're attempting to take the mantle of economic progress back. Democrats say they want to appeal to a broad base of Americans by offering people a better shot at participating in the economy. The plan calls for job training, tighter regulations on corporations and pharmaceutical companies, renewing infrastructure in rural America, and slowing the soaring cost of living.

Vox - July 26, 2017

Trump’s approval rating is below 50% across the Midwest — and in Texas

Donald Trump’s popularity is sinking, but his presidency continues to redraw the map of American politics. Gallup rolled together all of its daily tracking polls of Donald Trump’s approval rating since January (a massive sample of 81,000 adults) to create a state-by-state map of average approval across the first six months. Trump’s numbers have generally been worse in his second quarter than they were in his first, so this map probably somewhat overestimates Trump’s level of support across the board, but the basic message that he’s moderately unpopular should be the same either way.

Time - July 25, 2017

The "resistance" is making everyone richer -- except for national Democrats taking on Trump

Despite President Donald Trump’s low approval ratings and record donations for some liberal interest groups, the Republican National Committee (RNC) continues to dominate the Democratic National Committee (DNC) in fundraising. The RNC raised $13.5 million in June and has $44.7 million on hand, compared to just $5.5 million for the DNC, which has $7.5 million on hand. The DNC also added $200,000 in debt in June to its now-$3.3 million total debt. While the DNC has struggled to fundraise during the Trump administration, other liberal groups, such as the American Civil Liberties Union, Planned Parenthood, Sierra Club and the Council on American-Islamic Relations have seen donations skyrocket.

The Hill - July 26, 2017

Newly declassified memos detail extent of improper Obama-era NSA spying

The National Security Agency and Federal Bureau of Investigation violated specific civil liberty protections during the Obama years by improperly searching and disseminating raw intelligence on Americans or failing to promptly delete unauthorized intercepts, according to newly declassified memos that provide some of the richest detail to date on the spy agencies’ ability to obey their own rules. The memos reviewed by The Hill were publicly released on July 11 through Freedom of Information Act litigation by the American Civil Liberties Union. They detail specific violations that the NSA or FBI disclosed to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court or the Justice Department's national security division during President Obama’s tenure between 2009 and 2016.

Dallas Morning News - July 25, 2017

McCain: We're getting nothing done, so why don't we try the old, bipartisan way of legislating?

Presiding over the Senate can be a nuisance, a bit of ceremonial bore. It is usually relegated to the more junior members. But I stand here today looking a little worse for wear, I am sure. I have a refreshed appreciation for the protocols and customs of this body and for the other 99 privileged souls who have been elected to this Senate. I have been a member of the United States Senate for 30 years. I had another long, if not as long, career before I arrived here, another profession that was profoundly rewarding and in which I had experiences and friendships that I revere. But make no mistake, my service here is the most important job I've had in my life. I'm so grateful — so grateful to the people of Arizona for the privilege, for the honor of serving here and the opportunities it gives me to play a small role in the history of the country that I love.

All - July 25, 2017

Lead Stories

Houston Chronicle - July 24, 2017

Texas governor's enemies list? Not anytime soon

Remember Gov. Greg Abbott's pledge last week to publicly call out lawmakers daily who don't support his agenda during the special legislative session? Don't count on seeing that list anytime soon. Abbott said Monday that he will continue to issue lists of people and groups that support his 20-item agenda for the special legislative session that started last Tuesday. As for the non-believers? Not at present, aides said. "I will be listing all senators" who already have passed 18 or his 20 items out of committee, Abbott told Lubbock radio host Chad Hasty in an interview. In coming weeks, the governor added, "I'll be looking to add House members."

New York Times - July 25, 2017

Judge Clears Way for Trump’s Voter Fraud Panel to Collect Data

A federal judge on Monday cleared the way for President Trump’s commission on voter fraud to proceed in gathering personal data on the nation’s voters, denying one of the major legal challenges aimed at stopping the collection effort. The panel, which was created after the president falsely claimed that millions of illegal votes cost him the popular vote in 2016, has come under siege from many organizations that have filed lawsuits accusing the commission of violating federal privacy laws. The judge’s decision on Monday delivered a setback to the opposition, which has objected to the commission’s expansive request for the personal and public data about the country’s 200 million voters.

Dallas Morning News - July 24, 2017

New political ad pulls Cowboys, NFL draft into middle of 'bathroom bill' debate in Texas

The Cowboys' efforts to land the NFL draft and how it could be derailed by the legislative push for a "bathroom bill" is part of a $1 million ad buy that will begin to play on radio stations Tuesday. The Texas Association of Business is behind the ads. The Cowboys aren’t associated with the campaign, but they are featured. A woman describes herself as a lifelong Cowboys fan and talks about how she’s thrilled that the 2018 draft could be in North Texas. She then says the NFL could reject the club’s bid to host the festivities, costing Texas “millions of dollars in lost revenue and leaving a lot of Cowboys fans angry" if the bathroom bill passes in Texas.

Austin American-Statesman - July 24, 2017

Gov. Abbott predicts the House will 'outperform’ in special session’

Gov. Greg Abbott expressed confidence in a pair of radio interviews Monday that the Texas House will deliver on much of his special session agenda. “The impression I get is that the House is taking my agenda very, very seriously and that they will be passing out a lot of the pieces of legislation I have offered up,” Abbott told Sergio Sanchez and Tim Sullivan on 710 AM KURV in the Rio Grande Valley. “Time will tell, and that time will be coming up here soon.” “The bathroom bill has been refereed to a committee, which is a step in the direction of passing that agenda item, but many items have been refereed to committee,” Abbott said. “So I think the House will outperform rather than under perform, but call me an optimist at this stage.”

Austin American-Statesman - July 24, 2017

Senate’s breakneck pace turns into a slog

After working through the weekend, Texas senators began voting on Gov. Greg Abbott’s priorities Monday afternoon, giving initial approval to a bill addressing the state’s high rate of pregnancy-related deaths as well as several hot-button issues, including abortion regulations and school finance. The Senate’s breakneck race through the first six days of the special session, however, turned into more of a slog on day seven as Democrats challenged details of legislation they opposed, particularly by proposing a number of amendments, most of which were swatted aside by the majority Republicans. Democrats also declined to waive a rule requiring bills to receive votes on separate days — even for the maternal mortality bill, which had unanimous support — requiring the Senate to revisit Monday’s bills with a final vote Tuesday.

Texas Tribune - July 23, 2017

Keiffer: Hiding a real problem behind a bogus property tax reform

I've been around the Texas Legislature for a long time, and I know a bad idea when I see one. The Senate’s proposal to limit cities and counties from raising the funds they need to pay police officers, firefighters and paramedics is a bad idea. Senate Bill 1, as this proposal is called in this special legislative session, would also threaten local funding for health care, parks and libraries. This so-called "property taxes bill" was a bad idea during the regular legislative session, and it's still a bad idea. SB 1 is part of a broader scheme of some state lawmakers to override or interfere in local community choices made by county judges, mayors, city councils and local voters.

Dallas Morning News - July 24, 2017

Texas congressman suggests challenging female senators to a shootout over health care bill

Texas Rep. Blake Farenthold expressed frustration with female senators over the stalling of the Senate health care bill and suggested he would handle the situation with a duel, if they were men. “The fact that the Senate does not have courage to do some of the things that every Republican in the Senate promised to do is just absolutely repugnant to me,” the Corpus Christi Republican said Friday on KEYS-AM (1440). “Some of the people that are opposed to this — there are some female senators from the Northeast,” he added. “If it was a guy from South Texas, I might ask him to step outside and settle this Aaron Burr-style."

The Economist - July 20, 2017

The ideology behind Republicans’ health-care bill

REPUBLICANS presented their efforts to overhaul the Affordable Care Act, which flopped this week, as a necessary response to a failing law. They frequently say the individual market, in which those who do not get health insurance through their employers can buy it for themselves, is collapsing. Premiums rose by an average of 22% in 2017. So many insurers have given up on the market that about a third of counties have only one left; 38 are at risk of having no insurer for 2018, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, a think-tank. Yet the Republican bill is not a technocratic fix for these problems. Rather, it is an attempt to enforce conservative thinking on health care. And it is failing partly because of ideological faultlines in the party.

Austin American-Statesman - July 24, 2017

Tassin: Dan Patrick’s school ‘reforms’ are just a lesson in hypocrisy

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick rose to power through the tea party — a movement that stands for conservative values of personal freedom, local independence and local control of schools and curricula. Patrick’s latest list of education “reforms” — none of which made the cut for him in the regular session — directly contradict these values. Patrick proposes pay raises for teachers — something many districts have already done — despite the fact they will have less money from the state. While all of us are for higher salaries for teachers, without money for the mandate, this is nothing more than big government control.

CBS News - July 24, 2017

Rahn: When Trump fires Mueller

What are the real-world consequences Trump faced for doing all the things people told him he couldn't do? Impeachment? Unlikely, assuming Trump holds on to his base, which has stuck with him through all the other nightmares. A 25th Amendment removal? Good luck with that. The base sticks with him, the cable hosts defend him, Scaramucci goes out there with his Harvard Law degree and slickly explains how Mueller went beyond the confines of his investigation. This is all to say that it's more likely than not that Trump fires Mueller. Yes, that probably triggers some kind of Saturday Night Massacre do-over. But Trump isn't Nixon. These are different presidents, different men, inhabiting starkly different countries.

State Stories

Texas Monthly - July 19, 2017

Greg Abbott’s Million Dollar Donor

Governor Greg Abbott’s stunning ten-day haul of $10 million into his re-election campaign account included one even more stunning figure: $1 million from a single donor. The money came from Michael and Mary Porter of the Cross Creek Ranch in Doss, a tiny Gillespie County town northwest of Fredericksburg. The Porters are not known as politically active. Other than $5,000 donated to Abbott in 2014, their only other contribution was $50,000 to state Representative Doug Miller in 2016, during his unsuccessful Republican primary re-election campaign. Information available online shows the Porters as cattle ranchers, donors to the Doss Volunteer Fire Department and supporters of the military, giving out limited numbers of hunts to active duty personnel on their ranch. They started buying their land around 2009, and it is held in a family trust, with property appraisals of several million dollars.

Dallas Morning News - July 24, 2017

DMN: Local property tax caps are a hypocritical smokescreen for state's failure to fix its school finance system

Austin has no shame when it comes to passing the buck on school finance and property taxes. Gov. Greg Abbott is insisting that state lawmakers impose limits on city and county rates of property tax revenue increases. Abbott contends that a state-imposed cap on local property tax revenue is needed to prevent Texas from becoming a high-tax state like California. So what happened to practicing what you preach? The two-year state budget that lawmakers passed in May — and that the governor signed — is balanced on the assumption that state property tax revenues will increase 7.04 percent for the 2017 tax year and 6.77 percent in the 2018 tax year. Both figures are higher than the 5 percent annual property tax revenue cap that Senate lawmakers sought to impose on cities and counties during the same legislative session.

Austin American-Statesman - July 25, 2017

In TV interview, Dan Patrick blames Democrats for immigrant deaths in San Antonio

Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, in a TV interview with Fox News on Tuesday, pinned the deaths of 10 undocumented immigrants who were found inside a tractor-trailer in San Antonio on “Democrat policies.” Patrick called the case “a horrendous tragedy that should never happen in America,” but blamed the “Democrat policies of today, of an open border and sanctuary cities (that) allows and enables these drug smugglers – who don’t care about human life – to put people in this horrific situation.” Patrick’s statements run counter to long-running arguments made by immigration reform advocates, who say the nation’s cumbersome and restrictive immigration policies encourage such smuggling efforts.

Austin American-Statesman - July 24, 2017

Austin lawmaker blasts Dan Patrick over his immigrant deaths comment

State Rep. Eddie Rodriguez, D-Austin, excoriated Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick Monday after he linked “sanctuary city” policies with the deaths of 10 people in a trailer in San Antonio. “I hope that Lt. Gov. Patrick puts people first in his future public statements,” Rogriguez said in a statement. “Because when 10 people from any background perish under such horrific circumstances, it is an occasion deserving of solemnity and respect, not self-indulgent cheerleading.” Patrick, the Republican leader of the Texas Senate, said in a Facebook post Sunday: “Today’s tragedy is why I made passing Senate Bill 4 to ban sanctuary cities — which is now law — a top priority. Sanctuary cities entice people to believe they can come to America and Texas and live outside the law. Sanctuary cities also enable human smugglers and cartels. Today, these people paid a terrible price and demonstrate why we need a secure border and legal immigration reform so we can control who enters our country. We continue to pray for the families and friends of the victims.”

Austin American-Statesman - July 24, 2017

Gov. Abbott upbeat on prospects for special session agenda in House

A week ago, as the Legislature prepared to convene in special session, Gov. Greg Abbott warned that he would be naming names of those lawmakers who back his agenda and those who don’t. “No one gets to hide,” Abbott told the audience at the conservative Texas Public Policy Foundation on July 17. But on Monday, the governor took a sunnier tone in a pair of radio interviews, appreciative of the swift work the Senate appeared to be making of his agenda, and optimistic that the House will, widespread doubts aside, follow through.

Austin American-Statesman - July 24, 2017

House panel lays out $1.9 billion school funding plan

After a flurry of action over the past few days in the Senate focusing on school finance reforms, the House Public Education Committee introduced its own $1.9 billion education funding fix Monday. House Public Education Chairman Dan Huberty, R-Houston, has filed House Bill 21, resurrecting a version of his big funding package that died during the regular legislative session. “We can come up with the reasons why we don’t want to pay for it or whatever political discussion or comments that people will make … but the reality of it is that we have an opportunity to do something that is very important,” Huberty said during an education committee hearing Monday.

Austin American-Statesman - July 24, 2017

House panel approves abortion complications bill

The House State Affairs Committee on Monday approved 8-3 a bill that would require doctors to report to the state abortion-related complications or face fines and loss of their license to practice medicine. Voting no were Democrats Helen Giddings of DeSoto, Jessica Farrar of Houston and Eddie Rodriguez of Austin. House Bill 13 by state Rep. Giovanni Capriglione, R-Southlake, would require physicians and health care facilities to report to the Health and Human Services Commission complications within 72 hours.

Austin American-Statesman - July 24, 2017

Texas business group airing new ads opposing ‘bathroom bills’

Two new radio advertisements critical of proposals in the Texas Legislature to restrict transgender-friendly bathroom policies are hitting the airwaves this week, part of a $1 million ad campaign by the state’s main business lobbying group to oppose the so-called ”bathroom bills.” In the ads funded by the Texas Association of Business, two Republicans — former state State Rep. Jim Keffer of Eastland and Denton County Judge Mary Horn — call the proposals unnecessary diversions. “Some Texas politicians have made up issues, like bathroom bills, that are distractions from real concerns,” Keffer says in one of the ads. “Concerns like school finance reform, and real property tax relief — that’s what matters to me. Why don’t they matter to the politicians in Austin.”

Austin American-Statesman - July 24, 2017

Texas Senate approves, again, bill to limit local property tax hikes

For the third time this year, the Texas Senate on Monday approved legislation that would require cities, counties and special government districts to get voter approval for property tax hikes of 4 percent or more. Current law allows residents to petition for a tax ratification election for increases of 8 percent or more. Senate Bill 1 by Sen. Paul Bettencourt, R-Houston, would cut the so-called rollback rate in half and make the elections automatic. “Property tax payers are crying out for relief,” Bettencourt said. “The public knows that if there’s a case that’s made from elected officials that they should spend more of their hard-earned money, they’ll vote for it. But if there’s not such a case there should be protection” for taxpayers, he said.

Austin American-Statesman - July 24, 2017

Senate tentatively OKs commission to study school finance system

The Senate tentatively passed on Monday a bill that would create a commission to study the beleaguered way that the state funds public schools. Senate Bill 16, which won unanimous approval, would require that the 13-member commission make recommendations to the governor by the start of the next regular legislative session in 2019. The group would examine include an appropriate property tax rate school districts should levy and any demographic and geographic adjustments that need to be made to make the system more reflective of the state’s student population. “A part of school finance is not just how to save money. It’s how to get more and better educated students out of our system with what we have available,” said author of the bill Sen. Larry Taylor, R-Friendswood.

Austin American-Statesman - July 24, 2017

Senate tentatively OKs private school scholarship bill

The Texas Senate on Monday tentatively passed 19-12 a bill that would create a private school scholarship program for students with disabilities who want to leave public schools. Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr., D-Brownsville, crossed party lines to vote in favor of the bill; Sens. Charles Perry, R-Lubbock, and Robert Nichols, R-Jacksonville, crossed party lines to oppose it. “Most of our students who have special needs are very happy with their current situation. But … we have a lot of personal stories from people who that it is not working for them,” said author of Senate Bill 2 Sen. Larry Taylor, R-Friendswood. “For this small number of students it gives them an opportunity to go somewhere else.”

Austin American-Statesman - July 24, 2017

Sid Miller just endorsed Kid Rock’s Senate run in a Facebook post

Call it one cowboy endorsing another. Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller took to Facebook Thursday morning to endorse Kid Rock (yes, that Kid Rock) in his burgeoning Senate run in Michigan. “I dont [sic] care what Kid Rock looks like. He supports and defends the Constitution, is an ardent defender of the 2nd Amendment, and backed Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton for President. While I dont [sic] share his position on each and every issue facing our great country, He and I are much closer on the issues than his opponent--Democrat incumbent Debbie Stabenow. I believe that Kid Rock will be a great United States Senator and that is why he has my strong endorsement!” Miller wrote on Facebook.

Austin American-Statesman - July 25, 2017

First Reading: Summer session: On bathrooms, Boy Scouts, Trump, Abbott, Patrick, Straus and McRaven

Since he launched his candidacy for re-election on July 14, and the start of the special session four days later, Gov. Greg Abbott has been doing a lot of radio and TV interviews from Austin with stations across the state. I’ve listened in to a number of them. It’s a good way to hear what the governor has to say, what he’s messaging to audiences across the state and what kind of questions he gets. It’s also like a vicarious little trip across Texas, all without leaving Austin. Yesterday morning, one minute he was on with Sergio Sanchez and Tim Sullivan on 710 AM KURV in the Rio Grande Valley, getting grilled on his initiatives to countermand local control, and a few minutes later he was on Newstalk 550 KCRS, serving Midland-Odessa in the Permian Basin.

Austin American-Statesman - July 21, 2017

First Reading: Who’s the far-rightest of them all? On acing the Mark Jones lib-con score.

Among the very first stories I wrote as political writer for the Statesman was a January 2013 piece under the headline, Texas House returns with largest contingent of new members in 40 years. It began as follows: State Rep.-elect Jonathan Stickland is 29. He left high school early and got a GED. He had never held or run for office before. His local elected officialdom was virtually unanimous in its preference for his Republican primary opponent. If he has a charisma it’s in his super-ordinariness. And he doesn’t even have the “r” in his last name that everyone assumes is supposed to be there. And there, in brief, are the keys to Stickland’s stunning success. Every strike against him, he marvels, turned out to be an advantage in what turned out to be a crushing, 20-point primary victory. Each provided a way for people to remember and identify with him. He just had to own it, live it, be it.

Texas Tribune - July 24, 2017

Texas Senate tackles special session abortion bills

Texas senators tentatively approved two bills that would require physicians and facilities to report more details about abortions — and fine those who do not comply — during a grueling day of floor debate that showed no signs of stopping by early evening Monday. Under state Sen. Donna Campbell’s Senate Bill 10, in procedures where complications occur, physicians would be required, within 72 hours, to submit reports to the state health commission that include detailed information like the patient’s year of birth, race, marital status, state and county of residence, the date of her last menstrual cycle, the number of previous abortions, and the number of previous live births. Physicians who failed to comply with the reporting requirements would face a $500 fine for each day of each violation.

Texas Tribune - July 24, 2017

Texas Senate OKs maternal mortality task force

State senators on Monday tentatively approved a bill that would give a state task force more time to study why an alarming number of Texas mothers are dying less than a year after childbirth. ... Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham, the bill’s author in this special legislative session, said she was disappointed the task force bill didn't pass during the regular legislative session. But she said SB 17 gives legislators another shot and that "better outcomes will lead to better health in women." The bill needs final approval from the Senate before it can be sent to the House. SB 17 also charges the task force with studying what other states are doing to curb their maternal death rates; looking at the health disparities and socioeconomic status of the mothers dying in Texas; and finding solutions to help women with postpartum depression.

Texas Tribune - July 24, 2017

Texas to lose Galveston and Hill Country children's therapy providers

Children in the Galveston and Hill Country areas are going to be without state-funded speech, occupational and physical therapy services as two more providers prepare to leave the Early Childhood Intervention program. The Texas Health and Human Services Commission confirmed Monday that the University of Texas Medical Branch and Hill Country MHDD Centers are ending services through the program. The university serves children in the Galveston area, while Hill Country MHDD Centers offer services for kids in Bandera, Blanco, Comal, Edwards, Gillespie, Hays, Kendall, Kerr, Kimble, Kinney, Llano, Mason, Medina, Menard, Real, Schleicher, Sutton, Uvalde and Val Verde counties.

Texas Tribune - July 24, 2017

Senate gives initial OK to property tax rate elections in cities, counties

Texans could soon have more direct control over the property tax rates that cities, counties and special purpose districts set as legislation that stalled during the state Legislature's regular session is taken up by both chambers this week. The Senate in a 19-12 vote on Monday gave preliminary approval to a bill requiring larger cities, counties and taxing districts to have an election if the amount of property tax revenues they collect on existing property and buildings exceeds 4 percent of the amount they took in the year before. Smaller government entities — those that collect less than $20 million in property and sales tax a year — will have to hold an election if revenue collections exceed an 8 percent increase.

Houston Chronicle - July 24, 2017

Texas businesses launch million-dollar ad campaign against bathroom bill

Public pressure from dozens of tech companies, airlines and the tourism industry didn't do much to slow the Texas Legislature's march to pass a new bathroom bill during its special session. So now business groups are turning to something that might give them a little more influence with the Legislature: football. While the National Football League has not come out in opposition to the new bathroom regulation legislation, that is not stopping the Texas Association of Business from running new radio ads that warn of the potential reaction from the league. In the one-minute ad airing as part of a $1 million radio campaign in North Texas, a narrator warns that the Dallas Cowboys' bid to host the NFL draft could be derailed if the bathroom bills become law.

Houston Chronicle - July 25, 2017

Criminal record of truck driver in deadly immigrant case dates back 20 years

The driver of a tractor-trailer in which several immigrants died in crushing heat has a criminal record that dates to 1997 and a life as mobile as his job. James Matthew Bradley Jr., 60, said little when informed by U.S. Magistrate Judge Elizabeth Chestney that the human-trafficking charge he faces carries a maximum life sentence and the possibility of death. His criminal history could come into play during a bail hearing set for Thursday, when prosecutors are expected to argue that he is a danger to the community and a flight risk because he faces a possible stiff sentence, and has a record of not appearing at scheduled court hearings and not complying with the law.

