Quorum Report News Clips

View By Date
Printable Version of This Page

May 23, 2017: All Newsclips | Early Morning Clips

All - May 23, 2017

Lead Stories

Texas Tribune - May 22, 2017

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

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

Dallas Morning News - May 22, 2017

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

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

Houston Chronicle - May 22, 2017

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

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

Austin American-Statesman - May 22, 2017

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

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

San Antonio Express News - May 22, 2017

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

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

New York Times - May 22, 2017

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

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

Politico - May 22, 2017

Trump's budget hits his own voters hardest

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

Washington Post - May 22, 2017

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

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

State Stories

Dallas Morning News - May 22, 2017

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

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

Dallas Morning News - May 22, 2017

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

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

Dallas Morning News - May 22, 2017

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

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

Dallas Morning News - May 22, 2017

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

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

Dallas Morning News - May 22, 2017

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

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

Dallas Morning News - May 22, 2017

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

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

Dallas Morning News - May 22, 2017

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

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

Dallas Morning News - May 22, 2017

Border wall funding shrinks in Trump's 2018 budget

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

Austin American-Statesman - May 22, 2017

Texas House tentatively OKs bill to extend STAAR reprieve until 2021

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

Austin American-Statesman - May 22, 2017

Texas Senate approves bill to give second chance on some crimes

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

Austin American-Statesman - May 22, 2017

Herman: Separate but equal has its day in Texas House

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

Austin American-Statesman - May 22, 2017

School funding bill fate uncertain because of school choice

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

Austin American-Statesman - May 22, 2017

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

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

Austin American-Statesman - May 22, 2017

Judges: Does Supreme Court ruling affect Texas districts?

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

Texas Tribune - May 22, 2017

Dan Patrick unconvinced by House action on bathrooms, property taxes

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

Texas Tribune - May 22, 2017

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

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

Texas Tribune - May 22, 2017

Texas Senate votes to make child welfare department an independent agency

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

Texas Tribune - May 22, 2017

Texas business leaders stayed neutral on "bathroom" amendment

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

Texas Tribune - May 22, 2017

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

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

San Antonio Express News - May 22, 2017

Sen. Uresti withdraws from consideration for Senate post after indictment

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

San Antonio Express News - May 22, 2017

Texas House members say voucher plan could kill school finance measure

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

San Antonio Express News - May 22, 2017

Texas House approves bill to limit annexations

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

San Antonio Express News - May 22, 2017

‘Second chance’ bill gets final OK in state Senate

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

Associated Press - May 22, 2017

Texas bathroom bill could expose secrets of transgender kids

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

This article appeared in the San Antonio Express News

County Stories

Houston Chronicle - May 22, 2017

Two Harris County election clerks plead guilty to illegal voting

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

City Stories

Houston Chronicle - May 22, 2017

Texas judge on leave after questions arise about her citizenship

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

National Stories

Washington Post - May 22, 2017

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

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

New York Times - May 22, 2017

Trump Comes to Israel Citing a Palestinian Deal as Crucial

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

Politico - May 22, 2017

Kabaservice: How Watergate Helped Republicans—And Gave Us Trump

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

Associated Press - May 22, 2017

Trump seeks reconsideration of sanctuary cities ruling

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

This article appeared in the San Antonio Express News

The Hill - May 22, 2017

Chaffetz postpones Oversight hearing with Comey

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

Washington Post - May 22, 2017

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

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

Washington Post - May 22, 2017

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

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

Wall St. Journal - May 19, 2017

Americans Doing Better Financially, Except for Non-College Educated

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

Governing - May 22, 2017

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

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

All - May 22, 2017

Lead Stories

Politico - May 22, 2017

Supreme Court rules North Carolina congressional districts unconstitutional

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

San Antonio Express News - May 21, 2017

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

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

Associated Press - May 22, 2017

Source says Flynn to invoke 5th Amendment

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

This article appeared in the San Antonio Express News

KXAS - May 20, 2017

Texas High-Speed Rail Project Moves Forward

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

The Hill - May 20, 2017

The Memo: Trump base shows signs of cracking

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

Austin American-Statesman - May 19, 2017

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

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

Austin American-Statesman - May 21, 2017

House approves annexation limits, over opposition from Austin leaders

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

Dallas Morning News - May 22, 2017

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

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

Barron's - May 18, 2017

Would a President Pence Be Good for Stocks?

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

State Stories

Ft. Worth Star-Telegram - May 19, 2017

FWST: Are gun licensing fees too high? Not really

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

Austin American-Statesman - May 22, 2017

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

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

Austin American-Statesman - May 21, 2017

Texas House OKs transgender bathroom limits in schools

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

Austin American-Statesman - May 20, 2017

PolitiFact Texas: Going on the record with immigration claims

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

Austin American-Statesman - May 21, 2017

Former Dallas Police Chief David Brown to give UT commencement speech

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

Austin American-Statesman - May 19, 2017

House approves underage-drinking amnesty in reporting sex assaults

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

Austin American-Statesman - May 21, 2017

Lawmakers reach budget compromise after Abbott demands incentive money

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

Austin American-Statesman - May 21, 2017

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

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

Austin American-Statesman - May 21, 2017

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

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

Texas Tribune - May 18, 2017

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

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

Texas Tribune - May 22, 2017

Effort to overhaul Texas voter ID rules survives — for now

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

Texas Tribune - May 21, 2017

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

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

Texas Tribune - May 22, 2017

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

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

Dallas Morning News - May 22, 2017

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

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

Dallas Morning News - May 19, 2017

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

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

Dallas Morning News - May 22, 2017

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

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

Houston Chronicle - May 22, 2017

Tomlinson: Bathroom bill is nothing but trouble for Texas

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

Houston Chronicle - May 21, 2017

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

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

Houston Chronicle - May 19, 2017

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

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

Houston Chronicle - May 21, 2017

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

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

Houston Chronicle - May 20, 2017

In Texas, even possession of a sex toy is regulated

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

Houston Chronicle - May 21, 2017

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

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

Houston Chronicle - May 21, 2017

Abbott signs bill to protect sermons, delivers one himself

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

San Antonio Express News - May 21, 2017

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

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

Houston Chronicle - May 22, 2017

Tomlinson: Bathroom bill is nothing but trouble for Texas

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

Dallas Morning News - May 22, 2017

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

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

Dallas Morning News - May 22, 2017

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

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

Austin American-Statesman - May 22, 2017

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

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

Wall St. Journal - May 22, 2017

Get Ready for Peak Oil Demand

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

Dallas Morning News - May 22, 2017

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

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

New York Times - May 19, 2017

NYT: The Way Texas Treats Women

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

Austin Business Journal - May 18, 2017

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

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

Chronicle of Higher Education - May 18, 2017

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

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

Environmental Protection Online - May 19, 2017

TCEQ Touts Landfill Mining Projects' Potential

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

Texas Tribune - May 22, 2017

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

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

Newsline - May 19, 2017

Dallas Fed: Oil and gas sector recovery apparent

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

Corpus Christi Caller Times - May 20, 2017

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

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

County Stories

San Antonio Express News - May 21, 2017

Texas Mexican Mafia members arrested in raids

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

City Stories

Austin American-Statesman - May 22, 2017

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

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

Dallas Morning News - May 21, 2017

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

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

National Stories

Dallas Morning News - May 19, 2017

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

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

New York Times - May 20, 2017

NYT: Watergate? We’re Not There Yet

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

New York Times - May 20, 2017

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

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

Politico - May 22, 2017

Escalating probes rattle Trump and his aides

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

Washington Post - May 22, 2017

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

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

Reuters - May 20, 2017

NAACP civil rights group dismisses chief in mission recast

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

Austin American-Statesman - May 22, 2017

Trump trip to Israel possibly first flight from Saudi Arabia

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

Associated Press - May 22, 2017

Senate Republicans quietly working on health overhaul bill

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

This article appeared in the Houston Chronicle

Texas Tribune - May 22, 2017

The Texas Republican helping to calm the waters in Washington

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

Politico - May 22, 2017

Paging Rahm: House Dems revive 2006 playbook for 2018

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

New York Times - May 22, 2017

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

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

Investor's Business Daily - May 18, 2017

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

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

Page Six - May 21, 2017

Ted Cruz asked Stephen Colbert to ‘humanize’ him

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

Austin American-Statesman - May 21, 2017

Gingrich spreads conspiracy theory about slain DNC staffer

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

Washington Post - May 21, 2017

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

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

Washington Post - May 21, 2017

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

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

Washington Post - May 21, 2017

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

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

Politico - May 21, 2017

Russia meeting revelation could trigger obstruction investigation

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

Politico - May 21, 2017

An Outrageously Early Field Guide to 2020

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

The Hill - May 21, 2017

Republicans fearing for their safety as anger, threats mount

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

Fox News - May 17, 2017

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

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

The Hill - May 20, 2017

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

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

All - May 21, 2017

Lead Stories

Dallas Morning News - May 20, 2017

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

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

Dallas Morning News - May 21, 2017

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

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

Texas Tribune - May 20, 2017

Budget compromise taps Rainy Day Fund, transportation funding

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

Washington Post - May 19, 2017

Erickson: Here comes the GOP bloodbath

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

New York Times - May 18, 2017

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

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

New York Times - May 21, 2017

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

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

State Stories

Dallas Morning News - May 20, 2017

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

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

San Antonio Express News - May 20, 2017

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

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

Dallas Morning News - May 20, 2017

Bill aims to prevent jail time for unpaid tickets and fines

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

Dallas Morning News - May 20, 2017

Texas' schools chief could get more muscle under legislative proposals

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

Dallas Morning News - May 20, 2017

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

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

Dallas Morning News - May 19, 2017

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

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

Dallas Morning News - May 21, 2017

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

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

Dallas Morning News - May 20, 2017

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

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

Texas Tribune - May 20, 2017

House backs property tax changes, but leaves out election requirements

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

Texas Tribune - May 21, 2017

School lunch bill revived as an amendment; no longer mandatory

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

Texas Tribune - May 20, 2017

Texas House advances bill that would outlaw bestiality

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

Texas Tribune - May 21, 2017

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

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

Texas Tribune - May 21, 2017

Major ethics reform remains viable in final days of session

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

Texas Tribune - May 20, 2017

Texas Republicans fear federal oversight as voter ID overhaul stalls

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

Austin American-Statesman - May 20, 2017

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

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

Austin American-Statesman - May 20, 2017

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

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

Austin American-Statesman - May 20, 2017

Herman: Hypocrisy and sincerely held religious beliefs

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

Austin American-Statesman - May 20, 2017

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

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

Austin American-Statesman - May 20, 2017

Resolution to legislative standoff emerging as session end nears

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

Austin American-Statesman - May 20, 2017

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

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

Austin American-Statesman - May 20, 2017

Donna Howard tearfully speaks against further abortion regulations

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

Austin American-Statesman - May 20, 2017

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

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

San Antonio Express News - May 20, 2017

Texas AG asks EPA to halt environmental court battles

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

New York Times - May 21, 2017

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

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

Austin American-Statesman - May 20, 2017

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

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

Texas Observer - May 21, 2017

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

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

Texas Observer - May 20, 2017

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

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

County Stories

Dallas Morning News - May 20, 2017

John Wiley Price won't be retried, feds announce

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

Dallas Morning News - May 20, 2017

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

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

City Stories

Houston Chronicle - May 20, 2017

AG alleges lawyer used deceptive practices in debt collection

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

San Antonio Express News - May 19, 2017

Texas replaces Southside ISD board, completing takeover

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

San Antonio Express News - May 18, 2017

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

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

National Stories

New York Times - May 21, 2017

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

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

Dallas Morning News - May 20, 2017

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

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

Dallas Morning News - May 20, 2017

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

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

Washington Post - May 21, 2017

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

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

Dallas Morning News - May 20, 2017

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

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

Politico - May 20, 2017

Russia meeting revelation could trigger obstruction investigation

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

Politico - May 20, 2017

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

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

New York Times - May 20, 2017

Douthat: Donald Trump, Establishment Sellout

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

Washington Post - May 18, 2017

Democrats predict a Trump sellout on NAFTA

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

All - May 19, 2017

Lead Stories

San Antonio Express News - May 18, 2017

Alleged accomplice of Texas senator in bribery case agrees to plead guilty

A former West Texas official has agreed to plead guilty to taking bribes he allegedly split with Texas Sen. Carlos Uresti, about $850,000, while a Lubbock businessman accused of providing the money denied the charges Thursday. Jimmy Galindo, 53, who was County Judge of Reeves County from January 1995 to December 2006, signed a plea deal in which he plans to plead guilty to conspiracy to commit bribery and failure to file tax returns. The plea deal was filed late Thursday, though his plea hearing has not been scheduled. Neither Galindo nor his lawyer could be reached for comment late Thursday, but prosecutors agreed not to present Galindo’s case to a grand jury. Instead, he was charged by criminal information, which was filed Thursday with his plea deal.

Austin American-Statesman - May 18, 2017

Travis DA takes steps to stop deportations of crime victims, witnesses

Travis County prosecutors will begin immediately issuing letters to victims and witnesses of crimes who might be in the country illegally or could be subject to deportation in hopes of possibly shielding them from removal. District Attorney Margaret Moore said the move is intended to make sure her office can resolve criminal cases before a person critical to an ongoing case is deported. The letter, which can be given to any other law enforcement agency, including the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, declares them “a crime victim and/or essential witness in a felony case currently pending in Travis County. The Travis County District Attorney considers this individual necessary to the prosecution” of a case, it reads.

Texas Tribune - May 18, 2017

Adler: I can’t wait to see the state of Texas in court

For decades, the Texas Legislature has been a backseat driver, second guesser and insufferable micromanager to Austin. Now, our Legislature and governor have crossed the line by imperiling our most basic freedoms. Not only did state lawmakers recently pass the governor’s sanctuary city bill that went way beyond federal immigration law, but the Texas attorney general just filed suit against me and others for speaking out against it. We speak out because, if this law goes into effect, Austin and other Texas cities will be forced to make our communities less safe. And we’re speaking out even though this new law would, incredibly enough, allow our state attorney general to remove local elected officials from office if they endorse a different policy, even one that’s in accordance with federal immigration law.

San Antonio Express News - May 18, 2017

Chambers of commerce say Texas can’t afford bathroom bill

San Antonio-area chambers of commerce doubled down on their opposition to a so-called bathroom bill in light of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s threat to force to special session unless it passes. The proposal would affect which public bathrooms transgender people can use, either by outright requiring them to use the facilities that align with the sex on their birth certificate or forbidding local ordinances that protect them from discrimination in that area. “Specifically, we are concerned about the ramifications a ‘bathroom bill’ or any related amendment language would have on our tourism industry and local economy,” said a letter addressed to Gov. Greg Abbott and the Bexar County legislative delegation.

The Hill - May 19, 2017

Senate GOP short on ideas for stabilizing ObamaCare markets

Senate Republicans are floating a short-term fix to stabilize the ObamaCare insurance markets before next year. Health insurance plans across the country need to decide by next month whether they will continue to operate in the ObamaCare exchanges, creating an immediate deadline for Congress. The Senate is unlikely to have completed its legislation to repeal the healthcare law by then, so lawmakers are casting about for ways to quickly strengthen the marketplaces. Senators are meeting three times a week to discuss how best to craft legislation to repeal and replace ObamaCare in the wake of the House-passed bill. They are under pressure to shore up the markets, but see no easy solutions.

Texas Tribune - May 18, 2017

Texas House halts effort to ensure access to public information

The Texas House has thwarted an effort to patch what some called “glaring loopholes” in public records law, recently punched by the Texas Supreme Court. In a last-ditch maneuver last week, the Senate attached a slew of amendments aiming to bolster access to government information — key provisions of bills languishing in a House committee — to legislation the House had already approved. The aim was to muscle the proposals to Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk all at once. But the House parliamentarian on Thursday ruled the amendments were not relevant to Rep. Eddie Lucio III’s House Bill 2328, which would expedite information requests at some government agencies.

Salon - May 18, 2017

Mike Pence launches his own PAC as he finds himself in the middle of another Trump scandal

Vice President Mike Pence has dutifully and publicly supported President Donald Trump throughout the avalanche of cascading controversies that have inundated the White House in the last four months. But after a third blockbuster news report in as many days revealed that the vice president is near the epicenter of a new growing scandal, Pence suddenly launched his own political fundraising group. Pence said that he started the Great America Committee to help the GOP in what’s sure to be a round of hotly contested elections in 2018 and 2020. The group, which filed paperwork with the Federal Election Commission on Wednesday, will be able to use the funds to cover the costs of the vice president’s travels on Air Force Two to campaign on behalf of GOP candidates across the country.

Gallup - May 16, 2017

Democratic Party Image Dips, GOP Ratings Stable

Americans' opinions of the two major political parties are now similar after the Democratic Party's ratings slipped to 40% -- from 45% last November -- while the Republican Party's image is essentially unchanged at 39%. The latest update on the party's images is based on a May 3-7 Gallup poll, which asked Americans whether they have a favorable or an unfavorable opinion of each party. Throughout last year's contentious presidential election campaign, U.S. adults rated neither party highly. In fact, more rated each party unfavorably than favorably. But Democrats maintained a slight edge in favorable ratings, including 45% to 40% in Gallup's prior measurement, conducted last November after Donald Trump's victory in the 2016 presidential election.

Houston Chronicle - May 18, 2017

Court tells Collin County commissioners to vote on special prosecutors' pay

The 5th District Court of Appeals in Dallas has ordered the Collin County Commissioners Court to vote on whether to pay special prosecutors assigned to Attorney General Ken Paxton's criminal trial, although that does not guarantee the lawyers will be paid. The commissioners court decision must then be reported back to the appeals court within 30 days, according to the ruling by Presiding Judge Molly Frances, so the court can review the lawfulness of the court's decision. The case does little to settle the ongoing dispute launched by Jeffory Blackard, a campaign contributor and ally to Paxton who contends taxpayers are overpaying three special prosecutors assigned to try the high profile Republican who is accused of securities fraud and failing to register with the state as an investment adviser.

Dallas Morning News - May 19, 2017

What happens when a small band of angry legislators takes control of the Texas House? We're about to learn

Rep. Jonathan Stickland thundered down the center aisle of the Texas House, waving papers in the air and hollering at the speaker’s dais. “No!” he screamed, demanding his colleague’s questions be acknowledged. “You are hammering through this, Dennis! We have rights!” Rep. Dennis Bonnen, a top lieutenant of the House speaker, stood calmly at the dais. The chamber fell silent as Bonnen, befuddled, watched Stickland gesticulating. He adjusted his glasses and instructed Rep. Matt Schaefer to resume his questions.

Rolling Stone - May 19, 2017

Willie Nelson to Jeff Sessions: Smoke Some Pot

It's the day before Willie Nelson's 84th birthday, but he's keeping his plans modest. "I'm just going to try and be here," he says with a laugh from his tour bus, the Honeysuckle Rose, currently parked in Laughlin, Nevada, another stop on Nelson's furious two-weeks-on, two-weeks-off touring schedule. "I'm still enjoying it," he says. "It's the two weeks off that gets kind of long." This summer, Nelson will tour with the Outlaw Music Festival, which includes dates with Bob Dylan, Sheryl Crow, Jason Isbell and Nelson's sons Lukas and Micah. Nelson is looking forward to breaking out songs from his excellent new album, God's Problem Child. "It'll be a great chance to run into a lot of old friends," says Nelson, who, after thousands of gigs, has his own ways of keeping the show interesting: "I won't intentionally try to throw the band off, but I do things that they don't know. And sometimes, there's a magic that happens."

Politico - May 18, 2017

Senate Democrats reject Lieberman for FBI director

President Donald Trump may be dramatically miscalculating how much support Sen. Joe Lieberman would have among his former Democratic colleagues if nominated to become FBI director. Some Senate Democrats hold a grudge against Lieberman for his rightward turn and opposition to some of President Barack Obama's agenda late in his Senate career. Others say even though they respect Lieberman, the job of FBI director should not go to a former politician. And all Democratic senators interviewed for this story said the former Connecticut senator lacks the kind of experience needed for the post.

State Stories

Texas Tribune - May 18, 2017

Educators take issue with Senate plan for school assessment

Educators on Thursday turned up to a Senate committee hearing on a bill that would change how the state assesses schools and districts with a message for legislators. "We were for the House-passed version," said Patty Quinzi, legislative counsel for the Texas American Federation of Teachers. Senate Education Committee Chairman Larry Taylor, R-Friendswood, presented a substitute version of House Bill 22, which would tweak the state's proposed system for grading schools and districts on an A-F scale. Taylor changed many provisions in the House's bill to bring it closer to Senate Bill 2051, which passed out of his committee last week.

Texas Tribune - May 19, 2017

Ramsey: Property tax relief doesn’t equal extra money in your pocket

Beware of government officials promising property tax benefits. Be sure to check their math. Ask about the effective dates. Don’t expect to get any promises in writing. The Texas Legislature is touting a bill — Senate Bill 2 — that would make it easier for property owners to protest big tax increases from cities, counties and special districts. You might have heard about this one: Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has threatened to force a special legislative session if this and legislation on public bathroom regulations don’t pass.

Texas Tribune - May 18, 2017

After waiting 3 days to see dead son, grieving mom hopes to change Texas law

Lara McDaniel remembers kissing her blonde 7-year-old son goodbye after he died in an accident four years ago. Wyatt, who loved animals and making new friends, had been dead for three days before she was allowed to see his body. An autopsy had already been conducted. McDaniel wishes she could have viewed Wyatt's body before he was cut open but said an investigator didn’t allow it. By the time she got to see her son, “It was like kissing a countertop. He was no longer my little boy. He was mutilated,” McDaniel told state lawmakers in March while testifying for House Bill 298, which would ensure parents could see their deceased child’s body under supervision before law enforcement officials conduct an autopsy.

Texas Tribune - May 18, 2017

House backs proposal requiring seat belts on school buses

The Texas House on Thursday tentatively backed legislation that would require three-point seat belts be installed on newly-purchased school buses across the state. Senate Bill 693, authored by Sen. Sylvia Garcia, D-Houston, cleared the lower chamber in a 91-43 vote following a debate among lawmakers over whether the bill would force an unfunded mandate on schools. “We have to have three-point seatbelts on all of our school buses,” the bill’s House sponsor, state Rep. Matthew Phelan, R-Beaumont, said. “I can’t believe we’re going to let 1.1 million children get on the roads every day without seat belts.”

Texas Tribune - May 18, 2017

Texas House passes child welfare reforms

The Texas House on Thursday passed a package of sweeping measures aimed at addressing a crisis in the state's child welfare system. After a lengthy debate, the House passed Senate Bill 11, a measure that would have Texas shift to a "community-based care" model for handling some endangered children and allowing contracted organizations — not just the resources-strapped state — to monitor children in foster care and adoptive homes. State Rep. James Frank, R-Wichita Falls, the bill's sponsor, told members the bill would give the state the chance to run its foster care system beyond Austin.

Texas Tribune - May 18, 2017

Senate budget writers approve bill to plug two-year-old funding holes

Texas Senate budget writers on Thursday approved a supplemental budget to pay for leftover expenses that aren’t covered in the state's current two-year budget, mostly for health and human services programs. The Senate Finance Committee unanimously voted to spend about $800 million in state funds — which comes with a matching $1.6 billion from the federal government — to cover a shortfall in Medicaid, the public health insurance program for the poor and disabled. That made up by far the largest chunk of the $2.6 billion supplemental budget approved Thursday.

Texas Tribune - May 16, 2017

Piperno: A regulation that would be a disaster for Austin and the rest of Texas

The Texas Legislature is close to a finish on House Bill 100, a bill that purports to streamline the operations of Transportation Network Companies (TNC) like Fasten, Uber and Lyft. In reality, it will do three no good, horrible, very bad things: putting the safety of every ride hailing customer in the state at risk, enabling discrimination and weakening the sovereignty of cities across the state. In Austin, where fingerprinting is required of all a ride-hailing drivers, more than 2.6 percent of applications (which equates to about 185 drivers) have been rejected for a variety of serious offenses, including but not limited to multiple assaults with a deadly weapon; assaulting a police officer; and failure to register as a sex offender since the rule was enacted. Without fingerprinting, these dangerous people would be behind the wheel.

Texas Tribune - May 18, 2017

White: Raise the age, or pay the price

Once again, the Texas House of Representatives has passed a thoughtful proposal to raise the age of criminal responsibility to 18 from 17. Concerns about costs and public safety have stymied these efforts. About ten years ago, our juvenile justice system was reeling from a scandal. In response, Texas focused on front-end community-based services and our county juvenile probation departments are doing outstanding work rehabilitating youth and maintaining public safety. The number of youth in our secure facilities has decreased significantly from about 5,000 a decade ago, to approximately 1,300 today. The rehabilitation of our youth in their communities is working. Texas’ success has inspired reform across our nation. But many states are poised to surpass the Lone Star State as a juvenile justice policy leader. Due to a recent nationwide movement to raise the age of criminal responsibility, Texas remains one of only six states where 17-year-olds have adult criminal responsibility. Whether that is attributable to costs or process, many find it bewildering that Texas, with its current successes in juvenile justice and resources, along with its commitment to safe communities, cannot find the political will the raise the age.

Austin American-Statesman - May 18, 2017

'48 marks on his back' — How Tasers figure into deaths in police custody

The Rockdale police summary of how Rosendo Gaytan died on Halloween night 2006 during his arrest for public intoxication is clinical and brief: “While in the booking area of the Milam County Jail the subject continued to be uncompliant and assaultive. Taser was utilized in an attempt to gain subject’s compliance. While subject was being restrained he became unresponsive.” Gaytan, 52, was flown to Austin in a coma, according to police and medical reports. He died four days later. An investigation by the Texas Rangers, completed three months after his death, contained a much more detailed — and troubling — narrative of Gaytan’s final minutes.

Austin American-Statesman - May 18, 2017

Gutierrez: Why Baylor is overdue for a new board of regents

This week, we learned of yet another Title IX suit filed against Baylor, marking the seventh and most recent suit against the university. The case alleges a 2012 gang rape perpetrated by members of the university’s football team against a Baylor volleyball player. Equally disturbing, the case alleges that a 21-second video recording of the rape was later circulated among football players. The lawsuit also highlights the appalling culture where sexual assault by football players was considered a “bonding experience.” To add insult to injury, victims were alienated and could find no relief from their school. This could very well be the largest scandal ever in U.S. collegiate athletics — and we cannot sit idly as those who allowed it to take place avoid consequences.

Austin American-Statesman - May 18, 2017

Penalties for unpaid tolls could plunge — but only on some tollways

The rapidly escalating tollway fines that have left some Texans owing thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars could be a thing of the past, based on an amendment that surprisingly found its way into a Texas Department of Transportation bill this week. But the impact to your pocketbook would depend on which tollway you’re driving. Under the amendment, a car owner who has driven on a tollway without paying — even hundreds of times — would owe at most $73 in fines every six months, plus the unpaid tolls. But that change, proposed by Rep. Ina Minjarez, D-San Antonio, and approved by the House 136-3, would apply only to TxDOT tollways.

Austin American-Statesman - May 16, 2017

Israel: The good days and bad days at the Lege

There are two types of days for the Texas House of Representatives. Our best days are when we find opportunities to work across party lines and make real progress for Texas families. The worst happen when political posturing overwhelms all of our good intentions. Last week was an example of the bad times. The House passed House Bill 3859 which would allow child-placement agencies to make decisions based on their own religious beliefs, as opposed to following the standards that advance the best interests of children, using taxpayer dollars.

Austin American-Statesman - May 18, 2017

Herman: Lawmakers in Texas House attempt to tackle sin

The Texas House is a 150-member chamber of sinners. We know this because it’s a 150-member chamber of humans and, we’re told, to be human is to be a sinner. Still in all, it’s a moment of note when one member, during floor debate, declares another member’s sexual orientation a sin. The topic came up during House debate of the State Bar reauthorization bill, a measure needed lest we stop getting new lawyers. As it happens, some House members had some ideas on how to make the measure, Senate Bill 302, even better by amending it during Monday’s debate. Rep. Matt Schaefer, R-Tyler, offered an amendment he said would protect lawyers from practicing in a way contrary to their religious beliefs.

Austin American-Statesman - May 18, 2017

House tentatively OKs Senate bill to expand foster care privatization

Scrambling to find a solution to the problems that plague the state’s child welfare system, the Legislature is one step closer to stripping the state of its responsibilities to provide major foster care services in certain parts of the state. The Texas House on Thursday tentatively approved Senate Bill 11, filed by Sen. Charles Schwertner, R-Georgetown, which would expand “community-based foster care” to two areas in the state over the next two years. The state would have to transfer foster care case management, including caseworker visits, court-related duties and decision-making on where children live, learn and receive services, to a nonprofit agency or a governmental entity such as a county or municipality.

Austin American-Statesman - May 18, 2017

How a wayward gavel broke a Texas Senate desk

The Texas Senate was in the middle of a sober discussion about barring school districts from suspending students below the third grade when Sen. Brandon Creighton, taking a turn leading the Senate, missed his gavel’s intended target Wednesday. The sharp crack split a wooden piece from the desk, bringing the Senate to a standstill as laughter erupted and Creighton moved the broken furniture aside, blushing fiercely. “Look at that shade of red,” marveled Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who typically wields the gavel and had been standing nearby.

Austin American-Statesman - May 15, 2017

Byrne: How Legislature is making Texas’ foster care system worse

“Judge, we just want a foster home with people who like kids.” These are the words I heard last week from two siblings on my foster care docket in Travis County court. The children did not specify what religion, race or sexual orientation their foster family must be; they simply wanted to sleep in a safe, caring home rather than a hotel, state office or cold, institutional setting. Regrettably, the response by the Department of Family and Protective Services was that right now there is no foster family for them in the entire state of Texas — even after an exhaustive search by DFPS lasting nearly two months.

Austin American-Statesman - May 18, 2017

New legislative tactics brought to old fight over religion

Thwarted from passing broad protections for religious practices that opponents see as discriminatory, socially conservative Republicans in the Texas House have adopted a piecemeal approach — adding amendments barring agencies from infringing on the religious beliefs of state-licensed professionals. Thus far, the amendments have been added to must-pass legislation for agencies that regulate nurses, lawyers and pharmacists, with similar actions likely as the legislative session winds down toward its May 29 finale. “We’re always looking,” said Rep. Matt Krause, R-Fort Worth, who has led the amendment effort. “It’s such an important issue that you try to make ground and advance the ball wherever you can.”

Austin American-Statesman - May 18, 2017

House thwarts Kirk Watson bid to revive open-government bills

Sen. Kirk Watson’s attempt to revive six stalled open-government bills was thwarted Thursday in the Texas House. The bills, bottled up in a House committee since mid-April, were given new life last week when the Senate voted to add all six as amendments to House Bill 2328 by Rep. Eddie Lucio III, D-Brownsville. The most sweeping amendments would have undone Texas Supreme Court rulings that exempted nonprofits that receive public money from the state’s open-records laws and allowed companies to block the release of government contracts and other information that could give competitors an advantage.

Austin American-Statesman - May 18, 2017

Williams: Why Senate Bill 2 is the real definition of local control

It’s that time of year again: When property owners across Central Texas are reviewing their annual appraisal notices and running the numbers. Homeowners are calculating how much their monthly mortgage payments will increase, while commercial property owners are calculating the hit on their operating expenses. This year, it’s quite the hit again. In Travis County, residential and commercial property valuations have increased by an average of 8 and 23 percent, respectively. New solutions are needed to slow the skyrocketing property tax values that are overwhelming small businesses and homeowners while taxing jobs and residents out of town. Senate Bill 2 — also known as the Texas Property Tax Reform and Relief Act of 2017 — puts the power of taxation back in the people’s hands by requiring cities and counties to ask for voter approval for any property tax hike greater than four percent.

Austin American-Statesman - May 18, 2017

Finan: Learning to love, and lose, as foster parents

“Jingle Bells” was playing in the background as I cut the hospital bracelet from her tiny wrist. The discounted red holiday dress — a satin-and-crinoline concoction that was the only thing we could find left in her size — looked better suited for a doll than a newborn, and as we sifted through a bin of stockings in search of one with her initial on it — B, for Bailey — I noticed Valentine’s candies were already starting to push their way into the aisles. When CPS asks you to take a new baby two days before Christmas, Pinterest aspirations go out the window.

Austin American-Statesman - May 17, 2017

Herman: Will Texas lawmakers ever go home?

Now we’re talking about legislating by hostage taking, as in keeping legislators in special session after special session if that’s what it takes to get them to do what Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, claiming to speak for the people of Texas, wants them to do. Patrick, president of the Texas Senate, is unhappy that the Texas House has not acted on Senate-passed bills on property tax relief and on who can use which bathrooms and locker rooms in government buildings. The property tax bill is scheduled for House debate Thursday. It might not come out in a form that pleases Patrick. The so-called bathroom bill is stalled in the House where Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, opposes it as a “contrived” answer to a “manufactured” problem.

Austin American-Statesman - May 18, 2017

Tom Mechler to address report he’s stepping down as Texas GOP chairman

Texas Republican Party Chairman Tom Mechler will address on Saturday a report that he plans to step down and let the State Republican Executive Committee pick his successor at its quarterly meeting on June 3. “He’s going to respond to these rumors on Saturday,” said Texas GOP spokesman Mike Joyce. Mechler, an Amarillo oil and gas consultant, has served as chairman of the Republican Party in the nation’s biggest red state since March 2015, when he succeeded Steve Munisteri.

Houston Chronicle - May 18, 2017

Paxton rules violent sex offenders can vote by mail

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, siding with the state's most violent sex offenders in an odd twist of fate, ruled Thursday that the 262 men housed in a remote West Texas treatment center have the right to vote by mail. The issue that made national headlines had simmered since last November, when more than 100 men at the Texas Civil Commitment facility in tiny Littlefield, near Lubbock, had their mail ballots tossed out after they were earlier approved state officials to vote by mail in the general election. Local election officials who made the decision not to count the mail ballots never fully explained their reason. State officials privately said that decision likely violated federal and state law.

Houston Chronicle - May 18, 2017

Perry: Texas' criminal justice reforms need support

Closing a prison in Texas was a laughable proposition a decade ago in my home state of Texas. However, it was recently announced that the Lone Star State may close up to four prisons this year, on top of the four units that have been closed since 2007. It was during my time as governor that Texas shifted its mentality on corrections and sparked a nationwide, conservative criminal-justice movement. What happened to spark such a turnaround? In 2007, it was estimated that 17,000 additional prison beds would be needed over the next five years due to the way we were punishing offenders throughout the criminal justice system. This new construction and costs would come at a price tag of at least $2 billion. Now, if this was necessary to protect the public, then so be it. Money well spent. However, when we began to look at the system, it was evident that this wasn't a wise or effective way to maintain public safety. Prison was leaving some offenders worse, thus increasing the chances they would commit another crime after they did their time.

Houston Chronicle - May 18, 2017

Traffic tickets would increase by $20 to replace unpopular driver responsibility program

It's been likened to debtor's prison and derided as a form of double jeopardy. It's blamed for causing some Texans to lose their jobs and creating emotional distress for many. In the eyes of many Texans, perhaps the only thing that the state's driver responsibility program has going for it is that it helps to fund trauma centers across the state. Otherwise, there has been little to love in its confusing system of surcharges that forces drivers to either pay additional fees for years after they've settled traffic violations or face automatic suspension of their licenses.

Houston Chronicle - May 18, 2017

Confusion grows as property tax bill debate delayed again

A deadline for legislative action on a key property tax reform bill came and went Thursday, as the Texas House delayed a vote one day and some lawmakers speculated the bill could be in trouble. While House leaders insisted the delay means little and that the bill can be debated Friday without derailing other must-pass bills at the end of the legislative session, members in both chambers expressed concern over the dramatic and unexpected change on Senate Bill 2 - a measure that Gov. Greg Abbott has said could trigger a special session if it does not pass.

Dallas Morning News - May 19, 2017

After slow-down, Texas job growth picks up

Texas added 30,400 jobs in April -- a decent jump following an essentially flat couple of months, the Texas Workforce Commission reported on Friday. In March, the state created just 9,500 jobs. The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate, 5 percent, was unchanged over the month, while the nation's number dipped below 4.5 percent. Experts, however, have largely attributed that rising jobless rate to an expanding labor pool, as more people move to the Lone Star State for work. And officials say that Texas' diverse economy is a major attraction.

San Antonio Express News - May 18, 2017

Uresti on session under cloud: ‘As a Marine, I was trained to deal with stress’

Ask Sen. Carlos Uresti how he has managed the stress of legislating under the cloud of an FBI investigation and he cites prayer, friends, family, the weight of his responsibility — and war games. His Marine training prepared him to focus on whatever task he has at hand under fire, said the San Antonio Democrat, who this session has worked on numerous bills, including a high-profile, bipartisan effort to reform child-protective services. “I have a job to do, and about 850,000 people back home counting on me to get that job done. … So I get up every morning and come to work. Haven’t missed a day,” he said in an interview in early May, before his indictment this week on fraud, bribery and money-laundering charges.

KSAT - May 16, 2017

SA mom's ability to use own stem cells as medicine in Texas closer to reality

An emotional fight for a San Antonio mom to use her own stem cells as medicine is one step closer to a win for her and other advocates. Giggles echoed through the quiet street outside Stefanie Cowley's house as her son Tyler sat on her lap and they raced her new wheelchair down the road. Before July 2014, Cowley never dreamed of being able to play with her son again. "Just little things like that, that make a huge difference in your life, and you thought you had lost forever," she said. Multiple sclerosis had left Cowley bed-ridden and in excruciating pain for a full year before. Medications weren't working and she had lost hope until she found adult stem cell therapy.

Washington Times - May 17, 2017

Texas state senator says he’s innocent of federal charges

A Texas state senator says he’s innocent of fraud, bribery and money laundering charges that could bring a 200-year prison sentence if convicted on all counts. Carlos Uresti, a Democrat from San Antonio, turned himself in Wednesday to authorities in his hometown before appearing in federal court. Outside the courthouse, Uresti said he is innocent of all charges. Federal indictments accuse the 53-year-old Uresti of engaging in an investment Ponzi scheme to market hydraulic fracturing sand for oil production. He’s also charged with aiding a bribery scheme to secure a prison medical services contract.

Texas Observer - May 17, 2017

Texas Is Seeking Trump’s Approval of its Planned Parenthood Ban. Will Other States Follow?

Texas is testing the Trump administration’s antagonism toward Planned Parenthood with a controversial move that could set a path for other states to defund the nation’s leading reproductive health provider. Four years ago, Texas’ vendetta against Planned Parenthood led the state to forgo millions of dollars in federal funding in order to strike the provider from its low-income women’s health program. Hoping it now has an ally in the new administration in Washington, the state is asking Trump whether it can now receive that money, without restoring access to Planned Parenthood. It’s an unprecedented move that women’s health advocates worry could inspire other states to slash funding from Planned Parenthood with impunity.

KUHF - May 18, 2017

Texas Moving To Exclude ‘Dreamers’ From College Work-Study

Texas legislators are seeking to deny work-study aid to immigrants attending public college under a temporary residency permit, a move that starkly contrasts with a policy enacted 16 years ago that positioned the state as the nation’s most welcoming place for foreign-born students. Under the proposal, which is on the verge of clearing the Texas Legislature, only individuals eligible for federal financial aid would qualify for the state’s off-campus, work-study program. That group includes U.S. citizens, permanent residents and refugees. It doesn’t include students who came into the country illegally as children and have a work visa allowing them to stay longer, or immigrants granted permission to stay in the country because they were crime victims.

Texas Observer - May 17, 2017

Traffic Ticketing Program That Feeds Debtors’ Prison Pipeline May Be in its Final Year

Since 2003, an obscure Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) program has trapped more than a million Texans in a cycle of debt, opponents say. For nearly as long, lawmakers critical of the program have sought to repeal it. This might be their year. The Driver Responsibility Program funds trauma centers around the state by levying hefty fees against repeat offenders. Drivers accumulate points on their licenses when they commit traffic violations. At six points, a for-profit DPS contractor hits drivers with a surcharge of between $100 and $2,000 to be paid each year for three years. And that’s in addition to traffic fines, court costs, and attorney’s fees. Reformers say the program thrusts poor Texans into a downward spiral that progresses from unpaid fines and suspended licenses to hefty fees and jail time.

Associated Press - May 17, 2017

Texas May Scrap Law Mandating Jail for Selling Unmarked CDs

Texas lawmakers are moving to finally abolish a provision allowing people to face jail time for selling unlabeled CDs. Vending a CD without the name of the band or singer is currently a felony punishable by up to one year in jail — a penalty rarely, if ever, employed by the state for such a sale. Now, a proposal advancing in the Texas Legislature would remove the infraction. It's an afterthought in a larger bill designed to update state laws prohibiting the sale of contraband recordings.

Victoria Advocate - May 17, 2017

Protect Texas' oyster industry: Support House Bill 51 as filed

House Bill 51 by State Representative Ryan Guillen as originally filed included promising provisions supported by members of the oyster industry and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. The industry is in favor of an oyster license buyback program and GPS-tracking systems on commercial boats, as well as provisions to hold bad actors accountable for their actions. However, amendments adopted on the House floor prior to passage create significant negatives which overwhelm the good intentions of the legislation and bring forth strong objections by the oyster industry. As amended, HB 51 would be detrimental to the oyster industry and related businesses.

Houston Press - May 17, 2017

City Officials in Houston and Across Texas Announce Plans to Sue Over SB4

City officials from the largest cities in Texas are joining arms with community activists and immigrant advocacy groups to stand up to Governor Abbott after he signed the controversial "anti-sanctuary cities" bill, Senate Bill 4. Officials in Austin, Houston, San Antonio, Dallas and El Paso unveiled what they're calling a "summer of resistance," complete with protests, community action and — most anticipated — a legal challenge against SB4 before it goes into effect in September. City councils in the cities are expected to pass resolutions this week to authorize city attorneys to take legal action against the state of Texas. El Paso County Commissioners Court authorized this on Monday, and in fact, border jurisdictions Maverick County and El Cenizo, a city in Webb County, have already sued Texas over SB 4 as well. It looks like Governor Abbott is in for a long ride.

Austin Chronicle - May 17, 2017

King: Point Austin -- Saved by Billionaires?

When I spoke to Public Citizen's Tom Smith last year about the dim prospects of action on climate change in TrumpWorld, Smitty was defiantly optimistic. "It's in places like Austin where we're beginning to take a look at resiliency, down to the kinds of trees we plant, and looking at changes that are likely to come in the climate. "What we'll see, I think, is sort of the rise of city-states, where communities like Austin and San Antonio ... become much more resilient, much more concerned about water and other resources – banding together to create smaller economic structures." That sort of embattled, localized optimism was in evidence again Tuesday evening, during and after a screening (at the Contemporary) of From the Ashes, a documentary on the future of coal, the energy source most responsible for global warming.

KTSA - May 18, 2017

Expert: Rough Road Ahead For Uresti, TX Dems

A big blow for both Texas Democrats–and State Senator Carlos Uresti. That’s just what one political watcher sees in the federal indictments handed down against the San Antonio Democrat Tuesday. “One of the angles that they (Texas Democrats) hoped to use in the 2018 election was hitting sitting Attorney General Ken Paxton (a Republican) for his indictments on many of the same charges that Senator Uresti has been indicted on… that is securities violations” said Mark Jones, a Political Science Fellow at Rice University’s Baker Institute. ... “Now there are three Texas Democrats in the State Legislature that have either been indicted… Senator Uresti and Representative (Dawnna) Dukes… or have been actually convicted of a felony–that’s Representative (Ron) Reynolds who’s now appealing it” Jones added.

SE Texas Record - May 17, 2017

U.S. Chamber urges Texas governor to sign hailstorm reform legislation

With both the Texas Senate and House cleared, House Bill 1774, a piece of legislation aimed at ending abusive and frivolous hailstorm litigation, is now on its way to Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk. The bill has been a focal point for state and national organizations dedicated to combating lawsuit abuse. On May 17, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which owns the Record, issued a statement applauding the Texas legislature for prioritizing legal reform and urging Gov. Abbott to sign H.B. 1774 swiftly.

City Stories

San Antonio Express News - May 18, 2017

Tricentennial COO resigns

Citing personal reasons, Asia Ciaravino has resigned as chief operating officer of the San Antonio tricentennial, a yearlong celebration set for 2018. Edward Benavides, CEO of the San Antonio Tricentennial Commission, said Ciaravino, a longtime actress and former president of The Playhouse San Antonio, “resigned earlier this week and is no longer part of the team” developing plans to celebrate the 300th anniversary of the 1718 founding of Mission San Antonio de Valero and the presidio and village of Béjar.

KWTX - May 18, 2017

Waco: Auto Theft Task Force hopes state will provide promised funds

Texas motorists pay a $2 fee that’s added to their auto insurance policies that’s supposed to fund the Texas Auto Burglary and Theft Prevention Authority, but most of the fee isn’t going for what it was intended. The Texas Legislature approved a $1 fee in 1991 to be added to every auto insurance policy in Texas to fund what was then the Auto Theft Prevention Authority, which was designed to work side-by-side with county sheriff’s offices to battle auto thefts. In 2011, the Legislature upped the fee to $2, but the administrator of the Heart of Texas Auto Theft Task Force, Michelle Snyder, says, that money that people think is going to fund the fight on motor vehicle crimes, is not.

Austin American-Statesman - May 19, 2017

With Austin rules gone, Lyft drivers set to get back behind the wheel

Out of an airy Lyft office in East Austin marked by a bright pink tent, a steady stream of new and returning drivers filed in Thursday to sign up, following new Texas legislation passed Wednesday that knocks out Austin’s ride-hailing regulations. Among those sitting in purple and pink folding chairs in the office was David Highland. Highland, who lives in unincorporated Travis County, has been driving for Lyft — as well as for Ride Austin, Fare and Fasten — for the past two years. He also worked for Uber a bit.

Austin American-Statesman - May 18, 2017

What does overturn of ride-hailing rules mean for Austin?

Uber and Lyft are set to return to Austin in the wake of state legislation passed Wednesday that nukes Austin’s ride-hailing regulations, but will Austinites vote with their wallets the way they did in an election last year to make the companies play by local rules? Austinites who rely on cellphone apps to hail rides have endured a rocky two years of fighting over the city regulations, a failed election to overturn them, brief chaos after the two ride-hailing giants left last May and the ultimate rise of homegrown competitors. Both Uber and Lyft left the city after refusing to comply with fingerprint-based criminal background checks for drivers, among other city regulations overturned by the Legislature’s newly passed bill.

Houston Chronicle - May 18, 2017

Traffic in Houston Ship Channel keeps rising

Total traffic in the Houston Ship Channel rose slightly last year, according to data recently released by the port. Deep water arrivals — such as the large tankers piloted up the channel — fell by about 100 ships or 1 percent to 8,300 over 2015. At the same time, barge and tow traffic, which is measured differently, rose by about 500 trips (about 1,300 vessels) or less than 1 percent to 139,600. Total traffic has risen about 10 percent since 2010. There are about 400 more deep water arrivals and about 13,000 more tows over the six years.

Dallas Morning News - May 19, 2017

Schnurman: Cops and firefighters, not taxpayers, are rescuing the Dallas pension

As the Dallas Police and Fire Pension lurches toward a fix in Austin, who's really saving it? Not you and me. Public safety workers would shoulder most of the burden under the plan working through the Legislature —— despite Mayor Mike Rawlings' earlier complaints about "a taxpayer bailout." With deep cuts in benefits, higher contributions from pay and potential clawbacks, Dallas police and firefighters would cover about 75 percent of the costs of the pension rescue. That’s a stunning share, even if the split may seem justified given the fund’s history of mismanagement and deceit.

Dallas Morning News - May 19, 2017

White Dallas officers don't disproportionately use force against minorities, study says

White Dallas police officers do not disproportionately use force against minorities, contrary to common public perceptions they target people based on race, a new study has found. When circumstances such as drug or alcohol use and the officer's tenure are taken into account, differences in use of force between races fade away, according to peer-reviewed findings published in the American Journal of Public Health this week. Researchers from the University of Texas at Dallas, University of Texas School of Public Health and the University of South Florida analyzed 5,630 use of-force-reports filed by Dallas police officers in 2014 and 2015 to see whether the data support a common assumption that white officers target minorities.

National Stories

Washington Post - May 19, 2017

Appointment of Mueller could complicate other probes into alleged Russian meddling

Congressional probes related to alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 election are likely to be complicated or stalled by the appointment of former FBI director Robert S. Mueller III as a special counsel investigating the same topic, despite pledges by some lawmakers Thursday to forge ahead. Mueller has resources and a mandate lawmakers know they cannot match, and is the only one who can bring criminal charges — except against the president himself. Not responding to his subpoenas also comes with the real threat of criminal prosecution. Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said his group would probably “have a hard time finding a lane now,” and that when it comes to his panel’s probe, Mueller’s appointment “probably well shuts it down.”

Washington Post - May 19, 2017

First stop on Trump’s first official trip overseas signals Saudi Arabia’s importance

President Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia — the first stop on his first overseas trip, beginning Friday — is designed to solidify what the administration envisions as its premier partnership in the Arab and Muslim world, effectively anointing the kingdom as Islam’s political as well as religious leader. During two full days in Riyadh, Trump plans to sign bilateral military, economic and counterterrorism agreements with the Saudis, signaling an end to what both Riyadh and Washington have called the estrangement of the Obama years. Given the turmoil in Washington, the journey may offer a welcome break for the besieged administration. Nearly every senior White House adviser will be aboard Air Force One on Friday afternoon for the more-than 12-hour flight to Riyadh.

Washington Post - May 18, 2017

Trump angrily calls Russia investigation a ‘witch hunt,’ and denies charges of collusion

President Trump on Thursday said there was no collusion between his campaign and Russia, while adding the caveat that he can only speak for himself, and denied ever asking FBI Director James B. Comey to back off on his agency’s investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn. Trump spoke in the wake of Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein’s decision to appoint a special counsel to investigate any coordination between Trump associates and Russian officials. “I respect the move, but the entire thing has been a witch hunt, and there is no collusion between — certainly myself and my campaign, but I can only speak for myself and the Russians. Zero,” Trump said at a joint news conference Thursday afternoon with President Juan Manuel Santos of Colombia. “Believe me, there’s no collusion.”

Washington Post - May 18, 2017

Appointment of Mueller could complicate other probes into alleged Russian meddling

Congressional probes related to alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 election are likely to be complicated or stalled by the appointment of former FBI director Robert S. Mueller III as a special counsel investigating the same topic, despite pledges by some lawmakers Thursday to forge ahead. Mueller has resources and a mandate lawmakers know they cannot match, and is the only one who can bring criminal charges — except against the president himself. Not responding to his subpoenas also comes with the real threat of criminal prosecution. Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said his group would probably “have a hard time finding a lane now,” and that when it comes to his panel’s probe, Mueller’s appointment “probably well shuts it down.”