Houston Chronicle - July 24, 2017

Texas Senate readies to pass bathroom bill and others by end of week

An early morning start had the Texas Senate on track to pass out all 20 of Gov. Greg Abbott's priority items by the end of the second week of the session. After a rare midnight session Thursday and a weekend of around the clock committee meetings, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, had dozens of bills primed to be heard on the Senate floor over the next three days starting at 9 a.m. Monday. That includes bills dealing with highly controversial issues like abortion, transgender bathroom policies, school vouchers and tree ordinances.

Houston Chronicle - July 24, 2017

Texas Senate wants to know why so many mothers are dying after child birth

The state would expand its investigation into why so many mothers are dying after delivering babies in Texas under legislation that won initial approval from the Senate Monday and could win final passage as early as Tuesday. Legislators overwhelmingly supported Senate Bill 17, which would continue a task force that is looking into maternal morbidity rates in Texas and call for more research into how to combat postpartum depression, particularly for economically disadvantaged mothers. A final vote on the bill is set for Tuesday. If it passes then, it would need the House to agree to the same legislation to have a chance to become law.

Houston Chronicle - July 24, 2017

House setting own agenda

While the Texas Senate is speeding through approving the governor's conservative special session bills, lawmakers across the Capitol rotunda are taking their time and setting their own agenda on their own pace, much to the ire of tea party Republicans. The Republican-led House has filed more than 300 bills this special session, including numerous bills on topics outside Gov. Greg Abbott 20-point list of measures he'd like the Legislature to pass. Rep. Tony Tinderholt, an Arlington Republican and tea party ally, urged House Speaker Joe Straus to keep those extraneous measures from being getting further consideration, saying that taking them up amounts to "mucking up" the special session.

Dallas Morning News - July 25, 2017

Schnurman: Without Obamacare, companies could roll back benefits, raise out-of-pocket costs

You don’t have to use Obamacare to benefit from it. Over 20 million Americans and about 1 million Texans have insurance through the Affordable Care Act, often called Obamacare. They, by far, have the most at stake when the Senate considers repealing the law this week — perhaps with a replacement, perhaps not. But the ACA also includes valuable provisions for workers who get insurance through their employer. Jobs-based health insurance covers over 155 million Americans, including 13 million in Texas.

Dallas Morning News - July 24, 2017

Recent immigration scandals put sanctuary cities ban back in the spotlight

Republican state lawmakers have seized on two high-profile immigration incidents to tout the need for Texas' recently approved sanctuary cities ban. Ten immigrants died in San Antonio over the weekend in a human smuggling attempt out of a tractor-trailer that witnesses say carried up to 200 people attempting to enter the country. Last week, the Travis County Sheriff's Office, which became a lightning rod for the sanctuary cities debate, released a known gang member despite a request by federal immigration authorities to hold him.

Dallas Morning News - July 24, 2017

Bo Pilgrim, poultry mogul who once handed out $10,000 checks in Texas Senate, dies at 89

Lonnie "Bo" Pilgrim, who grew a one-time feed store into the world's largest poultry producer before losing the company in bankruptcy, has died at 89. A statement on the Erman Smith Funeral Home website says Pilgrim died Friday at his Pittsburg home, about 110 miles east of Dallas. Pilgrim was known for appearing on Pilgrim's Pride commercials in a pilgrim's hat, and handing out on the Texas Senate floor $10,000 checks with blank payee lines in 1989. Nine of the 31 state senators accepted the checks.

Dallas Morning News - July 24, 2017

Texas had a teen pregnancy crisis — even before Trump started slashing funding

Texas has the fifth-highest teen pregnancy rate in the country — and the nation's highest repeat teen pregnancy rate. Dallas is one of the cities pushing the state's averages higher. Leaders here recognize what a serious problem this is. Teen pregnancy is linked to poverty, and when it is concentrated in certain ZIP codes, it becomes a driver of entrenched neighborhood poverty. So why is the Trump administration cutting $213 million worth of grants for 81 teen pregnancy prevention programs across the nation?

Dallas Morning News - July 24, 2017

Floyd: Without real immigration reform, more migrants will die — and the American Dream will die with them

The American Dream is permanently over for the 10 people who baked to death in a sweltering trailer parked on the south side of San Antonio this weekend. As American Dreams go, theirs was probably a modest version — picking fruit or painting houses or some other grueling, low-pay job — but they were willing to take profound risks for it. It cost them their lives. Most of us responded with appropriate horror to these deaths, placing the blame on criminal smugglers who treat human beings as indifferently as they would a load of tires or firewood.

Dallas Morning News - July 24, 2017

Texas Senate tentatively OKs private-school vouchers for disabled students

A school-finance bill that also would create tax credit scholarships to help disabled students attend private schools won tentative approval from the Senate on Monday. Opponents warn it's the first step toward a school voucher-type program in Texas. Bill author Sen. Larry Taylor, the Senate's chief public school policy writer, though, said that under the bill, relatively few disabled children would switch to private schools. "Just a fraction of a fraction" of Texas' more than 5 million public school students — about 6,000 — would receive the scholarships donated by insurance companies, he stressed.

Dallas Morning News - July 24, 2017

DMN: Tragic human smuggling deaths point up need for humane immigration laws

The horrific death of at least 10 immigrants sneaking across Texas this weekend in the back of a tractor-trailer rig with no air-conditioning is a tragic reminder of the lengths people will go to in pursuit of a better life. It's also a grim, cautionary tale about greedy predators who stand ready to capitalize on that greatest of all human suffering — that irrepressible yearning for a better life; in this case, a shot at the American dream. It's small solace that the driver of that rig was arrested and charged Monday with illegally transporting the immigrants, nearly three dozen of whom were found in a Wal-Mart parking lot in San Antonio.

Dallas Morning News - July 24, 2017

Texas Senate speeds into second week of Legislature's special session

Want the skinny on Capitol happenings during the second week of Texas' special legislative session? The Dallas Morning News' weekly political preview, The Look Ahead, has you covered. The first week of the special session started with a bang, at least in the Texas Senate. The upper chamber scheduled more than a dozen committee hearings — on the so-called bathroom bill, mail-in ballot fraud, abortion restrictions, teacher pay raises, and a host of local control issues, among others. Senate committees have considered and passed 17 of Gov. Greg Abbott's 20 agenda items, and the measures are headed to the full Senate for consideration this week.

Dallas Morning News - July 24, 2017

Senate plods through one-third of Gov. Greg Abbott's special session agenda

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and the Texas Senate Republicans gave an initial thumbs-up to nearly one-third of Gov. Greg Abbott's special session agenda Monday. On day seven of the special legislative session, the Senate plodded through six of the 20 agenda items on Abbott's task list for the 30-day lawmaking overtime period. They approved bills that would restrict abortion access and provide private school vouchers to disabled children, and they were poised to OK a controversial measure that would restrict local property tax growth. All the bills will require a second vote before moving on to the Texas House.

Ft. Worth Star-Telegram - July 24, 2017

Here are the Texas counties where you’re most likely to get a speeding ticket

Two of the Texas counties where Texas Department of Public Safety troopers write the most tickets are two on the state’s southern tip, Hidalgo and Cameron, which is on the Texas Gulf Coast. Harris County (Houston) also has a bunch. Closer to home, there’s a better chance of getting a ticket from a DPS trooper in Parker or Collin counties than Tarrant or Dallas, according to a Star-Telegram analysis of Texas Department of Public Safety data from 2012 through 2016. Parker County ranked No. 9 on the list with 26,506 tickets, and Collin County is No. 10 with 26,431. Dallas is No. 13 at 13,714 and Tarrant County ranks No. 48 with 9,674.

Austin American-Statesman - July 25, 2017

First Reading: Summer session: On bathrooms, Boy Scouts, Trump, Abbott, Patrick, Straus and McRaven

Since he launched his candidacy for re-election on July 14, and the start of the special session four days later, Gov. Greg Abbott has been doing a lot of radio and TV interviews from Austin with stations across the state. I’ve listened in to a number of them. It’s a good way to hear what the governor has to say, what he’s messaging to audiences across the state and what kind of questions he gets. It’s also like a vicarious little trip across Texas, all without leaving Austin. Yesterday morning, one minute he was on with Sergio Sanchez and Tim Sullivan on 710 AM KURV in the Rio Grande Valley, getting grilled on his initiatives to countermand local control, and a few minutes later he was on Newstalk 550 KCRS, serving Midland-Odessa in the Permian Basin.

San Antonio Express News - July 21, 2017

SAEN: What’s hiding behind legislative privilege?

In defending itself against allegations that its 2013 state House and congressional redistricting maps intentionally discriminate, Texas, in federal court last week, invoked “legislative privilege.” This is the concept that legislators’ communications with one another can be shielded from court scrutiny because there is value in lawmakers being able to plan policy without fear they face legal jeopardy because of their words. There is undoubtedly such value. But there is a competing value. That, simply, is the public’s right to know whether the state is telling the truth, whether it intentionally discriminated. If there was no intentional discrimination, there was no need to invoke legislative privilege. But Rep. Drew Darby, R-San Angelo, who chaired the creation of the 2013 maps, invoked legislative privilege repeatedly.

San Antonio Express News - July 24, 2017

Texas Power Brokers: Uresti attorney Watts once again plays defense

Speaking at a San Antonio Trial Lawyers Association luncheon earlier this month, high-powered attorney Mikal Watts recounted the federal raid at his law firm in 2013, his subsequent indictment, trial and exoneration on charges that he made up fake clients to sue BP over the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil disaster. A large screen off to Watts’ right trumpeted the title of his presentation, “Skinned Alive: An innocent man’s persecution by the U.S. Department of Justice.” Watts contends the charges against him, his brother David and a paralegal were politically motivated. The Democratic mega-donor most notably hosted a $38,800-a-plate fundraiser in 2012 at his Dominion estate for President Barack Obama. Watts is a highly successful local trial lawyer whose firm has won more than a combined $4 billion in settlements and jury verdicts against some major corporations, including Ford Motor Co. and the Firestone Tire and Rubber Co. over the Explorer SUV rollovers.

San Antonio Express News - July 24, 2017

SEC investigation of FourWinds Logistics revealed in Uresti case

The Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating FourWinds Logistics, a San Antonio oil- field services company that imploded in 2015 and triggered a criminal probe into six individuals — including state Sen. Carlos Uresti The agency revealed the almost year-long probe in a court document Friday seeking to quash a subpoena from Uresti, a San Antonio Democrat. Uresti has asked the SEC to turn over documents it has provided the Justice Department, the FBI and the Internal Revenue Services. The SEC’s Fort Worth office opened the investigation Aug. 23, two days after the San Antonio Express-News first reported on FourWinds’ demise and allegations by some investors that the company had defrauded them.

San Antonio Express News - July 24, 2017

Pot entrepreneurs court Texas investors in cannabis ‘green rush’

It was California-based Arcview Group’s 24th cannabis industry investor pitch forum, and the business plans promised dazzling returns investing in everything from seed and soil to smoke, vapor, edibles and oils. Mason Levy of WeGrow, a Boulder, Colorado-based startup aimed at the home and community-garden cannabis grower, was trying to sell investors on Elle, a “conversational grow bot.” Michael Bologna of Denver-based Green Lion Partners was hawking a “dipper” with atomizer attachments for inhaling cannabis vapor. “Dipstick Vapes is dedicated to raising the standard of excellence for the consumer experience in the cannabis industry,” Bologna told investors.

San Antonio Express News - July 24, 2017

Texas small business owners speak out against transgender bathroom bill

Texas’ small businesses could bear the brunt of economic losses if Texas lawmakers pass a so-called transgender bathroom bill, a group of small business owners said Monday. Business leaders in Texas and around the U.S. have grown increasingly vocal in their opposition to state lawmakers’ efforts to regulate transgender bathroom use. Nearly two dozen executives in San Antonio and Dallas have blasted bathroom bill proposals as distractions and damaging to the state’s ability to attract businesses and talent. Major tech CEOs, including Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and Tim Cook of Apple, have implored lawmakers not to seek the legislation. And IBM has said it could reassess its commitment to Texas should a bathroom bill pass.

Tyler Morning Telegraph - July 20, 2017

Smith County GOP passes resolution censuring Texas House Speaker Joe Straus

The Smith County Republican Party has passed a resolution censuring Texas House Speaker Joe Straus. The resolution is signed by Smith County Chairman Brent Thompson, Vice Chair Marcia Daughtrey and more than 40 of the county’s Republican precinct chairs. “The Smith County Republican Party supports a change in leadership in the Texas House,” the resolution reads, because “the current speaker habitually rejects the planks of the Republican Party of Texas platform and has disparaged Gov. Greg Abbott’s conservative agenda for the special legislative session.” On Thursday, Thompson said Smith County GOP is taking a stand against Straus.

San Antonio Express News - July 23, 2017

SAEN: Texas should do more to punish air polluters

Every day in Texas, industrial polluters spew harmful chemicals into the air, exceeding their state permits. The consequences of these rogue emissions range from asthma spikes and cancer to contributing to climate change. But the penalties are often nothing. That’s because the Texas Commission of Environmental Quality rarely enforces meaningful fines or challenges the claim from industry that these emission events are unavoidable. Those are the quick takeaways from the Texas Tribune’s exhaustive reporting on the free pass Texas gives industrial polluters.

Austin American-Statesman - July 25, 2017

In TV interview, Dan Patrick blames Democrats for immigrant deaths in San Antonio

Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, in a TV interview with Fox News on Tuesday, pinned the deaths of 10 undocumented immigrants who were found inside a tractor-trailer in San Antonio on “Democrat policies.” Patrick called the case “a horrendous tragedy that should never happen in America,” but blamed the “Democrat policies of today, of an open border and sanctuary cities (that) allows and enables these drug smugglers – who don’t care about human life – to put people in this horrific situation.” Patrick’s statements run counter to long-running arguments made by immigration reform advocates, who say the nation’s cumbersome and restrictive immigration policies encourage such smuggling efforts.

San Antonio Express News - July 25, 2017

In recent years, some mayors broke the glass ceiling

Serving as the gateway to South Texas and the state’s Hill Country, San Antonio has a rich, diverse history shaped by a large population of residents with Mexican ancestry dating back before the Texas Revolution. This history is reflected in the fact that one of the city’s early mayors was of Mexican descent. But it took more than a century for San Antonio to elect its next Latino mayor. In recent years, the city has had a handful of mayors blaze the trail for historically disenfranchised groups. “We’ve had a lot of firsts for the very short history that we’ve been a part of the United States,” said Sharon Navarro, an associate professor of political science at the University of Texas at San Antonio. She said San Antonio is better than other cities in Texas at mayoral “firsts.”

El Paso Times - July 21, 2017

Texas Senate's speed meant to pressure House on conservative agenda

As Sen. Joan Huffman opened a Friday hearing on the controversial “bathroom bill,” she did so with her eye on the clock, reminding her colleagues to keep their questions short and asking members of the public to keep their testimony brief. “In order to be fair to the public witnesses taking time to testify, we will only ask questions about the bill,” Huffman, the Republican chairwoman of the Senate State Affairs Committee, said, urging lawmakers not to debate with witnesses. “We cannot delay public testimony too long, as that is unfair to those who have taken time out of their schedule to come and visit with us today." The bill, which would restrict public bathroom use based on the gender listed on people’s birth certificates, passed through the same committee during the regular session after an 18-hour hearing but eventually died because it did not get approval from the House. This time, Senators are on a tight schedule.

Midland Reporter Telegram - July 24, 2017

Water management becoming increasingly significant issue

Technology has unlocked billions of barrels of crude and natural gas underneath the Permian Basin. But a perhaps unintended consequence of those technological advances is they have also created an expanding need for water to be used in oil field operations. The average well requires between 500,000 and 700,000 barrels of water — that’s more than 21 million gallons — to be hydraulically fractured, a figure that is expected to only continue climbing as operators drill longer laterals and complete their wells with bigger fracturing jobs, requiring even more water. Where will that water come from? Operators are increasingly focused on reducing or eliminating their demand for fresh water by recycling and reusing produced or flowback water.

Associated Press - July 24, 2017

Texas activist targeted, beaten amid 'bathroom bill' debate

Police say a Texas transgender activist beaten in a carjacking was targeted because of her gender identity, further raising tensions as state lawmakers advance revived legislation critics call an anti-LGBT "bathroom bill." Court documents filed Monday show 17-year-old Rayshad Deloach and his 26-year-old brother, Raymond, are charged with beating and pulling a gun on Stephanie Martinez before stealing her car in Austin last week. Raymond Deloach told police the brothers targeted Martinez because she was transgender.

This article appeared in the San Antonio Express News

CBS News - July 20, 2017

Texas congressman presses for return of Alamo flag

A Texas congressman wants the Alamo's flag back. Houston Republican John Culberson, describing himself as a "history enthusiast," announced Thursday that he's included language in a foreign relations bill urging the State Department to negotiate with Mexico for the return of the only flag known to have flown at the Battle of the Alamo in 1836. The 4-by-3 foot silk banner, known as the New Orleans Grey flag, represented two companies of volunteers from the United States that fought on behalf of Texas' independence.

UPI - July 24, 2017

Texas energy sector facing slight headwinds

Strong job growth in Texas was apparent, though some energy sector indicators are still presenting headwinds, the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas said. A report from the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas found job growth in the state was 3.6 percent and the overall forecast for the year was 2.8 percent, an upward revision from 2.6 expected in its last forecast. "Strong job growth in June and a rebound in the leading index pushed the job forecast to its highest level this year," Keith R. Phillips, the fed's assistant vice president, said in a statement. "Growth in the second quarter was 2.8 percent, the fastest we have seen since the end of 2014."

El Paso Times - July 22, 2017

Democrat in The Colony to challenge Burgess for congressional seat

John Wannamaker, a Democrat in The Colony, announced his intent to run for the U.S. House of Representatives seat Friday that represents most of Denton County, including Denton. "'I, Wannamaker difference' for the families and businesses in the district, in Texas, in this country," Wannamaker said in a press release. U.S. Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Pilot Point, currently holds Texas' 26th Congressional District seat and is up for re-election next year.

City Stories

Austin Monitor - July 21, 2017

Political action committees quietly file reports

Although much-maligned in certain circles, political action committees help spread the word in local elections for candidates, bonds and other propositions. Among the PACs filing with the Office of the City Clerk this month was the Our City Our Safety Our Choice PAC, which supported the successful election to pass stringent rules for governing transportation networking companies such as Uber and Lyft. In spite of that election, however, the Texas Legislature overturned local control of those regulations during the regular 2017 session. According to the campaign finance report filed with the clerk on Monday, the Our City Our Safety Our Choice PAC collected no contributions and spent less than $950 during the six months starting on Jan. 1 of this year. According to the report, the PAC still owes $18,000 in loans that have yet to be repaid.

San Antonio Express News - July 21, 2017

Cost of corruption leaves Crystal City struggling

CRYSTAL CITY — With five former city officials now awaiting sentencing for federal public corruption crimes, the city leaders who replaced them last year are struggling with the financial mess they inherited. When the FBI raided Crystal City in early 2016, charging three council members, the mayor and the city manager with bribery, conspiracy and other offenses, disruption and confusion followed at City Hall. The federal agents also seized many city financial records, complicating the new administration’s attempts since then to straighten things out. Last week, the financial picture became somewhat clearer when outside auditors finally delivered the long-delayed but not unexpected bad news.

Houston Chronicle - July 24, 2017

Law school conference ditches Austin for 2018 meeting because of bathroom bill, SB4

Several academic groups have threatened to pull conferences from Texas after Gov. Greg Abbott signed Senate Bill 4 on so-called sanctuary cities and as lawmakers consider regulating transgender student bathroom use. The Association of American Law Schools pulled the trigger on Thursday, relocating its April 2018 Conference on Clinical Legal Education to Chicago from Austin. It pledged to keep future meetings away from Texas because of SB4 and the proposed bathroom legislation considered by state politicians this summer. "Many of our member law schools have clinical programs that serve individuals seeking to immigrate to the United States or members of the LGBTQ community," said Paul Marcus, the association's president, in a letter to Austin Mayor Steve Adler.

Austin American-Statesman - July 25, 2017

Austin police chief to speak out against Texas ‘bathroom bills’ Tuesday

Several law enforcement officials, including interim Austin police Chief Brian Manley, will speak out against the state’s proposed “bathroom bills” in a news conference Tuesday. “It’s trying to solve a problem I’m not aware exists,” Manley said. “What if a police officer is called to one of these incidents? How is an officer supposed to know whether an offense occurred?” Houston police Chief and Austin’s former top cop Art Acevedo and San Antonio police Chief William McManus also are scheduled to attend.

Houston Chronicle - July 24, 2017

Tomlinson: Showdown in Venezuela to hit oil markets and Houston

Venezuelans are counting down this week to a political crisis that will have far-ranging repercussions, including some for Houston. Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has scheduled a referendum for Sunday that would allow him to rewrite the constitution, establish a single-party state and shut down the opposition-controlled National Assembly. Daily protests during the past 90 days, and 93 deaths, have failed to slow the ruling party from installing a dictatorship. President Donald Trump issued a statement last week warning that if Maduro goes through with his plans, "the United States will take strong and swift economic actions," which could include suspending the importation of 700,000 barrels of oil a day. But such an oil embargo would have major implications for China, Russia, Texas and Houston.

San Antonio Express News - July 25, 2017

San Antonio group’s goal: Medicare for everyone

As the U.S. Senate prepares for a health care vote Tuesday, more than 20 activists rallied Monday for reform in another direction — expanding Medicare for everyone. The group announced it will hold a march Saturday in coordination with ones in other major cities across the U.S. as part of Millions Marching for Medicare for All. Similar marches are being organized in Austin and Dallas. “We have a system where we pay a premium, but you still have to worry about your deductible, which could be a $4,000 bill,” said Sofia Sepulveda, 40, who co-chairs Healthcare Now for San Antonio. “What we’re paying for right now is an illusion of health care because we have a system that doesn’t really cover us.”

National Stories

Politico - July 25, 2017

Obamacare repeal vote still too close to call

Senate Republicans are barreling toward a dramatic and highly unusual vote on Obamacare Tuesday without knowing whether they’ll have the votes to start dismantling the health care law. At stake is not just the seven-year-old campaign pledge to repeal Obamacare, but also demonstrating that Republicans — when given full control of Washington — can govern. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz,), recently diagnosed with brain cancer, made it all the more dramatic Monday evening when he announced he would return to Washington for the vote.

Washington Post - July 25, 2017

House prepares to pass sanctions bill — and set up veto dilemma for Trump

The House is set to vote Tuesday to advance new financial sanctions against key U.S. adversaries and deliver a foreign-policy brushback to President Trump by limiting his ability to waive many of them. Included in the package are new measures targeting key Russian officials in retaliation for that country’s alleged meddling in the 2016 presidential election, as well as sanctions against Iran and North Korea in response to those nations’ weapons programs. Members of the Trump administration, including Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, have resisted the congressional push — in particular a provision attached to the Russian and Iranian measures that would require Congress to sign off on any move to relieve those sanctions.