Politico - May 18, 2017

Ryan: Tax reform is happening in 2017

Speaker Paul Ryan on Thursday doubled down on a vow to reform the tax code this year, an optimistic timeline that could face headwinds amid the ongoing Russia investigations. The Wisconsin Republican, a policy wonk eager to show voters that Congress is still focused on the GOP agenda, chafed at a question about whether tax reform would slip beyond 2017. “I don’t think this is the case,” Ryan said at a news conference. “Our goal, and I believe we can meet this goal, is calendared 2017 for tax reform. And I think we’re making good progress.”

The Hill - May 18, 2017

Lobby groups to watch in Senate healthcare fight

Lobbying groups opposed to the House’s healthcare reform bill are pinning their hopes on the Senate for big changes. Industry groups felt largely cut out of the House’s drafting and passage of the American Health Care Act and now are clamoring for action to fix what they view as serious defects in the legislation. Major hospital and doctor associations, for example, want people with health insurance to stay covered and are pushing to ensure adequate funding for the Medicaid program. Characterizing this wish list, one healthcare lobbyist put it simply: “Coverage, coverage, coverage.”

Austin American-Statesman - May 18, 2017

Al Green sheds low-key demeanor in call for Trump impeachment

U.S. Rep. Al Green, D-Houston, one of the most mild-mannered members of Congress, usually speaks in the soft cadences of a preacher. But Wednesday, Green transformed into a firebrand, the first member of Congress to call for the impeachment of President Donald Trump after Trump’s dismissal of FBI Director James Comey amid his investigation of ties between the Trump campaign and Russian officials as well as subsequent reports that Trump had asked Comey to drop the investigation of former national security adviser Michael Flynn. Outraged, Green spoke fiercely on the House floor about what he considered Trump’s self-interest in the case — before the Justice Department announced the appointment of a special counsel in the case — and became an internet sensation, with his speech breaking C-Span’s retweet record.

Politico - May 18, 2017

Dershowitz: How Trump Can Get Out of His Jam

Donald Trump hardly welcomed the appointment of a special prosecutor to look into the relationship between his presidential campaign and Russia—in fact, he called it a “witch hunt” on Thursday morning—but if I were he, I’d go big: Embrace the American people’s hunger for the whole truth about what happened during the campaign and the first months of the administration—and who leaked what about whom—and call for an independent commission. If he truly believes he did nothing wrong, as he said in Wednesday’s statement, it’s the best way to prove it once and for all. Why a commission? Because Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein’s appointment of former FBI Director Robert Mueller as special counsel will not solve the problem at hand. His mandate is quite limited.

Politico - May 18, 2017

Shafer: Roger Ailes Was a Revolutionary in Reactionary Clothing

The great boogeyman of liberals everywhere, Roger Ailes, has been gathered in by his creator, and will never haunt their dreams again. The reinventor of Richard Nixon and the image-enhancer behind Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, he dragged the Republican Party into modernity. But it was as auteur of the Fox News Channel, which he launched in 1996 with media scoundrel Rupert Murdoch, that he seized the liberal amygdala and jolted it with the scariest right-wing agit-prop his underlings could fashion. Ailes was a revolutionary in reactionary clothing. Before the advent of Fox, liberals might have to contest conservatives on the ballot, but their lock on media was unbreakable from the Kennedy era through the mid-1990s.

Politico - May 19, 2017

Poll: Majority disapprove of Trump sharing intel with Russians

A majority of voters say it was "inappropriate" for President Donald Trump to share highly classified information with Russian officials, according to a new poll released Friday. And a plurality of voters — 41 percent — say Trump's disclosure means they are "not confident at all" in the president's ability to handle highly classified material. Fifty-eight percent of those surveyed in a new POLITICO/Morning Consult poll disapproved of the president's decision to divulge sensitive materials to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak during an Oval Office meeting last week. Only 22 percent of those polled deemed Trump's actions "appropriate," while 20 percent remained undecided.

The Daily Mail (UK) - May 19, 2017

Judge dismisses 'clock boy' lawsuit saying the school didn't discriminate

A federal judge ruled both the city of Irving, Texas and the school district do not owe damages to Ahmed Mohamed's family. In 2015 his teacher at MacArthur High School called the police because she thought a clock Ahmed made was a ticking bomb. Ahmed's father, Mohamed Mohamed, filed a lawsuit claiming his son's Fifth Amendment rights were violated by the arrest. Court documents obtained by DailyMail.com reveal the case was dismissed because the judge said there was no proof of 'racial or religious' discrimination

Austin American-Statesman - May 19, 2017

Rape probe dropped for WikiLeaks' Assange; uncertainty ahead

Sweden's top prosecutor on Friday dropped an investigation into a rape claim against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange after almost seven years, saying that's because there's no possibility of arresting him "in the foreseeable future." The announcement by prosecutor Marianne Ny means the outspoken WikiLeaks leader no longer faces sex crime allegations in Sweden, although British police say he is still wanted for jumping bail in Britain in 2012. It does not clear Assange's name, however, and some experts say it puts him into an even more precarious legal situation if the U.S. has — as some suspect — a sealed indictment for his arrest.

Washington Examiner - May 18, 2017

Hillyer: If Trump leaves office, whom would Pence pick as vice president?

President Trump is incompetent, invincibly ignorant and emotionally incontinent. He rages like a bellowing baboon, evinces the integrity of Joe Isuzu, and shows the self-control of Lindsay Lohan on a bender. He shoots himself in the foot so regularly that his entire presidency may soon have no leg to stand on. Plenty of smart people now believe Trump will be gone from the Oval Office by Labor Day, either by resignation or impeachment or via Section 4 of the 25th Amendment. It is not an unreasonable assumption. If that happens – and this is purely hypothetical, not predictive – plenty of pressing questions will suggest themselves. Such as will President Pence emphasize the same policies as Trump? Will Pence completely re-staff the West Wing? Will the public and the media give Pence a honeymoon period?

Dallas Morning News - May 19, 2017

Meyer: Trump isn't the main issue anymore, GOP lawmakers are

How many times have we been through this? Donald Trump commits some colossal trespass of existing political morality (no, that is not an oxymoron), and frenzied friends and foes ask, "Is this it? Is it curtains for The Donald?" The answer has always been, "No, not yet." The current frenzy feels like the biggest one yet, but so did all the earlier ones. The consequences of Trump's actions and words defy prediction. Will Trump get more innings at bat after this latest triple play of recklessness (firing James Comey, giving key intelligence to Russia and, according to reports, telling Comey to back off the Michael Flynn investigation)? No one knows what will happen with this man, who is immune from karma and justice.

The Hill - May 18, 2017

Senate Dems: Deputy AG knew Comey was being removed before writing memo

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein knew FBI Director James Comey was going to be fired before he wrote a memo recommending Comey’s dismissal, a pair of Democratic senators said Thursday. “He did acknowledge that he learned that Comey would be removed prior to him writing his memo,” Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) told reporters after leaving a closed-door briefing with Rosenstein. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said Rosenstein knew of Comey’s dismissal one day before Trump announced Comey’s termination.

Time - May 18, 2017

Koch Brothers' Network Readies Major Push for Tax Reform

Coming soon to your television, smart phone, front door, mailbox and landline: a multi-million-dollar push for tax reform, courtesy of the political and policy network backed by the billionaire Koch brothers. Americans for Prosperity and the Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce on Thursday are set to announce an all-out campaign for a tax overhaul that closely resembles the broad ideas proposed at the White House earlier this year. Calling for a simplified tax code, fewer tax brackets and deductions and across-the-board reduction of rates, the plan is likely to be very popular among conservatives in the Republican Party who have yet to see tangible victories from a Republican-controlled Washington.

The Hill - May 18, 2017

Senate GOP warms to larger insurance subsidies for older and low-income people

Senate Republicans are coalescing around the idea of giving more generous subsidies to lower-income and older people than what’s laid out in the House-passed GOP healthcare reform bill. Many Republicans in the upper chamber generally agree that the skimpier subsidies contained in the House bill need to be beefed up for groups that need more help buying insurance. “What I want to ensure is that the subsidies or tax credits are enough so that lower-income, middle-income people have the ability to actually purchase healthcare,” Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said. “The way the subsidies were in the House bill, it really wasn’t enough to help people who were on the lower end of the economic spectrum to be able to actually purchase it.”

Texas Public Radio - May 17, 2017

Putin Accuses U.S. Of 'Political Schizophrenia' Over Trump And Secrets

Russian President Vladimir Putin says reports that President Trump gave Russian officials highly classified information make him think "the United States has been developing political schizophrenia." "This is the only thing I can think of when I hear allegations saying that the president has revealed some secrets to [Russian Foreign Minister Sergey] Lavrov," Putin said Wednesday, two days after allegations that Trump shared classified information with Lavrov and another Russian diplomat, Sergey Kislyak, during a meeting last week in the Oval Office. Speaking at a news conference in Sochi, the Russian president declared that Trump did not share any secrets.

Texas Public Radio - May 18, 2017

Wading Into Murky Waters, Trump Trip To Advocate Religious Unity

Donald Trump's first overseas trip as president begins Friday with a pilgrimage of sorts. With stops in Saudi Arabia, Israel and the Vatican, Trump will be visiting the centers of Islam, Judaism and Christianity, the three major monotheistic religions. But he's wading into deep waters with potential for missteps and disagreement. He'll meet with Muslim leaders despite declaring that "Islam hates us" during the campaign; he'll meet with Pope Francis, who advocates for countries to be welcoming to refugees. "His message is going to be about unity," said U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley. Religious differences have produced conflict around the world and especially in the Middle East. Some argue that religion can be part of the solution, if leaders like Trump make stronger faith-based appeals.

Houston Chronicle - May 18, 2017

Culberson defends biotech stock buy touted by another lawmaker

In a heated confirmation hearing for then-Georgia U.S. Rep. Tom Price for Secretary of Health and Human Services, Democrats raised pointed questions about the congressman's trading in stocks of companies regulated by the House committees he serves on. One in particular, Innate Immunotherapeutics, a small Australian biotech firm, generated particular attention because it had sold nearly $1 million in discounted shares to two House members: Price and New York Republican Chris Collins, who turned out to be the firm's biggest investor. Amid the controversy in January, Price said everything he did was "ethical, aboveboard, legal and transparent," though he agreed to divest himself of that and other stocks that could raise ethics questions.

Associated Press - May 18, 2017

Comey is said to have become unsettled by interactions with Trump

President Donald Trump called FBI Director James Comey weeks after he took office and asked him when federal authorities were going to put out word that Trump was not personally under investigation, according to two people briefed on the call. Comey told the president that if he wanted to know details about the bureau's investigations, he should not contact him directly but instead follow the proper procedures and have the White House counsel send any inquiries to the Justice Department, according to those people. After explaining to Trump how communications with the FBI should work, Comey believed he had effectively drawn the line after a series of encounters he had with the president and other White House officials that he felt jeopardized the FBI's independence. At the time, Comey was overseeing the investigation into links between Trump's associates and Russia.

This article appeared in the Houston Chronicle

San Antonio Express News - May 18, 2017

Hurd eager to hear from Comey in House hearing

U.S. Rep. Will Hurd, who has been more outspoken than many other Republicans on allegations surrounding the White House, said Thursday he is eager to see former FBI Director James Comey’s memos alleging that President Donald Trump pressured him to drop an investigation. “I think it’s important to understand the context of the memos and what drove former director Comey to do those memos,” Hurd said, referring to reports that Comey made notes of a meeting in which Trump pressured him to drop an investigation of embattled former national security director Michael Flynn.

Houston Chronicle - May 18, 2017

DePillis: E-Verify is more cost-effective than Trump's wall in stemming illegal immigration

The Trump administration's crackdown on illegal immigration has focused on increasing deportations, building a wall on the Mexican border and forcing local law enforcement agencies to turn over undocumented immigrants to federal officials, as my colleague Lomi Kriel examined this week. Another method, the citizenship authentication system known as E-Verify, is much cheaper and more effective — but it hasn't worked well in all states that now require it, new research shows.

CNBC - May 16, 2017

Novak: This latest Trump-Russia leak smells like a coup attempt

What all of the leaked stories have in common is that they were immediately beset with multiple leaks from highly placed officials meant to deeply defame President Trump. Once again, it's important to note that a good deal of these leaks may, indeed, be illegal. The Espionage Act bans transmitting or communicating information "relating to the national defense" if the leaker believes the information could be used to harm the United States or aid a foreign nation. And it's hard to see how these many leaks aren't helping our enemies. Where are these leaks coming from? When we look at the most likely sources, we find no real comfort. The first possibility is that someone close to President Trump himself is essentially acting like a mole in the White House. Remember that when the story broke Monday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, and Deputy National Security Adviser Dina Powell were all in the room with President Trump and the Russians last week and they all flatly denied the news reports. If one of them is saying one thing publicly and something else to contacts in the news media, that is certainly not encouraging.

New York Times - May 19, 2017

Rutenberg: Roger Ailes: The Man Who Mined a Divided America

Before Donald Trump rode the anger of forgotten (white) America to an “America First” presidency, before Breitbart News became a “platform for the alt-right” and before there were “alternative facts” and dueling versions of reality, Roger Ailes saw a divided country but an undivided news media. And he set out to change it. Empowered by Rupert Murdoch, who was intent on upending the traditional news media, Mr. Ailes built a network, the Fox News Channel, that would speak to and for those Americans he said were being ignored and disrespected. They were the people who went to Friendly’s for milkshakes, flew the American flag on their car antennas and didn’t see much point in trying to “understand” America’s enemies.

The Hill - May 19, 2017

Trump White House feels under siege

The White House is feeling under siege as President Trump prepares for a nine-day trip abroad that will present a host of new challenges for his reeling administration. Staffers are on edge, weary from endless speculation about their jobs and struggling to keep their bearings amid the ever-shifting political terrain. “Some of them think it will pass, some are frustrated because they look like amateurs in responding to all of this, and some are freaked out because there is an actual investigation now,” said one GOP operative in touch with White House officials. “It’s leaks and tweets and frenzy. They wake up every day and are continually slapped in the face and it doesn’t look like it will stop. They’re demoralized.”

Associated Press - May 19, 2017

Ex-US Rep. Anthony Weiner to plead guilty in sexting case

Former congressman Anthony Weiner, whose penchant for sexting strangers online ended his political career and led to an investigation that upended the presidential race, will appear in federal court Friday to plead guilty to charges in connection with his online communications with a 15-year-old girl, officials said. A law enforcement official said Weiner has agreed to plead guilty to a charge of transferring obscene material to a minor. The official spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the criminal charges had yet to be filed publicly with the court.

This article appeared in the Houston Chronicle

All - May 18, 2017

Lead Stories

Reuters - May 18, 2017

Exclusive: Trump campaign had at least 18 undisclosed contacts with Russians: sources

Michael Flynn and other advisers to Donald Trump’s campaign were in contact with Russian officials and others with Kremlin ties in at least 18 calls and emails during the last seven months of the 2016 presidential race, current and former U.S. officials familiar with the exchanges told Reuters. The previously undisclosed interactions form part of the record now being reviewed by FBI and congressional investigators probing Russian interference in the U.S. presidential election and contacts between Trump’s campaign and Russia. Six of the previously undisclosed contacts described to Reuters were phone calls between Sergei Kislyak, Russia's ambassador to the United States, and Trump advisers, including Flynn, Trump’s first national security adviser, three current and former officials said.

Dallas Morning News - May 17, 2017

Parker: Abbott represents one of the most bigoted governorships in the country

Congratulations, Greg Abbott. You are now officially the sitting governor with the most bigoted, racist record in the country. That is no small achievement, sir. And while I don't profess to know what's actually in your heart, your policies and track record as a politician are clear. As we wrap up another legislative session, it's useful to reflect on your tenure. During your administration, Texas will have adopted or defended laws that are anti-Mexican, anti-Hispanic, anti-black and oh-so-slyly anti-LGBT. And under your watch, Texas has steadily slipped among states in a variety of economic rankings. You, Mr. Abbott, make George W. Bush and Rick Perry look like history's giants.

Washington Post - May 17, 2017

Deputy attorney general appoints special counsel to oversee probe of Russian interference in election

The Justice Department appointed a special counsel Wednesday to investigate possible coordination between Trump associates and Russian officials — a clear signal to the White House that federal investigators will aggressively pursue the matter despite the president’s insistence that there was no “collusion’’ with the Kremlin. Robert S. Mueller III, a former prosecutor who served as the FBI director from 2001 to 2013, has agreed to take over the investigation as a special counsel, Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein announced. The move marks a concession by the Trump administration to Democratic demands for the investigation to be run independently of the Justice Department. Calls for a special counsel intensified after Trump fired FBI Director James B. Comey last week.

Houston Chronicle - May 18, 2017

Thursday shaping up as a key showdown day in Texas Legislature

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, escalating a growing war of words between Texas House and Senate leaders, predicted Wednesday the Legislature is headed to a special session unless the House passes a hotly contested property-tax reform bill and the divisive so-called "bathroom bill." Within hours, House Speaker Joe Straus fired back at his political nemesis, calling Patrick's ultimatum "regrettable" and asserting that the House will not be goaded into approving legislation that the Senate supports, but the House opposes. As the dramatic political fight between the two Republican-controlled chambers continued to grow, the only thing they seemed to agree on was this: Thursday will be a key day in determining the likelihood of a special session, because unless key bills are approved, it could keep the House from meeting other legislative deadlines.

Texas Tribune - May 17, 2017

Ramsey: Patrick takes hostages — and control of legislative session

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick seems to have a better understanding of the House than House Speaker Joe Straus has of the Senate. The Senate got to work on major legislation earlier than the House did — a common occurrence. But Patrick has taken as hostages two pieces of legislation that must pass, and on Wednesday, he gave a short address listing the legislation the House must pass to set those hostages free. Hostage #1 is the state budget for the 2018-19 biennium. It’s almost done, but it has to pass both the House and Senate in final form to become law.

Houston Chronicle - May 17, 2017

The Drakes: Texas Senate is not keeping its promise

From the very start of her life, our daughter Sully faced obstacles that not every child has to endure. Sully has Down syndrome, had open-heart surgery at seven weeks and has a feeding tube surgically implanted in her stomach. She is beautiful, loving, courageous, strong and silly, but at 19 months, our child cannot crawl, walk, talk and most important, cannot drink liquids - things that most children can do at her age. Our daughter needs intense developmental, occupational, physical and speech therapy on a weekly and sometimes twice-weekly basis to catch up and meet these milestones. Texas lawmakers are debating right now over whether they will restore funding to Texas' Medicaid acute-care therapy and early childhood intervention programs.

San Antonio Current - May 17, 2017

State Sen. Carlos Uresti Appears in Court for Wire Fraud, Bribery Charges

Sen. Carlos Uresti made his first appearance in federal court Wednesday afternoon, less than 24 hours after it was announced that San Antonio lawmaker has indicted by a federal grand jury on 13 criminal charges. Uresti has been charged in two different cases involving alleged bribery and wire fraud. The first questions his role in what the feds call "an investment Ponzi scheme" involving FourWinds, a now-bankrupt fracking company. Uresti, who provided legal services to the company, allegedly helped recruit FourWinds investors while maintaining a small stake in the company. The second case centers on Uresti's alleged involvement in helping a medical company land a contract with a West Texas detention center by bribing a local county judge. If convicted on all counts, Uresti could face up to 200 years behind bars.

Dallas Morning News - May 18, 2017

Major foster care outsourcing bill expected to spark lively debate in Texas House

A major child-welfare bill that, among other things, would further outsource the care of Texas' abused children was expected to generate extensive debate on the House floor Thursday. By a Wednesday deadline, House lawmakers pre-filed 43 amendments that would temporarily ban vaccinations of new foster children, prohibit dispensing contraceptives to any foster kids and exempt administration of medical cannabis to a sick child as a cause for terminating parental rights. Several amendments, by Democrats and a conservative Republican, would unravel key aspects of bill sponsor Rep. James Frank's push for wider adoption of a procurement method that has been tried in and around Fort Worth with promising results.

Dallas Morning News - May 17, 2017

Top Mexican official promises funds to provide legal defense to immigrants

Luis Videgaray, Mexico's foreign relations minister, pledged Wednesday in Dallas that his government will legally defend immigrants against Texas' tough new "sanctuary cities" law. Mexican immigrants are living in “unprecedented times” with spreading fear and anxiety, Videgaray said. That announcement followed a special meeting among Mexico’s 11 Texas consuls on a defense strategy in the state. The "sanctuary cities" measure, or Senate Bill 4, is now the harshest immigration law in the U.S., legal experts say. It expands local law enforcement power over immigration powers.

Austin American-Statesman - May 17, 2017

Senate backs ending straight-party voting

Split along party lines, the Texas Senate on Wednesday gave initial approval to a bill that would end straight-party voting, requiring every candidate on state ballots to be chosen individually. Democrats opposed House Bill 25, saying it could discourage voting in a state with an already low voter participation rate. “Frankly, I don’t see any purpose for this legislation other than trying to dilute the vote of Democrats and, more specifically, minorities,” said Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas.

CNN - May 17, 2017

Sen. John Cornyn was top FBI choice for Trump

White House chief of staff Reince Priebus and Attorney General Jeff Sessions recommended Sen. John Cornyn for the FBI director position last weekend, two Republicans familiar with the process told CNN Wednesday. One source said that Trump favored Cornyn for the post. The President called Cornyn to discuss the position twice, including after Cornyn passed up the job. Cornyn, who the officials say was intrigued by the idea and initially interested, ultimately withdrew from consideration after a number of his colleagues said they believed Trump should shy away from picking a GOP politician.

State Stories

Dallas Morning News - May 18, 2017

More than 1,100 Texas small businesses may have to change health insurance approach in 2018

Small businesses in Texas may lose the ability to enroll their employees into health insurance plans using the federal marketplace’s Small Business Health Options Program next year. SHOP, created as part of the Affordable Care Act, aimed to make it easier for companies with 50 or fewer full-time employees to provide health and dental coverage. On Monday, federal health officials said they plan to scale back the program, in part, because too few businesses participated. Nationwide, approximately 27,000 employers have active coverage through the program, generating coverage for nearly 230,000 individuals, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid said.

Dallas Morning News - May 18, 2017

Bill could improve cellphone service in Texas but cost cities millions, officials say

Trying to text your friend who's in line for food at the Texas-Oklahoma game could be easier under a bill the Texas House passed Wednesday. The bill would allow cellular companies to place new network nodes in public rights-of-way. The "small cell nodes" would allow Texans to have 5G technology, which allows for faster access to data and helps cellphones work in large crowds. Putting nodes in rights-of-way is standard practice for many utility companies, but the bill would standardize it and cap the fees that cities can charge for the use of public property. It needs one more vote in the House before being sent to the governor.

Dallas Morning News - May 17, 2017

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick threatens special session if 'bathroom bill' and property tax relief fail

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick issued an ultimatum to House Speaker Joe Straus on Wednesday: Pass a so-called bathroom bill and a property tax relief bill, or plan to spend your summer at the Capitol in a special session. "Whether we have a special session is now in the hands of House Speaker Joe Straus," Patrick said during a news conference Wednesday in which he left without addressing reporters' questions. Patrick held the news conference after a letter Straus wrote to the lieutenant governor Monday was leaked to the press. He was seeking to forge a deal to end the legislative session May 29 without a special session.

Dallas Morning News - May 17, 2017

Senate committee passes texting while driving ban

The Senate State Affairs Committee passed a bill Tuesday that would ban texting while driving, sending it to the full Senate for debate. "The time has come for the state of Texas to pass this legislation," said Sen. Joan Huffman, R-Houston, chairwoman of the committee. "This is going to save our kids' lives." The committee substitute of House Bill 62, also called the Alex Brown Memorial Act, would prohibit drivers from texting while their vehicle is moving. The committee's version of the bill also prohibits somebody from being arrested solely for texting, allows drivers to use their phones for GPS and would not allow violators to be fined both under state law as well as local ordinance.

Dallas Morning News - May 17, 2017

DMN: Baylor must come clean after latest football gang-rape accusation

In sickening detail, Baylor University's former Title IX coordinator explained to us late last year the extent of the school's sexual assault tragedy. While Patty Crawford noted that violence against women occurred campus-wide — not just among athletes — she said that survivors' stories regarding football players were the most horrific. Among them were accounts of a team hazing ritual that involved gang rapes. Now a new lawsuit, filed Tuesday night on behalf of a former Baylor volleyball player, will allow those allegations their day in court.

Dallas Morning News - May 17, 2017

Explore the weight of a border wall along the edge of Texas

Early in 2017, The Dallas Morning News, KXAS-TV (NBC5) and Telemundo 39 gathered a team of writers and photojournalists to document the federal government’s effort to construct a “physically imposing” and “aesthetically pleasing” 30-foot concrete structure. The “Borderland Project” is the result of that commitment. Our stories trace the border from the deserts near El Paso to the fertile valley at the tip of Texas. Most of that land is divided by the natural boundary of the Rio Grande. The river carves a path through diverse landscapes and cityscapes that reflect the rich history of both Texas and Mexico. Each stop along our trip reveals a new set of voices grappling with the tangle of issues along one of the busiest international boundaries in the world, and we’ll continue to add more voices throughout the year.

Ft. Worth Star-Telegram - May 18, 2017

Child marriages: Are Texas lawmakers ready to stop underage unions?

Texas has the second highest child marriage rate in the country — but that soon could change. State lawmakers are considering cracking down on the marriage of minors, requiring all brides and grooms to be at least 18 to marry or have a court order to allow those unions. “This is a common-sense bipartisan bill … to promote the health and well-being of Texas children,” state Rep. Senfronia Thompson, D-Houston, told a House committee earlier this session.

San Antonio Express News - May 17, 2017

House approves law that would protect witnesses jailed to ensure their testimony

A Senate proposal requiring that a crime victim have access to an attorney when prosecutors lock them up to ensure their testimony at trial won near-unanimous support from the House on Wednesday. However, a minor change means the bill needs final Senate approval before going to the governor’s desk. The House on Wednesday signed off on Senate Bill 291 with a 139-4 vote, but not before Democratic Rep. Harold Dutton of Houston added an amendment shortening the time frame in which a witness held by police may request a hearing regarding whether their continued confinement is necessary.

San Antonio Express News - May 17, 2017

David’s Law heads to legislative conference committee

The proposal to crack down on cyberbullying that’s known as David’s Law is headed to a conference committee to negotiate differences between the House and Senate versions of the measure. The Senate on Wednesday declined to agree to House changes to Senate Bill 179 on a motion by Sen. José Menéndez, D-San Antonio. He expressed concern that the changes could cost support among senators. The Senate named a negotiating team led by Menéndez that also includes Sens. Brandon Creighton, R-Conroe; Joan Huffman, R-Houston; Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound; and Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo. The next step is for the House to appoint its negotiators.

San Antonio Express News - May 18, 2017

House education chair wants to find other ways to help kids with special needs

Texas’ House education chairman wants the Senate to scrap its push for a narrowed school voucher plan for students with disabilities and instead find other ways to help children with special needs. At the same time, senators made it clear Wednesday they did not intend to budge on the voucher provision, a standoff that would mean a connected House bill that would change how the state funds public schools will likely die. Lawmakers said Gov. Greg Abbott has hinted he might be willing to do without its passage. Rep. Dan Huberty, a Humble Republican who chairs the Public Education Committee, told reporters he would deliver a counter proposal to the Senate's education chairman Wednesday that includes a grant program for students with autism and funding for tutoring and charter schools for children with disabilities.

San Antonio Express News - May 16, 2017

2 Texas cities named among 'most dangerous' in United States based on FBI data

Two Texas cities are alleged to be the "most dangerous" cities in Texas, according to a ranking of the top 30 cities in America with the highest rates of violent crime and property crime. The ranking, based on FBI data, was compiled by home security website SafeWise.com. Bellmead, Texas, which is located northeast of Waco, was No. 10, with 10.15 violent crimes per 1,000 people and 110.55 property crimes per 1,000. Humble is No. 12 on the list, with 9.53 violent crimes per 1,000 in population, and 107.54 property crimes per 1,000.

Austin American-Statesman - May 17, 2017

Speaker Joe Straus: Dan Patrick’s bathroom bill ultimatum ‘regrettable’

Texas House Speaker Joe Straus on Wednesday said that it was “regrettable” that Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick is threatening to force a special legislative session if the House does not approve two priorities of Patrick’s: measures restricting local property tax increases and transgender friendly bathrooms. “(Lt.) Gov. Patrick’s threat to force a special session unless he gets everything his way is regrettable, and I hope that he reconsiders,” Straus, R-San Antonio, said in a statement. “The best way to end this session is to reach consensus on as many issues as we can. Nobody is going to get everything they want. But we can come together on many issues and end this session knowing that we have positively addressed priorities that matter to Texas.”

Austin American-Statesman - May 17, 2017

Two Views, Jackson: Why cuts to school funding would undo classroom innovation

At IDEA Public Schools, we believe that every student has the potential to matriculate to and through college. We also understand the value that academic enrichment and character-development programming provide to ensure students are spending adequate time studying after school and are preparing for the rigors of college. Programs like the 21st Century Community Learning Centers grant, funded by the U.S. Department of Education, do just that. The 21st Century program supports the creation of community learning centers that provide academic enrichment for students after school.

Austin American-Statesman - May 17, 2017

Austin, Central Health weighing two Capitol view corridor options

Requiring a new Capitol view corridor free of obstructions through the south side of the soon-to-be-redeveloped downtown hospital site isn’t a good idea, Austin city staffers said in a memo this week. But maybe a view corridor next to it could work. Based on that recommendation, Central Health agreed to ask potential developers to consider one of the two view corridor ideas in their plans to redevelop the University Medical Center Brackenridge property. To give them time to consider the options, City Council Member Ora Houston is asking the council to postpone further consideration of a Capitol view corridor from Rosewood Park until December.

Austin American-Statesman - May 18, 2017

Herman: When a state official gets indicted

Generally when a lawmaker is excused from a Texas legislative floor session because of “personal business” we don’t know the precise nature of the business is or just how personal it is. This was not so at 11:13 a.m. Wednesday, shortly after Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick gaveled the Senate into session, when he announced that Sen. Carlos Uresti, D-San Antonio, would be excused because of “personal business.” At just about that moment, Uresti was due in his hometown federal court for personal business stemming from indictments regarding his personal business. “Sen. Uresti turns self in to FBI,” said the headline on the San Antonio Express-News’ mysa.com website as the Senate moved forward Wednesday morning without him, “faces 200 years in prison.” Yes, that’s pretty personal.

Austin American-Statesman - May 17, 2017

Two Views, Morath: How Texas’ pre-K programs keep students on path to college

In 1985, the Texas Legislature began funding prekindergarten for eligible children. Over the years, our state has seen a significant return on that investment. Students who participated in public pre-K in 1999 persist in college today at a rate 6.8 percent higher than their peers who were eligible but did not attend public pre-K, according to a 2017 report from the Texas Education Agency. As commissioner of education, I know that prekindergarten in Texas matters. It is a critical component of a public education system that prepares future generations for success in life.

Austin American-Statesman - May 17, 2017

SENATE BILL 822: Measure to preserve Muny on ‘life support,’ House sponsor says

Proposed state legislation that would preserve Lions Municipal Golf Course in West Austin is on “life support,” its House sponsor said Wednesday. Rep. Lyle Larson, R-San Antonio, made the remark in an interview with the American-Statesman following a hearing on Senate Bill 822. He noted that Saturday is the last day Senate bills can be voted out of House committees but said Friday is a more realistic deadline in light of the crush of work in the waning days of the legislative session. “Even then, bills this late are on life support,” Larson said.

Austin American-Statesman - May 17, 2017

Herman: Legislative debate over gender identity begins

Now we wait to see if Senate Bill 6, the transgender locker room bill (a name I prefer because it properly makes it sound less trivial than the “bathroom bill”) gets to the House floor for debate. If it doesn’t, the Senate’s Tuesday and Wednesday debate on the measure, culminating with 21-10 final approval Wednesday, is the last we’ll hear about it this year in a Texas legislative chamber. The line from the Senate debate that stuck in my mind came Tuesday from Sen. Van Taylor, R-Plano: “If you’d told me eight years ago I’d be having this debate, I wouldn’t have believed you.” Indeed, especially for those of us whose daily lives don’t include troubling, challenging — and now politically charged — decisions about which bathroom to use.

Austin American-Statesman - May 17, 2017

House plans to counter Patrick’s school finance offer with no ‘vouchers’

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has offered to inject $500 million into the public school system if the Texas House agrees to implement a school choice program this session. During a news conference on Wednesday to discuss his remaining priorities, Patrick said the Senate has made changes to House Bill 21, which now includes $200 million for the Foundation School Program (the main way the state funds public schools), $200 million for about 150 school districts that will lose so-called Additional State Aid for Tax Reduction funding in September, new facilities funding that fast-growth school districts have been asking for and facilities funding for charter schools for the first time.

Austin American-Statesman - May 18, 2017

First Reading: Coarse correction: How the Freedom Caucus changed the session’s trajectory.

Jonathan Stickland Tweet: "Just to be clear, of coarse we knew what we were doing with the sunset safety bill." I guess that’s what’s known as a coarse course correction. But I like the original, which is truer to Stickland’s rough and tumble style. ... Stickland had entered the House chamber for yesterday afternoon’s session with pride in his stride. “They thought we were idiots,” he told me, referring to himself and other member of the House Freedom Caucus – a dozen strong. But, Stickland said yesterday, thanks to the Freedom Caucus’ strategic gambit, I was now witnessing the “end of the regime.”

Austin American-Statesman - May 17, 2017

Democratic caucus chair faults Patrick for `Trump-style temper tantrum'

The chairman of the Texas House Democratic Caucus said Wednesday that the House should not acquiesce to Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s demand that the House approve bills Patrick favors on property tax relief and transgender bathroom policies before the Senate will act on essential sunset safety net legislation. “It’s just extraordinary,” said Rep. Chris Turner, D-Grand Prairie. “Less than two weeks to go in the session and the lieutenant governor would essentially throw a Donald Trump-style temper tantrum and threaten to blow up the session just to try to force passage of his unnecessary and harmful bathroom bill.” Turner said the House “should not be blackmailed into passing policies that we know are harmful to our constituents and the state economy.”

Austin American-Statesman - May 17, 2017

Texas members of Congress react to the Trump intelligence report

U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Austin, responded Wednesday to a Tuesday request for comment about the prospect that President Donald Trump revealed highly classified information in a meeting with top Russian officials. “I’ve said it before—Mr. Putin and the Russians are not our allies. The U.S. and Russia do, however, face common threats from ISIS—particularly in aviation security. I was not in the room during the President’s meeting last week and do not know the extent of the information shared, but I ardently believe protecting sources and methods when discussing sensitive classified information is critical to our national security.”

Texas Tribune - May 17, 2017

Texas budget negotiations turn to higher education as a deal inches nearer

Members of both chambers of the Texas Legislature say they are getting close to agreeing on a budget for the next two years. But a major sticking point remains unsettled: higher education funding. The key negotiator in the House said that would be a focus of negotiations Wednesday. House Appropriations Committee Chairman John Zerwas, R-Richmond, said Wednesday morning that negotiators purposefully put university funding near the end of the list of differences that they needed to iron out before they pass Senate Bill 1, the budget bill. But he said there remains a "pretty big delta" between the two chambers' proposals.

Texas Tribune - May 18, 2017

UT Chancellor McRaven faces unfamiliar scrutiny in last year of his contract

Retired Navy Admiral Bill McRaven had a grand vision when he took over as chancellor of the University of Texas System in 2015. The 14 universities and medical schools that he oversaw would improve "the human condition in every town, every city, for every man, woman and child” in Texas, he said. And the system would do so by completing nine “Quantum Leaps,” the list of which he unveiled in an enthusiastic presentation to the system’s board of regents less than a year into his tenure. The board seemed to love the ideas and responded by setting aside $60 million to achieve those goals.

Texas Tribune - May 16, 2017

Texas state senators are failing their neediest constituents

In the waning days of the legislative session two years ago, state lawmakers created a self-made disaster by relying on bad data to cut hundreds of millions of dollars from the state’s Medicaid acute care therapy program. Our state senator, Jane Nelson, was the primary architect of the cuts and additional policy changes that have created a crisis leaving our son — and thousands of other Texas kids — waiting for months and even years for therapy care. Acute care therapy provides speech, physical and occupational therapy for kids who, like our son, have birth defects, genetic disorders, physical or cognitive disabilities or those born prematurely. The therapy enables them to function in daily life. Ryan has a rare genetic disease. Now that he’s 15 years old, his speech is still very limited and, for those who don’t know him, difficult to understand.

Texas Tribune - May 17, 2017

Texas Senate advances bill to crowdfund rape kit testing

The Texas Senate passed legislation Wednesday that would crowdfund money from Texans to deal with a backlog of thousands of untested rape kits, moving the proposal closer to Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk. House Bill 1729, filed by Rep. Victoria Neave, a freshman Democrat from Dallas, would give those applying or renewing their driver’s license an option to donate $1 or more toward rape kit testing. The Senate passed the measure in a 29-1 vote, with Sen. Bob Hall, R-Edgewood, in opposition. The bill already sailed though the House, and that chamber must weigh a minor clerical amendment added by the Senate Wednesday before sending the bill to Abbott.

Texas Tribune - May 17, 2017

Senate backs measure creating statewide regulations for ride-hailing companies

After a debate among lawmakers over the best way to regulate services like Uber and Lyft, the Texas Senate on Wednesday backed a proposal that would override local regulations concerning ride-hailing companies. House Bill 100 would establish a statewide framework to regulate ride-hailing companies and undo local rules that the two companies have argued are overly burdensome for their business models. “Regulating them at the city level will always be challenging,” the bill's Senate author, state Sen. Charles Schwertner, R-Georgetown, said. “Transportation, by nature, is a regional concern.”

Texas Tribune - May 18, 2017

Texans greet plans for Trump's wall with tears, fears or open arms

On this stretch of riverfront near Del Rio, Maria Villarreal has an aging but attentive guard dog named Ace who barks in the shade of a fig tree, just feet away from a memorial to her nephew Elias Torres, who died at 21 during a combat mission in Iraq. Nearby is a sign warning that trespassers will be shot on sight and that any survivors will be “shot again.” It’s a backyard that could be anywhere in Texas, with one exception: The back fence is the only thing separating her yard from the Rio Grande — and beyond it, Mexico. The land and her modest house are the result of decades of hard work in San Angelo where, as a single mother, she raised three children while working for the local hospital.

Austin American-Statesman - May 16, 2017

Israel: The good days and bad days at the Lege

There are two types of days for the Texas House of Representatives. Our best days are when we find opportunities to work across party lines and make real progress for Texas families. The worst happen when political posturing overwhelms all of our good intentions. Last week was an example of the bad times. The House passed House Bill 3859 which would allow child-placement agencies to make decisions based on their own religious beliefs, as opposed to following the standards that advance the best interests of children, using taxpayer dollars.

Houston Chronicle - May 18, 2017

Big health gains in Medicaid expansion states elude Texas' poor

The health of Texas' poor is worse - at times significantly so - than those who live in two Southern states that expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. A report Wednesday in Health Affairs, a health policy journal, examined four years of medical outcomes in Texas, Arkansas and Kentucky and found that health measurements in the latter two states, both of which expanded Medicaid, dramatically improved in nearly all categories. The improvements included steep drops in the uninsured rate among the poor, less reliance on emergency rooms for routine care and fewer people skipping their medication because of cost.

KTSA - May 18, 2017

Expert: Rough Road Ahead For Uresti, TX Dems

A big blow for both Texas Democrats–and State Senator Carlos Uresti. That’s just what one political watcher sees in the federal indictments handed down against the San Antonio Democrat Tuesday. “One of the angles that they (Texas Democrats) hoped to use in the 2018 election was hitting sitting Attorney General Ken Paxton (a Republican) for his indictments on many of the same charges that Senator Uresti has been indicted on… that is securities violations” said Mark Jones, a Political Science Fellow at Rice University’s Baker Institute.

Texas Tribune - May 16, 2017

Piperno: A regulation that would be a disaster for Austin and the rest of Texas

The Texas Legislature is close to a finish on House Bill 100, a bill that purports to streamline the operations of Transportation Network Companies (TNC) like Fasten, Uber and Lyft. In reality, it will do three no good, horrible, very bad things: putting the safety of every ride hailing customer in the state at risk, enabling discrimination and weakening the sovereignty of cities across the state. In Austin, where fingerprinting is required of all a ride-hailing drivers, more than 2.6 percent of applications (which equates to about 185 drivers) have been rejected for a variety of serious offenses, including but not limited to multiple assaults with a deadly weapon; assaulting a police officer; and failure to register as a sex offender since the rule was enacted. Without fingerprinting, these dangerous people would be behind the wheel.

Houston Chronicle - May 17, 2017

Senate OKs statewide paid ride regs, overruling cities

The Texas Senate on Wednesday gave final approval to a bill establishing statewide rules for companies such as Uber and Lyft that connect riders with willing drivers, sending a measure to the governor's desk that would supercede all local regulations regarding so-called transportation network companies. Sen. Charles Schwertner, R-Georgetown, a sponsor of House Bill 100, said state rules would eliminate a "patchwork" of local regulations that he called "deliberately onerous." Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner disagreed, noting the city has co-existed with Uber for more than two years.

Houston Chronicle - May 17, 2017

New center takes aim high-risk pregnancies, maternal mortality

Infant mortality in the U.S. remains a problem - 23,000 babies died in 2014 - but the numbers decline every year and currently are the lowest in history, mostly thanks to an aggressive public health campaign to reduce pre-term births. The death trend among mothers, however, is going in the other direction - up by more than half since 2000. Nowhere is the situation worse than in Texas, where the maternal death rate resembles that of some Third World countries. Two reports last summer brought national attention to the state's problem. One found that the rate of women who had died up to a year after pregnancy has doubled since 2011; another found black mothers bear the greatest risk, accounting for nearly 29 percent of such deaths even though they gave birth to only 11 percent of all babies.

Houston Chronicle - May 17, 2017

Baylor faces another Title IX suit, plaintiff alleges gang rape by football players

The latest blow to Baylor's ongoing troubles came in the form of another Title IX lawsuit against the school on Wednesday morning. The victim in the suit played volleyball at the school from 2011-13. According to the lawsuit filed late Tuesday, the victim was "brutally gang raped by at least four and, according to some reports, as many as eight, Baylor football players." She claims the university was "indifferent" in responding to hers and multiple other cases of sexual assault.

Washington Times - May 17, 2017

Texas state senator says he’s innocent of federal charges

A Texas state senator says he’s innocent of fraud, bribery and money laundering charges that could bring a 200-year prison sentence if convicted on all counts. Carlos Uresti, a Democrat from San Antonio, turned himself in Wednesday to authorities in his hometown before appearing in federal court. Outside the courthouse, Uresti said he is innocent of all charges. Federal indictments accuse the 53-year-old Uresti of engaging in an investment Ponzi scheme to market hydraulic fracturing sand for oil production. He’s also charged with aiding a bribery scheme to secure a prison medical services contract.

Texas Observer - May 17, 2017

Traffic Ticketing Program That Feeds Debtors’ Prison Pipeline May Be in its Final Year

Since 2003, an obscure Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) program has trapped more than a million Texans in a cycle of debt, opponents say. For nearly as long, lawmakers critical of the program have sought to repeal it. This might be their year. The Driver Responsibility Program funds trauma centers around the state by levying hefty fees against repeat offenders. Drivers accumulate points on their licenses when they commit traffic violations. At six points, a for-profit DPS contractor hits drivers with a surcharge of between $100 and $2,000 to be paid each year for three years. And that’s in addition to traffic fines, court costs, and attorney’s fees. Reformers say the program thrusts poor Texans into a downward spiral that progresses from unpaid fines and suspended licenses to hefty fees and jail time.

Associated Press - May 18, 2017

Texas House OKs Immigration Rules for Transportation Sector

The Texas House has voted to require contractors working for the state transportation department to increase efforts to refrain from employing people in the country illegally. Tuesday's 83-59 vote mandates that contractors and sub-contractors use E-verify, a program which lets employers check employees' legal status. The rule was included in a larger bill regulating the transportation department.

New York Times - May 17, 2017

Alex Jones Retracts Chobani Claims to Resolve Lawsuit

Alex Jones, a high-profile conspiracy theorist and the host of a right-wing radio show, said Wednesday that he had “mischaracterized” the yogurt company Chobani in statements on social media that led to a lawsuit. In a statement at the end of one of his broadcasts, Mr. Jones said: “During the week of April 10, 2017, certain statements were made on the InfoWars Twitter feed and YouTube channel regarding Chobani L.L.C. that I now understand to be wrong. “The tweets and video have now been retracted and will not be reposted. On behalf of InfoWars, I regret that we mischaracterized Chobani, its employees and the people of Twin Falls, Idaho, the way we did.”

KXAN - May 16, 2017

Border security expert says surge not working as lawmakers set to spend more

Texas lawmakers are expected to decide this week just how many more hundreds of millions of your tax dollars they will spend on more border security. The Texas Department of Public Safety has asked for an additional billion dollars, but Senate and House members are still hashing out exactly how much they’ll agree to approve. This is despite the lack of hard evidence the border surge is effective.

New York Times - May 17, 2017

Casar: Why Texans Are Fighting Anti-Immigrant Legislation

I’m a member of the Austin City Council, and this month Texas State Troopers arrested me for refusing to leave Gov. Greg Abbott’s office during a protest against the anti-immigrant Senate Bill 4. The bill, which Mr. Abbott signed May 6, represents the most dangerous type of legislative threat facing immigrants in our country. It has been called a “show me your papers” bill because it allows police officers — including those on college campuses — to question the immigration status of anyone they arrest, or even simply detain, including during traffic stops. This provision resembles those in laws passed in Arizona and Alabama in recent years, both of which inspired national scorn and were partially struck down when challenged in court.

City Stories

Austin American-Statesman - May 18, 2017

Austin bids farewell to Brackenridge Hospital after 133 years

Jane Dryden Louis retains more memories of the Brackenridge Hospital emergency room than she does of the house in Wilshire Woods where she grew up. That is because for decades her father, Dr. Bud Dryden, was the one of the public hospital’s most loyal physicians. “We never went anywhere without stopping at the emergency room at some point,” Louis, 65, says. “I grew up on a stool next to the pneumatic tube section in the nurse’s station.”

Austin American-Statesman - May 17, 2017

CEO: RideAustin could shut down if Uber’s return greatly reduces rides

The CEO of Austin’s nonprofit ride-hailing app, RideAustin, said that if the company gives fewer than 20,000 rides a week, on average, it will very likely have to shut down. The company currently gives about 50,000 to 70,000 rides a week, CEO Andy Tryba said. Tryba made the comments Wednesday evening after the ride-hailing titan Uber announced that it would return to Austin immediately if Gov. Greg Abbott signs a bill into law that is heading to his desk.

Houston Chronicle - May 17, 2017

Mayor outlines reforms in response to Chronicle 'Lost Money' investigation

Mayor Sylvester Turner called Wednesday for Houston to define affordability, attach tougher rules to housing subsidies and provide annual financial reports on its local housing fund, among other policy changes in response to a Houston Chronicle investigation. The Chronicle's 10-month investigation found that Houston has collected $130 million in local taxes over the last decade to provide housing for low-income families, but produced fewer than 500 homes that remain tied to city subsidy rules. Nearly half of the $96 million spent since fiscal 2007 went toward expenses such as administrative overhead or federal fines, and the Chronicle's repeated questions about financial discrepancies led the city to discover $46 million was available for new projects, tens of millions more than officials thought.

Dallas Morning News - May 17, 2017

Denton lays groundwork for handheld ban

Denton city officials are working on updating the existing "texting ban" signs with language that will support the new "handheld ban" for drivers. The Denton City Council in December approved a ban on the use of all handheld devices behind the wheel. The new ordinance, which goes into effect June 1, allows drivers to answer or end a call only if the phone is mounted. "Hands-free" systems, such as those using Bluetooth, are permitted. A violation can result in a Class C misdemeanor and a fine of up to $500.

Austin American-Statesman - May 17, 2017

With passage of ride-hailing bill, when will Uber return to Austin?

A bill that would take ride-hailing service regulations statewide got final approval Wednesday in the Texas Senate, putting Austin’s homegrown ordinance one step closer to oblivion. The signing of House Bill 100 by the governor would immediately render Austin’s ride-hailing law inoperative, and pave the way for Uber and Lyft to resume passenger operations in Austin. An Uber spokesman confirmed Wednesday that the company will begin operating again in Austin upon the governor’s signature. Late Wednesday afternoon, Gov. Greg Abbott tweeted a link to a news story about Uber’s pending return, adding, “Buckle up. Coming soon.”

KWTX - May 18, 2017

Waco: Auto Theft Task Force hopes state will provide promised funds

Texas motorists pay a $2 fee that’s added to their auto insurance policies that’s supposed to fund the Texas Auto Burglary and Theft Prevention Authority, but most of the fee isn’t going for what it was intended. The Texas Legislature approved a $1 fee in 1991 to be added to every auto insurance policy in Texas to fund what was then the Auto Theft Prevention Authority, which was designed to work side-by-side with county sheriff’s offices to battle auto thefts. In 2011, the Legislature upped the fee to $2, but the administrator of the Heart of Texas Auto Theft Task Force, Michelle Snyder, says, that money that people think is going to fund the fight on motor vehicle crimes, is not.

San Antonio Express News - May 17, 2017

Alamo Colleges prepare for campus carry

The Alamo Colleges District will implement a campus carry plan that bans handguns from a number of locations, including the Scobee Planetarium and early college high schools on its community college campuses. The plan, which takes effect Aug. 1, also bans guns from events where alcohol is served, such as occasional catered functions, and all athletic facilities and University Interscholastic League or collegiate sporting events, such as intramural sports games or swim meets at the Palo Alto College natatorium. Under state legislation passed two years ago, firearms owners with concealed carry licenses will be able to bring handguns into most community college buildings.

National Stories

Dallas Morning News - May 17, 2017

Leubsdorf: Who might Democrats nominate in 2020? The candidate probably isn't on our radar yet

Every controversy enveloping President Donald Trump spurs Democratic optimism about their party's future prospects. And just as the maneuvering for 2020 has started, so too has speculation about likely nominees. Based on recent presidential campaign history, the ultimate Democratic winner might well be one of those making early trips to Iowa or New Hampshire. But early polls and dope sheets will almost certainly be wrong or at least misleading. More likely than not, the next president, to be elected in either 2020 or 2024, will be someone barely on the current radar screen. (Trump has already begun his own re-election race, but Republican 2020 speculation may be even less predictable than Democratic.)

Dallas Morning News - May 17, 2017

Trump, Cornyn discussed FBI job after he withdrew from consideration

Texas Sen. John Cornyn spoke with President Donald Trump in the hours following his decision to withdraw from consideration to become the nation’s next FBI director, the senator confirmed on Wednesday. Asked about a report that Trump repeatedly called the Texan to discuss the role in recent days, Cornyn said he reiterated to the president on Tuesday that he withdrew “because I felt like I could be more helpful” in the Senate. On Wednesday, CNN reported that Cornyn was recommended for the job by both Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a longtime friend and former Senate colleague, as well as White House chief of staff Reince Priebus. CNN, citing an anonymous source, also reported that Cornyn was Trump's top pick and that the president twice called to discuss the job.