Washington Post - July 25, 2017

4 possible reasons for Trump’s war against his own attorney general

President Trump is now engaged in a persistent campaign to undermine and second-guess his own attorney general, Jeff Sessions. This is a man, mind you, who before he was Trump's pick to lead the Justice Department was Trump's earliest supporter in the Senate — when basically nobody in the political establishment was on the Trump Train. Apparently that doesn't entitle him to loyalty. First, Trump told the New York Times last week that he wouldn't have nominated Sessions if he knew Sessions would recuse himself from the Russia investigation. In the same interview, he pointed to Sessions's “bad answers” in his confirmation hearings about his contacts with Russians.

New York Times - July 25, 2017

Economy Needs Workers, but Drug Tests Take a Toll

Just a few miles from where President Trump will address his blue-collar base here Tuesday night, exactly the kind of middle-class factory jobs he has vowed to bring back from overseas are going begging. It’s not that local workers lack the skills for these positions, many of which do not even require a high school diploma but pay $15 to $25 an hour and offer full benefits. Rather, the problem is that too many applicants — nearly half, in some cases — fail a drug test. The fallout is not limited to the workers or their immediate families. Each quarter, Columbiana Boiler, a local company, forgoes roughly $200,000 worth of orders for its galvanized containers and kettles because of the manpower shortage, it says, with foreign rivals picking up the slack.

New York Times - July 25, 2017

Baker: Trump White House Tests a Nation’s Capacity for Outrage

GLEN JEAN, W.Va. — Remember that time President George W. Bush told his attorney general to investigate Al Gore for his “crimes”? Or President Barack Obama called for a Justice Department prosecution of John McCain? Neither did that, of course, nor has any president in modern times sought to prosecute the candidate he beat at the ballot box. But when President Trump publicly declared last weekend that his Justice Department should investigate Hillary Clinton, his exhortation generated relatively little reaction. Indeed, when he repeated it on Twitter on Monday, more attention was paid to the fact that he described his attorney general, Jeff Sessions, as “beleaguered” — a condition that, if true, was due in large part to Mr. Trump himself, who last week said that he regretted appointing Mr. Sessions because the attorney general had recused himself from overseeing the Russia investigation.

New York Times - July 25, 2017

Leonhardt: G.O.P. Support for Trump Is Starting to Crack

Again and again over the past year, Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan have had to decide what kind of behavior they are willing to tolerate from Donald Trump. Again and again, McConnell and Ryan have bowed down to Trump. They have mumbled occasional words of protest, sometimes even harsh ones, like Ryan’s use of “racist” last year. Then they have gone back to supporting Trump. The capitulation of McConnell and Ryan has created an impression — especially among many liberals — that congressional Republicans stand behind the president. McConnell and Ryan, after all, are the leaders of Congress, and they continue to push for the legislation Trump wants and to permit his kleptocratic governing.

Austin American-Statesman - July 25, 2017

Young: Choosing ‘Trumpism’ over, um, governing?

Newt Gingrich told a gathering the other day that state and local leaders should embrace “Trumpism.” Not surprisingly, he did not define his terms. Racism? Sexism. Infantilism? Whatever. The former House speaker, whose greatest gift to democracy – correction, to Democrats – was to shut down government in 1996, observes the wreckage Trump wreaks in Washington and sees a movement to emulate locally. Gingrich, touting his new pamphlet, er, book, “Understanding Trump,” calls our president “the most effective conservative – functionally – in our lifetime.” Most effective, perhaps, with his thumbs.

Austin American-Statesman - July 19, 2017

Martinich, Palaima: With North Korea, there’s danger of losing a war by winning

North Korea has warned of a war with the United States and the capitalist “puppet” state of South Korea. President Donald Trump has been bellicose in tweets about North Korea’s missile tests and nuclear arsenal and has spoken of a surgical strike against its bases. Meanwhile U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis warns that North Korea’s response would lead to “probably the worst kind of fighting in most people’s lifetimes.” As we suffer through the intense heat of another Austin Saharan summer, how are we as citizens to make sense of all this? How can we really feel what the worst combat will be? We can start by reading “The Useless Servants,” acclaimed native Texan writer Rolando Hinojosa’s remarkable diarylike account of his service as an artillery soldier in Korea in the 1950s. If you do, you will feel the chill and the dread of what even World War II veterans among Hinojosa’s fellow soldiers agreed was the worst kind of fighting in their experiences.

Associated Press - July 25, 2017

Trump tweets, McCain return set stage for health bill vote

President Donald Trump urged Republicans to "step up to the plate" for Tuesday's crucial Senate vote on their bill eviscerating much of the Obama health care law. The stage was set for high drama, with Sen. John McCain returning to the Capitol to cast his first vote since being diagnosed with brain cancer. No stranger to heroic episodes, the Navy pilot who persevered through five years of captivity during the Vietnam War announced through his office that he would be back in Washington for the critical roll call on beginning debate on the legislation. The 80-year-old has been at home in Arizona since he revealed last week that he's undergoing treatment for brain cancer, but a statement said he "looks forward" to returning for work on health care and other legislation.

This article appeared in the San Antonio Express News

Washington Post - July 24, 2017

Trump leaves Sessions twisting in the wind while berating him publicly

President Trump and his advisers are privately discussing the possibility of replacing Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and some confidants are floating prospects who could take his place were he to resign or be fired, according to people familiar with the talks. Members of Trump’s circle, including White House officials, have increasingly raised the question among themselves in recent days as the president has continued to vent his frustration with the attorney general, the people said. ... Another scenario is that Trump could make a recess appointment, said Steve Vladeck, a professor at the University of Texas School of Law. Under that plan, Trump could choose an attorney general during the August recess who would serve until the end of the next Senate session, which would run to Jan. 3, 2019. That person would have the same authority as someone who is confirmed by the Senate, Vladeck said. Among the names being floated as possible Sessions replacements are Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) and former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, according to people familiar with the conversations.

Washington Post - July 24, 2017

In Congress, new fears and new protections in wake of baseball team shooting

Even before the shooting at a baseball field in Northern Virginia last month, Congress was rattled by the increasingly hostile political environment that has produced combative town hall meetings and violent encounters among political activists. This year, the rate of threats against members of Congress has surpassed last year’s, and a growing number of rank-and-file lawmakers are traveling the halls of the Capitol — and the streets of their home towns — with security details. That unease was amplified significantly by the shooting that grievously wounded House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.). Scalise called in to the weekly Republican whip team meeting Monday evening and, according to several attendees, shared encouraging news: He has started the physical recovery process and could be transferred soon from MedStar Washington Hospital Center, where he has been hospitalized since the June 14 shooting, to a specialized rehabilitation facility.

Washington Post - July 24, 2017

A key problem for the repeal-replace effort? It’s not 2014 anymore.

To hear President Trump tell it, Obamacare is an unmitigated disaster that’s left America reeling. While making the case for Republican senators to back the party’s overhaul of the law, Trump made his view clear. “Any senator who votes against starting debate is telling America that you are fine with the Obamacare nightmare, which is what it is,” Trump said, standing in front of a group of families who’d been “victims” of the law. “For Democrats, this vote is a chance to make up for the terrible harm they have inflicted on Americans like those who are with us today. Obamacare has been for them a nightmare. There is still time to do the right thing.”

Wall St. Journal - July 24, 2017

We Won’t See You in Court: The Era of Tort Lawsuits is Waning

Americans, reputed to be the most litigious people in the world, are filing far fewer lawsuits. Fewer than two in 1,000 people—the alleged victims of inattentive motorists, medical malpractice, faulty products and other civil wrongs—filed tort lawsuits in 2015, an analysis of the latest available data collected by the National Center for State Courts shows. That is down sharply from 1993, when about 10 in 1,000 Americans filed such suits. A host of factors are fueling the decline, including state restrictions on litigation, the increasing cost of bringing suits, improved auto safety and a long campaign by businesses to turn public opinion against plaintiffs and their lawyers. The nationwide ebb in lawsuits, which confounds the public perception of courts choked with tort claims, has broad ramifications for businesses, doctors, patients, lawyers and the courts themselves.

Associated Press - July 24, 2017

Dems block passage of intelligence bill

House Democrats on Monday blocked passage of a non-controversial intelligence policy bill, saying that Republicans were rushing to pass it without extensive debate. The vote was 241 to 163 against passing the intelligence authorization bill, which supports critical national security programs, including those addressing counterterrorism and cyberattacks. Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California said she had no problem with the bill itself, but rather the expedited procedure for approving it. In a letter Pelosi wrote: "This is unacceptable when critical intelligence decisions are being made that impact America's national security and while the House and Senate intelligence committees are leading investigations into Russia's continued efforts to undermine our democracy."

This article appeared in the Houston Chronicle

Dallas Morning News - July 24, 2017

Congress' deal on Russia sanctions features changes sought by Big Oil and key Texas Republican

Texas Rep. Pete Sessions went to bat for Big Oil. And won. The Dallas Republican led the charge in raising concerns that portions of a bill to toughen sanctions on Russia would harm energy companies like Irving-based Exxon Mobil by preventing them from pursuing some major projects across the globe. And a new bipartisan deal to advance the sanctions now features changes to address those worries. While an earlier version passed by the Senate would've banned U.S. businesses from working on international oil projects that involved any sanctioned Russian partners, the new one would bar U.S. companies only from projects that include at least a 33 percent stake by those Russians.

Politico - July 24, 2017

McCain to make dramatic return for Obamacare vote

Senate Republicans appear on the verge of having enough votes to start debate on Obamacare repeal, with the dramatic announcement Monday night that Sen. John McCain, diagnosed with brain cancer just a few days ago, would return to Washington for the Tuesday vote. The whip count is still in question with several GOP senators publicly undecided, but Republicans feel a surge of momentum heading into the high-profile vote after a furious pressure campaign by President Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Monday.

Politico - July 24, 2017

Cities Fear Obamacare Repeal, Warm to Single-Payer

The endless saga to repeal and replace Obamacare now playing out in Congress is causing deep anxiety among an overwhelming majority of America’s mayors, 86 percent of whom say they are “greatly concerned” that doing away with the insurance program would leave their citizens more vulnerable to health crises like opioid addiction and obesity. And a majority doubt that President Trump, who made dismantling the signature policy of the previous administration one of his top campaign promises, has a clear plan to replace Obamacare if Congress manages to repeal it. If they had their way, most say they would prefer a single-payer plan.

Politico - July 24, 2017

Democrats sidestep social issues in new economic push

Congressional Democratic leaders descended on this rural Virginia town Monday to unveil a progressive economic package they say can win back working-class voters next November, even in red states. And noticeably missing, amid the talk of raising wages and reining in corporate interests, were the left-leaning stances on social issues that help form the backbone of the party, such as immigration, abortion and LGBT rights. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) vowed that his party’s red-state incumbents would largely embrace the new agenda — which, he acknowledged, purposefully avoids the social issues that have already opened a rift this year between the party’s liberal base and centrist bloc.

Politico - July 24, 2017

Kirchick: Why It’s Hard to Take Democrats Seriously on Russia

As I see it, conservatives’ nonchalance about Russia’s attempt to disrupt and discredit our democracy ranks as one of the most appalling developments in recent American political history. But as much as Democrats may be correct in their diagnosis of Republican debasement, they are wholly lacking in self-awareness as to their own record regarding Russia. This helps explain why conservatives have so much trouble taking liberal outrage about Russia seriously: Most of the people lecturing them for being “Putin’s pawns” spent the better part of the past eight years blindly supporting a Democratic president, Barack Obama, whose default mode with Moscow was fecklessness. To Republicans, these latter-day Democratic Cold Warriors sound like partisan hysterics, a perception that’s not entirely wrong.

Governing - July 19, 2017

States Get Creative on Pension Funding

Most states have enacted some type of reform over the past decade to shore up their pension funds for the future. But such changes have typically done little to make a dent in the liabilities that governments already have on the books. As those liabilities increase, states and localities are turning to more creative solutions to ease the burden. California and New Jersey are moving forward with plans that would boost respective pension assets, dramatically decrease unfunded liabilities and reduce payouts for the immediate future. But critics of the plans say the two states are doing nothing more than moving numbers around on paper.

All - July 24, 2017

Lead Stories

Washington Post - July 24, 2017

In 47 states, a smaller part of the population now approves of Trump than voted for him

Donald Trump eked his way into the White House last fall on the strength of 78,000 votes in three states. He lost the popular vote by about two percentage points, earning the support of just under 46 percent of voters who cast a ballot. Since Nov. 8, polling has consistently shown that an even smaller percentage of the country thinks the president is doing a good job. The most recent weekly approval rating average from Gallup, for example, has Trump at 39 percent approval — seven percentage points lower than the support he got at the ballot box. On Monday, Gallup offered a more detailed set of data. Using interviews conducted over Trump’s first six months in office — during which his approval slipped slightly nationally — Gallup determined the average approval in each of the 50 states.

Dallas Morning News - July 22, 2017

Speaker Joe Straus makes only one vow on special session — Texas House will be ‘deliberate’

Speaker Joe Straus is the odd man out. Not keen on school vouchers and unenthused about proposals to hammer mayors, county commissioners and school boards, he sure didn't want to be back in sultry Austin this summer — certainly, not for the "bathroom bill." But Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick eagerly have revived debate of those and other issues, such as abortion and property taxes. Many are important to the staunch conservatives who dominate Texas GOP primaries. Once more, Straus is playing defense. Though he's more experienced than either Abbott or Patrick as a high-impact player at the Capitol, the speaker finds himself reluctantly in the minority among them — and in the spotlight — in the special legislative session that began Tuesday.

San Antonio Express News - July 23, 2017

San Antonio death toll in 'horrific' human trafficking reaches 9

Nine immigrants have died after they were trapped inside a tractor-trailer at a Walmart parking lot, officials confirmed Sunday afternoon. Several people are still in critical condition at local hospitals. Eight immigrants were found dead inside the closed trailer just after midnight Saturday. More than two dozen others, the only ones left of the estimated 100 who started the trip, were taken to area hospitals, many in serious to critical condition due to the heat. An initial report that two more people had died was the result of hospital error, according to Homeland Security, who asserted that just one more person had died, putting the death toll at nine. All the victims so far are adult males, officials said.

New York Times - July 24, 2017

White House Signals Acceptance of Russia Sanctions Bill

The White House indicated on Sunday that President Trump would accept new legislation curtailing his authority to lift sanctions on Russia on his own, a striking turnaround after a broad revolt by lawmakers of both parties who distrusted his friendly approach to Moscow and sought to tie his hands. If it passes, as now seems likely, the measure will represent the first time that Congress, with both houses controlled by fellow Republicans, has forced its will on Mr. Trump on a major policy matter. That it comes on an issue as fraught as Russia illustrates how investigations into possible collusion between Moscow and Mr. Trump’s team during last year’s election have cost him politically.

San Antonio Express News - July 24, 2017

Bipartisan Texas lawmakers want NAFTA 2.0 signed in San Antonio

San Antonio took the spotlight when the North American Free Trade Agreement was ceremonially signed here almost a quarter-century ago, and a bipartisan group of South Texas lawmakers is pushing to have “NAFTA 2.0” signed here, too. U.S. Reps. Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo, and Will Hurd, R-Helotes, on Friday said that whatever happens during the renegotiation, they already have bids out to bring the revised free trade agreement between the U.S., Canada and Mexico back to its hometown. The existing agreement was initialed during a ceremony in downtown San Antonio during the George H.W. Bush administration in 1992. Bush, Mexican President Carlos Salinas and Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney were on hand, as was an international throng of reporters.

Austin American-Statesman - July 24, 2017

First Reading: Why haven’t the Wilks brothers given Gov. Abbott so much as a straw of deer semen this election cycle?

I think this is a question worth contemplating, not only because it is interesting in its own right, but because, when we find the answer, we may understand why it is that Greg Abbott, and not Ted Cruz, is more likely to be next (Republican) president after Donald Trump, assuming that we have another (Republican) president, after Donald Trump. First some background. If Tom and Ray Magliotti of Massachusetts were Car Talk’s Click and Clack the Tappet Brothers, Farris and Don Wilks of Cisco are the frick and frack of right-wing fracking money in Texas and nationally. The Wilks bothers first burst on the national scene two summers ago. From Teddy Schleiffer of CNN on July 27, 2015. Washington (CNN) – Two low-profile Texas brothers have donated $15 million to support Sen. Ted Cruz, a record-setting contribution that amounts to the largest known donation so far in the 2016 presidential campaign.

Washington Post - July 23, 2017

Local governments keep using this software — but it might be a back door for Russia

Local and state government agencies from Oregon to Connecticut say they are using a Russian brand of security software despite the federal government’s instructions to its own agencies not to buy the software over concerns about cyberespionage, records and interviews show. The federal agency in charge of purchasing, the General Services Administration, this month removed Moscow-based Kaspersky Lab from its list of approved vendors. In doing so, the agency’s statement suggested a vulnerability exists in Kaspersky that could give the Russian government backdoor access to the systems it protects, though they offered no explanation or evidence of it. Kaspersky has strongly denied coordinating with the Russian government and has offered to cooperate with federal investigators.

Ft. Worth Star-Telegram - July 19, 2017

Collier: Dan Patrick won’t fix the property tax crisis he helped create

Don’t expect Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick to reform property taxes honestly in the special session that begins this week. The property taxes crisis infuriating Texans is a direct result of his party’s fiscal policies, policies he has no intention of reversing. Rather than fund 60 percent of the cost of public education in Texas, as our state once did, Republican politicians led by Dan Patrick have dialed back support to less than 40 percent. This unwise policy has not resulted in better schools. It has resulted in higher property taxes as school districts raise taxes to keep up. Said another way, the Republican-controlled legislature has deliberately shifted the burden of funding public education onto the backs of homeowners.

State Stories

Houston Chronicle - July 23, 2017

Ginn, Raia: Lifting minimum wage would harm lowest-skill labor in Texas

This year appeared to be a dream come true for the group "Fight for $15," as the 85th Texas Legislature heard nine bills that would have raised the state's legal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. The increases ranged from to $10.10 per hour by the year 2022 to $15 per hour this year. Fortunately, legislators helped workers by rightly killing all nine wrongheaded bills. Regardless, the growing chorus of supporters to raise the minimum wage affirms that we haven't heard the last of this tune. While supporters point to multiple wages for which they call "a living wage," the truth is that despite their good intentions the minimum wage is an arbitrary floor for labor services that ultimately harms the people it's intended to help.

Houston Chronicle - July 23, 2017

HC: Securing our election -- Cyber threats to American elections are real. Ballot security needs to be upgraded now.

If a burglar tries to break into your house and you're pretty sure it might happen again, it's a good idea to invest in the best security system you can afford. We need to apply that same common sense principle to preventing the theft of something we Americans hold sacred: our elections. We know that hackers have tried to break into election computer systems across the nation. Now it's crucial we do whatever it takes to prevent them from succeeding. The National Security Agency last year discovered what was described as a "months long Russian intelligence cyber effort" against voter registration processes, including an especially insidious attack on a private company making devices that maintain voter rolls. When investigators in Illinois discovered cyber-intruders tried to delete or alter voter registration data, they quickly realized they weren't alone.

Houston Chronicle - July 22, 2017

Texas oil fields fuel meth boom

MIDLAND - Eddy Lozoya never failed a drug test in the three years he hauled water and sand across the West Texas oil patch, even though he used at least $200 a day in cocaine to keep his eyes open on brutally long days behind the wheel of a Kenworth T600 semi-truck. Lozoya, like his fellow truckers, found ways to beat the tests and keep driving. Earning six-figure salaries, they consumed cocktails of drugs to push themselves to their physical limits on trips between scattered drilling sites that could last 36 to 48 consecutive hours. They would drive their 35-ton vehicles in tight, single-file formations, blowing air horns when the sleepiest among them began drifting off the road. "We always had cocaine," he said.

Houston Chronicle - July 23, 2017

Teachers, correctional officers push back against anti-union bill

Lawmakers in the Republican-led state Senate this weekend advanced more than a dozen conservative bills despite objections from scores of witnesses, cuing up much of Gov. Greg Abbott's conservative special session agenda for swift passage this week. The future of many of those bills is unclear in the House which is less excited about the governor's agenda. In addition, senators have found it difficult even to muscle some of their more complicated legislation out of committee. The Senate Education Committee, which advanced a school voucher proposal and legislation to create a commission on school funding, adjourned Sunday unsure how to afford teacher raises and better benefits.

Dallas Morning News - July 24, 2017

What to expect from the Texas Legislature during the second week of the special session

Want the skinny on Capitol happenings during the second week of Texas' special legislative session? The Dallas Morning News' weekly political preview, The Look Ahead, has you covered. The first week of the special session started with a bang, at least in the Texas Senate. The upper chamber scheduled more than a dozen committee hearings — on the so-called "bathroom bill," mail-in ballot fraud, abortion restrictions, teacher pay raises, and a host of local control issues, among others. Senate committees have already considered and passed seventeen of Abbott's 20 agenda items, and the measures are headed to the full Senate for consideration this week.

Dallas Morning News - July 23, 2017

Texas mail-in ballot fraud bill sails through Senate committee

A Senate committee Sunday approved legislation that would increase penalties for mail-in ballot fraud involving the elderly, a problem that's nagged Texas elections for decades. The bill, authored by Sen. Kelly Hancock, R-North Richland Hills, would increase the penalties for some offenses related to illegally assisting an elderly person with voting, or illegally handling or harvesting a ballot. A fraudulent use of a ballot, for instance, would rise from a state jail felony to a third-degree felony, punishable by two to 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. The law deals specifically with fraud targeted at residents over the age of 65, and also places tougher penalties on repeat offenders or people with multiple charges for the same election.

Austin American-Statesman - July 23, 2017

Feds cut millions in funds to Texas teen pregnancy prevention programs

The notice came to Jenifer DeAtley quietly, without warning, in the form of yet-to-be-explained letters from the federal government that said $4.6 million in funding over the next four years for her organization’s sex education programming was being eliminated. The director of EngenderHealth, which runs teen pregnancy prevention programs at three charter schools in eastern Travis County and conducts research, among other services, said she was stunned. “We were quite surprised and really did deeply regret the decision that was made because it translates into young people losing out on these vital services that have lifelong impacts,” DeAtley said.

Austin American-Statesman - July 23, 2017

Texas Senate panel OKs new annexation rules for large cities

A bill that would give residents the opportunity to block city annexation efforts sailed through a Texas Senate committee on Sunday, clearing its path to likely approval in the Texas Legislature’s upper chamber this week. The Senate Committee on State Affairs approved Senate Bill 6 by Sen. Donna Campbell, R-New Braunfels, 7-2, with Democrats Sens. Eddie Lucio Jr. of Brownsville and Judith Zaffirini of Laredo voting against. Senators were not sure when it would head to the Senate floor. The bill would require cities to get voter approval from the residents of areas they intend to annex.

Austin American-Statesman - July 23, 2017

San Antonio immigrant deaths: What Gov. Abbott, Dan Patrick are saying

State and local officials were reacting Sunday to reports of the deaths of nine immigrants in a truck found outside of San Antonio. Gov. Greg Abbott: “The loss of these lives is a heartbreaking tragedy. Human trafficking is an epidemic that Texas is working to eradicate. To that end, Texas will continue to provide protection for the victims who have been robbed of their most basic rights, and bring down the full weight of the law for the perpetrators of this despicable crime.” Abbott’s office noted that in May, the governor signed into law Senate Bill 128, which provides information to the trucking industry about how to recognize and report signs of human trafficking.

Austin American-Statesman - July 23, 2017

Senate plan to direct lottery money to teacher pay gets cold reception

Some public education advocates pressed lawmakers on Sunday to reconsider a plan to use existing lottery revenue earmarked for schools specifically on teacher pay raises and bonuses. “We’re saying take those dollars and move them over to teacher salaries and so you now have that void. And so districts are being asked to make those cuts,” said Jesús Chávez, former Round Rock school district superintendent who now is with the South Texas Association of Schools. The Senate Finance Committee on Saturday advanced a bill to the full Senate that would give $600 annual bonuses to teachers who have six to 10 years of experience and $1,000 annual bonuses to those who have at least 11 years of experience. The bill also contained a provision that would give all teachers $1,000 pay raises on top of that, starting in the 2019-2020 school year.

Austin American-Statesman - July 21, 2017

A Texas hyperloop? ‘For sure,’ Elon Musk says

If Elon Musk’s plans work out, Texans might have to find something other than traffic to complain about. The Tesla, SpaceX billionaire got Twitter talking Thursday when he tweeted he had “just received verbal govt approval” for an underground hyperloop, a high-speed tube transportation system. According to the Hill, a hyperloop could shuttle passengers from New York to Washington D.C. in half an hour or less. When another Twitter user inquired about the possibility of building a hyperloop in Texas, Musk’s response was promising: "Can Texas haz hyper loop too? Dallas - Houston - San Antonio - Austin (a girl can dream...)" Musk wrote "For sure. First set of tunnels are to alleviate greater LA urban congestion. Will start NY-DC in parallel. Then prob LA-SF and a TX loop."

Austin American-Statesman - July 21, 2017

In Review: Transgender bathroom policy in the 85th Texas Legislature

Texas’ debate on which public bathrooms transgender people are legally allowed to use has proved polemic. The Legislature didn’t pass any bills on the issue, which deeply divided lawmakers and the public alike, during its 2017 regular session. However, Gov. Greg Abbott decided to resurrect the issue during the special session he called that started July 18. A Senate committee approved Senate Bill 6 after a hearing that ended at 4:50 a.m. on March 8. Lawmakers heard from almost 300 people, most of whom opposed the bill. SB 6 would have limited transgender people to using the bathroom that matched the sex listed on their birth certificate in all government buildings, public schools and public universities.

Austin American-Statesman - July 23, 2017

Senate panel unanimously approves anti-voter fraud bill

The Senate State Affairs Committee unanimously approved a bill Sunday that would set up safeguards to prevent mail-in ballot fraud and increase penalties for people who try to steal others’ votes. Senate Bill 5 by Sen. Kelly Hancock, R-North Richland Hills, would require a signature verification process for early ballots, notification of rejected ones and a process for correcting errors. Under the bill, in some mail-in ballot fraud cases, a person would face a maximum $4,000 fine, up to a year in jail or both. Hancock said his bill would protect the most vulnerable voters: seniors and people with disabilities. Most witnesses who testified Sunday endorsed the bill.

Austin American-Statesman - July 23, 2017

Senate panel OKs mail-in ballot fraud bill

The Senate State Affairs Committee unanimously approved a bill Sunday that would set up safeguards to prevent mail-in ballot fraud in Texas and increase penalties for people who try to steal others’ votes. Senate Bill 5 by Sen. Kelly Hancock, R-North Richland Hills, would require a signature verification process for early ballots, notification of rejected ones and a process for correcting errors. Punishment for committing mail-in voter fraud could reach $4,000 and up to a year in jail. Hancock said his bill would protect the most vulnerable voters: seniors and people with disabilities.

Austin American-Statesman - July 23, 2017

San Antonio immigrant smuggling deaths come amid shift toward Texas

At least nine immigrants died and 30 were hospitalized after authorities in San Antonio discovered an overheated tractor-trailer in a Walmart parking lot early Sunday morning in what the police chief called a “horrific” human trafficking crime. Police found the truck after a store employee making the rounds late Saturday night was approached by someone from the truck asking for water, Police Chief William McManus said. The employee returned with the water and called the police, who arrived around midnight. They discovered eight bodies in the truck along with dozens of survivors, all of whom had heart rates of at least 130 beats per minute. One man died while receiving medical treatment.

Austin American-Statesman - July 23, 2017

Bill targeting government employee union dues heads to Senate

A Senate panel approved a bill 6-3 Sunday that would prohibit payroll deductions of labor organization dues. Sen. Robert Nichols of Jacksonville was the only Republican to vote against the bill. Those speaking against the bill during the three-hour hearing of the Senate Business and Commerce Committee included teachers, health workers and correctional officers. Senate Bill 7 doesn’t apply to first responders, police and firefighters, but people from those professions also spoke against the bill.

Austin American-Statesman - July 21, 2017

Border wall may sidestep review and cut off access to wildlife refuge

The Trump administration’s push to build a border wall through sensitive wildlife refuge lands in the Rio Grande Valley will face minimal, if any, scrutiny of environmental or other impacts, experts and former federal officials told the American-Statesman. The Santa Ana Wildlife Refuge, a popular birding destination near McAllen that draws more than 10,000 visitors a month, has become a flashpoint in the Department of Homeland Security’s plan to build 60 miles of new border wall in the Rio Grande Valley. About half that, including the barrier in the refuge, is slated to be a combination of flood protection levee walls topped by steel fencing.

Austin American-Statesman - July 21, 2017

So-called hyper-grandfathering bill pushes against local regulations

A bill aimed at protecting property owners’ rights from changing local government regulations could undo years of safety and land use rules and create a building environment in Texas with the potential for bars to pop up in residential neighborhoods, critics say. Some local officials are calling Senate Bill 12 the “hyper-grandfathering” bill that goes far beyond current state provisions by retroactively applying to each property the land use and safety codes that were in place the last time the property was sold. In the extreme, SB 12 could lead to broad land use possibilities for parcels of land that haven’t changed hands in decades, according to six local government and public policy experts tracking the bill.

Austin American-Statesman - July 21, 2017

123 arrests across Texas, including 13 in Austin, in immigration sweep

Federal officers arrested 123 people – including 13 in Austin – across Central and South Texas during an eight-day operation that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said targeted criminals. The people taken into custody in the operation that ended Wednesday had previous criminal convictions, ICE said in a statement Friday. The agency said 93 people had criminal histories that included convictions for aggravated assault, assault, child abuse, domestic violence, cocaine possession, fraud, drunken driving, drug trafficking, marijuana possession, illegal entry, illegal re-entry after deportation, larceny, possessing a controlled substance and weapons possession.

Austin American-Statesman - July 23, 2017

Senate panel OKs bill requiring voter approval for annexations

A state Senate panel approved a bill Sunday that would give residents targeted for annexation by cities in large Texas counties the opportunity to reject such efforts, one of several bills being considered during a 30-day special legislative session that would curb the authority of cities, including Austin. Senate Bill 6 by Sen. Donna Campbell, R-New Braunfels, is largely identical to its previous incarnation in the regular session, which ended in May. That bill probably would have headed to the governor’s desk if not for a filibuster that killed it. SB 6 passed 7-2, with Democratic Sens. Eddie Lucio Jr. of Brownsville and Judith Zaffirini of Laredo voting no.

Texas Tribune - July 23, 2017

Despite losing bathroom bill fight, a transgender girl gets her two minutes

The doors of the Texas Capitol had been open for just about 40 minutes when Rachel Gonzales made her way down into the lowest level of the pink granite building and joined a very long line. Just like the state lawmakers who were back in Austin for the summer, Rachel and her 7-year-old daughter Libby had some unfinished business to address. For the third time this year, lawmakers were set to consider proposals to restrict bathroom use for transgender men, women and children. For the third time this year, hundreds of Texans — most of whom opposed any sort of restrictions — had descended upon the Capitol to speak before lawmakers.

Texas Tribune - July 22, 2017

Williams: Special legislative session breathes new life into property tax relief

While some lawmakers in Austin are pushing to provide property tax relief to Texas residents and businesses, local municipalities are fighting tooth and nail to keep money in their pockets and keep the status quo. Texas State Sen. Paul Bettencourt’s Senate Bill 1, would lower the current rollback provision for cities, counties and special district taxing entities from 8 percent to 4 percent, and would not affect school taxes. It will also make rollback elections automatic and put them on November ballots when taxing entities exceeds the limit — bringing those local governments under the same constraints that school districts currently face.

Texas Tribune - July 23, 2017

Texas Senate panel targets mail-in ballot fraud after high-profile case

A Texas Senate panel approved a measure Sunday aiming to crack down on mail-in ballot fraud — largely through increased penalties. “Mail-ballot voting is a prime target for illegal voting and election fraud,” said Sen. Kelly Hancock, R-North Richland Hills, who authored the measure, Senate Bill 5. “In the U.S., the right to vote is sacred. Any attempt to steal an American's vote … must be addressed.” In a 9-0 vote, the Senate Committee on State Affairs sent the bill to the full chamber. The mail-in voting issue was among the items Gov. Greg Abbott placed on his call for the special legislative session that kicked off last week.

Texas Tribune - July 24, 2017

Ramsey: In special session, Texas Senate's the hare, House is the tortoise

Does this seem familiar? The Texas Senate is ripping through an ambitious agenda, racing through the 20 issues on the governor’s special session agenda in an effort to finish within the 30 days allotted for that work. The Texas House is more deliberate, spending its time on the single issue that must pass — sunset legislation that would continue, for two more years, the lives of five government agencies — and leaving the other 19 issues for later. This full-speed-ahead vs. slow-and-steady tension was the hallmark of the regular legislative session earlier this year. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, presiding officer of the Senate, laid out an ambitious plan, giving the low bill numbers — Senate Bill 1, Senate Bill 2 and so on — to his legislative priorities and hurrying those off to the House for consideration and collaboration.

Texas Tribune - July 24, 2017

Meet the owner of a gay bar who is challenging Texas Gov. Abbott

Jeffrey Payne thinks Texas is ready to turn blue. That’s why the openly gay, 49-year-old Dallas Democrat who owns five businesses — including The Dallas Eagle, a popular gay bar — is doing what some might say is impossible: attempting to win the governor’s seat by running against one of the most popular and well-funded governors in recent memory. In an interview with The Texas Tribune, Payne — who is a political newcomer — said he realizes this is a difficult feat given Texas’ history as a predominately red state. But he says the challenge doesn’t scare him.

Texas Tribune - July 22, 2017

Canales: When will Texas politicians stop repeating history by attacking abortion?

The Texas Legislature’s current special session feels like déjà vu — reminiscent of the special session called to pass the notorious and now struck-down House Bill 2 abortion restriction bill after Wendy Davis’ historic filibuster. Indeed, the Legislature seems intent on repeating history. It’s hard to believe that the Supreme Court ruling in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt was only a year ago — a pivotal victory for the reproductive justice movement and long-awaited recognition from the courts that anti-abortion laws such as Texas’ HB 2 place an undue burden on individuals seeking abortion care. Laws like that one have nothing to do with protecting anyone’s dignity or safety; on the contrary, they shut down clinics and deny individuals needed care.

Texas Tribune - July 23, 2017

After Texas "human trafficking crime," Lt. Gov. Patrick lauds sanctuary city law

Following the deaths of nine people in what police are calling a "human trafficking crime," Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick took to Facebook Sunday to highlight the importance of cracking down on "sanctuary cities." Police found eight people dead in a tractor-trailer in a Walmart parking lot early Sunday morning, with no air conditioning in the sweltering summer heat, according to the San Antonio Express-News. One later died in the hospital, and about 20 survivors suffered from heat stroke and dehydration. Some survivors identified themselves as Mexican nationals.

San Antonio Express News - July 23, 2017

Texas GOP pushes a dozen conservative bills over weekend

Lawmakers in the Republican-led state Senate advanced more than a dozen conservative bills this weekend despite objections from hundreds of people who testified during a blitz of hearings, lining up much of Gov. Greg Abbott’s conservative special session agenda for swift passage this week. The future of many of those bills is unclear in the House which is less excited about the governor’s agenda. In addition, senators have found it difficult to muscle some of their more complicated legislation out of committee. The Senate Education Committee, which advanced a school voucher proposal and legislation to create a commission on school funding this weekend, adjourned Sunday unsure how to afford teacher raises and better benefits Sunday.

San Antonio Express News - July 23, 2017

Activist: U.S. policies pushing immigrants into dangerous journeys

In the weeks leading up to this weekend’s tragic deaths in San Antonio of nine immigrants found in a tractor-trailer, Border Patrol agents in Laredo said they’d seen a rise in smuggling attempts using commercial trucking. This year is on pace to set a record low for illegal immigration, but an activist who tries to prevent migrant deaths said Sunday that there are still many willing to risk their lives to enter the U.S. He blamed policies that he said failed to address the root causes of illegal immigration for recent deaths. ... Julian Calderas, former deputy field office director for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in San Antonio, said the penalties for human smuggling are too low. Most smugglers face a maximum of 10 years in prison, although they usually receive considerably less time under federal sentencing guidelines.

San Antonio Express News - July 23, 2017

Fikac: It’s gametime in the Texas Senate, with serious results

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick was sanguine as he once again left Senate Democrats powerless, comparing their scuffle to two football teams that skirmish on the field then go out for beer and barbecue afterward. Maybe, if it’s the Dallas Cowboys playing the Scarborough Spartans and being allowed to suspend the rules whenever they please to boot. No offense to the Spartans, the Houston team that held the second longest high school losing streak in Texas history until 2015, when they finally won a game after 59 losses.

Ft. Worth Star-Telegram - July 23, 2017

Catlett LeoGrande: How do adults with developmental disabilities afford housing in North Texas?

Our fellow citizens with intellectual and developmental challenges, such as Down syndrome, autism and other disabilities, want to pursue their right to live as independently as possible in their communities. About 100,000 adults in North Texas have an intellectual or developmental disability (IDD) or autism. These adults will not be able to depend forever on their parents for care. Affordable housing is a huge need for these adults. Many can live independently with part-time assistance. Others require overnight care. But generally, adults with developmental or intellectual challenges want to live in the communities they know, where they can access health care and living assistance through Medicaid and other programs. Texas needs more options for these people.

Texas Observer - July 22, 2017

What a Ban on Insurance for Abortions Means for Women with High-Risk Pregnancies

On the day before her abortion, Kristyn Ingram and her husband flipped through books of baby names. They chose one if it was a girl, and another for a boy. The next morning — December 8, 2006 — Ingram, then a fourth-year medical student in San Antonio and 17 weeks pregnant, received the abortion pill cytotec to induce labor at her local hospital. She got an epidural. After 12 hours she delivered a girl, dead. They named her Annabelle Cartwright Ingram. Ingram and her husband, Ross, wanted a baby. But a screening when she was 16 weeks pregnant found Potter syndrome, a rare condition in which fetal kidney failure prevents the lungs from developing. Knowing that the chance of survival was extremely low, the Ingrams decided to terminate the pregnancy.

Austin Chronicle - July 21, 2017

The Damage Done by SB 4

Jordy Balderas couldn't stop checking his phone to ensure ICE hadn't snatched up any of his family members. In the weeks following February's U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids in Austin, his eyes scanned social media channels and online community groups for the latest news. The intense distraction caused the 17-year-old Rundberg-area high school student's grades to slip, and teachers began noticing the added stress. "When the raids happened the only thing going through my mind was wondering if my family was safe," he told the Chronicle. "When I called and they didn't answer, I would immediately panic. My grades went from As and Bs to Cs and close to failing." Balderas lives with a mixed-status family, comprised of documented and undocumented Austinites – some children, some adults. His family moved back to Mexico for a short while but eventually fled to escape the drug cartel violence.

County Stories

Austin American-Statesman - July 24, 2017

Men accused of shooting at Travis County judge to appear in court

Three men accused of trying to kill Travis County State district Judge Julie Kocurek in 2015 will appear in Western District Court Monday morning for a status hearing. Attorneys for Chimene Onyeri, Marcellus Burgin and Rasul Scott are expected to update U.S. Judge Lee Yeakel on whether they’ll be ready for trial on Oct. 11. At a hearing in May, the lawyers requested that the judge delay the trial by three months to give them time to sort through stacks of evidence in the case. Yeakel said he wouldn’t commit to anything until the next hearing.

Dallas Morning News - July 23, 2017

San Antonio immigrant tragedy recalls deadly smuggling case that ended in Collin County

Tragedies like Sunday's immigrant deaths in San Antonio have occurred in other parts of Texas, including the Dallas area. In July 2002, two men were found dead of heat exhaustion after an unventilated truck smuggling immigrants stopped in Collin County. Nearly a dozen more people were hospitalized. More than 40 people were packed among other cargo for the trip from New Mexico to Dallas. For 12 hours, they slipped in and out of consciousness from lack of oxygen, and resorted to drinking their own urine. They tried unsuccessfully to tear out the walls of the tractor to get air.

City Stories

Dallas Morning News - July 22, 2017

Ragland: Talk of removing Confederate monuments starts a war of words in Dallas

Less than five miles from Dallas City Hall -- in a South Dallas community that's home to mostly black and Latino residents -- rests a three-quarter-acre tract of land where at least 55 Confederate soldiers are buried. Not many people know it's there. Located at the corner of Electra and Reed streets, right off Malcolm X. Boulevard, the cemetery's been there for more than a century. This also happens to be one spot Dallas officials are looking at as a potential location for the Robert E. Lee statue now in Oak Lawn's Lee Park and the Confederate War Memorial in Pioneer Park Cemetery downtown. This also happens to be one spot Dallas officials are looking at as a potential location for the Robert E. Lee statue now in Oak Lawn's Lee Park and the Confederate War Memorial in Pioneer Park Cemetery downtown.

Austin American-Statesman - July 21, 2017

Wear: Living through the home renovation that is North MoPac

What I’m about to tell you has a transportation connection, I swear. My wife and I are about six weeks into living through a home renovation. We have a see-through kitchen ceiling and bare concrete floors in half the house, and scuzzy old insulation visible where there used to be sheetrock, counters and appliances. To block dust from the bedroom part of the place, there’s a giant plastic curtain with a zippered portal spanning the living room, which also hosts the refrigerator and a huge stack of hardwood flooring for future installation. The garage is a workshop, and there’s an elephantine dumpster in the driveway.

Dallas Morning News - July 21, 2017

Reagan: Why Dallas should think twice before tearing down Confederate statues

Dallas is in the throes of a debate over whether to tear down monuments commemorating events, and their participants, that happened generations ago but are now politically out of fashion. Some wish to erase the names of four Confederate generals — Robert E. Lee, Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson, Albert Sidney Johnston and John Bell Hood — from Dallas ISD schools. And Mayor Mike Rawlings appears to have weighed in on tearing down statues, including that of Robert E. Lee in Lee Park. Dallas isn't the first city to face this conundrum. It's instructive to look to a metropolis where there is no shortage of imposing monuments: Paris. At the center of the Place Vendome, an immense square not far from the Louvre, is a 60-foot-high column with a statue of Napoleon Bonaparte at its apex.

San Antonio Express News - July 22, 2017

Garcia: Taylor’s future is unlikely to include politics

A couple of weeks ago, Ivy Taylor was talking to a friend about her future. The former San Antonio mayor, who lost a bitter runoff election last month to Ron Nirenberg, didn’t specify what line of work she wanted to attempt next, but she was clear about the parameters she had set for herself. “She said her focus is to find employment that has the adequate compensation to make up for her eight years of public service,” a Taylor associate told the San Antonio Express-News on the condition of anonymity. “She just said she really needed to get to work and earn a paycheck.” It’s an understandable sentiment.

Houston Chronicle - July 21, 2017

TxDOT taking new steps with I-45 widening project

The region's largest looming highway project - a massive rebuild of Interstate 45 from the Sam Houston Tollway to downtown Houston - has a lot of people looking into the rear-view mirror, pressing officials to make sure the job does not come with some of the downsides of its predecessors. Even with the worries, however, the mega-project planned by the Texas Department of Transportation hasn't been like many others, from the time it has taken to develop to the types of new lanes proposed. Though often characterized as a bureaucratic behemoth, the state transportation agency has gone to unprecedented levels of public engagement the past three years, taking the designs for adding two managed lanes in each direction to public meetings, community groups, even sitting down with interested stakeholders for one-on-one meetings.

Houston Chronicle - July 21, 2017

Loeb: NASA's historic Mission Control is a ruin. Care to chip in $5?

There's something undeniably sad, even pathetic, about Space Center Houston announcing a Kickstarter campaign to help save and restore NASA's historic Mission Control at Johnson Space Center, now fading and neglected despite its status as a National Historic Landmark. "An overhead light flickers sickly in the Mission Operation Control Room 2 at Johnson Space Center," the Chronicle's Andrew Dansby wrote last year. "The nerve center for the Apollo missions, during which man first reached the moon, is an engineering cathedral in ruin. "Gone are the room's glory days, the decades of Gemini and Apollo and the shuttle programs.

Austin American-Statesman - July 23, 2017

Feds arrive to inspect APD fleet in carbon monoxide case

Inspectors for Ford Motor Company and investigators from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration will be on the ground in Austin this week trying to figure out what is causing carbon monoxide to leak into police sport utility vehicles, city officials confirmed to the American-Statesman and KVUE-TV Sunday. The visit will be the second time officials have traveled to Austin since the city in March began reporting that the poisonous gas was leaking into the Ford Police Interceptor utility vehicles, a modified version of Ford Explorers. Austin has become the epicenter of the problem, which also has been reported in other departments nationally.

Houston Chronicle - July 23, 2017

Houston set to pay family of man killed in police shooting

Houston's City Council plans to vote Tuesday on whether to give $85,000 to settle a federal civil rights lawsuit alleging that a police officer used excessive force when he shot a man who turned out to be unarmed during a narcotics raid in 2013. George Ralph Benard, 43, was shot once in the abdomen when he ran to another room of his parents' house during a police raid. A federal judge dismissed his claims against the city and the police department but allowed his lawsuit against Officer Ferdinand Rodriguez Jr. to continue, leading the city to seek a settlement. The award could be the second in a month for Houston Police Department shootings, though such cash payments generally are rare. A few weeks ago, City Council approved a $260,000 payment to the family of Kenny Releford, an unarmed 38-year-old U.S. Navy veteran fatally shot in 2012 by another HPD officer.

National Stories

Axios - July 24, 2017

Trump ponders Rudy Giuliani for attorney general

President Trump is so unhappy with Attorney General Jeff Sessions that he has raised the possibility of bringing back Rudolph Giuliani to head the Justice Department, according to West Wing confidants. In internal conversations, Trump has recently pondered the idea of nominating Giuliani, a stalwart of his campaign. Even before last week's blast at Sessions in a New York Times interview, Trump had expressed fury at Sessions — also one of the first prominent Republicans to back the Trump campaign — for recusing himself from the Russia investigation. And in a Monday morning tweet, Trump referred to "our beleaguered A.G." not investigating Hillary Clinton.