Associated Press - May 18, 2017

9 years after recession began, some states still unrecovered

Call them the unrecovered — a handful of states where job markets, nine years later, are still struggling back to where they were before the recession. That's true in Mississippi, where job numbers and the overall size of the economy remain below 2008 levels. Unlike states that have long since sprinted ahead, Mississippi is struggling with slow economic growth and slipping population in a place that's rarely at peak economic health. Miguel Brown, despite family ties to his hometown near the Alabama border, is working on oil rigs off the shore of Texas, chasing higher wages. "It's rough," said the 49-year-old Brown. "There's not a whole lot of jobs in Meridian, especially that pay anything." Not only Mississippi, but also Alabama, Michigan, New Mexico, and West Virginia are still short of pre-recession job levels by multiple measures.

This article appeared in the San Antonio Express News

Washington Post - May 17, 2017

Democrats try to punch through with message, but Trump scandals get in the way

The Democratic Party’s brightest stars spent Tuesday at a bustling “ideas conference,” sponsored by the Center for American Progress to brainstorm an agenda for the Trump era. Done right, it could break through what CAP President Neera Tanden called the “twenty-four-second news cycle” and remind swing voters what the party stands for. Easier said than done. As Democrats took the stage of the Four Seasons’s basement ballroom in Washington, phones buzzed with the latest updates on the president’s having divulged classified information to the Russians and about Republicans still condemning the firing of James B. Comey as FBI director.

Houston Chronicle - May 18, 2017

U.S.: Immigrant arrests soar under Trump, fewer deported

U.S. immigration arrests increased nearly 40 percent in early 2017 as newly emboldened agents under President Donald Trump detained more than 40,000 people suspected of being in the country illegally - with a renewed focus on immigrants without criminal convictions. The numbers released by acting Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director Thomas Homan provide a snapshot of how the new president is carrying through on his campaign promises to make immigration enforcement a top priority. Overall, 41,300 people were arrested for deportation, a 38 percent increase from a comparable period last year. Nearly 11,000 had no criminal convictions, more than double the number of immigrants without criminal convictions arrested during a comparable period last year.

Washington Post - May 17, 2017

Trump’s first full education budget: Deep cuts to public school programs in pursuit of school choice

Funding for college work-study programs would be cut in half, public-service loan forgiveness would end and hundreds of millions of dollars that public schools could use for mental health, advanced coursework and other services would vanish under a Trump administration plan to cut $10.6 billion from federal education initiatives, according to budget documents obtained by The Washington Post. The administration would channel part of the savings into its top priority: school choice. It seeks to spend about $400 million to expand charter schools and vouchers for private and religious schools, and another $1 billion to push public schools to adopt choice-friendly policies. President Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos have repeatedly said they want to shrink the federal role in education and give parents more opportunity to choose their children’s schools.

Dallas Morning News - May 17, 2017

DMN: Trump has put his own presidency in peril; the special prosecutor may be the only way to save it

We warned early that the president's Russia problems could imperil his presidency. Four months in, and it is fully imperiled. This is bad news for everyone in America, no matter how they voted. What relief, then, to learn late Wednesday that the Justice Department has named former FBI Director Robert Mueller as special prosecutor charged with leading the criminal inquiry into whether the Trump campaign illegally coordinated with Russian agents during last year's campaign.

Washington Post - May 17, 2017

House majority leader to colleagues in 2016: ‘I think Putin pays’ Trump

A month before Donald Trump clinched the Republican nomination, one of his closest allies in Congress — House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy — made a politically explosive assertion in a private conversation on Capitol Hill with his fellow GOP leaders: that Trump could be the beneficiary of payments from Russian President Vladimir Putin. “There’s two people I think Putin pays: Rohrabacher and Trump,” McCarthy (R-Calif.) said, according to a recording of the June 15, 2016, exchange, which was listened to and verified by The Washington Post. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher is a Californian Republican known in Congress as a fervent defender of Putin and Russia. House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) immediately interjected, stopping the conversation from further exploring McCarthy’s assertion, and swore the Republicans present to secrecy.

Washington Post - May 18, 2017

Roger Ailes, architect of conservative TV juggernaut Fox News, is dead at 77

Roger Ailes, who mastered the art of selling political candidates like Hollywood celebrities and was the architect of conservative-oriented TV news, died Thursday at 77. He was the longtime chairman and chief executive of the Fox News Channel, building it over two decades into a politically influential juggernaut until his abrupt ouster last year amid sexual harassment allegations. His family confirmed the death in a statement. No cause or location was reported. At Fox News, Mr. Ailes presided over a cable outlet that combined television news from a conservative perspective with the rabble-rousing rhetoric of right-wing talk radio to produce a singularly influential media machine. He was a skilled showman, a savvy political operator and a proudly plebeian counterpoint to the East Coast elite that he believed dominated the news business.

Washington Post - May 18, 2017

How dangerous are the cracks emerging in Trump’s wall of support?

The world spins faster these days, but in Washington, as President Trump is now learning, the essential chemistry of crisis — quick to boil, difficult to dampen — hasn’t changed in four decades. Tom Railsback, one of the last surviving members of the House Judiciary Committee that voted to impeach Richard M. Nixon, recalls the moment he knew he and his party finally had to break with their wayward president. “I personally liked Richard Nixon,” said Railsback, a Republican from Illinois who is now 85. “He campaigned for me. But I reached a point — a number of us did — where we all felt that this was the most important decision of our lives.” No such decision confronts ­Republicans in Congress or the administration right now, but within the president’s party this week, what had been a fairly solid wall of support has suddenly developed cracks — the latest being the appointment late Wednesday of a special counsel to investigate Russia’s role in Trump’s election.

Politico - May 18, 2017

DeVos expected to unveil school choice plans Monday

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is expected to offer details about the Trump administration’s vision for a federal investment in school choice in a major policy speech Monday. DeVos is slated to speak at an Indianapolis summit hosted by her former group, The American Federation for Children, which advocates for school choice, the Education Department confirmed Wednesday night. She is believed to be preparing to unveil an education tax credit scholarship proposal, which the Trump administration has been considering for some time, according to multiple sources who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss it.

Politico - May 18, 2017

Kochs boost Trump tax plan

In a potential boost for President Donald Trump’s largely stagnant tax reform effort, the Koch brothers’ advocacy operation is planning to spend millions of dollars advocating for changes to the tax code that mirror the ones proposed by the White House. The two leading groups in the conservative advocacy operation spearheaded by the billionaire megadonors Charles and David Koch on Thursday unveiled an outline of tax reforms and announced that they intend to launch a robust campaign to rally public support for the blueprint.

Politico - May 17, 2017

Conservatives begin to whisper: President Pence

Not since the release of the Access Hollywood tape, in which Donald Trump bragged about groping women by the genitals, have some conservatives thought so seriously, if a bit wistfully, about two words: President Pence. The scandals clouding Trump’s presidency — including, most recently, his firing of FBI Director James Comey, his alleged leak of classified information to Russian officials, and reports that he urged Comey to drop an investigation into a top aide — have raised once more the possibility that Trump could be pushed aside and replaced by Vice President Mike Pence.

Politico - May 17, 2017

White House on edge: 'We are kind of helpless'

It was, in the words of one senior White House official, the worst day of Trump’s presidency. White House officials spent early Tuesday wondering who was leaking details of President Donald Trump’s classified conversations with Russian officials about intelligence shared by the Israelis, and moving to contain the fallout ahead of Trump’s planned trip to Jerusalem next week. They spent the evening facing a report that, before he fired FBI director James Comey, Trump directly asked him to stop investigating the Trump campaign’s Russia ties — and worrying what else might yet be revealed.

New York Times - May 17, 2017

The Right Builds an Alternative Narrative About the Crises Around Trump

Enemies from within have launched a “deep-state” smear campaign, news organizations are acting with ulterior motives, and the worst attacks are yet to come. Pushing back against the biggest threat so far to Donald Trump’s young presidency, his most fervent supporters are building alternative narratives to run alongside the “establishment” media account — from relatively benign diversions to more bizarre conspiracies. “They’re going to say that Donald Trump has Alzheimer’s,” said the president’s friend and longtime associate Roger Stone, who made an online video laying out how the president’s own cabinet could trigger a never-used provision of the Constitution’s 25th Amendment to stage a coup on the grounds that Mr. Trump is mentally unsound. “This is the game plan. Watch carefully,” Mr. Stone swore.

Associated Press - May 17, 2017

Trump interviews 4 candidates to post of FBI director

President Donald Trump on Wednesday interviewed four potential candidates to lead the FBI, including former Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman, former Oklahoma Gov. Frank Keating and Andrew McCabe, currently the bureau's acting director. Trump also met with Richard McFeely, a former top FBI official. Attorney General Jeff Sessions participated in the interviews. The meetings came more than a week after Trump fired James Comey from his post as FBI director. Trump said Monday that the search for a successor to Comey was "moving rapidly." He also has said he could name a candidate by the end of the week, before he departs Friday afternoon on his first overseas trip as president. The Senate must confirm whoever Trump nominates.

This article appeared in the Houston Chronicle

The Hill - May 17, 2017

Right pushes Trump to make staff, press changes

President Trump’s allies are pushing him to make drastic changes as the White House deals with persistent leaks and a communications strategy they believe has spun out of control. There is a broad sense among Trump’s media boosters and early supporters that his staff is failing him, beginning with chief of staff Reince Priebus and extending to press secretary Sean Spicer, whose job security has been the subject of endless speculation. Now, some of the most influential figures in conservative media are openly auditioning for Spicer’s job, calling for the ouster of communications director Mike Dubke or pushing the White House to fight back against the media by ending press briefings altogether.

Dallas Morning News - May 18, 2017

Trump says Russia inquiry by special counsel is 'greatest witch hunt' in U.S. history

Former FBI director Robert Mueller has been named special counsel to oversee the investigation into whether President Donald Trump's campaign colluded with Russia to influence the 2016 election, the Justice Department announced late Wednesday. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein chose Mueller for the role. The special counsel has broad powers to investigate with limited oversight. "I have determined that a special counsel is necessary in order for the American people to have full confidence in the outcome," Rosenstein said in a statement.

Dallas Morning News - May 18, 2017

House GOP turns to AT&T and other business leaders to make opening pitch on tax overhaul

House Republicans are turning to corporate America to make their opening pitch for a tax overhaul. A House Ways and Means Committee hearing held Thursday on much-discussed plans to revamp the nation's tax code leans heavily on testimony from the business bigwigs who could be among the biggest winners from proposals to lower corporate tax rates and simplify the system. And headlining that effort is AT&T, the Dallas-based telecom giant. "We need to reduce the top corporate rate," John Stephens, the company's chief financial officer, said in written testimony. "This is the quickest, most straightforward way to jumpstart investment in our country."

Newsweek - May 17, 2017

Saudi Arabia to push Donald Trump for harsher tone on Iran in Riyadh

When U.S. President Donald Trump meets Saudi princes in Riyadh Saturday, he can expect a warmer welcome than the one given a year ago to his predecessor Barack Obama, who Riyadh considered soft on arch foe Iran and cool toward a bilateral relationship that is a mainstay of the Middle East's security balance. Beneath the pomp, Riyadh will be looking for assurances that the Trump administration will continue its notably harsher tone toward Iran and keep up pressure, through both rhetoric and action, to stop what Saudi Arabia sees as Tehran's destabilizing activities in the region. The U.S.-Saudi alliance has experienced turbulence since Riyadh faulted what it saw as Obama's withdrawal from the region, a perceived tilt toward Iran since the 2011 Arab uprisings and a lack of direct action against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, an Iranian ally.

New York Times - May 17, 2017

Trump Team Knew Flynn Was Under Investigation Before He Came to White House

Michael T. Flynn told President Trump’s transition team weeks before the inauguration that he was under federal investigation for secretly working as a paid lobbyist for Turkey during the campaign, according to two people familiar with the case. Despite this warning, which came about a month after the Justice Department notified Mr. Flynn of the inquiry, Mr. Trump made Mr. Flynn his national security adviser. The job gave Mr. Flynn access to the president and nearly every secret held by American intelligence agencies. Mr. Flynn’s disclosure, on Jan. 4, was first made to the transition team’s chief lawyer, Donald F. McGahn II, who is now the White House counsel. That conversation, and another one two days later between Mr. Flynn’s lawyer and transition lawyers, shows that the Trump team knew about the investigation of Mr. Flynn far earlier than has been previously reported.

All - May 17, 2017

Lead Stories

The Hill - May 17, 2017

First Republican raises impeachment for Trump

Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) on Wednesday said reports that President Trump pressed ousted FBI Director James Comey to end an investigation would merit impeachment if true, becoming the first Republican lawmaker to broach the idea. The New York Times on Tuesday reported that Trump tried to pressure Comey to stop investigating former national security adviser Michael Flynn, citing a memo written by Comey. Asked by The Hill if the details in the memo would merit impeachment if they're true, Amash replied: "Yes."

New York Times - May 16, 2017

Israel Said to Be Source of Secret Intelligence Trump Gave to Russians

The classified intelligence that President Trump disclosed in a meeting last week with Russian officials at the White House was provided by Israel, according to a current and a former American official familiar with how the United States obtained the information. The revelation adds a potential diplomatic complication to an episode that has renewed questions about how the White House handles sensitive intelligence. Israel is one of the United States’ most important allies and runs one of the most active espionage networks in the Middle East. Mr. Trump’s boasting about some of Israel’s most sensitive information to the Russians could damage the relationship between the two countries and raises the possibility that the information could be passed to Iran, Russia’s close ally and Israel’s main threat in the region.

Austin American-Statesman - May 16, 2017

Abbott advises Hispanic Texans not to fall for `fearmongering’ on SB 4

The memorial service for Texas Rangers and state troopers who have been killed in the line of duty had ended Tuesday when a reporter for Univision 62, the Austin station for the Spanish-language network, asked Gov. Greg Abbott if he could say anything that might allay the fears of Hispanic Texans worried about the “sanctuary cities” ban he recently signed into law. “My message to the Hispanic community is don’t fall for all of the fearmongering that’s going on,” Abbott replied. “If you look at the details of Senate Bill 4, it does not pose any concern for anybody who’s not a criminal. If you’re a criminal and you’ve done something wrong, yes, whether you’re here legally or illegally, you’ve got something to be concerned about. If not, you’ve got nothing to be concerned about.”

Austin Business Journal - May 17, 2017

Small business owners, disability rights advocates both support ADA lawsuit reform at Texas Capitol

Prominent Austin restaurateur Rob Lippincott was among the hundreds of Texas businesses owners sued last year by so-called “drive-by ADA lawsuits” for having a facility that failed to comply with specific accommodations under the Americans With Disabilities Act. Guero’s Taco Bar, owned by Lippincott, and Austin-based Hopdoddy Burger Bar were both hit with lawsuits that Lippincott said were inaccurate. But Lippincott and many of his small-business colleagues settled with plaintiffs — sometimes for as little as $2,000 — simply to make them go away.

Texas Tribune - May 17, 2017

Even in Texas, sometimes the billionaires lose

Sometimes even billionaires don’t get what they want. That’s the lesson emerging from an apparently failed attempt to craft a “carve-out” from protectionist Texas auto laws for famed investor Warren Buffett, one of the wealthiest men on the planet. Buffett is in a regulatory pickle because Texas is poised to bar him from owning both a vehicle manufacturing company and auto dealerships under byzantine state rules crafted with influence from powerful auto interests.

Dallas Morning News - May 16, 2017

Texas officials call for a 'summer of resistance' against sanctuary cities ban

Local government leaders from across the state joined immigrants rights activists Tuesday at the Capitol to call for a "summer of resistance" against the state's newly passed "sanctuary cities" ban. "Hate will not define my state," said Jose Sic, a member of the Texas Organizing Project. "With your help, we will defeat this law and every politician who supported it." The law, which was signed last week by Gov. Greg Abbott and takes effect Sept. 1, bans cities, counties and universities from prohibiting law enforcement officers from asking about immigration status or enforcing federal immigration law.

Dallas Morning News - May 16, 2017

Dallas court temporarily halts Attorney General Ken Paxton criminal case

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton's criminal case is on hold while an appeals court considers whether the presiding judge should be removed. The 5th Court of Appeals in Dallas on Tuesday halted all proceedings for the foreseeable future as it considers Paxton's request to boot Judge George Gallagher. A hearing scheduled for Thursday will be canceled, and the parties will have until May 23 to submit written responses before the court makes its decision. The appeals court's response came a day after Paxton's attorneys filed an emergency request to halt any further movement in the case until their demands that Gallagher be removed are answered. Paxton objected to Gallagher's decision to move his upcoming trials from Collin to Harris County, repeatedly seeking his removal since that ruling.

The Hill - May 16, 2017

GOP nears total exasperation with Trump

Exasperated Republicans in the House and Senate are growing tired of having to defend President Trump. Daily dramas from the White House are increasingly frustrating Republicans on Capitol Hill and threatening to derail the party’s agenda heading into the midterm elections. “Can we have a crisis-free day?” Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) asked reporters on Monday, according to CNN. “That’s all I’m asking.” GOP lawmakers kept the president at arm’s length as they reacted to the White House controversy that Trump revealed highly classified information during an Oval Office meeting last week with two Russian officials.

Politico - May 16, 2017

Republicans may be reaching their breaking point with Trump

For Republicans on Capitol Hill, Donald Trump may finally have gone too far. Tuesday’s report that Trump asked former FBI Director James Comey to end the criminal investigation into ex-national security adviser Michael Flynn was more than just another embarrassing revelation for a president used to a near-daily barrage of scandal and staff intrigue. Republicans are privately beginning to worry that they may one day have to sit in judgment of Trump, or that more damaging information from Comey could force the president to step down. Within hours of Tuesday's report by The New York Times, there was a distinct shift among congressional Republicans, who until now have mostly resisted criticizing Trump, let alone demanding the president be held to account for all he says or does.

Politico - May 17, 2017

Wall Street gives up on a 2017 tax overhaul

Wall Street and corporate America view President Donald Trump’s bold agenda for a sweeping tax overhaul as largely dead for the year. Executives, lobbyists and Wall Street analysts increasingly believe the administration — distracted by repeated crises while facing a short and crowded legislative calendar — will be unable to deliver on Trump’s promise to slash corporate and individual tax rates this year and ignite significantly faster economic growth. The main hope now in corporate America and on Wall Street is that the White House and Congress manage to bypass a scary fight over raising the nation’s debt limit this summer, keep the government open and avoid any major foreign policy crisis.

State Stories

Austin American-Statesman - May 16, 2017

SUV belonging to tea party senator slapped with anti-Trump vulgarity

The target of political mischief, the official vehicle of one of the most conservative members of the Texas Senate was spotted Tuesday outside the Capitol with an anti-Trump bumper sticker. The sticker, using a four-letter expletive in front of the word, “Trump,” was slapped on the back of a Chevy Tahoe belonging to Sen. Don Huffines, R-Dallas. The vehicle, which has the sort of special license plate for vehicles of state officials, still had decals front and back from the Huffines family auto dealership. “Somebody must have replaced my Trump sticker,” said Huffines, when shown a photo of the new bumper sticker on the vehicle. “I have to call my wife to scrape off the windshield.”

Austin American-Statesman - May 16, 2017

Ted Cruz fundraises on Rosie O’Donnell’s backing Beto O’Rourke

Comedian and actress Rosie O’Donnell is getting behind the campaign of Beto O’Rourke in his bid to unseat Texas Republican Senator Ted Cruz. In a Twitter post Tuesday morning, O’Donnell wrote that she had “MAXED OUT to @BetoORourke’s campaign against Ted Cruz.” O’Rourke is a Democratic U.S. Congressman from El Paso. The message from the politically-involved celebrity, who famously has a running feud with President Donald Trump, concluded: “TED CRUZ HAS 2 GO.”

Austin American-Statesman - May 16, 2017

Bill letting clerks opt out of gay marriage licenses advances

The House State Affairs Committee on Tuesday approved legislation allowing county clerks to opt out of issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples over religious objections to the practice. The committee approved Senate Bill 522 on an 8-3 party-line vote, with Republicans in favor and Democrats opposed. Under SB 522, county clerks would be allowed to refuse to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples as long as an assistant clerk or judge is willing to provide the service.

Austin American-Statesman - May 17, 2017

House panel advances Senate bill to loosen STAAR requirements

As the legislative session draws to a close in less than two weeks, bills that would reduce state standardized test requirements in Texas are nearing the finish the line. The House Public Education Committee approved a Senate bill on Tuesday, 9-0, that would continue for two more years a reprieve that allows high school seniors to graduate even if they fail up to two State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness. A committee made up of the student’s teacher, principal and parents can give unanimous consent for such students to graduate as long as they pass all of their classes, among other requirements.

Austin American-Statesman - May 16, 2017

Sen. Carlos Uresti indicted on multiple fraud charges

A federal grand jury Tuesday indicted state Sen. Carlos Uresti on multiple counts of fraud, money laundering and related charges alleging that he took part in an investment Ponzi scheme involving a now-defunct oil and gas company. A second indictment accused the San Antonio Democrat of participating in a separate 10-year bribery and kickback scheme over a medical services contract for a Reeves County jail complex. Uresti faces up to 20 years in prison on the most serious charges, said the announcement from U.S. Attorney Richard Durbin Jr. and FBI Special Agent in Charge Christopher Combs of the San Antonio division.

Austin American-Statesman - May 16, 2017

UT study: Banned internet-supervised abortions are safe

University of Texas research into abortion has yielded a conclusion in stark contrast to state law: Abortions properly supervised over the internet are safe for women. In Ireland and Northern Ireland, where abortion is a criminal offense in most cases, women are increasingly turning to organizations such as Women on Web, a nonprofit that provides abortion-inducing medicines and remote real-time instruction on their use, said Abigail Aiken, an assistant professor at the LBJ School of Public Affairs and the lead author of a report on research into abortions via telemedicine.

Austin American-Statesman - May 16, 2017

Other cities may join Austin in fighting ‘sanctuary cities’ ban

Many of the Democratic centers in Texas appear to be headed toward a collaborative legal fight against the recently signed Senate Bill 4 banning so-called “sanctuary cities,” as some of Texas’ largest cities and counties start taking action to sue the state. On Tuesday, local elected officials from Austin, Dallas, Houston, El Paso County and San Antonio all pledged to fight SB 4 by possibly assisting Austin in defending itself in a lawsuit filed by Attorney General Ken Paxton or suing the state outright in what Austin City Council Member Greg Casar characterized as a “joint” effort. Dallas City Council Member Philip Kingston said that the Dallas City Council could vote as early as next week to take legal action against SB 4 and possibly come to the aid of Austin.

Austin American-Statesman - May 16, 2017

Lawmakers fear agency closures at risk without special session

State lawmakers are worried that last week’s insurrection by tea party-aligned Republicans, which killed hundreds of House bills, might have jeopardized a procedural measure needed to keep some state agencies open. The struggle to pass what is known as the Sunset Commission scheduling bill is the epitome of legislative inside baseball, but it could play a key role in negotiations over such high-profile issues as transgender bathroom access and the state budget. With the House version of the sunset bill now dead, House Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, on Monday asked fellow Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick to resurrect it by having the Senate quickly pass its version and send it to the House before a procedural deadline arrives at the end of the week.

Austin American-Statesman - May 16, 2017

House approves judicial security bill prompted by Kocurek shooting

The Texas House on Tuesday gave preliminary approval to a bill aimed at improving security measures for judges following the failed assassination attempt of state District Judge Julie Kocurek, who in 2015 was shot in the driveway of her West Austin home. The House approved Senate Bill 42, named the Judge Julie Kocurek Judicial and Courthouse Security Act, in a 140-0 vote. It will head to Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk following a final vote Wednesday. The shooting of Kocurek, who has returned to the bench after 26 surgeries, prompted an examination of judicial security that identified several shortcomings and resulted in the bill, which was authored by Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, and sponsored in the House by Rep. John Smithee, R-Amarillo.

Austin American-Statesman - May 16, 2017

Bill curbing lawsuits after severe storms gets initial Senate OK

A proposed law aimed at reducing the motivation for Texas property owners to sue insurance companies in the wake of damage caused by “forces of nature” — from the relatively commonplace, such as hailstorms, to the more atypical, such as earthquakes or wildfires — won initial approval from the state Senate Tuesday. House Bill 1774, sponsored by state Rep. Greg Bonnen, R-Friendswood, was approved by the state House earlier this month. The Senate voted 21-8 in favor of the bill Tuesday but still must take a final procedural vote on it. That’s likely to happen Wednesday.

Austin American-Statesman - May 16, 2017

Bikers say mass arrests at Twin Peaks shootout violated civil rights

Twenty bikers arrested following a shootout at a Waco-area Twin Peaks restaurant in 2015 have filed a federal lawsuit in Austin accusing local and state law enforcement agencies of violating their civil rights. It’s the latest legal challenge brought against the Waco Police Department and the Texas Department of Public Safety for their actions in the aftermath of the melee, which left 9 dead and 20 injured. The 20 bikers who brought Monday’s civil case were among the 177 arrested and charged with engaging in organized crime with intent to murder, a first-degree felony, the suit states.

Texas Tribune - May 17, 2017

Ramsey: The only two reasons the Legislature needs extra time

Emergencies and screw-ups are the only two reasons the Texas Legislature has ever met in special session. You can look those sessions up at the state’s Legislative Reference Library — all 119 of them. Special session No. 120 is a favorite subject of speculation at the Texas Capitol right now. The 85th Legislature’s 140-day regular session has less than two weeks left. Lots of bills are dead and dying. For some, the best chance of legislative success would be in overtime, if they can persuade Gov. Greg Abbott — or force him, through an emergency or a screw-up that must be addressed — to bring lawmakers back to town after Memorial Day.