San Antonio Express News - July 23, 2017

Factories to baby boomers: Please keep working!

Although millennials, those ages 18 to 34, make up almost half of the U.S. workforce, most manufacturers are still very reliant on baby boomers. Research shows that 27 percent of manufacturing workers are over 55. Keeping those baby boomers productive is becoming a big priority nowadays for manufacturers of all sizes. Boomers have experience and knowledge. They tend to be loyal. Many want to work. And companies are happy to comply. About 19 percent of factory employers like Ultra Machining “float the idea” of phased-in retirements, according to the Society for Human Resources Management. That’s an increase of 6 percent from just four years ago.

Politico - July 24, 2017

Priebus sidelined as Washington outsiders' power grows

Reince Priebus took the punishing job of President Donald Trump's chief of staff with the idea that he would stick it out for at least one year. Six months in, with one of his top allies in the West Wing — press secretary Sean Spicer — on his way out, Priebus is in defensive mode, his role diminished and an internal rival hogging the limelight. Trump's decision to bring Wall Street financier Anthony Scaramucci into the role of communications director shows the rising power of political outsiders and the diminished influence of establishment figures — which Priebus, the former chairman of the Republican National Committee, epitomizes.

National Review - July 23, 2017

Leaked CBO Numbers: 73% of GOP ‘Coverage Losses’ Caused By Individual Mandate Repeal

Nearly three-fourths of the difference in coverage between Obamacare and the various GOP plans derives from a single feature of the Republican bills: their repeal of Obamacare’s individual mandate. But the CBO has never published a year-by-year breakout of the impact of the individual mandate on its coverage estimates. But CBO has developed its own estimates of that impact, during work it did last December to estimate the effects of repealing the individual mandate as a standalone measure. Based on those estimates, of the 22 million fewer people who will have health insurance in 2026 under the Senate bill, 16 million will voluntarily drop out of the market because they will no longer face a financial penalty for doing so: 73 percent of the total.

Daily Beast - July 22, 2017

Lewis: This *Is* Normal. American Politics Have Always Been Terrible.

Between the Russia scandal and the legislative impotence, I keep hearing from people who are demoralized and exhausted from the mind-numbing whirlwind of news and controversy confronting us each day. It feels like America is going through a very difficult time, but we already have been through a lot in our history. From time to time, it’s important to reflect on our past, lest we indulgently believe that these times are uniquely bad. ... We might lament negative campaigning and the lack of civility in politics, but during the election of 1800, Thomas Jefferson’s supporters referred to President John Adams as a "hideous hermaphroditical character, which has neither the force and firmness of a man, nor the gentleness and sensibility of a woman."

Washington Post - July 23, 2017

Republicans are in full control of government — but losing control of their party

Six months after seizing complete control of the federal government, the Republican Party stands divided as ever — plunged into a messy war among its factions that has escalated in recent weeks to crisis levels. Frustrated lawmakers are increasingly sounding off at a White House awash in turmoil and struggling to accomplish its legislative goals. President Trump is scolding Republican senators over health care and even threatening electoral retribution. Congressional leaders are losing the confidence of their rank and file. And some major GOP donors are considering using their wealth to try to force out recalcitrant incumbents. “It’s a lot of tribes within one party, with many agendas, trying to do what they want to do,” Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-N.J.) said in an interview.

Politico - July 23, 2017

Republicans brewing Russian scandal to target greens

Republicans are trying to conjure up a Russian scandal they can get behind. GOP House members and at least one Trump Cabinet member are pushing years-old allegations from conservative activists that Russia has funneled money to U.S. environmental groups to oppose fracking. The story has reappeared in conservative circles in recent weeks — a respite, perhaps, from the steady drip-drip of news reports about dealings between Russians and President Donald Trump’s inner circle.

Politico - July 23, 2017

Rand Paul: Buying American isn't necessarily the right choice

Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul said Sunday there’s a reason why buying American-made goods is not always the best option: cost. “You know, I think all of us have this goal to buy American, but we have to think this thing through,” Paul told Jake Tapper on CNN’s "State of the Union." Tapper was pressing Paul on why President Donald Trump touted "Made in the USA" goods all week but still hires foreign workers at his Mar-a-Lago Club in Florida. Tapper also noted that Trump's company manufacturers a bevy of Trump-branded clothing products abroad.

Washington Post - July 23, 2017

Trump’s new team offers muddled messages on sanctions, pardons

The White House offered conflicting views Sunday of whether President Trump supports the Russia sanctions legislation in Congress, with his top spokesmen contradicting one another just days after launching plans for a more effective messaging strategy. If Trump was hoping his communications shake-up would bring a fresh approach for a White House that has struggled to respond to a constant state of turmoil, the debut of the team on the Sunday political talk shows was a rough one. Adding to the confusion, one of Trump’s lawyers appeared to contradict his new top spokesman on whether Trump has been discussing his power to issue presidential pardons.

New York Times - July 23, 2017

Can the President Be Indicted? A Long-Hidden Legal Memo Says Yes

A newfound memo from Kenneth W. Starr’s independent counsel investigation into President Bill Clinton sheds fresh light on a constitutional puzzle that is taking on mounting significance amid the Trump-Russia inquiry: Can a sitting president be indicted? The 56-page memo, locked in the National Archives for nearly two decades and obtained by The New York Times under the Freedom of Information Act, amounts to the most thorough government-commissioned analysis rejecting a generally held view that presidents are immune from prosecution while in office. “It is proper, constitutional, and legal for a federal grand jury to indict a sitting president for serious criminal acts that are not part of, and are contrary to, the president’s official duties,” the Starr office memo concludes.

New York Times - July 23, 2017

NYT: The Wall With Mexico, and Xanadu

Every time President Trump revamps his campaign promise to build that “tall, powerful, beautiful” wall along the Mexican border he sounds increasingly like a developer ruminating over the blueprints for mythic Xanadu. Mr. Trump suddenly added “beautiful” solar panels to his wall specs last month, claiming that these might somehow even pay for construction. Then again, he now says the thick wall he envisioned should be transparent enough so that border agents would not get hit by “large sacks of drugs” tossed over the wall by sneaky Mexican drug dealers. “They hit you on the head with 60 pounds of stuff? It’s over,” the president said, apparently believing himself.

New York Times - July 22, 2017

Baker: Trump’s Attack on Russia Inquiry Is From Familiar Playbook: The Clintons’

More than eight months after his election, President Trump still attacks Hillary Clinton, disparaging her campaign and accusing her of illegality. In his latest Twitter barrage on Saturday, he suggested again that the Justice Department should investigate “Crooked Hillary Clinton.” But in one way, at least, Mrs. Clinton has become something of a role model for Mr. Trump. As he faces the sort of politically charged investigation that dogged Bill and Hillary Clinton when they were in the White House in the 1990s, Mr. Trump has consciously adopted a strategy from the Clintons’ playbook. Much as the Clintons did, Mr. Trump is assembling a team of lawyers both inside and outside the White House to draw issues related to the investigation away from the rest of the West Wing.

CNN - July 22, 2017

What Watergate and Whitewater tell us about Trump's drip, drip, drip

Clandestine meetings. Special counsels. Congressional probes. Sound familiar? The constellation of headline-driving drama in today's news recalls the machinations that engulfed Presidents Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton for years of their respective tenures. Those episodes offer insight to understanding the still fresh events unfolding around the Trump administration. Forty-three years ago this summer, the US Supreme Court forced President Richard Nixon to turn over White House tapes related to a break-in at the Democratic Party headquarters in the Watergate building. The unanimous decision, written by a chief justice appointed by Nixon, represented a judicial climax in the Watergate scandal and heightened the political momentum towards Nixon's Aug. 8 resignation.

Reuters - July 22, 2017

U.S. investigators seek to turn Manafort in Russia probe: sources

U.S. investigators examining money laundering accusations against President Donald Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort hope to push him to cooperate with their probe into possible collusion between Trump's campaign and Russia, two sources with direct knowledge of the investigation said. Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team is examining Manafort's financial and real estate records in New York as well as his involvement in Ukrainian politics, the officials said. Between 2006 and 2013, Manafort bought three New York properties, including one in Trump Tower in Manhattan. He paid for them in full and later took out mortgages against them. A former senior U.S. law enforcement official said that tactic is often used as a means to hide the origin of funds gained illegally. Reuters has no independent evidence that Manafort did this.

The Hill - July 22, 2017

Jill Stein looped into widening investigation of Russia and Trump Jr. connections

Third party candidate Jill Stein was a surprising addition this week to investigators casting an increasingly wide net in the congressional probe into Russian interference in the presidential campaign. Stein’s name was included in a Senate Judiciary Committee letter requesting all communication between President Trump’s son Donald Trump Jr. and a number of others, including Russian officials and other members of Trump’s presidential campaign. Stein ran for president as the Green Party candidate in 2016. A Green Party spokesman called the inclusion of her name “vengeance against Dr. Stein for running as a third-party candidate for the White House.”

Wall St. Journal - July 24, 2017

Republican Health Stumbles Upset Party Base

The GOP drive to remake the U.S. health-care system, which fueled the party’s rise to power in the past eight years, is becoming a political liability for Republicans, whose inability so far to pass a sweeping health bill in the Senate has angered many conservatives and could weigh on the party in next year’s elections, interviews with voters and political leaders in three states show. While Senate GOP leaders are preparing a long-shot rescue effort next week, the collapse of legislation to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act would mark a failure to deliver on a longstanding promise to ditch the Obama-era law, due to differences among lawmakers about what a replacement plan should look like. “We’re already five years too late,” said Don Tatro, executive director of the Builders Association of Northern Nevada. “I am disappointed it’s gone this long.’’

The Hill - July 23, 2017

Sanders keeping door open on 2020

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who battled Hillary Clinton in the 2016 Democratic primary and created a revolutionary movement among millennials, is having discussions about running for president again. “Yes, is the answer,” said one Sanders associate who helped with the senator’s previous bid, in response to a question about whether the Independent senator from Vermont had begun to think about another run. “He thinks he's earned the right to run again, and he believes if he would have been the [Democratic] candidate he would have won against Trump.” The source also suggested that Sanders is making his plans with other candidates in mind.

New York Times - July 23, 2017

When Health Law Isn’t Enough, the Desperate Line Up at Tents

WISE, Va. — Anthony Marino, 54, reached into his car trunk to show a pair of needle-nosed pliers like the ones he used to yank out a rotting tooth. Shirley Akers, 58, clutched a list of 20 medications she takes, before settling down to a sleepless night in the cab of a pickup truck. Robin Neal, 40, tried to inject herself with a used-up insulin pen, but it broke, and her blood sugar began to skyrocket. As the sun set in the mountains of southwest Virginia, hundreds of hurting souls were camped out or huddled in vehicles, eager for an early place in line when the gates swung open at 5 a.m. for the nation’s largest pop-up free clinic.

Houston Chronicle - July 21, 2017

Eisinger: Enron investigation steeled Mueller for the long road ahead

It seems safe to assume that nobody read Donald Trump Jr.'s damning emails with a Kremlin-connected lawyer more closely than Robert Mueller. Mueller, the special counsel investigating possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russian officials, will surely be looking into the now-infamous meeting, including the president's son; the president's son-in-law, Jared Kushner; and his campaign chairman at the time, Paul Manafort. As he does, will Mueller be able to build a case that goes all the way to the top? That could depend on what lessons he learned from overseeing the task force that investigated one of the biggest fraud cases in American history: the collapse of the energy giant Enron.

Dallas Morning News - July 22, 2017

Vance: Government broke health care; government needs to fix it

Imagine a young father stepping into the street. He is alert and conscientious. Then, a government truck speeds around the corner. The man lunges out of the way, but it's too late: The truck runs him over, causing serious injury. Absent government misconduct, the man would have been just fine. While the primary effect of the government's conduct is an injured man, there are significant secondary consequences. His children will lose his emotional comfort and financial support. His neighborhood loses a valued contributor to its social fabric. His employer must find at least a temporary replacement for the man's labor. This scenario is a simplistic version of how many conservatives view the health care market. According to them, there was a time when the market worked reasonably well: Providers competed to offer quality services and consumers shopped around, curbing prices.

All - July 23, 2017

Lead Stories

Dallas Morning News - July 22, 2017

Bill to give Texas teachers bonuses, shore up retirees’ health care gets lukewarm reception

A Senate panel on Saturday advanced a teacher pay and retired teacher health care bill, despite a lukewarm reception from educator groups. "Our Texas teachers deserve a raise," said bill author Sen. Jane Nelson, a Flower Mound Republican and former teacher. Several teacher groups, though, took aim at the pay raises in the measure, while praising how it would reduce premiums, deductibles and out-of-pocket costs for retirees' health care. In September 2018, the bill would give longevity bonuses of $600 to teachers with at least six years but less than 11 years of experience, and $1,000 for those who've taught longer.

San Antonio Express News - July 21, 2017

More frac sand woes for Uresti co-defendant Bates

The latest venture for ex-FourWinds Logistics CEO Stan Bates, who was indicted with state Sen. Carlos Uresti in a criminal fraud case in May, apparently has run into some troubles. Bates’ San Antonio-based Bates Energy Oil & Gas this week sued a Utah company for refusing to accept delivery on more than 40,000 tons of frac sand, which is used in fracking to extract oil and gas from shale rock. Like Bates Energy, FourWinds traded frac sand. But FourWinds imploded in 2015, with some investors saying they were defrauded. A federal grand jury indicted Bates, Uresti and company consultant Gary Cain on a combined 22 charges in May. Uresti recruited a couple of the investors and served as FourWinds’ outside general counsel for a short time.

Washington Post - July 23, 2017

Senate rules could complicate prospects for GOP health bill

The Senate parliamentarian signaled Friday that Democrats could block several key elements of the Senate GOP health-care bill, including abortion coverage restrictions, a one-year ban on funding for Planned Parenthood and changes to Medicaid coverage requirements, if the legislation comes up for a vote next week. While not a final ruling, Senate Parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough’s assessment threatens to further anger conservatives such as Sens. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.) who say the GOP health-care bill does not go far enough in repealing the Affordable Care Act. Democrats released the guidance Friday after weeks of consultations with GOP leaders and MacDonough, who determines whether legislation is in line with complex Senate rules.

Associated Press - July 23, 2017

Trump asserts all agree he has 'complete power' to pardon

President Donald Trump said Saturday that he has "complete power" to issue pardons, an assertion that comes amid investigations into Russian interference in last year's presidential election. It was one of many topics that appeared to occupy the president's mind as the day broke. On a day when most people are ready to forget about the issues that nagged them during the week, Trump revved up. In an early morning flurry of 10 tweets, he commented about pardons, former presidential rival Hillary Clinton, son Don Jr., health care, the USS Gerald Ford, the attorney general and other issues. Trump said in one of his 10 messages: "While all agree the U. S. President has the complete power to pardon, why think of that when only crime so far is LEAKS against us. FAKE NEWS."

This article appeared in the San Antonio Express News

Politico - July 22, 2017

Inside the 24 hours that broke Sean Spicer

Sean Spicer came to the White House on Thursday completely unaware President Donald Trump was planning to meet with Anthony Scaramucci, a longtime Wall Street friend, and offer him the job of communications director. Other top aides, including Reince Priebus and Steve Bannon, also had no clue. But in Trump's White House, where rumors of staff shake-ups loom for months, it all happened quickly. By Friday morning, over the strenuous objections of senior aides, Trump had a new communications director. And Spicer had made a spontaneous decision to resign, offended by the whole turn of events. He had been blindsided by Trump before, but he took particular umbrage at this one.

State Stories

Houston Chronicle - July 22, 2017

Governor's conservative agenda steamrolling through Senate

A controversial and mostly conservative agenda continued to steamroll through part of the Texas Legislature on Saturday. In an unusual early Saturday morning series of meetings, three committees of the Senate passed out nearly a dozen bills aimed at fulfilling Gov. Greg Abbott's 20-item wish list that the called the Texas Legislature back into session. More restrictions on abortions, a bill blocking city tree ordinances and clamps on the amount cities and counties can raise property taxes were among the slew of bills that cleared their only committee stops Saturday. That follows a busy Friday, where other abortion restrictions and a new version of the bathroom bill also passed out.

Houston Chronicle - July 22, 2017

Texas bill would ease liability for running over protesters

If you're protesting and you see Representative Pat Fallon's car, Texas political insiders are joking that you might want to head the other way. Fallon, R-Frisco, on Thursday filed House Bill 250, which would make the operator of a motor vehicle not liable if they injure a protester in the road while exercising due care. Similar legislation has been proposed in several other states as well. The bill created a mini-storm on social media, with some people criticizing the bill and others saying protesters put their own lives at risk when they unlawfully stand in traffic.

Houston Chronicle - July 21, 2017

Planned Parenthood emerges as target in special session abortion hearing

Tension between lawmakers over the role of Planned Parenthood in Texas was front and center Friday morning as senators sparred over legislation that would ban governments from funding the women's health care provider. Sen. Kirk Watson, a Democrat and former mayor of Austin, argued Senate Bills 4 and 77 would defund only Planned Parenthood, a well-known abortion provider, and its affiliates that provide cancer and STD screening but not abortions. Sen. Charles Schwertner, a Georgetown Republican, physician and sponsor of the bills, said the legislation is not limited to Planned Parenthood, but said he knew of no other providers that would be effected by the bill.

Houston Chronicle - July 21, 2017

HC: Bathroom business -- Special session agenda leaves little room for traditional Texas politicians.

Political observers and parents of teenagers both know that nothing good ever happens after midnight. So you can't help but worry about Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick summoning the state Senate to a 12:01 a.m. meeting Thursday morning. Patrick used those wee hours to get a jump-start on the bizarre, bottom-of-the-barrel issues that Gov. Greg Abbott has placed on the special session agenda. First up: bathrooms. Legislators' ability to tag bills with a 48-hour delay was tossed out the window and, on Friday morning, the state Senate began hearings on the nationally infamous regulations against transgender Texans. Meanwhile, the adults in the room are trying to stop this rush to enshrine discrimination in our laws.

Dallas Morning News - July 22, 2017

Texas leads nation in employment growth, adds 40,200 jobs in June

Texas led the nation in employment growth in June, adding 40,200 jobs to the state's economy, its biggest gain in a single month since January. The state's unemployment rate inched downward to 4.6 percent, slightly higher than the nation's jobless rate, which is at 4.4 percent. Texas was one of 10 states where the unemployment rate fell. Economists say the Lone Star State's jobless rate is at a healthy level, given the huge volume of new residents.

Dallas Morning News - July 21, 2017

Allred: How the Texas GOP 'packed and cracked' districts to dilute minorities' voting rights

With a Texas federal court reviewing the state's voting maps, all Texans should take a moment to consider the effects of racial gerrymandering in our state. Make no mistake, current voting maps erode minority voters' right to choose who they want to represent them — and threaten our democracy more broadly. Let's start with the basics of gerrymandering. Our democratic process was designed to enable people who live in a community to choose their representatives. But the Republican Party in Texas — and around the country — has dramatically weakened the electoral power of voters in communities of color by drawing maps that make it most likely that its candidates gain and remain in power. With minority voters concentrated in a few districts or divided among several, Texas Republicans retain artificial majorities in the state House and Texas' delegation to the U.S. House.

Dallas Morning News - July 21, 2017

Senate committee approves bathroom bill despite daylong hearing that brought out hundreds of trans Texans

The Senate Committee on State Affairs late Friday approved a so-called "bathroom bill" that would restrict the restrooms available for use to transgender people in the state of Texas. Senate Bill 3 was approved by a vote of 8-1, with Laredo Democrat Judith Zaffirini in opposition. Sen. Eddie Lucio, D-Brownsville, voted with the Republican majority on the panel to advance the legislation to the full Senate, which will likely take up the bill next week. The vote came after nearly 11 hours of public testimony on the bill, the vast majority of which was in opposition. Those who spoke called the legislation discriminatory, hateful, un-Christian and bad for Texas business.

Dallas Morning News - July 22, 2017

Senate panel passes proposal to prevent abortion coverage in primary insurance plans

After tense debate, the Senate Business and Commerce Committee on Saturday passed a proposal that would prohibit insurance companies from covering elective abortions in primary health insurance plans. "Texas must take steps to prohibit taxpayer dollars from subsidizing elective abortions that are not medically necessary," said the bill's author, Sen. Brandon Creighton, R-Conroe. "Elective abortion coverage is not prohibited, it is simply required to be purchased separately, similar to other supplemental plans offered, like a dental plan," Creighton added.

Dallas Morning News - July 21, 2017

Texas senators' debate over private-school vouchers gets heated

Senators clashed with members of the public and one another Friday as a Senate panel debated using state tax dollars to help disabled students attend private schools. The "tax credit scholarships" for special-needs children, though just one part of a larger education bill tinkering with school finance, dominated the Senate Education Committee's discussion. Opponents said repeatedly that the bill would siphon money from hard-pressed public schools. That irked Sen. Paul Bettencourt, a Houston Republican. He noted that of the $345 million that the bill would spend, mostly through delaying some Medicaid payments until the 2020-2021 budget cycle, at least $270 million would go to public schools. "By any mathematics that I understand, that's 78.2 percent of this bill for the public schools," he said.

Dallas Morning News - July 22, 2017

Texans' property taxes dominate 'local control' debates in Senate committee hearings

A Senate committee on Saturday approved a bill aimed at decreasing property taxes, which local officials say would hurt their ability to provide essential services while providing only minimal relief to taxpayers. Senate Bill 1, authored by Houston Republican Sen. Paul Bettencourt, would lower the rate at which cities or counties would have to hold an election to authorize property tax increases. The current rate increase that would set off an election — called a "rollback rate" — is 8 percent. The bill would lower it to 4 percent and call for an automatic election to approve the tax increase if the rollback rate was exceeded. Lawmakers who support the bill say it would provide relief for homeowners who are struggling to keep up with increasing property taxes. Gov. Greg Abbott said the issue is his top priority for the special legislative session.

Austin American-Statesman - July 22, 2017

Senate panel votes to override local phoning-while-driving laws

A bill barring local governments from regulating phoning-while-driving sailed through a Senate committee Saturday on a party line vote after an all-day hearing on that and several other bills. The Senate Business and Commerce Committee delayed until Sunday action on Senate Bill 12 on development rules, Senate Bill 13 on building permits and Senate Bill 14 on tree and vegetation regulation. The vote on Senate Bill 15 on the use of phones while behind the wheel was 7-2, with all committee Republicans in favor and Democrats John Whitmire from Houston and Judith Zaffirini from Laredo in opposition.

Austin American-Statesman - July 21, 2017

Authorities scramble for funding as DPS is set to charge for lab fees

Law enforcement agencies across the state are scrambling to come up with additional funding after the Texas Department of Public Safety on Thursday announced it would start charging for crime lab services beginning Sept. 1. Several police chiefs and sheriffs throughout the Central Texas area told the American-Statesman on Friday they had no idea they were going to be charged for the services, which include DNA, drug and alcohol analysis. Manor Police Chief Ryan Phipps said an email he received from the DPS on Thursday was the first he’d heard of the change.

Austin American-Statesman - July 21, 2017

Teacher pay, retirement bill advances in Senate despite concerns

The Texas Senate Finance Committee approved a bill Saturday that would give Texas teachers raises and bonuses and pump millions into the Teacher Retirement System, despite a tepid reception from teacher groups. Senate Bill 19 passed 10-3, mostly along party lines. Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen was present but didn’t vote. Sen. Royce West, D-Houston, was absent during the vote. “Recruiting and retaining the best and the brightest to the teaching profession should be the … best use of our education dollars,” said Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, chairwoman of the Finance Committee and author of the bill.

Austin American-Statesman - July 21, 2017

Senate panel advances school finance, ‘private school choice’ bills

The Senate Education Committee on Friday sent to the full chamber two bills that address many of the major education-related issues on the special session agenda, including school finance and “private school choice.” Senate Bill 2, filed by Senate Education Committee Chairman Larry Taylor, R-Friendswood, drew eight hours of public testimony, much of which was in opposition because of a provision in the bill that critics have compared to private school vouchers. “Do not use the backs of these very special children as a pawn for your political schemes,” said Kara DeRocha, a Houston resident whose child is in special education. SB 2 passed 8-2, with Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr. of Brownsville the only Democrat voting for it.

Austin American-Statesman - July 22, 2017

Senate hearing Saturday puts local government authority in cross hairs

A bill barring local governments, including Austin, from regulating phone use while driving sailed through a Texas Senate committee Saturday on a party line vote after an all-day hearing on that and several other bills that would strip authority from cities. The Senate Business and Commerce Committee delayed until Sunday action on Senate Bill 12, which would curtail local development rules; SB 13, which would limit review for construction permits; and SB 14, which would void local ordinances regulating tree removal on private property. The vote on SB 15, overriding local rules barring the use of phones while behind the wheel, was 7-2, with all Republicans in favor and Democrats John Whitmire of Houston and Judith Zaffirini of Laredo opposed.

Austin American-Statesman - July 21, 2017

Senate health panel approves three abortion bills

The state Senate Health and Human Services Committee approved five bills Friday, including three that would expand abortion-related regulations. A fourth bill approved by the panel Friday would require that health care facilities like a hospital or hospice ensure that do-not-resuscitate orders are disclosed to patients or their medical decision-makers and the orders don’t go against a competent patient’s wishes. The committee voted 6-3 along party lines to send those four bills to the full Senate for approval as soon as Monday. The panel unanimously approved a measure to extend the work of a state task force investigating maternal mortality in Texas.

Austin American-Statesman - July 22, 2017

Inside the race to be certified most conservative in the Texas House

For a tea party Republican in the Texas House, being certified as having the most conservative voting record of any member is like Olympic gold. It is a feat that demands single-minded ambition, a firm grasp of conservative constitutional and free-market principles, and the cool discipline to apply those precepts with relentless consistency, day after day, vote after vote, come what may. In December 2012, Jonathan Stickland, freshly elected at age 29 from Tarrant County, told the American-Statesman, “I plan on having the most conservative voting record in the entire House of Representatives.” And so he did, in the 2013 edition of the vaunted liberal-conservative index produced by Rice University political scientist Mark Jones.

Austin American-Statesman - July 21, 2017

Transgender activist speaks at Capitol, bruised from ‘targeted’ mugging

Less than 24 hours after Stephanie Martinez was carjacked and mugged, the transgender activist took to the Capitol to give lawmakers a piece of her mind about the so-called bathroom bills. She sat before a Senate committee dais Friday — in a blue-and-white striped dress covered by a black wrap sweater, her face naked of makeup and framed by glasses, bruises still visible — and delivered her remarks. “This bill is not about safety, this bill is not about bathrooms,” Martinez told the panel of lawmakers, largely supporters of the bill, which would restrict bathroom access for transgender Texans. “This bill is about limiting my ability to navigate public life.”

Texas Tribune - July 23, 2017

Texas Senate committee OKs bill to outlaw city cellphone restrictions

A Texas Senate committee approved a bill Saturday that would outlaw local restrictions on using a cellphone while driving. Senate Bill 15 would pre-empt local ordinances on mobile phone usage, effectively rolling back provisions in more than 40 Texas cities that currently post hands-free ordinances stricter than the statewide texting ban. That measure now heads to the full Senate. It was one of several items the Senate Business and Commerce Committee took up Saturday that target local regulations and ordinances. That committee also passed a bill that would require women to pay a separate premium for insurance coverage of an abortion that is not considered medically necessary.

San Antonio Express News - July 21, 2017

Man pleads guilty to threatening Obama

A Central Texas man has pleaded guilty in San Antonio to threatening former President Barack Obama, judges, federal prosecutors and agents, among others. Gavin Leonard Friedman, 21, who has lived in Kerrville and Austin, mailed letters with a series of threats over several months in 2016. In September 2016, for example, he sent letters to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in San Antonio expressing some threats while he was incarcerated at the Kerr County Jail.

San Antonio Express News - July 22, 2017

Legislators can’t raise campaign cash during a regular session, but they can during a special

Thirty years ago, following a bribery scandal involving a former speaker of the House, lawmakers banned members of the Texas Legislature from accepting campaign contributions during the regular biennial session. A couple of years later, during a special session, a poultry magnate seeking favorable support for a bill ignited another scandal when he handed out $10,000 checks to legislators on the floor of the Senate. In response, lawmakers made it illegal to accept campaign contributions in the Capitol. But the law remains mute on accepting contributions during special sessions — a loophole the size of the Lone Star State itself — and for some legislators this year, in the short time between the close of regular business and the start of what promises to be a contentious and controversial 30-day gathering, the cash has been rolling in.

San Antonio Express News - July 23, 2017

Cornyn says better to take repeal-and-replace vote on Obamacare

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said Friday that repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act at the same time is the best path to take on health care. “I think it’s better to do a repeal-and-replace bill,” Cornyn, who has been a part of the Senate’s working group that’s developing the new health plan, told reporters after a tour of a new exhibit at the city’s Centro de Artes museum. “We’ve been trying to solicit input and make it better, and we’ll be voting on that next week.” As of now, Cornyn and other Senate GOP leaders are still trying to find enough votes to repeal the law, and either simultaneously replace it with a new health care plan or hold off to do so at a later date.

County Stories

San Antonio Express News - July 23, 2017

Chasnoff: Reagan was right: Trust, but verify

This week, I agreed to speak at the Woman’s Club of San Antonio as a last-minute replacement for Councilman Roberto Treviño, who had to cancel because he’d been summoned before the king and queen of Spain. Addressing a roomful of prim women in big, bright hats, I explained that I, too, had been summoned before the king and queen of Spain but had turned down the royal invitation to be there with them. Thankfully, very few in the audience believed me. I told them: You should never have faith in anything that I say. You shouldn’t even trust me — unless you think I’ve proved that I am trustworthy. Even then, you should keep an eye on me. My topic was trust in the media.

City Stories

San Antonio Express News - July 22, 2017

Senate panels OKs property tax restrictions, with swipe at S.A.

Embracing pleas for relief from hundreds of taxpayers and dressing down cities including San Antonio, a Senate committee voted Saturday to put new limits on the ability of local governments to raise local property tax revenues unless they get a vote of the people. “It’s all about the taxpayers’ money,” said Sen. Paul Bettencourt, R-Houston, author of the proposed tax changes and chairman of the newly created Senate Select Committee on Government Reform. “I think it’s very important that taxpayers have a say in their tax bills.” With strong backing from Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, Bettencourt is pushing to more tightly restrict the ability of cities, counties and special districts to increase property taxes.

San Antonio Express News - July 22, 2017

San Antonio mayor blasts latest ‘bathroom bill’ proposal

Mayor Ron Nirenberg joined hundreds of people testifying Friday at the Texas Capitol on the latest “bathroom bill,” condemning the latest proposal to limit public restroom access for transgender Texans as discriminatory, bad for the economy and in conflict with San Antonio’s values. Despite such opposition, the Senate State Affairs Committee voted 8-1 in favor of legislation that would — if it becomes law — bar cities and school districts from adopting bathroom or locker room policies that allow transgender people to use facilities that they are more comfortable with if it is opposite of what is on their birth certificates.

Austin American-Statesman - July 22, 2017

Federal cuts could worsen Austin’s affordability crisis, groups say

Budget cuts proposed by the Trump administration would have a devastating effect in Austin, a city already facing affordability issues, housing advocates say. At a rally Saturday morning outside City Hall, representatives from a number of community organizations said slashing federal housing funding by 15 percent – or $7 billion – would affect countless people already struggling to make ends meet such as low-income families, veterans, people with disabilities and seniors. Austin alone stands to lose $18.2 million in funding, the groups said, which would affect 1,929 households.

National Stories

Dallas Morning News - July 21, 2017

Dallas investor Ray Washburne would shed local posts to join Trump in D.C.

Dallas investor Ray Washburne says he would step down from a host of high-profile positions locally, including leadership at the M Crowd Restaurant Group, if he is confirmed as president of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation. On June 8, Washburne sent a four-page letter to Dev Jagadesan, designated agency ethics official with the OPIC, addressing how he would avoid "any actual or apparent conflict of interest in the event that I am confirmed." The OPIC is a government agency that helps American businesses invest in emerging markets. A hearing on Washburne's confirmation was held earlier in July before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Dallas Morning News - July 21, 2017

Tex Rep. McCaul's bill to reauthorize Homeland Security Department headed to Senate

A House bill that would streamline the Department of Homeland Security in its first reorganization since 9/11 is headed to the Senate after easily passing the house. Texas Rep. Michael McCaul, R-West Lake Hills, sponsored the bill, which would reauthorize the agency created after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The bill passed late Thursday would require congressional approval for DHS organizational changes — which is not currently the case — consolidate and streamline several offices, and authorize Immigration and Customs Enforcement for the first time.

Associated Press - July 23, 2017

Lawmakers herald agreement on sweeping Russia sanctions bill

Congressional Republicans and Democrats announced Saturday they had reached an agreement on a sweeping Russia sanctions package to punish Moscow for meddling in the presidential election and its military aggression in Ukraine and Syria. Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland, the No. 2 House Democrat, said lawmakers had settled lingering issues with the bill, which also includes stiff economic penalties against Iran and North Korea. The sanctions targeting Russia, however, have drawn the most attention due to President Donald Trump's persistent push for warmer relations with President Vladimir Putin and ongoing investigations into Russia's interference in the 2016 campaign.

This article appeared in the San Antonio Express News

Washington Post - July 22, 2017

Conservative state legislators plot ways to get Washington under control

Jim DeMint brought bad news from Washington. Republicans run every branch of the government, but it was “no longer possible for the federal government to avoid a disaster.” Members of Congress, like he once was, are not able to deliver fully on their promises. “We have accomplished little more than to slow the growth of spending, slow the growth of debt, slow the growth of regulations,” the former senator from South Carolina told a breakfast audience at the American Legislative Exchange Council’s policy conference on Thursday. “It’s very unlikely, after all the promises, that we’re going to repeal Obamacare and eliminate the federal control of health care.” For members of ALEC, a 45-year-old think tank that helps state legislators craft libertarian-leaning policy, this wasn’t news. Six months into Donald Trump’s presidency, little of his agenda has made it through Congress. Medicaid has not been transformed into a block-grant program.

Washington Post - July 21, 2017

20 Democratic attorneys general urge Trump to keep DACA, say it has boosted economy

Attorneys general from 19 states and the District of Columbia are urging President Trump to save an Obama-era program that protects nearly 800,000 undocumented immigrants from deportation, and offering to help him defend it in court. Led by California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, the group of Democrats is twice the size of the 10-state coalition of Republican officials that have threatened to sue the Trump administration if it does not start to phase out the program by Sept. 5. Obama created the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, in 2012 to allow immigrants who arrive in the United States as minors to legally work and live in the United States.

Ft. Worth Star-Telegram - July 23, 2017

FWST: If Granger is listening, town halls aren’t needed

It is not difficult to understand why Congresswoman Kay Granger is reluctant to hold town hall meetings in Fort Worth. “There are so many threats going on,” she told the Star-Telegram Editorial Board earlier this month. She isn’t exaggerating. In Virginia last month, several of Granger’s colleagues were brutally attacked by a gunman during a morning baseball practice. The victims, one of whom is still in the hospital, were all Republicans. The attacker’s motives were nakedly political. Savage as it was, such violent assaults are thankfully rare.

Vox - July 20, 2017

Matthews: The 2 most popular critiques of basic income are both wrong

At first blush, basic income — a proposal where every American gets a regular stipend from the government, just for being alive — sounds like a radical, even absurd, idea. It says that people should be guaranteed enough money to live on whether they spend most of their time working, or in school, or taking care of loved ones, or taking drugs and surfing. It says that the government should tax people who work to pay for a check that goes to some people who don’t do anything conventionally viewed as productive. That raises a lot of obvious questions. Wouldn’t this totally ruin the economy? If everyone got money whether or not they worked, wouldn’t tons of people drop out of the labor market?

Axios - July 22, 2017

Allen: Dems want to rebrand as the economic party

Senate and House Dems, after an intensive process spanning seven months, on Monday will unveil a new economic agenda, Axios has exclusively learned, meant to counter the perception that Democrats are only the anti-Trump party, with no message of their own. Top Dems see the new message as the key to turning things around after their losses in the presidential race and this year's House special elections. An opening theme/frame: "excessive corporate power and its impacts." Pollster Geoff Garin writes in a memo kicking off the project: "[T]he Democratic policies related to curbing excessive corporate power that are being highlighted in the first day of the rollout have real resonance with voters and are strongly supported by a significant majority of Americans."

Dallas Morning News - July 22, 2017

Mark Cuban vs. Trump in 2020? 'If he lasts 4 years ... I'll be there to kick his a**'

If President Donald Trump runs for re-election in 2020, a challenger may already be lined up: Dallas Mavericks owner and tech billionaire Mark Cuban. In his appearance at New York's "OZY Fest," Cuban discussed challenging the president. "If he lasts four years, I'll be there to kick his a**," Cuban said Saturday, before backpedaling a bit. "We'll see. I'm not making any proclamations yet." Trump has shrugged off the notion of a President Cuban in the past, saying on Twitter that his fellow reality TV star wasn't up to the challenge.

New York Times - July 22, 2017

NYT: The Bogus Voter-Fraud Commission

The truth can’t be repeated often enough: The Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, which held its first meeting last week, is a sham and a scam. It was born out of a marriage of convenience between conservative anti-voter-fraud crusaders, who refuse to accept actual data, and a president who refuses to accept that he lost the popular vote fair and square. It is run by some of the nation’s most determined vote suppressors, the kind who try to throw out voter registrations for being printed on insufficiently thick paper or who release reports on noncitizen voting that are titled “Alien Invasion” and illustrated with images of U.F.O.s.

Washington Post - July 21, 2017

Sessions discussed Trump campaign-related matters with Russian ambassador, U.S. intelligence intercepts show

Russia’s ambassador to Washington told his superiors in Moscow that he discussed campaign-related matters, including policy issues important to Moscow, with Jeff Sessions during the 2016 presidential race, contrary to public assertions by the embattled attorney general, according to current and former U.S. officials. Ambassador Sergey Kislyak’s accounts of two conversations with Sessions — then a top foreign policy adviser to Republican candidate Donald Trump — were intercepted by U.S. spy agencies, which monitor the communications of senior Russian officials in the United States and in Russia. Sessions initially failed to disclose his contacts with Kislyak and then said that the meetings were not about the Trump campaign.

All - July 21, 2017

Lead Stories

San Antonio Express News - July 20, 2017

Governor opens door for more school finance action in special session

Gov. Greg Abbott expanded the already ambitious special session agenda Thursday to allow lawmakers to broadly consider school finance reform, a difficult issue that House leaders repeatedly have asked him to showcase. The move earned praise from House Speaker Joe Straus, who will have a big say in the passage of Abbott’s other items, most of which the speaker has compared to a pile of manure. “I think that Texas leaders ought to be spending a lot more time on public school finance that we know is a mess, and the property tax relief that can come along with doing that correctly,” said Straus, R-San Antonio. “We have an issue with retired teachers’ health care that I’m pleased to see we can get on.

Los Angeles Times - July 19, 2017

In the long run, failure to repeal Obamacare may not hurt Republicans

In a logical world, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and his Republican compatriots would pay a steep price for proposing a healthcare plan that, in all its iterations, has proved to be so hugely unpopular. But politics is not ruled by logic. Given the lack of public support, the legislation should have been doomed from the start. Nevertheless, McConnell forged ahead until it became clear the bill pleased neither the moderate Republicans in his caucus who found it too mean-spirited — particularly the legislation’s massive cuts to Medicaid — nor hard-line conservatives who believed it preserved too many aspects of Obamacare.

Dallas Observer - July 19, 2017

Schutze: For Texas Democrats Looking at 2018, Anti-Trumpism Is a Vast Nothingness

I’m a Democrat. I’m anti-Trump. The only things more depressing to me than President Donald Trump are Democrats. If it’s still like this in 2018, I may have to vote for the vegan, even though I have never really been totally sure what that is. Maybe for a change and just to spare us all some brain-freezing boredom, I won’t tell you why I’m anti-Trump. It’s because of blah-blah and blah-blah. You know. All that stuff that leaks out of your TV if you don’t hit mute fast enough, like the so-called analysis that’s worse than a drug ad warning. If what you’re talking about could even faintly ever happen to me, why on earth would I take your drug? If you’re really going to tell me again what you don’t know yet about the meeting, why on earth would I listen to you? MUTE!

CNBC - July 20, 2017

There are more renters than any time since 1965

More people are renting than at any other point in the past 50 years. In 2016, 36.6 percent of household heads rented their home, close to the 1965 number of 37 percent, according to a new report by the Pew Research Center based on data from the Census Bureau. Each month the Census Bureau surveys a nationally representative sample of households. The total number of U.S. households grew by 7.6 million over the past decade, Pew reported. However, the number of households headed by owners remained relatively flat, while households headed by renters grew by nearly 10 percent during the same time period.

Washington Post - July 20, 2017

House Democrats are starting to outraise their Republican counterparts

House Democrats have continued raising money at a historic pace, with the party campaign committee beating its Republican counterpart for the second quarter of 2017, according to fundraising data obtained by The Washington Post. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is set to report June receipts of $10.7 million Thursday, bringing its quarterly total to $29.1 million and its year-to-date total to just shy of $60 million. Tyler Law, a DCCC spokesman, said a “solid majority” of the 2017 haul are small donations from the grass roots, which reflects “the massive amount of Democratic energy and widespread rejection of the Republican agenda.”

Dallas Morning News - July 21, 2017

Uber's going big into trucking business, and nowhere bigger than Texas

One of the biggest technology disruptors when it comes to shuttling people is now trying to transform the way goods are moved around the country. This spring, Uber launched Uber Freight, an app that matches truck drivers with loads of goods to pick up and deliver. Texas played a key role in the San Francisco-based tech giant's inroads. Routes between Dallas, Houston and San Antonio served as its test ground before the app's launch. Texas' large trucking business made it an obvious place to start, said Jeff Ogren, head of driver community and partnerships for Uber Freight. Fourteen percent of U.S. freight comes in and out of Texas, he said.

Austin American-Statesman - July 21, 2017

Republicans making it harder for public to be heard on bathroom bill, Democrats say

Weighing in on the bathroom bill may be a little more difficult for the public this time around. Just after midnight Thursday, the Texas Senate officially set a public hearing for 9 a.m. Friday to hear from people about the newly filed Senate Bill 3. The legislation would require people to use the bathroom or changing room — in public places such as schools — of the sex that is listed on their birth certificates. That would bar people who are transgender from using the bathroom of the sex they better identify with.

New York Times - July 20, 2017

Inspiring Little Fear in Senators, Trump Struggles to Sell Health Bill

President Trump thought he could sell balky Republican senators like Ron Johnson of Wisconsin on the Senate health care bill through pleasantries, cajoling and, ultimately, some Oval Office muscle. But Mr. Johnson could not be charmed. He could not be outbargained. And he could not be scared into supporting the measure for the sake of a president whose inability to bend fellow Republicans toward his political will has become a liability for his young presidency. As the brash Mr. Johnson reminded one associate recently, while Mr. Trump may have stunned the political world in 2016 by winning Wisconsin in the election, Mr. Johnson got 76,000 more votes in the state.

State Stories

Texas Tribune - July 21, 2017

Ramsey: A legislative body in motion can do whatever it wants

The special session of the Texas Legislature is moving at the No-B.S. pace you’d like to see in a regular legislative session. The show started Tuesday, and the first bills could be on the governor’s desk for signature early next week. The Senate acted quickly on legislation to keep five small but important agencies in operation, meeting the condition set for opening consideration of other issues dear to the lieutenant governor and some legislators, including school vouchers, restroom regulations, property taxes and local control. Here’s another way to look at it: The governor has opened the pantry to a legislative swarm. He was the boss of setting the game, but now the game is in the legislative branch and out of his executive branch. In some ways, Greg Abbott is just another spectator now.

Texas Tribune - July 20, 2017

Abortion rights groups sue Texas over procedure ban

Texas is heading to court over a state law going into effect in September banning the most common second-trimester abortion procedure. The Center for Reproductive Rights and Planned Parenthood announced on Thursday they're suing over a provision in Texas' Senate Bill 8 bill that outlaws dilation and evacuation abortions. In that procedure, a doctor uses surgical instruments to grasp and remove pieces of fetal tissue. SB 8 only allows the procedure to be done if the fetus is deceased. Whole Woman's Health, a Texas reproductive health provider, is the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit.

Texas Tribune - July 20, 2017

Miller, Scheps: The lies behind Texas anti-abortion laws and “bathroom bills”

Fear and lies are powerful political weapons: We’re seeing that in Texas right now as our state’s lawmakers talk about public restrooms and abortion. Safety. Privacy. Protecting women and girls. Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and other Texas politicians use those buzzwords when they talk about passing a so-called “bathroom bill” to discriminate against transgender Texans who simply need to use public restrooms. Those buzzwords are based on lies. Many states and more than 200 cities already protect the right of transgender people to use restrooms consistent with their gender identity. None has reported incidents of someone using these protections to harm others.

Texas Tribune - July 20, 2017

Environmental groups sue EPA over lax Texas air pollution permits

A Washington, D.C.-based environmental advocacy group sued the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday, arguing the federal government isn't properly policing air pollution permits the state of Texas issued to some of the largest industrial facilities in the U.S. The Environmental Integrity Project — founded by former EPA officials — alleges that permits the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) issued to mega-plants across the Houston, Dallas and East Texas regions are illegal because the limits set on their emissions are too high, allowing them to spew too much pollution into the air. The suit, filed in federal court, also claims the permits are so vague and complicated that TCEQ employees aren’t always sure if a plant is in violation, and therefore fail to adequately punish bad actors.