Texas Tribune - May 16, 2017

Canadian officials upset with Republican “Buy American” iron and steel bill

A recent call from Texas lawmakers to “Buy American” iron and steel has upset some northern neighbors worried about the implications such a measure will have on Texas-Canada trade relations. In a letter dated May 15, three representatives of the Canadian government wrote that they were “deeply concerned” with a bill that recently passed both chambers that would expand a Buy American provision already in effect for the Texas Department of Transportation and the Texas Water Development Board to all state agencies. The bill now heads back to the Senate, where lawmakers will either accept the lower chamber's changes to it or request a conference committee.

Texas Tribune - May 16, 2017

Lawmakers resume efforts to provide Texans with toll road relief

House lawmakers on Tuesday renewed their efforts to curb the growing number of toll lanes in the state — and to limit what happens to drivers who don’t pay fees for using such roads. They did it while considering Senate Bill 312, a routine measure designed to keep the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) in operation for the next 12 years. They also added to the bill a new requirement that TxDOT contractors and subcontractors screen for undocumented workers. State Rep. Joe Pickett, D-El Paso, successfully got House lawmakers to prohibit TxDOT from turning carpool lanes opened before 2005 into toll lanes. Regional planners, especially in the Dallas area, have turned carpool lanes into toll lanes for years as a way to relieve congestion and raise more money for highway maintenance and renovation. He also got them to add language requiring toll agencies or other governmental entities to repay TxDOT any funds the state puts towards the upfront costs of a project with toll lanes.

Texas Tribune - May 17, 2017

West Texas churches pray to Legislature for electricity rate relief

Bruce Parsons, pastor of Champion Baptist Church, said he felt deflated when he delivered the church's latest monthly electricity bill to his treasurer. It came to nearly $800, an enormous sum for a 60-member congregation that rarely spends more than a handful of hours each week beneath the steeple of its building in Roscoe, about 50 miles west of Abilene. About 80 percent of the charges weren’t even for the electricity itself, but rather the power lines to deliver it. No matter how much the dwindling congregation of retirees and farmers tries to conserve energy — including shutting off the heat and air conditioning when they're not worshipping — they can’t thwart the sky-high prices charged each month by Sharyland Utilities, which since 2014 has become the priciest power line company in Texas.

Texas Tribune - May 16, 2017

Despite Bland family's complaints, House unlikely to beef up Sandra Bland Act

After hopes that House lawmakers would add more language on police interactions to the Sandra Bland Act, the bill's sponsor said Tuesday that if it reaches the chamber's floor, he would aim to keep it unchanged from the whittled-down form that passed the Senate last week. State Rep. Garnet Coleman, a Houston Democrat, told the Tribune that the Sandra Bland Act is too sensitive a bill to sustain amendments. Bland’s family has expressed disappointment in the version of the bill the Senate passed Thursday, calling it a missed opportunity because it didn’t address arrests. An earlier version of Senate Bill 1849 added more rules for how police conduct consent searches, mandated officers received training on understanding implicit biases and prohibited arrests for offenses that normally only warrant a ticket. Law enforcement groups pushed back hard on such provisions, and the House committee that considered Coleman's version of the bill earlier in the legislative session lacked the votes to advance the measure.

Houston Chronicle - May 16, 2017

Bill would help first-time offenders shield their criminal records

Some first-time offenders with low-level criminal records may soon be able to shield their rap sheets from public disclosure, under a bipartisan bill approved by a key Texas Senate committee Tuesday. The Senate Committee on Criminal Justice voted 6-1 to send House Bill 3016 to the full chamber, where a vote could come as early as this week. The Texas House already approved the legislation, authored by Democratic Rep. Senfronia Thompson of Houston, in a 140-4 vote earlier this month. HB 3016, dubbed the "Second Chances Bill," would allow people convicted of one low-level offense - which may include a DWI with a blood alcohol level under 0.14 or nonviolent Class C misdemeanors - to request an order of nondisclosure from a court after they pay restitution and serve their sentence.

Houston Chronicle - May 16, 2017

Craft: What happens when Texas stops watching pollution

Milby Park on Houston's east side appears to have everything you could want for a day outdoors: Soccer fields, 18 holes for disc golf, picnic areas and a children's playground. There are plans for a hike-and-bike trail, a $3.5 million project scheduled for completion next year. What it does not have is reliably clean air. The park is located across Sims Bayou from three chemical facilities. In 2005, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality attributed high concentrations of cancer-causing 1,3-butadiene in the area to neighboring industrial plants and pushed for pollution reductions. Within four years, TCEQ declared victory and removed Milby Park from the state's watch list for air pollution.

Houston Chronicle - May 17, 2017

Ed bill broadens access to a bachelor's

More Texas community colleges could soon offer what was once beyond the reach of the two-year schools: a bachelor's degree. Legislation introduced by Sen. Kel Seliger, an Amarillo Republican, would authorize community colleges that meet certain benchmarks to offer bachelor's degree programs in applied technology, applied science and nursing. Senate Bill 2118 needs full House approval and Gov. Greg Abbott's signature to become law, and so far, the bill has cleared every vote with wide margins. "It's widely supported across the state, and I think its chances are very, very good," Seliger said.

Houston Chronicle - May 16, 2017

Tomlinson: Don't like the law? Hire a friend in Austin

Have a local ordinance you don't like? Need a special exemption from a state law? Hire a friend in Austin. Every odd-numbered year, 181 state representatives and senators meet in Austin to write a budget and pass a few laws. And year after year, many have proved ready, willing and able to cut deals on behalf of businesses with deep pockets. Just don't expect them to help with the basic needs of all business, such as meaningful tax reform or adequately funding public schools, universities and highways. Do, however, count on them to pass unconstitutional laws and attract ridicule. If an ordinance was approved by voters or local elected officials in a Democratic part of the state, trust Republican lawmakers to override it.

Dallas Morning News - May 16, 2017

Virtual charter schools wouldn't be expanded just yet: Texas Senate wants a study first

Texas' move to greatly expand virtual charter schools despite their lackluster performance was significantly scaled back Tuesday. Sen. Don Huffines, R-Dallas, had sought to offer the digital school option to students in kindergarten through second grade to give families options that work for them. But various education advocates have warned against expanding the charters because they have shown poor student achievement across the state and the nation. One major 2015 study found that kids in virtual charter schools lost up to a year's worth of math education and almost a semester of reading.

Dallas Morning News - May 16, 2017

DMN: Killed too soon in Austin, West Dallas gentrification bill deserves new life at City Council

An effort to curtail unwelcome consequences of the runaway success of investments made in West Dallas since the opening of the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge was killed last week in Austin. We write today to both mourn its demise and champion its resurrection. House Bill 2480, the handiwork of Rep. Eric Johnson, D-Dallas, had a bright future until last week when lawmakers, including Rep. Matt Rinaldi, R-Irving, put it in the morgue. They dislodged the bill from the local and consent calendar — a place for bills so free of controversy that lawmakers vote on them in batches, with little debate — and set it adrift.

Dallas Morning News - May 16, 2017

Houses approves bulletproof vest bill inspired by downtown Dallas shooting

The Texas House tentatively approved a bill Tuesday that would create a $25 million state grant to help local police departments buy bulletproof vests. Senate Bill 12 by Dallas Sen. Royce West was approved by a vote of 140-1. It was approved by the Senate in March. It now needs a final vote in the House, which will likely occur Wednesday, before it is sent to Gov. Greg Abbott to be signed into law. "There are a lot of contentious issues here in Austin," West said. "This is not one of them."

Dallas Morning News - May 17, 2017

With A&M grad Rick Perry at helm, Energy Department funding squeeze hits even Aggieland

The plot of sorghum planted a few weeks ago by Texas A&M University researcher Cristine Morgan is the kind of groundbreaking study that she says could “transform soil science.” That’s if the funding promised last year by the U.S. Energy Department ever arrives. The $4 million study of root structure is among the projects threatened by a growing political battle over some of the department’s marquee research programs, including the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy that backs high-risk, high-reward efforts like Morgan’s.

Dallas Morning News - May 16, 2017

Texas homebuilding hits 10-year high, but don't expect any bargains

Texas homebuilders are on a tear. The number of statewide single-family home construction permits hit a 10-year high in March, according to a new report by the Real Estate Center at Texas A&M University. "After an anemic start to the year, the number of Texas single-family home construction permits soared 11.5 percent in March to a ten-year high of 10,481," Dr. Luis Torres, a research economist with the Real Estate Center, said in a new report.

Dallas Morning News - May 16, 2017

Texans who scolded Clinton over classified email mum on Trump sharing secrets with Russia

National security adviser H.R. McMaster called it "wholly appropriate" for President Donald Trump to share classified information about the Islamic State with the Russian foreign minister last week, as the White House scrambled Tuesday to contain an uproar that threatened relations with key allies. "The president wasn't even aware where this information came from," McMaster told reporters in a hastily arranged briefing aimed at addressing the chaos. The secrets Trump allegedly passed along came from Israel, according to a New York Times report Tuesday afternoon. The Washington Post first reported that Trump had disclosed highly sensitive intelligence provided by an ally that didn't want it shared with Russia.

Dallas Morning News - May 16, 2017

Senate unwilling to ban 'pay-to-play' in governor's office

A bill to prohibit the governor from appointing top campaign donors to influential positions is poised to die in the Senate. The legislation passed in the House earlier this month, but its author says he has been unable to find a senator willing to pick up the bill. With less than two weeks left in the legislative session, there's little time to change minds. "It's not dead, but it's on life support," said Rep. Lyle Larson, the San Antonio Republican who authored the bill. "There's not a lot of folks in the Senate that are pushing to have a hearing."

Dallas Morning News - May 16, 2017

Jeffers: Tease of a Texas political shakeup ends with John Cornyn staying in Senate

Sen. John Cornyn is such a tease. The prospect of Cornyn leaving the Senate to become FBI director set in motion a flurry of political activity. Candidates were already maneuvering to replace him, and the subsequent domino effect would have reshaped the Texas political scene. But on Tuesday, the Republican removed himself from consideration just days after Attorney General Jeff Sessions interviewed him to replace ousted FBI Director James Comey.

Dallas Morning News - May 16, 2017

Effort to stop 'lunch shaming' gets a second chance after political maneuver killed Dallas lawmaker's bill

A Dallas lawmaker isn't giving up on her fight to stop "lunch shaming" in Texas schools. A bill by Rep. Helen Giddings, D-Dallas, would have required schools to let students have their regular meal or an alternative so kids wouldn't be identified as struggling financially. Children whose lunch accounts run low often don't know until their tray is taken from them during checkout. Because the food has been served, it's placed in the trash and the child is given a more meager meal, usually a cheese sandwich.

Dallas Morning News - May 16, 2017

Davis: The bullies win again as a Texas black college disinvites Sen. John Cornyn

Dr. King must be so proud. Sorry to haul out the heavy artillery, but that is the first thing that occurs to me as an event threatens to become a pattern: students at historically black colleges and universities heckling and even silencing American leaders paying tribute to them, all because of politics. Mere days after booing Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos at Bethune-Cookman University in Florida, along came news that U.S. Senator John Cornyn would not endure the same fate at Texas Southern University in Houston. Not because the Texas graduates have better manners; Cornyn would be spared because his invitation was withdrawn.

Dallas Morning News - May 16, 2017

With clock ticking, Texas leaders scrambling to prevent special session

You can almost set your watch by it. Every odd-numbered year around the middle of May, tension in the Capitol reaches its highest point, and your Texas lawmakers start fretting they'll miss the deadline for passing important bills and wind up spending their summer in Austin. As if on cue, Texas' Republican leaders this week began wheeling and dealing to pass their highest-priority bills before the gavel falls on the 85th legislative session May 29. On Tuesday, Gov. Greg Abbott said he has met with House Speaker Joe Straus and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick to "hammer out" the bills that must pass before the session ends.

KERA - May 16, 2017

Teen pregnancy rates have plummeted, but not in parts of Texas

Across the U.S., the number of teenagers having babies has hit a record low — it's down to about one out of every 45 young women. That trend hasn't extended to certain parts of Texas, where it’s still nearly twice the national average. To understand why teen pregnancy rates are so high in some parts of Texas, you need to meet Jessica Chester. When Chester was in high school in Garland, she decided she wanted to become a doctor. “I was top of the class,” she says. “I had a GPA of 4.5, a full-tuition scholarship to UTD. I was not the stereotypical girl someone would look at and say ‘Oh, she’s gonna get pregnant and drop out of school.’” But right before her senior year, Chester missed her period.

Texas Observer - May 16, 2017

After Eight-Year Battle Over Reforming the Railroad Commission, Oil and Gas Industry Wins

A nearly decade-long battle between environmentalists and the oil and gas industry to reform Texas’ energy regulatory agency came to a close last week — and Big Oil won. Environmental advocates say the Lege caved to industry pressure, demonstrating the power of the oil and gas lobby in Texas. Since 2010, the Railroad Commission (RRC) has been reviewed three times by the Sunset Commission, which audits about 130 state agencies typically every 12 years to ensure they’re still necessary and operating efficiently. Each review prompted staff at the Sunset Commission to issue scathing reports and identify “critical concerns” that hobble the RRC from effectively regulating the oil and gas industry and protecting the environment. But in the two previous sessions, lawmakers failed to pass bills that implement those reforms.

San Antonio Express News - May 16, 2017

State Sen. Uresti facing 200-plus years in prison on multiple federal criminal charges

State Sen. Carlos Uresti, D-San Antonio, was indicted Tuesday along with three other individuals in two separate cases for bribery, wire fraud, conspiracy and other charges in connection with his involvement in bankrupt frac-sand company FourWinds Logistics and public corruption in Reeves County. Uresti, who was indicted on 13 different charges that carry more than 200 years in prison if found guilty on all counts, denied any wrongdoing. “The charges against me are groundless and I look forward to proving my innocence in a court of law at the appropriate time. I will enter a plea of not guilty and immediately return to work representing District 19,” Uresti said in a statement.

San Antonio Express News - May 16, 2017

Texas looking for help from Trump administration in battle against Planned Parenthood

Texas officials say they’ve been “encouraged” to ask President Donald Trump’s administration to hand over millions of dollars that the previous administration withheld from the state for cutting Planned Parenthood centers from a key family planning program. States aren’t supposed to eliminate willing eligible providers from federal Medicaid programs, according to federal law. Now four years after the state lost federal funding for nixing the controversial health provider from the program, the state’s health agency says it’s been “encouraged” to seek funding again under Trump.

San Antonio Express News - May 16, 2017

WannaCry ransomware attack has Texas companies on edge

The IT department at a small college in Lake Jackson, Texas, worked “day and night” Friday to check computers throughout its campus for signs of the WannaCry ransomware that has paralyzed businesses, hospitals and other organizations across the globe since Friday. Brazosport College staff found two computers infected with the ransomware on Friday, and five more on Monday, said the college’s Director of information technology Ron Parker on Tuesday. The ransomware, dubbed WannaCry, is a form of cyberattack that essentially locks users out of their machines and threatens to delete all of its files unless a ransom is paid.

San Antonio Express News - May 16, 2017

Senate and House closer to resolving property tax and budget disagreements but obstacles remain

Compromises to resolve two key issues holding up the final approval of property-tax reform and the state budget are close to being forged, legislative leaders confirmed Tuesday, as the first steps to a settlement began falling into place. But Senate and House leaders cautioned that a lingering impasse over the latest version of a scaled-down “bathroom bill,” a priority of Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, remains a potential stumbling block in the push to avoid a special legislative session. Legislative leaders said both chambers have tentatively agreed to changes in Senate Bill 2, the controversial property-tax measure that is opposed by cities and other local taxing jurisdictions as an unfair state mandate.

San Antonio Express News - May 16, 2017

SA legislator’s statewide ban on texting while driving headed to full Senate

A bill that would make texting while driving illegal in hopes of saving countless lives is headed to the full Senate on a tight deadline but with a strong chance of making it to the governor, who has indicated he would sign it into law. It’s been 10 years in the making. “We are working hard and considering additional acceptable amendments that would help us secure 25 votes to suspend the three-day rule,” said state Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, referring to parliamentary procedure that could bring the bill to a vote sooner.

San Antonio Express News - May 16, 2017

Senate committee approves ‘second chances’ bill for nonviolent offenders

Some first-time offenders with low-level criminal records may soon be able to shield their rap sheets from public disclosure, under a bipartisan bill approved by a key Texas Senate committee Tuesday. The Senate Committee on Criminal Justice voted 6-1 to send House Bill 3016 to the full chamber, where a vote could come as early as this week. The Texas House has already approved the legislation, authored by Democratic Rep. Senfronia Thompson of Houston, in a 140-4 vote earlier this month.

City Stories

Laredo Morning Times - May 16, 2017

In fallout from FBI raids, Laredo city manager announces retirement

City Manager Jesus Olivares announced late Monday that he was retiring effective immediately. After meeting in executive session for about an hour with City Council, Olivares made the announcement and then walked out of council chambers. Council went back into executive session to discuss whether to appoint an interim city manager. When they reconvened in open session, they named Assistant City Manager Horacio De Leon as the interim. Mayor Pete Saenz wanted to discuss the possibility of placing Olivares on administrative leave with pay since he was one of 17 people identified as “target subjects” in the search and seizure warrant executed by the FBI at City Hall in late April.

Ft. Worth Star-Telegram - May 17, 2017

Human trafficking becoming a growing concern in Fort Worth

City Council members learned Tuesday that Dallas/Fort Worth and Houston are the two Texas metro areas with the highest numbers of human-trafficking cases. “Human trafficking is an issue,” said Ken Dean, assistant police chief. “It’s very rare you find just one victim. We have our fair share when it come to the numbers of human-trafficking victims. We have plenty of work to be done.” Fort Worth’s major-case unit along with a detective, officer, two Homeland Security agents and a civilian task force coordinator investigate human trafficking in Fort Worth, Dean said. ADVERTISING

Dallas Morning News - May 16, 2017

Looking for a job? There's no better place to work than in Dallas, Forbes says

Work it, Dallas: Forbes magazine has named the metropolitan area the No. 1 city for jobs. It is not D-FW of which Forbes speaks, however, but DPI (Dallas, Plano and Irving), ranking the area ahead of metro areas in San Francisco, Nashville, Charlotte and Orlando in its 2017 Best Cities For Jobs listing. "Unlike the tech-driven Bay Area, Dallas' economy has multiple points of strength, including aerospace and defense, insurance, financial services, life sciences, data processing and transportation," the magazine said in its report.

National Stories

Dallas Morning News - May 16, 2017

Civil asset forfeiture battle pits bipartisan coalition against police unions — and the White House

When police officers pulled Damian Hernandez to the side of the road in Houston, they thought he might be a drug smuggler — or maybe a human trafficker. There weren’t any drugs, or other human beings, in Hernandez’s car. But there was sand in his trunk. Multiple air fresheners. A little spiral notebook with numbers written inside. And Hernandez had $3,646 in cash. The sand, a police officer later wrote, might have come from the shoes of an undocumented immigrant. And the air fresheners might have been intended to cover up the smell of illegal narcotics. The notebook could have easily been a ledger of money owed or spent for illicit purposes.

Dallas Morning News - May 16, 2017

Why a Chinese billionaire is interested in Dallas-based MoneyGram

Most Americans have likely never heard of a Chinese company called Ant Financial. It’s more probable that they know Jack Ma, the billionaire behind e-commerce juggernaut Alibaba, and the founder of Ant. But if you’ve driven around Dallas, especially in poorer, immigrant-heavy neighborhoods, you may have seen the red logo advertising MoneyGram’s services. The Dallas-based firm lets customers send cash from one location to another, including across international borders, for a fee. And on Monday, its shareholders approved a sale of the company to Ant Financial.

New York Times - May 16, 2017

Trump Asked Comey to End Flynn Inquiry

President Trump asked the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, to shut down the federal investigation into Mr. Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn, in an Oval Office meeting in February, according to a memo Mr. Comey wrote shortly after the meeting. “I hope you can let this go,” the president told Mr. Comey, according to the memo. The documentation of Mr. Trump’s request is the clearest evidence that the president has tried to directly influence the Justice Department and F.B.I. investigation into links between Mr. Trump’s associates and Russia. Late Tuesday, Representative Jason Chaffetz, the Republican chairman of the House Oversight Committee, demanded that the F.B.I. turn over all “memoranda, notes, summaries and recordings” of discussions between Mr. Trump and Mr. Comey.

The Hill - May 16, 2017

Frustration abounds in Trump White House

Trump World has a blunt message for the president: empower your staff or hire a new one. Former aides, GOP strategists and sources close to the White House tell The Hill they’re concerned about how Trump’s handling of James Comey’s firing as FBI director has undermined the people who work for him. Changes seemed imminent late last week as the president seethed with anger over the rollout of Comey’s firing. But with Trump set to begin his first foreign trip as president on Friday, many think the threat of staff changes has lifted, at least for now. Still, many view a reshuffling as all but guaranteed at some point this year, casting a pall over a White House staff that always appears one wrong move away from unemployment.

Associated Press - May 16, 2017

Q&A: Would Trump request to end Flynn probe have broken law?

Some lawmakers are accusing President Donald Trump of obstruction of justice after revelations that FBI Director James Comey wrote a private account of the president asking him to shut down an investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn. Congressional Democrats were already concerned that Trump was trying to stifle a probe into possible coordination between his campaign and Russia's election meddling by firing Comey last week. The latest development only heightened their outrage, renewing calls for a special prosecutor. And Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal said in a statement that "we are witnessing an obstruction of justice case unfolding in real time." But obstruction of justice is a tricky issue both criminally and politically. And legal experts say it could be difficult to prove the president crossed a line.

This article appeared in the Houston Chronicle

Houston Chronicle - May 16, 2017

Wilson: U.S. chemical safety rules need to be updated

During 13 years of work as a professional firefighter, paramedic and EMT, I sometimes responded to an emergency at an industrial facility. If this required us to extricate a worker from a piece of machinery, we would start IV lines, administer morphine and oxygen, and pull the machine apart with hydraulic tools or carefully disassemble it. At one commercial facility fire, we were preparing to force open an exterior door when an explosion occurred inside the building and a 55-gallon drum burst through the roof, landing in a nearby parking lot. Sometimes we were called for a chemical spill, where dozens of workers were experiencing shortness of breath or other symptoms.

Austin American-Statesman - May 16, 2017

Garza: Why it’s not too late to forge a nonpartisan health plan

The Founding Fathers purposely made it difficult for elected officials to enact sweeping legislation. Our Constitution’s separation of powers demands coordination and consensus to pass especially meaningful and impactful laws. For that reason, most of the significant pieces of legislation passed in the last 60 years, after lengthy debate, ultimately achieved bipartisan majorities on final passage. For example, 232 Democrats and 145 Republicans in the House of Representatives voted for the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990; it was then signed into law by President George H. W. Bush. Yet, comprehensive health care reform proposals have stubbornly resisted this bipartisan tradition both nationally and in Texas.

Houston Chronicle - May 17, 2017

Houston's Al Green calls for Trump's impeachment on House floor

Houston Democrat Al Green on Wednesday became the first member of Congress to go to the House floor to call for President Donald Trump impeachment, citing last week's firing of FBI Director James Comey in the midst of an investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 elections. "There is a belief in this country that no one is above the law, and that includes the president of the United States of America," Green said. "Our Democracy is at risk... This offense has occurred before our very eyes." Green, a former NAACP leader in his 12th year in Congress, joins a chorus of Democrats – including California's Maxine Waters – who have talked about Trump's impeachment, but is believed to be the first to urge impeachment on the House floor.

Politico - May 16, 2017

Trump's Fans Shrug Off Oval Office Leak

Reports that Donald Trump divulged highly sensitive information to Russian officials—confirmed Monday by multiple news outlets and only glancingly denied by the White House—have left his most hard-core supporters deeply troubled. They’re concerned not so much about the president’s ability to protect state secrets as they are with the depravity of the “deep state” and the lying mainstream media. “It’s total bullshit,” said Charles Johnson, a prominent internet troll close to the administration. “I think The Washington Post is way over their skis.

Washington Post - May 16, 2017

As scandals grow, GOP senators say they’re ‘troubled’ but not much else

On Capitol Hill, Republican senators were troubled. Troubled, on Tuesday, as they deboarded their little underground trams, which run underneath U.S. Capitol grounds, and as they scurried between their office buildings. Concerned, as they slipped onto their private senator elevators. Re-troubled, as they re-boarded their trams, all while being stalked by a roving mass of news reporters seeking statements about the latest borscht-scented scandal — Mr. Trump, in the Oval Office, running his mouth — to plop out of the White House. “Obviously, this is concerning,” said Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) as he settled into a tram seat. “If the reports are accurate, they’re concerning.”

Washington Post - May 16, 2017

As Trump’s woes mount, congressional Republicans arrive at a moment of reckoning

As President Trump has lurched from one crisis to another, Republicans have chosen a strategy of compartmentalization over confrontation, preferring to look away in hopes that the storm would pass. Now, after a pair of stunning revelations about the president, that approach may have run aground. For the GOP, this has become a moment of reckoning. Events of the past eight days have robbed Republicans of the luxury of trying to keep focused on their agenda while believing that a sense of calm and normalcy will eventually settle around the president and his White House. Reality long has suggested something different, and cascading events have driven home that this president operates under a new definition of normal.