Texas Tribune - July 20, 2017

National Episcopal Church urges defeat of Texas "bathroom bill"

As the Texas Senate prepares to consider legislation to restrict bathroom use for transgender Texans in legislative overtime, the national Episcopal Church is renewing its opposition to such proposals. Citing the “emotional and spiritual damage that discrimination does to transgender people,” top leaders of the national church — Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, president of the House of Deputies — in a letter to House Speaker Joe Straus urged the speaker to remain “steadfast” in his opposition to any bathroom bill.

Texas Tribune - July 21, 2017

Hey, Texplainer: Will Texans ever get a remedy for the state's alleged illegal redistricting?

Hey, Texplainer: The courts have scolded the state for intentional discrimination against minority voters — is there a way to remedy this? A three-judge panel in San Antonio this spring delivered a pair of rulings that, at first glance, would seem to shake up some political races across Texas. The first ruling was that the state Legislature intentionally discriminated against minority voters in redrawing the state’s congressional boundaries in 2011. The second was that lawmakers did the same in drawing their state House map and violated either the U.S. Constitution or the federal Voting Rights Act by intentionally diluting the strength of minority voters statewide and in a host of individual House districts.

Texas Tribune - July 20, 2017

Nellis Henneke: Texas should stop spending billions to incarcerate so many people for life

Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry boasts about the progress Texas made during his years in Austin toward reducing the number of people in prison, expanding drug courts and closing down unneeded adult prisons and juvenile facilities to save taxpayer money. “This change did not make Texas soft on crime. It made us smart on crime,” Perry has said. While the state has taken some smart first steps to reduce its prison population, Texas continues to incarcerate more than 157,000 people and spends over $3.4 billion annually on the state prison system alone. A new report by The Sentencing Project points to a costly part of the problem: one in eight state prison inmates is serving a life sentence, including more than 800 sentenced to life without parole (LWOP), 8,320 sentenced to life with a potential for parole and 8,637 sentenced to terms of at least 50 years — known as a “virtual” life sentence.

Austin American-Statesman - July 20, 2017

Joe Straus: Austin school district giving up $530 million to others

Texas House Speaker Joe Straus hinted at the Texas House’s derailed regular-session push for more state education aid by asserting that absent action, Austin taxpayers can count on ponying up more than half a billion dollars to schools in other places this year. The San Antonio Republican prefaced his Austin-centric claim by rehashing his view that Texas overly relies on property taxes to fund the schools. “Property taxes are going up, and more and more of those dollars are going to school districts in other parts of the state through the Robin Hood system,” Straus said in an email blast distributed two days before the July special session called by Gov. Greg Abbott.

Austin American-Statesman - July 20, 2017

Texas transgender bathroom fight takes center stage

The fight over transgender bathroom policies took center stage Thursday, hours after an unusual midnight meeting of the Texas Senate allowed Gov. Greg Abbott to expand the special legislative session’s agenda to include a host of conservative priorities. The Texas Association of Business, a leading foe of efforts to restrict transgender-friendly bathroom policies, announced a $1 million radio ad campaign against legislation its leaders called discriminatory and an unnecessary distraction from real problems Texans face. Leaders of the national Episcopal Church also released a letter urging House Speaker Joe Straus to continue to resist “efforts to enshrine discrimination against our transgender sisters and brothers into Texas law.”

Austin American-Statesman - July 20, 2017

First Reading: Case closed? Judge Naranjo issues final orders in Alex/Kelly Jones child custody case

I am not quite prepared to credit state District Judge Orlinda Naranjo with the wisdom of Solomon. But she did manage yesterday to orally render a permanent order in the child custody case of Alex Jones, his ex-wife Kelly Jones and their three children – a 14-year-old son and 9- and 12-year-old daughters – that it appears neither side is likely to challenge or appeal. That’s quite an accomplishment, that even in the intensely hostile final hours yesterday of this high-conflict divorce, she seemed unlikely to be able to pull off. The order in important ways falls short of what Kelly Jones and her attorneys thought she won with a favorable jury verdict after their two-week trial in April..

Austin American-Statesman - July 20, 2017

Mothers in Texas are dying, Legislature gets second chance to help

As doctors frantically tried to revive her 21-year-old daughter Cassaundra Perkins, Cheryl Givens-Perkins couldn’t watch. She turned her back and looked out the hospital window. “I was just thinking, is this really happening? Is this really fixing to happen?” Givens-Perkins said. At 1:05 p.m. on Sept. 5, 2014, Perkins was pronounced dead. She had given birth to twins less than a month before and had a 2-year-old daughter. During her pregnancy, Perkins contracted an infection and her liver started failing, so her twins had to be delivered at 6 months. An autopsy determined that she died in part because of liver failure and because placenta tissue was left inside her body.

Austin American-Statesman - July 20, 2017

Evan Smith incorrectly pegs 2014 as turning point for white Texans

Evan Smith, the Texas Tribune’s CEO, pinpointed 2014 as a milestone year perhaps troubling to many residents. As quoted in The New Yorker magazine, Smith noted that the Republican-led Legislature has allocated a fresh $800 million toward border security. “White people are scared of change,” Smith said next, “believing that what they have is being taken away from them by people they consider unworthy. ... We found there remain some Texas high schools with a majority of white students in 12th grade or among graduates while for all of Texas, state-collected counts show the latest year that white students comprised the majority of public high-school graduates was 2003. White students last accounted for the majority of public high-school seniors in 2001-02. We rate the claim False.

Austin American-Statesman - July 20, 2017

Perkins DePalma: Let’s count the ways Texas loses without tree ordinances

Ever since it became evident that the Texas Legislature’s special session would include a targeted attack on tree protection, TreeFolks has been inundated with calls and emails from across Texas. Clearly, the public — including many legislators — have questions about the impact of proposed bills reversing tree ordinances. In short, the proposals — House Bill 70, and Senate Bills 14 and 86 — prevent cities from setting any requirements regarding tree removal by any property owners, builders or developers. Should the proposed legislation be successful, the financial, physical and emotional health of our cities would be severely compromised.

Austin American-Statesman - July 20, 2017

Senate panel to hear ‘school choice,’ finance bill Friday

The Senate Education Committee on Friday will consider two bills that address many of the major education-related issues on the special session call, including school finance and ‘private school choice.’ Senate Bill 2, filed by Senate education chairman Larry Taylor, R-Friendswood, is comprised of several education issues that would reallocate $270 million from Health and Human Services over the next biennium to pay for: $60 million in first-time funding for charter school construction. $60 million to help school districts experiencing rapid student growth pay for construction.

Austin American-Statesman - July 21, 2017

Long line to testify on transgender bathroom bills

The line to testify on two bills to block transgender-friendly friendly bathroom policies began forming more than an hour before Friday morning’s 9 a.m. Senate committee hearing, extending down Capitol Extension hallways, wrapping around a stairwell and continuing on the next floor. Even with witnesses limited to two minutes to provide their thoughts, the hearing before the Senate State Affairs committee will last hours. Registration to testify closes at noon. During the regular session, a hearing on a similar bill ended shortly before 5 a.m., with the vast majority of witnesses against limiting bathroom, locker room and changing room use to the sex listed on a person’s birth certificate.

Austin American-Statesman - July 20, 2017

DPS to bill law enforcement agencies for crime lab services in Sept.

The Texas Department of Public Safety announced on Thursday that it would begin charging law enforcement agencies for using certain crime laboratory services starting on Sept. 1. According to DPS, the Texas Legislature provided the DPS lab system with $63 million for the 2018-2019 fiscal year, and requires up to $11.5 million be charged and collected to make up the balance of the total authorized budget of $74.5 million. The DPS lab system was allocated $74.7 million in the previous two-year budget.

Austin American-Statesman - July 19, 2017

What do Texans hate more than the residents of any other state?

There’s a lot to hate on out there. According to new dating app Hater, that’s enough to bring two people together in a beautiful, nonhateful way. The app functions on the belief that people form strong bonds over shared hatreds -- the same way they do shared interests. And because the app requires users to identify both their location and most hated things, it’s amassed a lot of data on what people from different states love to hate. Buzzfeed made a map. You’d be better off not wearing a polo shirt in New Mexico. And Georgia is about as into tuna salad as Pennsylvania is into people who use money clips (i.e. not at all).

Austin American-Statesman - July 21, 2017

PolitiFact: Joe Straus: Austin school district giving up $530 million to others -- True

Texas House Speaker Joe Straus hinted at the Texas House’s derailed regular-session push for more state education aid by asserting that absent action, Austin taxpayers can count on ponying up more than half a billion dollars to schools in other places this year. ... Straus said the Austin district “is expected to lose more than $530 million in local property taxes to Robin Hood this year.” As of May 2017, the Austin district estimated that in 2017-18 it would flow nearly $534 million in local property tax revenue through the state’s school finance system, nicknamed Robin Hood, to help equalize school funding across the state. We rate this claim True.

Houston Chronicle - July 21, 2017

Turner tells lawmakers 'bathroom bill' tries to solve non-existent problem

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner urged lawmakers to reject two "bathroom bills" a state Senate committee is hearing this morning, saying the proposals would harm Texas' economy and residents in an attempt to solve a problem that does not exist. Turner, who served in the Texas House for 26 years before becoming mayor last year, said Texas is "poorly served" by a Legislature that seeks to follow the example of North Carolina, where passage of such a measured ignited a political firestorm that undercut convention business and eventually contributed to the governor's electoral defeat.

Houston Chronicle - July 20, 2017

Looming budget cuts worry University of Houston faculty

The math is hard to crack - even for career academics. The University of Houston saw an increase in state funding this year, but President Renu Khator asked academic departments to trim their base budgets by 2.5 percent. Non-academic divisions must cut 3.5 percent. For some departments, these figures come as a relief. In April, Khator told departments to prepare for sharper declines, as state lawmakers anticipated steep reductions to higher education funding.

Houston Chronicle - July 20, 2017

Abortion providers sue Texas for banning second-trimester procedure

Abortion providers and advocates filed a lawsuit in federal court Thursday to challenge a new Texas law banning a common second-trimester medical procedure. The lawsuit had been anticipated in a state known for passing some of the nation's toughest abortion restrictions. Abortion providers stressed in its 19-page lawsuit that the procedure is the "safest and most common" method of abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy, and a ban would create an undue burden for women to terminate a pregnancy. "It's very obvious that the intent of the law is to be an abortion ban and to restrict doctors' decision making," said Amy Hagstrom Miller, founder, president and CEO of Whole Woman's Health, which is one of the plaintiffs.

Houston Chronicle - July 20, 2017

Local ACA planners see pattern in White House actions

The move by the White House to quietly end the contracts of two companies key to assisting people enrolling for insurance under the Affordable Care Act caught Houston health advocates off guard - but not by surprise. Given the temperature in Washington these days and efforts by Congress and President Donald Trump's administration to let the law fail, they said it was just the latest in a string of actions to sabotage the law known as Obamacare. "It's clearly by design," said Elena Marks, president and CEO of Episcopal Health Foundation and proponent of the ACA and its impact on the uninsured and health access for Texans.

Houston Chronicle - July 20, 2017

Legislature braces for busy special session weekend

State lawmakers are preparing to be swarmed by demonstrators and activists on all sides of some of the most contentious issues facing Texas during public hearings that kick off Friday. Among them is the bathroom bill that already has drawn crowds of hundreds of activists -- pro and con -- to the Capitol for earlier hearings and votes. Also on tap: banning health care coverage for abortions, finding a fix to school funding, and authorizing a study on the state's skyrocketing maternal mortality rates.

Dallas Morning News - July 20, 2017

Bathroom bills could lead to 'a series of lawsuits,' experts predict

Texas lawmakers are poised to debate bills that, if passed into law, are expected to spur court challenges that could define the "scope and limit" of the rights guaranteed to all transgender Americans. On Friday, the Senate Committee on State Affairs will debate two so-called "bathroom bills" that would undo portions of city nondiscrimination ordinances and force transgender schoolchildren out of bathrooms that match their gender identity. The proposals could affect everything from convention center and stadium restroom policies to high school athletics. The legislation, a priority for Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick during the special session that kicked off on Tuesday, has been panned as discriminatory by businesses and LGBT rights organizations and unnecessary by law enforcement and school groups.

Dallas Morning News - July 20, 2017

Tanglen: Are Texas legislators channeling 'The Handmaid's Tale'?

Twice during the past legislative session, female activists donned red cloaks and white bonnets and occupied the halls of the Texas Capitol to oppose anti-abortion legislation. The women's apparel references The Handmaid's Tale, a 1985 dystopian novel by Margaret Atwood. The novel is set in the Republic of Gilead, a military theocracy that has replaced the government of the United States. In the novel, fertility rates have become dangerously low because of environmental devastation and disease. Fertile women are enslaved as "handmaids" to bear children for politically powerful men and their wives. The Handmaid's Tale has been adapted into a critically acclaimed series on Hulu starring Elisabeth Moss.

Dallas Morning News - July 21, 2017

DMN: Congress should talk to Texas about promise and pitfalls of privatization as it eyes Trump's $1 trillion wish list

Congress has begun, however slowly, to size up President Donald Trump's proposal to make good on his signature promise to lead America on a spending spree aimed at modernizing its infrastructure. New roads, bridges and perhaps even trains are all on the table, and so could modern expansions of our electric grids, water resources and the air traffic control system. Even Veterans Administration hospitals are in line to get a major infusion of cash, and perhaps new uses for under-utilized or abandoned buildings. The price tag, we're told, could top $1 trillion.

Dallas Morning News - July 20, 2017

What you need to know about all the Texas Senate hearings happening this weekend

The Senate is moving at breakneck speed during the opening days of the special legislative session to pass all of Gov. Greg Abbott's agenda items. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, in a highly unusual move, called a meeting of the Senate at 12:01 a.m. Thursday to pass legislation that would keep alive several state agencies, the Abbott-ordered precondition for considering other measures. After passing the bills, the Senate referred other bills to committees for debate starting Friday and continuing into the weekend. We've compiled a list of upcoming committee hearings in which the public can testify about proposed laws.

Dallas Morning News - July 20, 2017

The private world of T. Boone Pickens: Get an exclusive look at oil magnate's massive Panhandle ranch

By 8 a.m., T. Boone Pickens has finished his cereal on the screened-in porch at the Mesa Vista Ranch. He looks out at the parklike setting that surrounds the 23,000-square-foot main house in this remote corner of the Panhandle. For those who think of Pickens as a Bick Benedict oil giant, the scene is a revelation. “I laugh at myself in a cowboy hat,” he says. At the office and at the ranch, he wears sneakers and a country club sweater. The house is called the lodge and it sits in the middle of acres of manicured fescue grass, shaded by hundreds of trees -- cottonwoods, pear oaks, native hackberries and Pickens’ favorite, sycamores.

San Antonio Express News - July 20, 2017

Trump supporter threatened Cruz, sources say

A death threat left on the voicemail of U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz has led to the arrest of a Universal City man. The official allegedly targeted by James Amos Headley, 59, is not identified in court records, other than by the initials T.C., and prosecutors and the FBI won’t name him. The Express-News confirmed it is Cruz through other sources. “Pretty soon you’re gonna be runnin for your life, just hope your family is not with ya because I'm not gonna insult them, I'm gonna kill them, right after I shoot you right in front of them...” court documents quote Headley as saying in a July 11 voicemail left at the official’s office at the U.S. Capitol.

San Antonio Express News - July 19, 2017

Chasnoff: Abbott: ‘Freedom’ means obey

Gov. Greg Abbott is so well acquainted with freedom, he even knows what it smells like. “Once you cross the Travis County line, it starts smelling different,” he said last month. “And you know what that fragrance is? Freedom. It’s the smell of freedom that does not exist in Austin, Texas.” I’m not sure what Abbott was smelling — horse manure, maybe? — but since he made that observation, it has become clear that the governor’s idea of freedom is more akin to slavery. To Abbott, “freedom” means to obey, whether you’re a local elected official or a fellow Republican.

San Antonio Express News - July 20, 2017

Incumbents stock up on cash in advance of expected court decision

The guitar-shaped congressional district held by Rep. Lloyd Doggett, known as one of the most gerrymandered districts in America, appears destined to change again after the recent trial in U.S. District Court in San Antonio testing the constitutionality of GOP-drawn boundaries in Texas. No matter what happens, Doggett, D-San Antonio, is buoyed by a campaign fund that has grown to an imposing $3.7 million, the largest of any Texan in the House, according to new campaign disclosure filings with the Federal Election Commission. Likewise, Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo, reported nearly $2.2 million cash on hand, insurance against challengers from either major party if the boundaries of his district change.

Austin Business Journal - July 20, 2017

Central Texas bankruptcies on rise; Filings littered with individual medical debt, oil and gas failures

Bankruptcies are trending upward in Austin and across Texas for the first time since the end of the Great Recession. It’s yet another economic indicator that shows the state’s economy isn’t as robust as it has been during the past couple of years. The Austin Business Journal has been chronicling a slowdown in the region's economic growth since late last year. According to a fresh ABJ analysis of data compiled by the American Bankruptcy Institute, the 12-month rolling average of the number of bankruptcies filed per month at the Austin-based U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Western District of Texas increased year-over-year by 5.1 percent in June to 670 per month. The 12-month rolling average of bankruptcies filed in Austin has been rising since January 2017, when this trend line rose into the positive for the first time since November 2010.

Texas Observer - July 19, 2017

Texas Bill Would Revoke Medical Licenses of Doctors Who Perform Abortions

A bill filed in the Texas Legislature’s special session would revoke the licenses of doctors who perform abortions in the state, with limited exceptions. The measure, filed by far-right Representative Valoree Swanson, R-Spring, would expand the “prohibited practices” that result in a physician’s license being revoked, a category that already includes several abortion-related measures. Under House Bill 86, almost all abortions would be prohibited, with very narrow exceptions for the health of the woman and fetus: when necessary to save the life of the woman or prevent “substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function, other than a psychological condition,” or when the procedure is necessary to ensure the viability of another fetus she’s carrying.

Texas Observer - July 20, 2017

Trump DOJ: Trust Texas to Fix Racist Voter ID Law Without Court Oversight

Under the Obama administration, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) waged legal war against the voter ID rules Texas lawmakers passed in 2011, saying the new restrictions would disproportionately impact minority voters. That finding was later validated by multiple federal court rulings, two of which concluded the state’s GOP majority passed a deliberately racist bill. This week brought another sign of the 180-degree change on voting rights cases under the Trump administration’s DOJ, which on Monday filed a legal brief that argues Texas should be allowed to fix its voter ID rules without federal intervention or oversight. The filing also argues that the courts should simply trust Texas to educate voters on the tweaked voter ID law the Legislature passed earlier this year, despite the state’s faceplant trial run when it tried to implement those rules during last year’s presidential election.

Houston Press - July 20, 2017

The Theme of the Special Session Is Governor Abbott vs. Urban Mayors

As Texas's big blue islands jutting out in the rural and suburban seas of red have only grown more pronounced, their relationship with state GOP leaders has only grown more strained — but perhaps that has not been more obviously on display than in the past few months, weeks and even days. We're three days into the special legislative session, and already 18 mayors, including Houston's Sylvester Turner, have sent a letter to Governor Greg Abbott asking to set up a meeting ASAP. On Monday, Abbott unloaded on local government, saying many cities had become too "California-like" — Abbott's preferred insult — and that they were infringing on their citizens' freedoms and needed to be reeled in. He might as well have been talking about President Barack Obama or the Environmental Protection Agency, as suing the federal government for infringing on states' freedoms was among his favorite hobbies as attorney general.

Texas Monthly - July 20, 2017

Ahmed, Iscoe, Ortiz, Soto, Travis: Vox Populi at the Legislature

As the special session of the Texas Legislature opened on Tuesday, lawmakers engaged in the posturing and positioning that will affect future debates on issues such as whether cities can regulate the removal of trees on private property or whether school districts will be allowed to accommodate the bathroom and changing room needs of transgender students without having to force them to use a facility of their birth gender. (Conservatives say teenage girls should not have to share a bathroom with someone who was born as a boy.) But around the building, there were citizens who were moved to come to the Capitol, mostly to show displeasure with these measures and continuing angst over Senate Bill 4, the sanctuary cities bill designed to punish local officials who do not fully cooperate with federal immigration authorities in deporting individuals charged with a crime, including misdemeanors. To get a better feel for the vox populi of these protestors, we dispatched to the Capitol the Texas Monthly summer interns: Amal Ahmed of Plano, Adam Iscoe of Austin, Omar Rodríguez Ortiz of Puerto Rico, Sutton Travis of Carthage, and Isabella Soto of McAllen. They tackled the task with enthusiasm and heart. Here is what they saw.

Austin Chronicle - July 18, 2017

Will Federal Judges Be Able to Fix Texas Voting Rights Before 2018 Elections?

While Texas lawmakers dive into a encore legislative session at the capitol this month, a few high-ranking federal judges are quietly weighing whether or not the legislature intentionally passed laws that discriminate against minorities. These decisions are based on two separate, long-brewing cases, both rooted in Texas election laws, both rushing to wrap up before the looming 2018 election cycle, and both guaranteed to significantly shake up national politics. The first legal battle began in 2011, when the Texas Legislature drafted new state and congressional districts to keep up with the quickly-expanding population.

Washington Post - July 20, 2017

Texas Senate aiming to move divisive bills at breakneck pace

The Texas Senate staged an unusual midnight floor session Thursday as conservatives who dominate the chamber rushed to revive abortion restrictions, school vouchers and a “bathroom bill” targeting transgender people before opponents have time to mobilize against them. Senators passed bills allowing the Texas Medical Board and other state agencies to continue operating during the opening moments of just the third day of its month-long special legislative session. “It’s a hurry because we have 30 days and 20 bills,” Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, a former conservative talk radio host who oversees the Senate, told reporters. He even brought pizzas for his colleagues before work began around 12:15 a.m.

KUOW - July 19, 2017

Could Texas Democrats Thwart The Special Session By Breaking Quorum And Skipping Town?

Back in 2003, when the hot-button issue was partisan congressional redistricting by majority Republicans in the House, Democrats did break quorum by not only staying away from the Capitol, but by leaving the state. It didn't work, but their flight to a hotel in Oklahoma earned them national news coverage, and a nickname: the "Killer Ds." Hugh Brady helped direct the Democrats' strategy in 2003, and is now the director of the Legislative Lawyering Clinic at the University of Texas at Austin School of Law. Brady says the Democratic House members left Austin in 2003 to call attention to Republican efforts to draw new congressional maps that favored their party. The maps had been recently redrawn in 2001, following the standard practice of coinciding with the latest Census. "The Democrats were standing up for the people who voted for their congressman," Brady says. "Even though the statewide vote may have been a certain average ... the Democrats thought that the voters ought to be respected."

The Eagle - July 19, 2017

Texas A&M outgoing Provost and Executive Vice President Karan Watson removed from position after internal audit

Texas A&M’s outgoing Provost and Executive Vice President Karan Watson has been removed from her position after an internal audit found significant conflict of interest issues tied to business dealings her spouse had with the university, according to documents obtained by The Eagle. The investigation is likely to trigger sweeping changes throughout A&M System universities and agencies by prohibiting spouses and close family members of senior administrators from doing business with the System.

Washington Post - July 20, 2017

Texas now has zero staff political cartoonists, as Houston Chronicle fires Pulitzer winner

IT’S COME to this: Texas, the second largest state in the union — and the home of so many historically colorful political voices — lacks a single staff editorial cartoonist. Nick Anderson, the veteran Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist for the Hearst-owned Houston Chronicle, got word last week that his position had been eliminated. Which raises the question: Why part ways with one of your most prominent political voices? “The odds caught up with me,” Anderson wrote last week on Facebook, speaking to the decades-long thinning out of America’s staff-cartooning ranks. “Ironically, thanks to social media, my cartoons are seen more widely than ever.”

KUT - July 19, 2017

Texas Programs To Prevent Teen Pregnancy Scramble After Federal Funding Cut

The Trump administration cut more than $200 million from teen pregnancy prevention programs and research across the country last week. It was a surprise to a lot of people on the receiving end of those grants – including many here in Texas, where teen pregnancy is a big problem. “Texas has the highest number of teen parents than any other state. We are the fifth highest rate of teen pregnancies," said Dr. Gwen Daverth, CEO and president of the Texas Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy. "And we, as a state, do very little to prevent it in terms of funding.” Texas also takes the No. 1 spot for repeat teen pregnancies.

Texas Tribune - July 19, 2017

New: Unintended pregnancies in Texas are not at crisis level

Texas has seen some important abortion policy changes in recent years. The Texas Legislature voted to remove Planned Parenthood from the state family planning program in 2011. Additionally, after new abortion clinic regulations were signed into law in 2013, a significant number of abortion facilities in Texas closed. Texas is a good state to study these policy changes. After all, Texas has a large population of women of childbearing age that is both ethnically and economically diverse. Furthermore, the Texas Department of State Health Services does a good job providing detailed health statistics by region. Unfortunately, most of the published research thus far has produced far more heat than light. The mainstream media and liberal advocacy groups, attempting to discredit pro-life efforts elsewhere, have argued that these new pro-life policies have led to a public health crisis in Texas. If one believes the mainstream media, unintended pregnancies, Medicaid births and teen abortions have all increased in Texas since 2011.

County Stories

Houston Chronicle - July 20, 2017

Harris County grand juror: How I became a 'rubber-stamp artist'

Between 2012 and 2016, the cases of more than 200 police officers who shot people in the line of duty came before grand juries in Harris County. None were indicted. Mimi Swartz, a Houston-based author and an executive editor at Texas Monthly, writes in Thursday's New York Times about her tenure as a Harris County grand juror in 2013, that began with a jail tour, a demonstration by the county the K-9 unit and a shoot/don't shoot simulation that amounted to "an exercise in indoctrination." She describes the intended result: We duly became rubber-stamp artists. And I might have continued to indict away on autopilot if it hadn't been for two fellow jurors: a young black lawyer and a white former judge. As cases came and went, I couldn't help noticing that their questions seemed to annoy the prosecutors: They were gumming up the works.

Austin American-Statesman - July 20, 2017

Sheriff’s office: ICE did ask it to reconsider releasing deportee

The Travis County sheriff’s office on Thursday confirmed that it had received an email from federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials in June, asking that it reconsider denying a request to detain a known gang member and four-time deportee who was released hours later. The sheriff’s office initially told the American-Statesman on Wednesday it had no record of such communication after ICE announced that 33-year-old Julio Cesar Mendoza-Caballero had been arrested on July 14, about a month after he was freed from the Travis County Jail.

City Stories

Austin American-Statesman - July 20, 2017

Waco Veterans Affairs office denies 92% of Gulf War claims

Department of Veterans Affairs benefits officials in Waco have denied a whopping 92 percent of claims related to Gulf War illness, giving Central Texas veterans one of the highest denial rates in the nation, according to data in a recent U.S. Government Accountability Office report. The report found serious and persistent problems with how the VA handles the complicated Gulf War benefits claims, ranging from poorly trained examiners to inconsistent methods of handling claims in different regions of the country. For example, in the continental United States denial rates ranged from 47 percent in Boston to 95 percent in Roanoke, Va., according to an analysis by the advocacy group Veterans for Common Sense.

Dallas Morning News - July 21, 2017

Panels being investigated in deadly London tower fire also used at DFW Airport

Aluminum panels being investigated by British authorities in connection with the Grenfell Tower fire that killed at least 80 people last month have also been used in buildings across the United States, including at DFW International Airport’s Terminal D. An Associated Press investigation released Thursday found that the panels, also known as cladding, are believed to have been used in buildings across the United States, including a Baltimore hotel, a Cleveland football stadium and an Alaskan High School. Technically known as Reynobond composite material with a polyethylene core, the material is used as an accent for buildings and also helps improve energy efficiency. But the panels aren’t recommended for use on high-rise buildings because of their combustibility.

Houston Press - July 19, 2017

Paddling to be allowed at Three Rivers ISD

Three Rivers ISD administrators are going shopping for a paddle. As part of a new policy approved by the board Tuesday, the paddle, likely to be wood, will be used to administer corporal punishment when a student misbehaves at school. Corporal punishment is defined as the deliberate infliction of physical pain by hitting, paddling, spanking, slapping, or any other physical force used as a means of discipline.

Houston Chronicle - July 20, 2017

Houston gets nearly $2M to prepare for complex terrorist attacks

Homeland security agencies across Texas have won more than $5 million in federal grants to prepare for complex terrorist attacks like the November 2015 strike in Paris where several independent teams target multiple locations. Houston announced Thursday that it won a three-year, $1.7 million grant from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security for system analysis and training. The grant is meant to catalyze more investment in such preparations, DHS said in a statement earlier this month. The city's director of homeland security explained that Houston is one of the six American cities that DHS says is at highest risk for a terrorist attack.

National Stories

The New American - July 19, 2017

Homeland Security Tasks Army Corps of Engineers to Test Types of Border Walls

David Lapan, a spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), told members of the press on July 18 that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) is now conducting tests in the Southwest to determine the best type of border wall to be built along each section of the U.S.-Mexican border. A report in the New York Times noted that Lapan told reporters that USACE technicians are conducting the tests in Santa Teresa, New Mexico; San Diego, California; and in the Rio Grande Valley. Testing in El Paso, Texas and Calexico, California has been completed. The Times reported that Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the parent agency of the Border Patrol, is continuing to evaluate dozens of proposals that have been submitted by vendors for designs for the border wall.

Dallas Morning News - July 20, 2017

Trump wants to know if he has power to pardon himself, family, aides

Some of President Donald Trump's lawyers are exploring ways to limit or undercut Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation, building a case against what they allege are his conflicts of interest and discussing the president's authority to grant pardons, according to people familiar with the effort. Trump has asked his advisers about his power to pardon aides, family members and even himself in connection with the probe, according to one of those people. A second person said Trump's lawyers have been discussing the president's pardoning powers among themselves. Trump's legal team declined to comment on the issue. But one adviser said the president has simply expressed a curiosity in understanding the reach of his pardoning authority, as well as the limits of Mueller's investigation.

The New Yorker - July 19, 2017

Poll: Overwhelming Majority Of Americans Fear A Major New War

Non-stop smaller wars, and officials always playing up the risk of bigger wars to get bigger military budgets have always had Americans worried about a new major war being on the horizon, but the latest NBC/SurveyMonkey poll shows that such fears have been growing dramatically in recent months. This new poll showed an overwhelming majority, 76% of Americans, are now worried that the US will get drawn into a new “major war” in the next four years. This is an increase of 10% over the last time the question was asked, in mid-February. As far as who the US might get into that major war with, the plurality went to North Korea, with 41% of Americans believing that the isolated nation is the “greatest immediate threat” to the US. ISIS was second at 28%, Russia at 18%, with China and Iran rounding out the top 5.

Houston Chronicle - July 20, 2017

Ex Houston Congressman Bill Archer testifies for GOP tax reform plan

Former Texas U.S. Rep. Bill Archer, who represented Houston in Congress for 30 years, returned to Capitol Wednesday to champion GOP tax reform efforts led by Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady of The Woodlands. Archer, 89, who chaired the committee from 1995 to 2001, praised the Republican tax reform blueprint as "courageous," though he largely steered clear of a proposed border adjustment tax that has divided Republicans and various business groups. Archer acknowledged the barriers confronting the GOP tax reform agenda, which includes cuts in corporate and individual tax rates, while at the same time clearing out decades of accumulated deductions that have complicated the tax code.

Washington Post - July 20, 2017

Do military veterans really win more elections? Only in ‘purple’ districts.

If the Democratic Party retakes the House of Representatives in 2018, it may owe its success to military veterans’ candidacies. That, at least, is the perspective emerging from news reporting in recent weeks. This month, a story in the New York Times reported on 20 Democratic military veterans hoping to unseat Republicans in next year’s midterm elections, writing that party leaders believe that “candidates with a military pedigree [are] an appealing contrast to entrenched, career politicians.” This week, the San Antonio Express-News suggested much the same thing. Democrats’ hopes appear based on the conventional wisdom that veterans tend to do better than candidates without military experience. But research suggests that any boost veterans may bring the Democrats will depend on where they run. And it is probably only in the most competitive congressional districts that being a veteran could be the difference between winning and losing.

Dallas Morning News - July 18, 2017

McArdle: Both parties are responsible for this health care mess

For months, I've been watching in a sort of wonder as Republicans crafted the most unpopular major bill in living memory. Could they really mean to make a suicide charge at this — not some longstanding Republican goal, like dismantling the welfare state or slashing through the regulatory thicket, but pushing a sly parody of Obamacare even less likable than its awkward source material? When Republicans explained how this would actually be a strong campaign strategy for 2018, I had astonished flashbacks to Democrats saying the same thing in 2010 and wondered when it was that people in Washington started believing their own press releases. Were we really due for the Republican version of the 2010 Democratic lemming run?

Los Angeles Times - July 20, 2017

Americans are paying more attention to politics, and finding it stressful

Americans are paying more attention to politics since Donald Trump's election, but many find the experience a stressful one, according to new data from the nonpartisan Pew Research Center. Just over half of those surveyed by Pew said they were paying more attention to politics since Trump’s victory; only about one in eight said they were paying less attention, and one-third said their level of attention had not changed. Women were especially likely to say they were paying more attention to politics, with about six in ten saying so, compared with just under half of men. About one in six Americans said they had attended a political event since the election, with most of those saying the events were opposed to Trump or his policies.

Texas Public Radio - July 18, 2017

As Cities Raise Minimum Wages, Many States Are Rolling Them Back

State legislatures and city halls are battling over who gets to set the minimum wage, and increasingly, the states are winning. After dozens of city and county governments voted to raise their local minimum wage ordinances in the last several years, states have been responding by passing laws requiring cities to abide by statewide minimums. So far, 27 states have passed such laws. The latest example of this is in Missouri, where a state law will take effect next month, rolling back St. Louis' $10-an-hour minimum wage ordinance passed earlier this year. That means thousands of minimum-wage earners in the city could go back to earning the state rate of $7.70 an hour.

Dallas Morning News - July 20, 2017

DMN: His legacy at stake, Sen. John Cornyn should show leadership on health care

Now is the time for Sen. John Cornyn of Texas to become the leader his state and nation need him to be. He should tap into his own history of bipartisanship and urge his Senate colleagues to work with Democrats to fix America's ailing healthcare law, an approach both he and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have used before with great success. As things stand, the plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act that McConnell spent weeks writing in secret does not have sufficient votes to pass. So, a new course is needed. But the GOP appears set to choose a course that courts disaster. McConnell has promised a vote on simply repealing the Affordable Care Act. Some 32 million Americans would lose their insurance by 2026 if this were to become law.

Dallas Morning News - July 19, 2017

Ted Cruz backs American Airlines and other carriers in dispute with Gulf rivals

Sen. Ted Cruz is looking to give a bit of lift to Fort Worth-based American Airlines and other major carriers in a high-stakes dispute with international rivals. The Texas Republican this week urged the Trump administration to take action on the big airlines' longstanding complaint that three state-owned carriers in the Middle East are using subsidies from their home countries to box out the competition. He blasted the foreign carriers for "blatant disregard" of what are known as open skies agreements.

New York Times - July 20, 2017

Phillips: The Democratic Party’s Billion-Dollar Mistake

The Democratic Party is at risk of repeating the billion-dollar blunder that helped create its devastating losses of 2016. With its obsessive focus on wooing voters who supported Donald Trump, it is neglecting the cornerstone of its coalition and failing to take the steps necessary to win back the House of Representatives and state houses in 2018. In the 2016 election, the Democratic Party committees that support Senate and House candidates and allied progressive organizations spent more than $1.8 billion. The effectiveness of that staggering amount of money, however, was undermined by a strategic error: prioritizing the pursuit of wavering whites over investing in and inspiring African-American voters, who made up 24 percent of Barack Obama’s winning coalition in 2012.

Austin American-Statesman - July 20, 2017

Huetteman: The 3 Republican women who doomed a Senate repeal of the health law

It was men who started it. It may be women who finished it. The Senate effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act, a process that began with 13 Republican men drafting a plan behind closed doors, collapsed Tuesday, as three Republicans said they would not support an ultimately futile attempt to simply roll back the current health care law without a replacement. Though all three are women, their objections have little to do with their sex and more to do with the legislation’s cuts to Medicaid. In a twist, that aligns them with President Donald Trump’s campaign promise not to touch Medicaid, which helps low-income people, pregnant women and people with disabilities, among others, as well as those eligible under the Affordable Care Act’s expansion of the program in 31 states and the District of Columbia.

Houston Chronicle - July 20, 2017

Oil majors lobby for changes on Russian sanctions bill

The world's largest oil and gas companies are urging Congress to make changes to legislation expanding sanctions against Russia and Iran. A provision within the bill that would prohibit American companies from engaging in energy projects in which Russian firms are also engaged - whether the project is in Russia or not - has oil and gas companies protesting it could affect critical drilling and pipeline projects all over the globe. "The concerns have resonated with some members of Congress and there are efforts underway to change some elements of the bill," Jeffrey Turner, an attorney with the law firm Squire Patton Boggs, said at an event at the Atlantic Council in Washington Wednesday.

The Hill - July 20, 2017

Dems see huge field emerging to take on Trump

Democrats are expecting one of their party’s biggest fields in history will battle to take on President Trump in the 2020 election. They say Trump’s low approval ratings, his lack of legislative accomplishments and the lingering controversy surrounding multiple investigations into Russia’s involvement in the 2016 race have a number of Democrats positioning themselves for a White House run. “So long as Trump is hanging around [with approval ratings] in the 40s, potential challengers will be attracted like moths to a flame,” said David Wade, a Democratic strategist who served as a top aide to former Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) in his 2004 presidential run.

Washington Examiner - July 19, 2017

ICE chief: 80% jump in illegal targets, readies national 'sanctuary' crackdown

Empowered by a president who has "taken the handcuffs off of law enforcement," the nation's chief immigration official revealed Tuesday that deportation targets have surged and that he's planning to deploy more agents and resources to "sanctuary cities" to arrest illegal criminals. Thomas D. Homan, acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said in an interview that since Trump entered office, illegal border crossings have crashed by almost 70 percent, "an historic low," arrests inside the country have jumped 40 percent and that demands for illegal criminals in local jails has skyrocketed 80 percent.

Politico - July 20, 2017

Judge declines to remove block on Trump sanctuary cities order

A federal judge in California has denied a request by the Trump administration to remove an injunction halting President Donald Trump's executive order on so-called sanctuary cities from being implemented. The move further thwarts the Trump White House's attempt to effectively penalize cities providing safe haven to undocumented immigrants by threatening to strip them of federal funding. On Thursday U.S. District Judge William Orrick III in San Francisco moved to decline a request by the Justice Department to reconsider whether a memo by Attorney General Jeff Sessions narrowed the scope of Trump's executive action and lifted the need for an injunction. The judge said the narrower interpretation released by Sessions did not alter the court's initial April decision to impose the block.

Politico - July 20, 2017

How Democrats Won the Health Care War

The mover on health care loses,” Democratic operative James Carville said in January. “To do something is to lose.” That cold-hearted political proverb has been repeatedly proven true, if the standard is short-term electoral gain. In terms of policy, it’s another story. Now that Obamacare repeal has fizzled, Democrats have officially won the eight-year health care war. The victory was not by default. Trump might look silly blaming Democrats for the failure of repeal and replace when Republicans control all branches of government, but united Democratic resistance was critical to keeping the Affordable Care Act as law. Without a single Democrat in Congress breaking ranks, the ideologically divided Republican caucus found it impossible to stitch together a majority for a functional alternative to the status quo.

Texas Tribune - July 20, 2017

Kay Bailey Hutchison vows toughness on Russia as NATO ambassador

Former U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison testified on Thursday that she would take a tough stance on Russia if she is confirmed as the new ambassador to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. "We are beefing up defenses for an aggressive Russia," she told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, adding that she supports lawmakers considering new sanctions on Russian in response to its cyberattacks at home and abroad. "I think that Congress is doing the right thing." Hutchison's comments were striking given that the man who nominated her to the NATO post — President Donald Trump — continues to cultivate an oddly close relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Several senators, including Democrats, said Thursday they found Hutchison's positions reassuring, and they were anything but adversarial in their questioning of her.

Houston Chronicle - July 20, 2017

Revised version of withdrawn health-care bill would still leave 22 million more Americans uninsured, CBO says

In their latest assessment of Senate Republican's attempts to rewrite the Affordable Care Act, congressional budget analysts say a plan that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., pulled from consideration this week would increase the ranks of the uninsured by 22 million a decade from now - the same as a previous version. The CBO forecast issued early Thursday afternoon looked at a rejiggered iteration of the Better Care Reconciliation Act, which Senate GOP leaders unveiled a week ago in a so-far unsuccessful attempt to win enough support from the chamber's Republican majority.

Houston Chronicle - July 20, 2017

Harris, Paul introduce bill aimed at replacing cash bail systems

Two U.S. Senators introduced a bill Thursday aimed at reducing the use of money bail to hold people behind bars ahead of their trials, a practice the lawmakers said runs contrary to the U.S. justice system's "promise" to treat people equally before the law. The bipartisan measure, introduced by Senators Kamala Harris, D-California, and Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, would create a $10 million grant for state or local governments to replace or reform systems that require money bail. The senators said the practice disproportionately impacts the poor and communities of color and lets high-risk criminals walk free ahead of trial if they have means.

The Nation - July 18, 2017

Nichols: ALEC Is Talking About Changing the Way Senators Are Elected and Taking Away Your Vote

The United States Senate is an undemocratic institution. Just do the math: Progressive California Senator Kamala Harris was elected in 2016 with 7,542,753 votes. Yet her vote on issues such as health-care reform counts for no more than that of conservative Wyoming Senator Mike Enzi, who was elected in 2014 with 121,554 votes. This is an absurd imbalance. In fact, the only thing that would make it more absurd would be if voters were removed from the equation altogether. Say “hello” to the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, the corporate-funded project to impose a top-down right-wing agenda on the states. ALEC is considering whether to adopt a new piece of “model legislation” that proposes to do away with an elected Senate.

Austin American-Statesman - July 20, 2017

Hutchison gets warm welcome at Senate confirmation hearing

It was a coming home Thursday for former U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, who was received by her one-time Senate colleagues as a rock star, or at least the diplomatic version of one, as they considered her nomination to be the U.S. ambassador to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Hutchison, who was once described by late Austin writer Molly Ivins as having a “nigh-flawless combination of saccharine and steel” was the best known of the five ambassadorial nominees being questioned by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Dallas Morning News - July 20, 2017

Professors from UT-Arlington, UT-Dallas join forces to fight fake news

Incensed by what he thought was a pedophilia ring headquartered in a Washington, D.C., pizza restaurant, a 28-year-old man opened fire inside Comet Ping Pong Pizza last year, sending employees and customers scrambling for cover. The shooting was real, but the sex ring — supposedly overseen by 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton — was not. Instead, it was propaganda passed off as authentic through social media feeds and right-wing websites. No one was hurt in the Dec. 4 shooting, and the suspect was sentenced in June to four years in prison. Because of incidents like that one, a group of college instructors in North Texas believes combating fake news is a matter of national security. They're working on a proposal that would use technology to help root out false claims in the news.

Dallas Morning News - July 20, 2017

Trump administration study boosts Cruz health care idea, but policy experts are skeptical

In a whirlwind week that has seen the GOP's Obamacare overhaul on the brink of collapse, Sen. Ted Cruz has maintained that "failure is not an option." And the Texas Republican is projecting continued confidence in part because of a new study by the U.S. Health and Human Services Department that says his divisive idea to allow insurers to sell bare-bones, low-cost policies would decrease premiums and increase enrollment. "That shows exactly what we've been saying for a long time: The way you lower premiums is through competition, through market forces, through giving consumers the freedom to choose their own health care," Cruz told reporters this week.

Associated Press - July 20, 2017

AP-NORC Poll: Shift to political left seen on health care

Americans were never too thrilled with “Obamacare” and they definitely disapprove of Republican alternatives in Congress, so what does the public want to do on health care? A new poll suggests the country may be shifting left on this core issue, with 62 percent saying it’s the federal government’s responsibility to make sure that all Americans have health care coverage, while 37 percent say it is not. The survey findings from the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research indicate a change in public attitudes over the past few months, as concerns mounted about GOP legislation estimated to leave tens of millions without coverage. ... As recently as March, the AP-NORC poll had found Americans more ambivalent about the federal government’s role, with a slim 52 percent majority saying health coverage is a federal responsibility, and 47 percent saying it is not.

Minneapolis Star Tribune - July 20, 2017

Homeland security secretary says ports a terrorism priority

Security at shipping ports around the U.S., including testing containers and vessels for biological and radiological hazards, is a top priority to preventing terrorism, U.S. Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said Thursday. As he rode aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Aspen, near the Port of Los Angeles, Kelly viewed an array of new equipment used to test for radiation and biological threats. "The threat always changes, so we always have to be on top of that," Kelly said as the vessel cruised through the Pacific Ocean off Southern California.

Washington Post - July 21, 2017

Bump: Can Trump pardon anyone? Himself? Can he fire Mueller? Your questions, answered.

On Thursday night, The Washington Post reported that the White House is actively exploring how to undercut the special counsel’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election and any ways in which that meddling may have been conducted in concert with people working for Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. Among the things apparently being investigated by the administration are the boundaries of the president’s pardon power, including whether it extends to him. Additionally, a Republican who’s talked to administration officials told The Post that the White House hopes to begin “laying the groundwork to fire” Robert Mueller, the former FBI director tasked with the investigation. The president’s ability to do those things are questions which we’ve explored ourselves over the past few months, given the large type-size of the writing on the wall.