Washington Post - May 17, 2017

GOP lawmakers increase pressure on Trump administration amid growing sense of scandal

Congressional Republicans are increasing pressure on the Trump administration to produce documents related to the latest string of controversies involving President Trump, amid flagging confidence in the White House and a growing sense that scandal is overtaking the presidency. As the White House sought to contain two major scandals — Trump’s disclosure of highly classified material to Russian officials and an alleged attempt to shut down an investigation into his former national security adviser — some members of the GOP began predicting that the party will rally behind some sort of independent investigative body to probe Trump’s White House. Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.), co-chairman of the moderate Tuesday Group, said Wednesday that the collective political fallout from the past week “will make it difficult” for Republicans to resist a change in approach.

Washington Post - May 17, 2017

The Health 202: Abortion is now an issue with no middle ground

The middle ground on abortion rights is narrow and politically treacherous, and senators trying to inhabit it risk wrath from both sides in 2018. Another big fight over taxpayer funding for abortion providers is brewing in the Senate, which may soon take a vote on whether to deny Medicaid reimbursements for one year to Planned Parenthood. Such a provision was included in the House’s Obamacare overhaul bill, and Republicans are under heavy pressure from conservative groups to include it in a Senate version. The abortion issue is a deeply polarizing one, and has become so closely aligned with partisan identity that just a handful of antiabortion Democrats and an equally small number of Republicans supportive of abortion rights remain in Congress. Democrats have been forced to grapple with the issue lately.

Houston Chronicle - May 16, 2017

Rising stakes for Trump in looming wall battle

Two days after President Donald Trump signed an annual spending bill stripped of funds to build a border wall, the Republican National Committee sent out a petition from "Trump Headquarters." It carried a blunt warning: "Either Congress funds President Trump's much-needed border wall - or we LOSE the midterm elections." Though likely an effective fundraising tool with conservatives who propelled Trump to the White House, the appeal faces a stark political reality in Congress, where Democrats have drawn a line in the sand.

Barron's - May 16, 2017

The GOP Faces Eroding Congressional Control

Politics moves in cycles. Three months after President Obama was sworn into office we issued a controversial note explaining that the Democrats were likely to get wiped out in a midterm election 18 months away. We received a lot of criticism about that note but largely turned out to be correct as the Democrats lost 63 House seats, the most in a midterm election since 1936. The same data we used to write our 2009 report is moving in almost identical fashion against the Republicans today. Nearly every President gets wiped out in their first midterm election and the pattern that forms is clear: 1) The new President’s approval rating falls; 2) Opposition party intensity increases and has heavy turnout; 3) The governing party fights internally which depresses its party turnout; and 4) Voters move to the opposition party in the generic ballot test.

The Hill - May 16, 2017

House GOP not sold on Ryan’s tax reform plan

552 House GOP not sold on Ryan’s tax reform plan © Victoria Sarno Jordan Dozens of Republican lawmakers are raising concerns or say they are undecided on Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) proposed tax on imports, suggesting the Speaker’s broader tax reform plan may not have the votes to pass the House. The Hill has been tracking House Republicans’ positions on the border-adjustment tax for the last several months based on interviews with lawmakers and their aides, as well as comments made to other media outlets. Of the more than 50 GOP House members whose stances The Hill has learned, only about 15 appear supportive, while more than three dozen have either raised concerns about the provision or said they do not yet have a position.

Houston Chronicle - May 16, 2017

Mike Conaway pledges to 'move forward' in Russia probe as more Texas Republicans back Comey firing

Texas U.S. Rep. Mike Conaway, who is leading the House Intelligence Committee's investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 elections, pledged Thursday to "move forward" with the probe in the wake of President Donald Trump's firing of FBI director James Comey. In a joint statement with Rep. Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the panel, Conaway also vowed to ensure that the integrity of the FBI investigation. "The House Intelligence Committee is determined to move forward with its Russia investigation in a thorough and nonpartisan fashion," Conaway and Schiff said in their statement. "As a part of our responsibilities, we will be conducting rigorous oversight to ensure that the FBI's own investigation is not impeded or interfered with in any way."

Reuters - May 16, 2017

More Americans want 'independent' investigation of Trump: Reuters/Ipsos poll

A majority of Americans, including a growing number of Republicans, want to see an "independent investigation" sort out any connections between Russia and President Donald Trump during the 2016 election campaign, according to a Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll released on Monday. The May 10-14 poll, which was conducted after Trump fired FBI Director James Comey, suggests the public is increasingly uneasy with allegations of meddling by the Russians in the U.S. election. Trump's dismissal of Comey, who was leading the Federal Bureau of Investigation's probe into ties between the White House and Russia, intensified calls by Democrats for an independent probe. According to the poll, 59 percent of adults, including 41 percent of Republicans and 79 percent of Democrats, agreed that "Congress should launch an independent investigation into communications between the Russian government and the Trump campaign during the 2016 election."

The Hill - May 16, 2017

Dems propose scrapping law GOP used to overturn regulations

43 Dems propose scrapping law GOP used to overturn regulations © Greg Nash Democrats are taking aim at President Trump’s power to roll back regulations. The Sunset the CRA and Restore American Protections (SCRAP) Act introduced Tuesday by Sens. Cory Booker (N.J.) and Tom Udall (N.M.) would eliminate the law that Trump and Republican lawmakers have used to repeal more than a dozen Obama-era regulations. Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) is backing identical legislation in the House. The Congressional Review Act (CRA) makes it easier for lawmakers to repeal regulations they disapprove of from the executive branch. Under the 1996 law, Congress only needs a simple majority to rollback recently issued regulations. Federal agencies are also blocked from publishing similar rules in the future.

Politico - May 17, 2017

Putin willing to give Congress records of Trump's meeting with Lavrov

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Wednesday that Russia is willing to give Congress any records of President Donald Trump’s communications with Russia’s foreign minister, according to the Associated Press. Putin, who called the widening scandal involving Trump allegedly sharing intelligence with Russia “political schizophrenia,” said he’d provide the records if the White House approves. Putin spoke during the news conference with the visiting Italian Prime minister. He also joked that he would scold Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov because "he hasn't shared those secrets with us."

Politico - May 17, 2017

Poll: Trump approval rating hits new low

Donald Trump’s approval rating is at a new low — and that's before claims that he disclosed sensitive information to Russian officials in the Oval Office and tried to shut down an FBI investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn. A new POLITICO/Morning Consult poll, conducted after Trump fired FBI Director James Comey but before the two latest blockbuster revelations, shows Trump’s approval rating at 42 percent, with half of registered voters disapproving of the job Trump is doing as president. In the previous poll, conducted last Tuesday through Thursday, 46 percent of voters approved of Trump’s job performance, and 47 percent disapproved.

Washington Post - May 17, 2017

Young Republicans were the most likely to bail on their party over the past year

One of the arguments Donald Trump used on the campaign trail to suggest that his election was inevitable was that frustrated Democrats would cross party lines to support his candidacy. It’s clear that this actually happened, and perhaps happened enough to make the difference in the three states he narrowly won to clinch the electoral college majority and the presidency. But new analysis from the Pew Research Center suggests that flipping parties between late 2015 and now was fairly uncommon — and that the most volatile group of voters should sound an alarm for Republicans over the long term. Overall, about 20 percent of those in each party tracked by Pew wavered on their partisan support, with about half of that 20 percent eventually returning to their original party. About 10 percent of Democrats and Republicans, in other words, left their party and joined the opposition.

All - May 16, 2017

Lead Stories

Washington Post - May 15, 2017

Trump revealed highly classified information to Russian foreign minister and ambassador

President Trump revealed highly classified information to the Russian foreign minister and ambassador in a White House meeting last week, according to current and former U.S. officials, who said Trump’s disclosures jeopardized a critical source of intelligence on the Islamic State. The information the president relayed had been provided by a U.S. partner through an intelligence-sharing arrangement considered so sensitive that details have been withheld from allies and tightly restricted even within the U.S. government, officials said. The partner had not given the United States permission to share the material with Russia, and officials said Trump’s decision to do so endangers cooperation from an ally that has access to the inner workings of the Islamic State. After Trump’s meeting, senior White House officials took steps to contain the damage, placing calls to the CIA and the National Security Agency. ... As president, Trump has broad authority to declassify government secrets, making it unlikely that his disclosures broke the law.

New York Times - May 16, 2017

Texas Seeks Medicaid Money It Gave Up Over Planned Parenthood Ban

Four years after Texas gave up millions of dollars in federal Medicaid funds so it could ban Planned Parenthood from participating in a family planning program for low-income women, the state is asking the Trump administration for the money back. The request presents an important early test for the administration of President Trump, who recently appointed an anti-abortion official to oversee federal family planning programs. Under President Obama, federal health officials would not allow Medicaid funds to flow to the Texas program after it excluded Planned Parenthood, because federal law requires states to give Medicaid beneficiaries their choice of “any willing provider.”

CultureMap - May 14, 2017

Monson: Legislators craft Dallas pension solution with little help from mayor

Following months of uncertainty, some progress is being made to divert one of the biggest potential crises for the city of Dallas: the disposition of the massively troubled Dallas Police and Fire Pension. But we don't have Mayor Mike Rawlings to thank for it. Due to gross mismanagement, the pension fund has acquired a debt of nearly $8 billion and is feared to be defunct in a decade. An infusion of about $1 billion is required to remain solvent, which is roughly the size of the city's annual budget. There are no easy answers, but on May 4, the Texas House unanimously approved a solution put forth by State Rep. Dan Flynn. It would increase the city's contribution to $1.35 billion, change the makeup of its board of trustees, and allow the board to "claw back" interest payments that have already been paid out to retirees, to keep the fund stable.

Texas Tribune - May 15, 2017

Cornyn’s GOP colleagues are less than enthusiastic about his candidacy for FBI director

There is a growing obstacle standing in the way of Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, becoming the next director of the FBI — his own Republican colleagues. Led by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, a chorus of GOP senators has signaled that they would prefer President Trump to nominate somebody other than the second-ranking ­Republican senator, despite his status as a well-liked and influential figure on Capitol Hill. Their message: It’s nothing personal. But if Trump were to nominate Cornyn, who has shown interest in the job, it would trigger a raft of consequences that could be detrimental to McConnell and the broader GOP agenda.

Austin American-Statesman - May 15, 2017

Why texting-while-driving ban may need super-majority in Senate

The texting-while-driving ban, with its sponsor attempting to reach ever-moving legislative goalposts, has hit another hitch. Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, the Senate sponsor of House Bill 62, asked Senate State Affairs Committee chairwoman Joan Huffman on Monday to put off a vote for at least another day. The reason: further demands for amendments from the Republican senators she needs to reach a goal of 25 votes. That’s 25 votes in a 31-member Senate, or six more than is normally needed under Senate rules to bring a bill up for consideration. “We’re still working on amendments,” Zaffirini said after the committee failed to act on her bill early Monday afternoon. “One vote at a time.”

Austin American-Statesman - May 15, 2017

Rep. John Zerwas: Senate open to using rainy day money in state budget

As lawmakers from the Texas House and Senate negotiate the state budget for 2018 and 2019, a key question is how to settle the chambers’ different approaches to coming up with an additional $2.5 billion to lessen the severity of cuts during a tight budget year. With two weeks to go before the Legislature adjourns, the solutions being weighed by the joint committee forging a compromise on the budget involve a mix of both approaches, according to the House’s top budget writer, Appropriations Committee Chairman John Zerwas, R-Richmond. The version of the budget approved by the House pulls $2.5 billion from the state’s $10.2 billion rainy day fund, while the Senate opted to delay a $2.5 billion payment to the state highway fund until the following budget cycle.

San Antonio Express News - May 15, 2017

Texas lawmaker: If cities, counties balk at property tax changes, state officials will ‘shove it down their throat’

Cities and counties that balk at an effort to more tightly regulate their property tax collections will find that state officials will “shove it down their throat” in a special session, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dennis Bonnen said Monday. His comments came as the regular legislative session races to its May 29 conclusion with a number of leaders’ top priorities in limbo — including Senate Bill 2, the property tax measure. “The cities and counties refuse to accept any version of Senate Bill 2, so I look forward to working with the governor and the lieutenant governor to shove it down their throat in a special session,” Bonnen, R-Angleton, told the San Antonio Express-News.

Texas Tribune - May 16, 2017

Advocates call for more "sanctuary congregations" ahead of new Texas law

The backdrop for Rev. Noel Andersen's sermon last week wasn’t a church dais but the gates of the Governor’s Mansion in Austin. The unusual setting didn’t stop him from preaching about his disappointment in Gov. Greg Abbott for signing one of the most aggressive state-based immigration laws in the country the night before. “Somebody told me once that the Bible was important here,” Andersen said, ginning up an already fiery crowd of opponents that have, since January, railed against Senate Bill 4. Andersen is from Washington, D.C., where his nonprofit, Church World Service, is based. But he said he expects to spend much of the summer in Texas, working to reignite a movement of churches offering "sanctuary" to the undocumented, an effort that has taken on a new urgency since Abbott signed SB 4, which goes into effect Sept. 1.

Houston Chronicle - May 16, 2017

Tomlinson: Trump plays into China's hands on global trade

China is filling a void left by the United States, defining the new rules of global trade at America's expense. Chinese President Xi Jinping opened a major trade summit in Beijing on Sunday with a promise to create a modern-day Silk Road that would connect more than 4 billion people in what China's calls the Belt and Road Initiative. Using roads and seaways, the goal is to build economic interdependence from Africa to Hong Kong. Representatives from more than 100 countries attended the summit, and 68 nations and international organizations signed a cooperation agreement with China. Heads of state in attendance included Russian President Vladimir Putin, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

Texas Monthly - May 15, 2017

Ratcliffe: Why John Cornyn Would Want to be FBI Director

U.S. Senator John Cornyn’s interview for the Trump administration’s FBI director gig over the weekend prompted many to speculate who his Senate replacement could be. But there was also an underlying, and perhaps more pressing, question: Why would Cornyn want the job? The answer is pretty simple. John Cornyn is looking at the realistic possibility of losing his place of power even before he faces reelection in 2020. As majority whip, Cornyn is the second ranking Republican in the Senate behind Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. The Texan makes no bones about the fact that he would like to follow McConnell into the office and become the first Senate majority leader from Texas since Lyndon Johnson. There is a catch, however. The Senate Republican Conference has term limits for all its leaders other than the majority. Cornyn will hit his limit in January 2019. So unless the conference gives Cornyn a waiver to serve longer, the senior senator from Texas will go from the number two Republican in the Senate to just another senator, albeit one with seniority.

Politico - May 15, 2017

Cruz, Paul want to go ‘nuclear’ on Obamacare repeal

Conservative GOP Sens. Ted Cruz and Rand Paul are pushing to test the limits of how much of Obamacare can be repealed under Senate rules, setting up a potential “nuclear” showdown. The firebrands want to overturn long-standing precedent for what can be done under reconciliation, the fast-track budget process the GOP is using to dismantle the Affordable Care Act. They argue Republicans are allowing stale Senate norms to tie their hands and are forfeiting a chance to completely abolish the law. The key factor in allowing reconciliation to proceed is whether each provision in the bill has a direct impact on the budget — a question typically put to the Senate parliamentarian, a nonpartisan staffer named Elizabeth MacDonough.

Huffington Post - May 12, 2017

Texas Democrats Are Lining Up To Take On Congress’ Biggest Climate Denier

Midterm elections may be a year and a half away, but in Texas’ 21st Congressional District the race to rid Washington of one of its most stalwart deniers of near-universally accepted climate science is already well underway. At least nine Democratic candidates are vying for a chance to unseat 16-term Republican Rep. Lamar Smith, chairman of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology and an early and loyal supporter of President Donald Trump. And the Democratic primary field in the district, which stretches from Austin to San Antonio and into West Texas, is only expected to grow. “Smith has really put a target on his back,” said Adam Reiser of The Race to Replace, a group of Democratic organizers working to support progressive candidates capable of ousting Smith.

State Stories

Houston Chronicle - May 15, 2017

King: It's not a revenue cap; it's a property tax cap, and it should remain

Mayor Sylvester Turner, as candidate and now in office, has declared his intent to ask voters to remove the "revenue cap" that he - and most media reports - have incorrectly characterized. There is no cap on city tax revenues. There is, however, a cap on how much the city can charge in property taxes every year. This distinction is important because property taxes only make up about 25 percent of the city's total revenues. Under the City Charter, that is the only source of revenue that is capped. There is absolutely no cap on 75 percent of the city's revenues. And even to describe the charter limitation as a "cap" on property taxes is somewhat misleading because the charter still allows the property tax collections to increase every year by the sum of inflation and population growth. And increase, they have.

Houston Chronicle - May 16, 2017

Houston immigrant detention center has more deaths than most other centers nationwide

Faulty procedures and subpar medical care contributed to at least two deaths at a for-profit Houston immigration detention center that is among those with the most reported immigrant deaths in the country, according to a new human rights report. In one case, Clemente Mponda, a 27-year-old asylum-seeker from Africa who'd repeatedly threatened suicide was left in an isolation cell with more than enough hoarded psychiatric medications to kill himself - which he promptly did, according to Immigration and Custom Enforcement's own records. In the other case, no one administered CPR or called 911 immediately after a 46-year-old Canadian detainee, Peter Rockwell, who suffered from high blood pressure, collapsed in a crowded lunchroom in the Houston Contract Detention Center.

Dallas Morning News - May 15, 2017

Taylor: It's crucial for parents to take campus sexual assault risk seriously

The University of Texas System recently published a report that included a startling statistic: 15 percent of female undergraduates at the University of Texas at Austin have been raped. I graduated from UT Austin and my two youngest daughters went to UT Austin, so the article immediately piqued my interest. Unfortunately, it was the experience my oldest daughter had in college that caused the article to resonate beyond the headlines. My daughter Liz grew up in the Park Cities, went to an elite all-girls school and attended the University of Missouri as a journalism major. She was raped within a month after arriving in Columbia. Though her assault happened 20 years ago, the open letter written to the judge by the father of the swimmer at Stanford University convicted of sexual assault last year emboldened her to write publicly about her experience for the first time.

Austin American-Statesman - May 15, 2017

Byrne: How Legislature is making Texas’ foster care system worse

“Judge, we just want a foster home with people who like kids.” These are the words I heard last week from two siblings on my foster care docket in Travis County court. The children did not specify what religion, race or sexual orientation their foster family must be; they simply wanted to sleep in a safe, caring home rather than a hotel, state office or cold, institutional setting. Regrettably, the response by the Department of Family and Protective Services was that right now there is no foster family for them in the entire state of Texas — even after an exhaustive search by DFPS lasting nearly two months.

Austin American-Statesman - May 16, 2017

First Reading: Roger Stone and Alex Jones warn of attempt to remove Trump claiming he has Alzheimer’s

Yesterday, in the dark of night, out on 2nd Street, in front of the Corner Restaurant and Bar at the JW Marriott Hotel, Alex Jones and Roger Stone made a 15-minute video in which they warned that there will be a bipartisan move to remove President Donald Trump from office under the 25th Amendment to the Constitution claiming that he is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. Here is Stone: First of all, a disclaimer. They are going to say this is a “conspiracy theory,” but it is the Stone Cold Truth. They are going to claim that Donald Trump has Alzheimer’s and that it is progressive and that is the source of his insanity. I have talked to the president fairly recently. He is as sharp as a tack. There is no evidence of any deterioration in his thought process.

Austin American-Statesman - May 15, 2017

Sid Miller, recorded: Some feral hog bait safeguards ‘not doable’

Continuing its fight with Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller over his promotion of a bait that he has said would hasten the “feral hog apocalypse,” a coalition of hog hunters and environmentalists has released a months-old audio tape in which the commissioner seems to suggest some safeguards involving the product are “not doable.” The release of the recording, made by a concerned rancher from Northeast Texas, appears to be part of an effort to pressure state Sen. Charles Perry, R-Lubbock, to allow a vote on House Bill 3451, which would require further study of the warfarin-laced bait. Warfarin is used as a rat poison and as a blood thinner for humans.

Austin American-Statesman - May 16, 2017

House panel to consider Senate bill that would grant STAAR reprieve

The House Public Education Committee will consider a Senate bill on Tuesday that would continue for two more years a reprieve that allows high school seniors to graduate even if they fail up to two state standardized tests. A committee made up of the student’s teacher, principal and parents can give unanimous consent for such students to graduate as long as they pass all of their classes, among other requirements. Students otherwise must pass five State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness to graduate. Senate Bill 463 as it was originally filed by state Sen. Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo, would have made the policy permanent. Seliger had said the effort to narrow the bill to the next two years originated from other senators who wanted to study the committees further.

Austin American-Statesman - May 16, 2017

Ken Paxton appeals to remove judge in criminal case

Lawyers for Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton have asked an appeals court to oust the judge overseeing his criminal case and cancel a hearing set for Thursday in Houston. The emergency petition to the Dallas-based 5th Court of Appeals, filed late Monday night, argues that state District Judge George Gallagher lacks the authority to continue presiding over Paxton’s case over alleged securities law violations in private business deals in 2011 and 2012. Thursday’s hearing also relates to Paxton’s attempts to remove Gallagher from the case. On Monday, Gallagher excused Paxton from attending the hearing because of a conflict with his daughter’s high school graduation activities.

Austin American-Statesman - May 15, 2017

Business Digest: Texas Senate OKs computer science measure

The Texas Senate on Monday passed a bill designed to make it easier for more high school students to enroll in computer science classes. The legislation, House Bill 728, would have Texas public schools count computer science classes toward advanced math and science requirements, encouraging more participation in such courses and giving students more flexibility to fit them into their schedules. It was introduced by Rep. Bobby Guerra, D-Mission, and sponsored in the Senate by Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen.

Austin American-Statesman - May 16, 2017

Checking Sid Miller and others on feral hog claims

Sid Miller, the Texas agriculture commissioner who made plans to let a feral hog pesticide come to market in the state, talked through his decision with a concerned landowner, according to a recording, and agreed it didn’t make sense to require poisoned hogs to be buried 18 inches deep. Notably, the story captures state Sen. Charles Perry, R-Lubbock, publicly admonishing Miller’s embrace of the Kaput product. “You’ve got to communicate better, and you need to be a little bit more communicative on front end rather than the back end,” Perry said. “So that when the calls start coming I have a way to have a conversation rather than (saying), ‘It’s another Sid thing.’”

Austin American-Statesman - May 15, 2017

Census numbers probably underestimated Hispanic voter turnout in Texas

When the U.S. Census Bureau released its 2016 voting and election survey data last week, the numbers painted a grim picture of Hispanic voting gains in the 2016 presidential election: Just 48,000 more Hispanic Texans went to the polls compared with 2012, a dismal 2.5 percent increase, according to the federal count. The census data resulted in a flurry of headlines indicating that Latino voters in Texas failed to boost their participation in the 2016 presidential election, despite the polarizing presence of candidate Donald Trump. But the Census Bureau numbers tell only one part of the story, and they do a poor job of actually counting voters, experts say.

Austin American-Statesman - May 15, 2017

Teacher misconduct crackdown sent to Gov. Abbott

Alarmed by a sharp increase in reports of teacher misconduct, Texas lawmakers have sent legislation to Gov. Greg Abbott that would crack down on inappropriate relationships between educators and students. Senate Bill 7 received final approval Monday after the Texas Senate agreed to changes made by the House. The measure received unanimous approval in both houses. “This is one of my highest priorities to pass this session,” Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said after the vote. “This has to stop.” The number of reported cases of improper relationships between teachers and students grew 80 percent in the past eight years.

Texas Tribune - May 15, 2017

House spars over whether new State Bar rules would open door to discrimination

As part of an ongoing push by some Republicans to insert religious freedom protections into state agency review bills, House lawmakers on Monday sparred over attempts to amend the State Bar of Texas sunset bill in a way that opponents say could open up prospective LGBT clients to discrimination. In considering Senate Bill 302, the State Bar of Texas sunset bill, House debate centered on an amendment that would prohibit the state agency from enacting rules that would “adversely affect” someone’s admission to the bar or their law practice because of their religious beliefs. “I do not believe we can go too far in this body in ensuring that the First Amendment rights of Texans are protected,” state Rep. Jeff Leach, R-Plano, told the chamber in laying out an amendment originally filed by his Republican colleague Matt Krause.

Texas Tribune - May 15, 2017

House panel approves bill requiring parental consent for minors to join unions

A bill that would require parental consent for minors to join a labor union could be headed to the full Texas House. The House Economic and Small Business Development Committee on Monday approved Senate Bill 75 along a party-line vote, with one of the committee’s four Democrats, state Rep. Hubert Vo, D-Houston, absent for the vote. SB 75 was voted out of the Senate in April — also on a party-line vote — with the bill’s author, state Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, dubbing the proposal a “parental consent bill” that sought to preserve “the rights of parents to see economic decisions.”

Texas Tribune - May 16, 2017

Report: Texas falling short on police safety during mental health crises

When Bell County Constable Thomas Prado neared the railroad tracks in the Texas town of Little River-Academy on June 19, 2014, he could see his friend’s patrol car sitting in the driveway. His friend’s body was sprawled across the porch just feet away, blood pouring from a gunshot wound to his head. “I could see his feet sticking out,” Prado said. “Then I saw that man hovering above him.” That man standing on the porch was David Risner. He had just opened fire on the small-town police chief, Lee Dixon.

Texas Tribune - May 16, 2017

Bill to reduce handgun license fee in Texas reaches Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk

A bill that would significantly reducing the fee to get a license to carry a handgun in Texas is now on Greg Abbott’s desk. The proposal, Senate Bill 16, would reduce the first-time fee for a license to carry from $140 to $40 and the annual renewal fee from $70 to $40. The fee would cover the Department of Public Safety's cost to administer the license program as well as $27 needed for county, state and federal background checks, according to the bill's author, state Sen. Robert Nichols, R-Jacksonville. Lawmakers sent the measure to the governor on Monday. Abbott believes Texas shouldn't impose any fees on licenses to carry handguns, a spokeswoman said in January.

San Antonio Express News - May 15, 2017

SAEN: Special session: copout or salvation?

Texans can have mixed emotions over the prospect of a special session for the Legislature this summer. Some will view it as a copout because lawmakers had ample time since January to do the state's business. And they would be correct. Others would be hopeful that a special session would allow the Legislature to pass important bills it dithered over in the regular session. Paradoxically, they would be correct too. Here's where we stand: The regular session ends two weeks from today, on May 29. If you think that's enough time for lawmakers to get their act together and finish their business, you're on track. The problem, however, is that due to arcane rules in Austin, many bills expired last Thursday. A few might be revived with creative parliamentary moves, but most are moot. The culprit, as usual, was a slow pace in the House and Senate.

Austin American-Statesman - May 15, 2017

UT student, a sexual assault victim, touts ‘no means no’ legislation

It happened when Christina Breitbeil was a junior in high school. Her boyfriend raped her after she got drunk at a party and passed out, even though it was well known to him and other students that she wanted to remain a virgin until marriage, she testified Monday at a state Senate hearing. Later, at the University of Texas, Breitbeil found that she lacked confidence to resist unwanted sex. Now, with newfound resolve thanks in part to her association with Deeds Not Words, an Austin-based group that advocates for women’s rights, Breitbeil is proving herself an articulate and confident proponent of sweeping legislation aimed at improving the reporting, disciplinary proceedings and other matters surrounding sexual assault, sexual harassment, dating violence and stalking at public and private colleges.

Amarillo Globe News - May 13, 2017

Amarillo Globe News: Less is more for Texas Legislature

“Legislative bloodbath.” “Texas House kills its own proposals.” “Legislative snarls worsen.” These were just a few of the recent sky-is-falling headlines relating to the Texas Legislature, which ends its 85th regular session May 29. Take a deep breath. The Lone Star State will survive, despite the rather dramatic headlines. Let’s remember that despite the rampant media obsession with bathroom bills and so-called “sanctuary cities,” the only task that state lawmakers are required to complete is the approval of a balanced state budget every two years. That is it — a balanced state budget. Nothing about transgender athletes or the ingredients of school lunches.

Tyler Morning Telegraph - May 12, 2017

Tyler Morning Telegraph: Don't take away straight-ticket voting

People have plenty of reasons not to vote - discouragement or unfamiliarity with candidates, demanding schedules, long lines at the polls. The Texas Legislature shouldn’t give them another. Yet on Thursday, a Senate panel approved a bill that would ban straight-ticket voting. That’s a mistake, and when if the bill comes up for a vote, senators should oppose it. ‘The Senate Committee on Business & Commerce voted 7-0 to send House Bill 25 for potential consideration by the full chamber,” the Texas Tribune reports. “Two members, the only Democrats on the panel, were absent.

Midland Reporter Telegram - May 15, 2017

Families provide respite for foster parents

When Shirley Campbell was a foster parent, she couldn’t always take foster children with her on out-of-state trips. She sometimes turned to respite care providers, people who offer supervision for extended time periods. So after Campbell and her husband chose to step back from full-time foster care responsibilities, offering respite was a natural transition. “The good thing about respite care is you can still care for kids,” Campbell said. “Foster families desperately need a break.” Though the Campbells and other families provide respite care, representatives from area foster care organizations said there’s demand for additional people to offer the service locally. JaLynn Hogan, executive director of High Sky Children’s Ranch, said respite allows foster parents to have date nights or respond to emergencies.

San Antonio Current - May 15, 2017

"Pro-Life" Stand From Texas Republicans Tanks Bill to Study Rising Maternal Mortality Rates

A woman is 14 times more likely to die from complications related to a pregnancy than an abortion. The numbers are starkest in Texas, where the rate of women dying from pregnancy complications rose to around 190 deaths a year in 2012. No women died from abortion complications in the same timeframe. But don't tell that to Texas House Republicans. Last Thursday, conservatives spent the afternoon debating a bill that would make sure health providers are punished if they don't report complications related to abortion. Filed by Rep. Giovanni Capriglione, a Southlake Republican, it appears HB 2962's authors don't believe that abortion procedures can really be that safe and hope this bill will prove so.

Corpus Christi Caller Times - May 12, 2017

CCCT: The state's plan to blow up the Constitution

Gov. Greg Abbott tweeted "BOOM" in celebration when the Legislature made Texas the 11th state to petition Congress for a constitutional convention of the states. "Boom" is right. What Abbott hopes to accomplish would be incendiary. For years while Abbott was the attorney general and now that he's the governor, the federal government has impeded Texas' authority to suppress voting and women's reproductive rights, discriminate based on sexual preference, pollute itself and neighboring states, and block the working poor from access to health care. Sometimes he was successful in court at thwarting the government's attempts to protect people, often not. Perhaps his most influential victory at the Supreme Court was in blocking the forced expansion of Medicaid and giving individual states the right of refusal.

Corpus Christi Caller Times - May 13, 2017

Moritz: Abbott skirting traditional media surprising, effective

When Gov. Greg Abbott signed one of his top legislative priorities into law, the key players who shepherded perhaps the most controversial bills through Capitol’s sausage-grinding process were not at his side to receive a commemorative pen or to take part in a photo-opportunity handshake. Neither were the constituency groups and activists who clamored for the clamp-down on so-called sanctuary cities. As for the reporters who had filed the daily dispatches about the protests and side deals that go along with passing divisive legislation, they were at home about to sit down to Sunday dinner. About 20 minutes earlier, they received a cryptic message urging them to log onto the governor’s Facebook page, where the first-term Republican would announce to a video camera that showed a near-empty office that his signature was on Senate Bill 4.

KLBK - May 12, 2017

Raising the Steaks: Ranchers Applaud Trump's China Trade Deal

As The White House announces a new trade deal with China, ranchers in Texas praised the Trump administration's agreement with the foreign power. Lubbock cattleman Hadley Mann said the partnership was "something that we needed in the market from the get-go." Mann, the owner and operator of Mann Cattle Company in North Lubbock, applauded the president's plan. "This deal is going to create a lot more stable market," he said. "We're going to see a lot more trade dollars flow into the beef industry."

USA Today - May 15, 2017

In Texas: 'It’s an all-out assault on LGBT people'

One bill would make it legal to decline adoption services to gay couples. Another could deny them marriage licenses. Others would bar transgender Texans from using the public bathroom of their choice. Supporters of the bills circulating in the Texas Legislature this session say they’re intended to protect the religious rights of citizens or maintain safety in public bathrooms. Critics counter they’re an unprecedented attack on LGBT rights. Gay rights activists count 24 bills introduced into the Legislature this session they say infringe on the rights of LGBT residents in Texas — more than any other time in state history.

County Stories

Austin American-Statesman - May 16, 2017

Council members to urge legal fight against ‘sanctuary cities’ ban

Many local officials, including members of the Austin City Council, will be at the Capitol on Tuesday to show their support for legal challenges against Senate Bill 4, the law that bans so-called sanctuary cities. ... In what appeared as a preemptive strike, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton sued Travis County and the city of Austin, naming each council member as a defendant in a suit asking a judge to declare the new law Constitutional. The small South Texas city El Cenizo was the first to sue Texas over the sanctuary cities ban, and on Monday, El Paso County commissioners voted to pursue legal action against the state over SB 4. The Travis County Commissioners Court might take action on Paxton’s lawsuit on Tuesday.

Dallas Morning News - May 15, 2017

D-FW home prices top national median for first time in Realtors' survey

The Dallas-Fort Worth area had one of the biggest home price increases in the country in the first quarter. D-FW median home sale prices were 12.6 percent higher than in 2016, according to the National Association of Realtors quarterly home price survey. The Washington-based trade group looks at 178 U.S. metropolitan areas for its quarterly comparison of housing costs. Nationwide, median home prices were up 6.9 percent from a year ago to $232,100.

Houston Chronicle - May 15, 2017

Houston first-quarter home prices outpace most Texas cities

First-quarter home prices in Houston, which mirrored the nation's annual 6.9 percent rise in home prices, rose at a faster clip than most Texas metro areas, according to the National Association of Realtors. The strongest quarterly sales showing in a decade helped push prices higher in 85 percent of the 178 markets tracked by the association. The national median home price rose to $232,100, up from $217,200 in the first quarter of 2016. In the Houston area, the median price shot up 6.9 percent to $222,300. In Texas, among 11 markets tracked, only Dallas and Sherman showed higher rates of appreciation in the first quarter than Houston.

City Stories

Dallas Morning News - May 15, 2017

Ten months after Dallas police shooting, officers remember at National Police Memorial service

As Senior Cpl. Frederick Frazier walked through a crowd of 40,000 people outside the U.S. Capitol on Monday, he was just another officer in a sea of navy blue uniforms. Then other officers saw his Dallas police badge. Suddenly, everyone had something to offer. “I’m sorry for your loss,” one officer said. “Thank you for being here,” said another. Ads by ZINC Frazier, who is vice president of the Dallas Police Association, nodded. He thanked each person who stopped him. And then he went to meet the family members of the police officers killed in the downtown Dallas ambush on July 7 .

San Antonio Current - May 13, 2017

Sanctuary cities law weighs on already over-burdened CCPD

A parade of Corpus Christi residents this week pleaded with the City Council to bolster the ranks of the city's police force. Residents told the council they have a sense of fear because of an understaffed police force. Police Chief Mike Markle told reporter Matt Woolbright the force is about 125 officers short of where it ought to be. This overworked force is the same one that Gov. Greg Abbott now wants to saddle with the job of enforcing federal immigration law. That's the effect of the "sanctuary cities" legislation that Abbott signed Sunday.

Houston Chronicle - May 15, 2017

U.S. Rep. Green calls for Trump's impeachment

U.S. Rep. Al Green wants voters to call for President Donald Trump's impeachment. But the Houston Democrat is not actually going to file an impeachment resolution himself. "The president fired fired the person who was overseeing the investigation of the president. That's pretty serious," Green said, citing Trump's firing last week of FBI Director James Comey, who was leading a criminal investigation into whether Trump campaign officials worked with Russia to sway last year's presidential election. "The act is the obstruction of a lawful investigation of the president's campaign ties to Russian influence in his 2016 presidential election."

Houston Chronicle - May 15, 2017

Houston firefighters declare impasse in contract talks

Firefighters, without a raise since their last contract expired three years ago, declared an impasse Monday with the city as the end of an extended negotiating period approaches next month. Houston Professional Fire Fighters Association negotiators want raises of 6 percent, 6 percent and 8 percent in a new three-year deal. Over the last six years, firefighters have averaged a raise of 0.5 percent per year. The city, union president Marty Lancton said, has countered with an offer of 2 percent, then 2 percent. That, Lancton added, would only barely offset the additional 1.5 percent of their pay firefighters would have to put toward their pensions rather than take home if Mayor Sylvester Turner's pension reform package passes the Legislature in the coming weeks.

Houston Chronicle - May 16, 2017

Houston ISD teachers press for pay raises to keep up with suburban counterparts

When Luscia Moreno traded her journalism career for what she viewed as a more stable job as a fifth-grade social studies teacher, she never thought she would end up at a food bank. But last year, Moreno's finances were in a pinch after buying cameras and equipment for her school's new journalism program. "It came out of my credit card at a time I was also moving," the Rucker Elementary School teacher said. "These students have seen me struggle. They've seen me without. They've seen my car be repossessed." Moreno and about two dozen other Houston ISD teachers and support staff crowded the district's board of trustees meeting last week to ask for a 5 percent pay raise. Teachers said two years of virtually flat salaries, coupled with increasing health care costs, have left them struggling to make ends meet and have tempted them to defect to neighboring districts that offer better pay.

Houston Chronicle - May 16, 2017

ACLU sues city over panhandling, camping ordinances

The ACLU of Texas has filed a lawsuit asking a federal judge to toss out Houston's latest restrictions on panhandling and camping in public, arguing they limit free speech and violate other constitutional protections. The suit names as plaintiffs three homeless Houstonians who seek class-action status, meaning a ruling in the case would affect all of Houston's homeless. Mayor Sylvester Turner said Monday that the rules were meant to carefully balance constitutional rights with "the legitimate public health, safety and welfare of all citizens in the public space."

National Stories

Politico - May 15, 2017

Trump's handling of classified info brings new chaos to White House

In a span of 24 hours last week, President Trump startled his senior aides by firing the FBI director investigating his campaign's Russian ties and allegedly disclosing highly classified information to Russian officials in a free-wheeling Oval Office conversation. Trump, according to people who spoke with him, was taken aback by the backlash to the firing and unfazed by the conversation with Russia's foreign minister and ambassador. As Trump eyes a reorganization of his senior staff and blames a range of misfires on former President Barack Obama, warring White House aides, an ineffective communications shop, the "failing" news media, members of Congress and others, the latest episodes reveal what senior aides and advisers privately say: The problems often come from the top.

Fox News - May 15, 2017

Energy Secretary Rick Perry: I would Have Let James Comey Go If I Were President

“The idea of the way Comey was let go, listen I was reading the tea leaves long before. I am not sure if I was the President I wouldn’t have let him go earlier but the president, I think he is managing well, he is sending clear messages. It may be different than any president in recent memory from the standpoint in how he manages but he knows exactly where he wants to go , he’s got what I think is a very, very capable cabinet that he asks questions of.” —- Rick Perry on Trump firing Comey and how President Trump’s management style is different than any administration in recent memory

Washington Post - May 15, 2017

Trump administration to dismantle small-business part of ACA marketplaces

The Trump administration said Monday that it will dismantle part of the Affordable Care Act that created online insurance marketplaces for small businesses and tried to foster a greater choice of health plans for their workers. Moving to end the ACA’s small-business enrollment system by 2018 represents the first public step by the Health and Human Services Department to implement an executive order President Trump signed his first night in office, directing agencies to ease regulatory burdens of the health-care law. In starting with the Small Business Health Options Program, or SHOP, the administration is targeting an aspect of the ACA that has been troubled from the outset and never lived up to its proponents’ expectations.

San Antonio Express News - May 15, 2017

Cornyn quiet after interview for FBI director

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn of Texas remained tight-lipped Monday about his position on the short list to replace sacked FBI Director James Comey, who was leading the bureau’s investigation into possible ties between associates of President Donald Trump and the Russian government. Cornyn declined to give a public account of his interview Saturday with Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein, which came a day after he released a statement saying that his “focus remains” on representing Texas in the Senate. Cornyn was one of eight candidates interviewed over the weekend and arguably is the most prominent. Of the 14 people who have emerged as potential candidates, three, including Cornyn, are serving or have served in Congress.

McClatchy Newspapers - May 15, 2017

Big Oil’s favorite Democrat? Texas lawmaker’s votes reflect industry interests

U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, whose southern Texas congressional district sprawls across one of the nation’s largest potential sources of oil and natural gas, may be Big Oil’s favorite Democrat. Four times this year, Cuellar has voted in favor of bills that environmental groups say would benefit the oil and gas industry while weakening regulations. He also is the top Democratic recipient in Congress of oil and gas campaign contributions over the 2015-16 campaign cycle, receiving $165,305, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks money in politics. Since he assumed office more than a decade ago, he’s received over triple the amount of money from the oil and gas industry that his fellow Texas Democrats in the House of Representatives have, on average.

Washington Post - May 16, 2017

Trump just threw his top advisers under the bus … again

For the second time in a week, President Trump is in hot water — this time for sharing highly classified information with Russia during an Oval Office meeting last week. And for the second time in a week, he stepped forward to defend himself in an entirely unhelpful and contradictory way. Here's how Trump explained things early Tuesday morning on Twitter: "As President I wanted to share with Russia (at an openly scheduled W.H. meeting) which I have the absolute right to do, facts pertaining.... ...to terrorism and airline flight safety. Humanitarian reasons, plus I want Russia to greatly step up their fight against ISIS & terrorism."

Politico - May 16, 2017

The ACLU’s Radical Plan to Fight Jeff Sessions

A convicted murderer is trudging up Rodman Street and the poor guy’s feet are really starting to get sore. “I really didn’t want to be out here doing this today, again,” says Mike Twiggs, shaking his head ruefully as he props up a single bleach-white sneaker on a cast iron stoop, squinting into an iPad. He’s been at this for five straight weeks. “My old legs aren’t used to this,” he chuckles. The 59-year-old gingerly steps up to the door and raps his knuckles on the gleaming white finish, his bony fists and forearms speckled with small linear scars. No one home. Twiggs rummages through a backpack, flicking out some campaign literature that showcases this week’s hot political battle: The Philadelphia’s district attorney’s race. “I guess that’s what happens when you go canvassing on Mother’s Day,” he says, stuffing the brochure into a door wedge and then moving on.

New York Times - May 16, 2017

NYT: Trump’s Fraudulent Voter-Fraud Commission

President Trump’s repeated claim that “millions” of noncitizens voted illegally in the 2016 election has always been transparently self-serving — a desperate attempt to soothe his damaged ego and explain how he could have lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton by almost three million votes. It also lined up nicely with a yearslong crusade by Republican officials to convince Americans that “voter fraud” is an actual problem. As Mr. Trump’s own lawyers have pointed out, it’s not. But that hasn’t stopped the president from trying, as he so often does, to commandeer the machinery of the federal government to justify his own falsehoods.

New York Times - May 16, 2017

Why Some Can’t Wait for a Repeal of Obamacare

For Linda Dearman, the House vote last week to repeal the Affordable Care Act was a welcome relief. Ms. Dearman, of Bartlett, Ill., voted for President Trump largely because of his contempt for the federal health law. She and her husband, a partner in an engineering firm, buy their own insurance, but late last year they dropped their $1,100-a-month policy and switched to a bare-bones plan that does not meet the law’s requirements. They are counting that the law will be repealed before they owe a penalty. “Now it looks like it will be, and we’re thrilled about that,” Ms. Dearman, 54, said. “We are so glad to feel represented for a change.”

Associated Press - May 15, 2017

Federal judges ask if travel ban is biased against Muslims

Federal judges on Monday peppered a lawyer for President Donald Trump with questions about whether the administration's travel ban discriminates against Muslims and zeroed in on the president's campaign statements, the second time in a week the rhetoric has faced judicial scrutiny. Acting Solicitor General Jeffrey Wall, defending the travel ban, told the three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that the executive order should be reinstated because it falls well within the president's authority. "No one has ever attempted to set aside a law that is neutral on its face and neutral in its operation on the basis of largely campaign trail comments made by a private citizen running for office," he said.

This article appeared in the San Antonio Express News

CityLab - May 14, 2017

How Not To Prepare For the Self-Driving Revolution

As California adopts new regulations limiting the testing of autonomous vehicles (AVs), leaders in other states seem eager to jump in and seize a piece of the AV action. Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe recently claimed he would make the state the “capital of autonomous vehicles,” and the state’s transportation director, Aubrey Layme, invited any company to launch a pilot program on Virginia highways. “We have no rules that prohibit autonomous vehicles, no law,” he said. Meanwhile Arizona Governor Doug Ducey basked in the spotlight when Google’s Waymo picked up passengers in autonomous SUVs in April, just a few months after Uber’s Otto subsidiary sent an autonomous tractor trailer loaded with beer on a 120-mile journey from Fort Collins to Colorado Springs. So governors are excited about autonomous vehicles, and they are eager to compete with California. That’s understandable, even if they haven’t always offered thoughtful rules about AV deployment. But when compared to alternative approaches, racing to host headline-grabbing AV-testing milestones offers little promise to create jobs or improve lives.

The Hill - May 15, 2017

Special elections offer test for politics of ObamaCare repeal

The GOP’s push to repeal and replace ObamaCare has spilled into the special elections in Montana and Georgia, creating showcases for how the healthcare bill could shape the 2018 midterms. Democrats hoping that the controversial bill’s passage in the House will help them take the lower chamber next year are now looking for any signs of voter pushback in the special elections. The GOP nominees in both special elections have taken different positions on the bill, which has repeatedly polled at below 30 percent support. In Montana, Greg Gianforte publicly distanced himself, but in leaked audio of a private call, he was supportive of its passage.

Dallas Morning News - May 15, 2017

This little health care funding mechanism could solve our big crisis

The search for a political solution to provide efficient delivery of health care services so far has resulted in little more than acrimony and grandstanding. Efficiency, providing the greatest amount of service at the lowest cost, can be achieved either through market or public mechanisms, depending on the good or service. For market goods, like new cars, efficiency happens when knowledgeable consumers negotiate with providers in a competitive market. Public goods, like fire protection, are more efficiently provided by the public sector and paid for through taxation. While progressives prefer a public solution to health care, conservatives want a market-based system.

Dallas Morning News - May 15, 2017

DMN: Hello Congress, anybody there?

We and other media outlets across the state have been fielding an increasing number of phone calls and emails from Texans complaining about the difficulty in reaching their elected representatives. We reprint here the text of one of the calls that came in over the weekend. "Hi. I am calling because I am just horrified that for months now, when I call my senators' office...when I call [Sen. John] Cornyn's office or [Sen. Ted] Cruz's office, both lines, the mailboxes are full. "I used to think, this is pointless, we shouldn't even be calling them because I am sure nobody even processes this information -- but the audacity and the disrespect, to basically say, you know, 'Screw it, we don't really care what our constituents think, we are going to operate unilaterally and we don't want any input.'

Austin American-Statesman - May 16, 2017

Trump responds to reports that he revealed classified info to Russia

President Donald Trump took to Twitter on Tuesday morning to respond to reports that he revealed classified information during a recent meeting with Russian officials. "As President I wanted to share with Russia (at an openly scheduled W.H. meeting) which I have the absolute right to do, facts pertaining to terrorism and airline flight safety," Trump wrote. "Humanitarian reasons, plus I want Russia to greatly step up their fight against ISIS & terrorism." ... National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster says no intelligence sources or methods were discussed and no military operations were disclosed that were not already known publicly.

Politico - May 15, 2017

Republicans wary of Cornyn as FBI chief

Senate Republicans love John Cornyn. But not all of them are sold on him being the next FBI director. It’s nothing personal toward the affable Senate majority whip from Texas, who has built up loyalty during his years in the Senate, particularly as a two-term chairman of the GOP’s campaign arm and a high-ranking member of leadership. But with Trump's sacking of James Comey still reverberating on Capitol Hill, some Republicans want to make sure that the next FBI director is highly credentialed, unimpeachable — and completely apolitical.

Politico - May 15, 2017

Reckless stock trading leaves Congress rife with conflicts

Even a looming scandal wouldn’t deter some of Congress’ most eager stock traders. Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.), President Donald Trump’s nominee to be Health and Human Services secretary, was under siege, the harsh lights of a Senate hearing upon him. News reports showed he had bought shares in a tiny biotechnology company while sitting on committees that could influence the firm’s prospects. A colleague, Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.), had tipped him off to the investment.

Politico - May 15, 2017

Clinton launches new political group: 'Onward Together'

Hillary Clinton is officially back in the political game. Clinton sent a blast email to supporters Monday afternoon asking people to sign up for her next venture, Onward Together. "From the Women's March to airports across the country where communities are welcoming immigrants and refugees to town hall meetings in every community, Americans are speaking out like never before," Clinton emailed. "I believe more fiercely than ever that citizen engagement at every level is central to a strong and vibrant democracy."

Politico - May 15, 2017

Report: Phone polls aren’t dead yet

Political pollsters got some good news on Monday: The decades-long decline in Americans’ ability and willingness to participate in telephone surveys has stabilized. In other words, traditional polling, as we know it, isn’t dead. Not yet at least. As response rates have plummeted over the past 20 years, critics have declared phone polling — the method by which most of the major public political surveys are conducted — to be on life support. And pollsters’ increasing difficulty in contacting Americans over the phone has led to exploding polling costs and growing experimentation with other methods, like internet surveys in which respondents opt in to participate.

Austin American-Statesman - May 16, 2017

Villalpando: Study: Race matters in sudden unexpected infant deaths. Why?

A new study looked at 20 years worth of data of infant deaths due to Sudden Unexpected Infant Death, of which Sudden Infant Death Syndrome and Accidental Suffocation and Strangulation in Bed and other unexplained causes are a part. The study led by Sharyn E. Parks, who is part of the Maternal and Infant Health Branch of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, will be part of the June issue of Pediatrics from the American Academy of Pediatrics. The study divided these deaths, which since 2000 have been stable at 93.4 deaths per 100,000 live births, into race and ethnicity and found a big unexplained gap.

New York Times - May 16, 2017

Leonhardt: How Democrats Can Get Their Mojo Back

The great new dividing line in American life is the four-year college degree. The line runs through virtually every part of society. The pay gap between college graduates and everyone else has soared in recent years. The unemployment gap has, too. So have gaps in physical and social health. College graduates are living longer than they used to, getting divorced less and eating better. All of these trends are darker for non-graduates. Then there is politics. Americans without a college degree are today’s swing voters. White non-graduates shifted sharply to Donald Trump last year, relative to 2012, and black non-graduates affected the result by staying home in larger numbers. Both decisions — voting for Trump or not voting at all — stemmed in part from alienation.

Washington Post - May 16, 2017

Trump to voluntarily file personal financial disclosure for 2016

President Trump plans to file a disclosure shortly that will detail his assets and liabilities over the past year, a voluntary move that follows the practice of his most recent predecessors. A White House official said Monday night that Trump will submit a personal financial disclosure covering the 2016 calendar year "in a short period of time," confirming a report by the Associated Press. The president is not required to file such a report with the Office of Government Ethics until next spring, but past presidents including Barack Obama and George W. Bush voluntarily submitted financial disclosures in the year they took office.